With the NFL post-season beginning in early January, we have analysed every previous one since the current format was established back in 2002 to understand what might happen this time around on the road to Super Bowl LV.
How could the NFL playoffs 2021 unfold?
With the wild card and divisional playoffs forming the bulk of the schedule, we’ve first looked for any interesting patterns there.
In the AFC, any meeting between an Eastern and Southern team is likely to break for the former, as 13 of the 18 match-ups between these two divisions have done under the current format. Southerners are likely to fare better against Northerners however, with 10 wins from 14 meetings since 2002.
Over in the NFC, teams from the Western division have won eight of their 10 meetings against those from the East and nine of their 13 against Northern franchises. It’s therefore not surprising that seven of the NFC’s last 18 representatives at the Super Bowl have been from the West.
The only division which has been more dominant is the Eastern division of the AFC, which has provided eight of its conference’s Super Bowl finalists since the current format began in 2002.
What could happen in Super Bowl LV?
Recent history suggests that the AFC will claim another Super Bowl title, with the conference having produced five of the six most recent winners. Under the current format, AFC teams have won four more championships than those from the NFC: 11 to 7.
The New England Patriots have contributed heavily to the AFC’s dominance in this period, having won five Super Bowls and lost a further three. It will be strange not to see them in the playoffs this year but there are other teams with significant experience of the postseason who could prevail in their absence.
While the Kansas City Chiefs are likely to start the playoffs as favourites in the Super Bowl LV odds, they are not one of them. The Chiefs have failed to make the postseason in half of the 18 previous seasons under the current format, although they did triumph in the one Super Bowl they reached.
The current second favourites are the Green Bay Packers, who have also recorded a solitary Super Bowl win since 2002 but fared far better in the playoffs overall. The Packers have reached the NFC championship game on a further four occasions: the joint-best performance by any NFL team besides the Patriots.
Another factor which could count against the Chiefs is that a team’s regular-season performance tends to count for little at the Super Bowl.
If they reach the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa – the venue for Super Bowl LV – they are guaranteed to be the team with the superior win-loss percentage, but only five of the last 18 Super Bowl champions had a better record than their opponents.
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