In the next five weeks, you’ll read countless Super Bowl predictions. They’ll be based entirely on what people expect to happen in the upcoming NFL season. But since no one can see the future, why not look to the past for our prediction? For The Win examined the DNA of past Super Bowl winners and came up with eight specific rules that winnowed the field of 32 down to the single team that will hoist the Lombardi Trophy on the first Sunday in February.
1. Have to finish previous season with a .500 record or better.
Each of the past 12 Super Bowl winners finished the previous season with a record of .500 or better. The last team to win the Super Bowl after a losing season was the 2001 New England Patriots, who went 5-11 in 2000, Bill Belichick’s first season as head coach. This gets rid of 13 teams that failed to finish .500 or better in 2013.
Eliminates: Atlanta (1), Buffalo (2), Cleveland (3), Detroit (4), Houston (5), Jacksonville (6), Minnesota (7), New York Giants (8), Oakland (9), St. Louis (10), Tampa Bay (11), Tennessee (12), Washington (13)
2. Should make the playoffs the previous season.
In eight of the past 10 years, the eventual Super Bowl winner was coming off a playoff appearance the year before. The two exceptions: The 2010 New York Giants went 10-6 but missed the playoffs prior to their surprise 2011 title. And the New Orleans Saints were a disappointing 8-8 in the campaign prior to their 2009 Super Bowl win. It’s not a “must,” but it’s a “should.”
Eliminates: Arizona (14), Baltimore (15), Chicago (16), Dallas (17), Miami (18), New York Jets (19), Pittsburgh (20)
3. Can’t have won two or more games in last year’s playoffs.
While making the playoffs has been a jumping-off point for a majority of recent Super Bowl winners, deep runs in those postseason appearances haven’t been. Interestingly, the past nine Super Bowl winners cumulatively went 3-7 in the playoffs one year before their Super Bowl runs. And of the three teams to win a pre-Super Bowl-year playoff game, none won multiple games in that postseason. This stat eliminates both participants in Super Bowl XLVIII, as well as the San Francisco 49ers, a team that won two road games before falling to Seattle in the NFC championship.
Eliminates: Denver (21), San Francisco (22), Seattle (23)
4. The coach will be a first-time winner.
Every Super Bowl winning coach of the past nine years was a first-time winner, with the exception of Tom Coughlin, who won his first during that stretch, but then won another too. This is a relatively new trend. In the 22 seasons from 1973-1994, the Super Bowl was won by a repeat coach 13 times. In the 19 seasons since, it’s only happened four times.
Eliminates: New England (24), New Orleans (25), Green Bay (26)
5. No AFC West teams will win.
The only division that hasn’t had a Super Bowl winner this century is the AFC West. The last winner from that division was John Elway’s Denver Broncos teams in 1997 and 1998.
Eliminates: Kansas City (27), San Diego (28)
6. No franchise on a two-decade playoff drought has won a Super Bowl.
The longest pre-Super Bowl playoff drought in the past three decades belongs to the 1999 St. Louis Rams, who hadn’t won a playoff game in 10 years before embarking on its run to the Lombardi Trophy. Three straight postseason berths for the Bengals is nice, but the lack of playoff W since 1990 takes the Bengals out of the running.
Eliminates: Cincinnati (29)
7. No coach has ever left a college job and won the Super Bowl two years later.
Two years ago, Chip Kelly was big man on Oregon’s campus. He quickly made his name in the NFL, but history says he’ll have to pay some more dues before contending for the Super Bowl. The fastest college-to-NFL leap by a Super Bowl winning coach was made by Bill Walsh, who won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers three years after leaving Stanford.
Eliminates: Philadelphia (30)
8. No quarterback has led teams to a national championship and Super Bowl in over 30 years.
The last QB to win a title in college and the pros was Joe Montana, who led Notre Dame to the 1977 national championship before winning multiple Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. (Tom Brady won a ring at Michigan, but he was backing up Brian Griese at the time.) As if that wasn’t bad enough news for Auburn’s Cam Newton, the only other quarterback to pull the feat was Joe Namath, who won his college title at Alabama.
Eliminates: Carolina (31), which means that, by the process of elimination …
9. The Indianapolis Colts will be your Super Bowl XLVIII champion.
There you have it. Andrew Luck will lead the Colts to a Super Bowl title, thus becoming the first quarterback to go No. 1 and win a Super Bowl in under three years. Shoot. Maybe this prediction this isn’t so easy after all.