In sports, the best teams don’t always come out on top. It’s not a new topic, but it’s one worth mentioning.
The New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI with the worst winning percentage of all NFC playoff teams;Likewise, the St. Louis Cardinals, last year’s world series' champions, had the fewest wins of all playoff teams.
Why then, do these teams and others like them find success in the postseason if they are slightly above average in the regular season? Three reasons.
First, teams that barely make the playoffs are able to start over and treat it like a new beginning. Previous records don’t matter and winning a single game —in football at least —means you advance, regardless of successes during the regular season.
Next, teams that squeak into the playoffs often play freer and without pressure compared to the heavy favorites. Many times it’s much easier to win when no one expects you to.
Finally, and perhaps more importantly, they get hot at the right time. The Giants won their final two games of the regular season and the Cardinals were part of one of the greatest fall comebacks in baseball history. Momentum is everything in sports.
Because of this, it is extremely difficult to predict a future Super Bowl champion but since it’s fun, let's do it anyways.
This early in the season it would be easy to pick any one of 15 teams and make a case for them, but to narrow it down let’s establish guidelines for what makes a Super Bowl team successful.
Maybe you’ve heard defense wins championship — throw that idea out the window. Since the Steelers won the Super Bowl following the 2005 season, four of the six champions ranked in the bottom half of the league for total team defense.
The other side of the ball, offense, is a better indicator of success. In those same six years, the total team offenses of the Super Bowl champions ranked: 2, 14, 20, 1, 10, and 9.
While every team in the league is still mathematically capable of making the playoffs, and therefore winning the Super Bowl, the majority of them don’t have a legitimate chance purely because of the guy taking snaps.
Someone with the last name Manning, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, or Brady under center has won the previous nine Super Bowls.
To win the Super Bowl you need a defense, but not really. An overpowering offense is needed, sometimes. Having an established QB — one with the ability to take over games when his teammates are struggling — will lead to much more success his team in the big game.
So, using my complex formula of success, who comes out on top? Well, that would be the Atlanta Falcons, the sole remaining undefeated team in the league.
I concede I’m picking the easy team, but not for the easy reasons.
They finish their season in Detroit, and then home against the Bucs — two probable wins. Finishing the season with momentum? Check.
Their play-caller is on the precipice of elite. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that he’s had more than his fair share of postseason woes, but so did the now-undisputedly elite Eli Manning before he won his first ring. Every top QB broke through at some point and this is Ryan’s year to do so.
Finally overcoming his playoff troubles will elevate Ryan to the top-tier of quarterbacks in the league. Big name QB? Check.
It’s October 26. The Super Bowl is 101 days away. Anything can happen in that time, and at this point anyone’s predictions can be justified. However, it doesn’t get better than a top-ten offense and defense, a top-ten quarterback to bail them out when they are struggling, and a schedule that allows for them to gain momentum for when it counts.