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Does Early Season Success Guarantee February Glory?

Written by Jimmy Rustling

Nearly every pro football fan asks the same question when training camps open in the dead of summer: give me your  Super Bowl picks. While most seasons, there are always a few favorites that stand out, whether it’s based on past success or a bumper crop in the draft or through free agency, often times there’s always a dark horse or underdog squad in the conversation for the Lombardi Trophy when the calendar turns to January, and the playoff hunt begins.

As you will see, there are a multitude of factors that contribute to a team’s success or failure.  Bettors and fans should use history as a teacher, as there are a number of key metrics in play.  Is it safe to bet on every preseason favorite, what about going to the bottom of the board and taking a shot?

Early Season Success

Since 2000, only one team has started the first four games with a record below .500, the 2001 New England Patriots, who started 1-3 on their way to claiming the Super Bowl.  Since the onset of the century, six teams that would go on to win a Super Bowl started a perfect 4-0: the 2019 Chiefs, the 2015 Broncos, the 2013 Seahawks, the 2009 Saints, the 2006 Colts, and the 2004 Patriots.

In fact, besides the 2001 Patriots, who lost to the Bengals and Jets to start off their campaign, three other teams have begun their seasons with less than 3 wins and gone on to stand under the confetti and call themselves World Champions.  Those teams are the 2018 Patriots, the 2014 Patriots, and the 2003 Patriots.  The fact that New England is the only team since 2000 not to get off to a fast start and go on to win it all is a true testament to the stability and structure of their organization. Since 2000, many have been in charge of the team both between the lines and in the front office, Bill Belichick.

Defying the Odds

When fans place their future bets, in most instances they look at factors such as returning starters, stability of the coaching staff and front office, key draft picks, any notable injuries, and finally any impressive free agent pickups.  In some cases, all of these factors don’t amount to much as many teams have defied the odds and stunned both fans and bookmakers alike to reward their backers with incredibly high paydays come early February.

The 1999 Rams were 150/1 when the season began meaning if someone placed a $100 wager on the squad deemed the “Greatest Show on Turf” they would’ve gotten back $15k.    The 2017 Eagles opened 60/1, which seemed to be a gift and bargain for bettors before Carson Wentz went down in the middle of the season.  Now we all know what transpired next as Nick Foles stepped in, and Philly Special propelled the team to a title.

In 2001, Vegas had the Patriots as a 60/1 shot to come away with the Super Bowl. In one of the league’s great postseason runs, the Pats took home the title and began one of sports greatest dynasties.  In 1981, the 49ers were far from a dominant franchise capable of producing Hall of Famers and Super Bowl rings.

As such, the books priced them at 50/1 to begin the season, and thanks to many memorable moments, most notably Dwight Clark’s catch in the corner of the end zone, the team won it all.  In 1982, coach Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins led by Hall of Famer Dan Marino seemed destined to win a title.  Enter the Washington Redskins, who at 35/1 downed the Bengals, another longshot to win the crown and propel them to many victories in the years to follow.

Conversely, since 2001, teams that have been short prizes in the summer to capture the Lombardi Trophy have often come up short.  No other case was as evident as the 2017 Patriots, who were 2.5/1 preseason and did not win.  In fact, only the 2006 Colts (6/1) and the 2016 Pats (6.5/1) are the only teams since 2000 to win it all as a preseason betting favorite.

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About the author

Jimmy Rustling

Born at an early age, Jimmy Rustling has found solace and comfort knowing that his humble actions have made this multiverse a better place for every man, woman and child ever known to exist. Dr. Jimmy Rustling has won many awards for excellence in writing including fourteen Peabody awards and a handful of Pulitzer Prizes. When Jimmies are not being Rustled the kind Dr. enjoys being an amazing husband to his beautiful, soulmate; Anastasia, a Russian mail order bride of almost 2 months. Dr. Rustling also spends 12-15 hours each day teaching their adopted 8-year-old Syrian refugee daughter how to read and write.