The Brady Bowl
Buckle up, football analytics gurus are predicting a Pats-Bucs Super Bowl
Do you understand terms like DVOA—Defense-adjusted Value Over Average? DYAR? ALY? Pythagorean projections?
If the answer is yes, then you're probably already familiar with Football Outsiders, the analytics and analysis team that is to NFL football like Fangraphs is to baseball, i.e. constantly seeking to measure the strength of teams with the kind of advanced stats that keep Joe Morgan up at night. It's a fascinating place, albeit in a sport with very small sample sizes where extremely weird things happen in the postseason. Still, there aren't many people or organizations thinking about the NFL on such a deep level, they have their own in-house analytics powered by sentient robots (we think), and we take no pleasure in reporting their current findings:
Folks, we're gonna have a Brady Bowl.
FO projects that the teams with the best chance to win this year's Super Bowl are the Patriots (33%) and the Buccaneers (14.4%), and those two teams are also at the top of the DVOA rankings, which seeks to measure the league's best team. Obviously, this means that the most likely Super Bowl match-up is New England-Tampa Bay, which would give us a sweet, sweet, terrible Brady-Belichick showdown.
Does this mean it's actually going to happen? Well, put it this way—FO knows a lot more than us. So if they say there's a good chance it's going down, that's probably way better than any argument we can formulate in response. It's worth noting, however, that the absolute chances of this specific Super Bowl clash are slim. Yes, it may be the most likely outcome, but the absolute odds of it happening is still just 15.2%. (There is also a 0.1% chance of a Minnesota vs. Buffalo Super Bowl, which would be wild and hilarious.)
Still, a Brady Bowl would not be even remotely strange. The Pats are 9-4 and leading the AFC East, with the current best record in the whole conference, and they're well positioned for a first-round bye and a solid shot at homefield throughout the playoffs. The Buccaneers are 9-3, leading the NFC South and tied for second in the NFC, and again, right there in the mix for that precious bye and even home field.
FO is especially bullish on the Pats, who they give a greater than 50% chance to reach the Super Bowl. The question now is, do we want this? For me, a Giants fan whose team would have to be the beneficiary of several unspeakable tragedies just to make the playoffs, there are a couple schools of thought. First, watching Belichick lose to Brady would be phenomenal. I'm no Brady fanboy—although I do appreciate that he's one of the few players older than me still kicking it in the big four professional world—but between the two, I'm obviously taking Tom Terrific each time. On the flip side, imagine how painful it would be to watch the world's most evil human being triumph again, this time against his former pupil. From this, we could not recover.
All things considered, it's not worth the gamble. But that's just one opinion, and if we do get a Brady Bowl, you can bet that nobody will watch anything else.