Is there really a Super Bowl hangover?

by Andy Stitzer
2018 Free Agency Unleashed

For fans of games like soccer and rugby, the consistent success of the biggest teams is not only expected: more often than not, it’s delivered. In Italy’s Serie A, for example, Juventus won nine titles on the run between 2012 and 2020, while in rugby, New Zealand have topped the world ranking no less than 80% of the time since the table was introduced in 2003. This makes fantasy leagues in these sports so much easier to predict.

So it seems strange to these fans when they see that the Super Bowl has been won by thirteen different teams in twenty-one years since 2000, with seven other teams making it to the grand final. Winning one year appears to do little for your chances the next, and losing the Super Bowl seems to give you even less chance next term, despite finishing as the second best team out of thirty-two. In short, the NFL is the fantasy player’s nightmare.

Sense or superstition?

Does this rapid change of fortunes make sense because of the levelling out of the draft, where the worst placed teams get the best new players? Or could it be something more sinister than that? Could the Super Bowl runners up be cursed with the ultimate hangover and a superstition that they just can’t shake?

When the losing Kansas City Chiefs started their season with a negative 3 and 4 record, it certainly looked that way. Fortunately for them, a run of wins has lifted them to 7 and 4 at the time of writing, making their playoff chances look much more promising. Despite the poor record of previous Super Bowl runners-up, and this rocky start to the season, the Kanas City Chiefs are still second favorites with Unibet PA, the legal sports betting site in Pennsylvania.

Super Bowl loser’s hangover?

Looking back, the evidence for a Super Bowl loser’s hangover is mixed. On the one hand seventeen of the fifty-five losers have failed to even make the playoffs in the season following their defeat. No less than eleven of them even failed to scrape together a winning regular season record. The Chief’s Super Bowl challengers in 2020, the San Francisco 49ers, only managed six wins in their sixteen games last year. Of the eight losing teams that did return to back-to-back Super Bowls, five have lost again, with the Buffalo Bills losing four Super Bowls running in the early 90s.

On the other hand, several teams have recovered from their disappointment at the Super Bowl to win the trophy the next year. The Dallas Cowboys team of 1970 and the 2017 New England Patriots both came back to win the next year. More impressively, the defeated Miami Dolphins of 1971, came back with an unbeaten 14 and 0 regular season the next year, the only unbeaten run in NFL history. To put the icing on their cake, they not only took the Super Bowl that year, but also the year after for good measure.

Is it more fun?

Perhaps it is this very unpredictability that makes the NFL, and its associated fantasy football leagues, so much fun to follow. English and Italian soccer fans must get bored with the same sides winning everything all the time. Imagine what it’s like to follow one of the other teams who are effectively just making up the numbers as cannon fodder for the big clubs.

As you would expect in a country where anyone can become president, anyone has the chance to get to the Super Bowl in any given year. After all, only twelve teams have not enjoyed the big event since 2000. This is great for fans of competitive sport, but it’s a right royal pain for those of us trying to make predictions in our fantasy leagues!

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