With Thursday night’s Super Bowl “rematch” signifying the start of the 2016 NFL season, every team is feeling optimistic. While some fan bases might be more optimistic than others, all 32 head coaches are telling their locker room the same thing: “We can win the Super Bowl.” Of course, this is technically correct, just as it’s technically correct that every team has the same 3.125 percent chance of achieving the sport’s ultimate goal. With apologies to any ardent Browns supporters out there, however, it’s safe to say that not all teams have the same odds when things like the schedule and talent are added into the equation.
Bill Barnwell, the sole survivor at ESPN from Bill Simmons’s now-defunct
ESPN Boston Patriots-worshiping basketball and pop culture site Grantland, released a list where he ranked each NFL team by chance to win the Super Bowl. The Bills came in at 25th, right behind Miami (24th), and a few spots behind the Jets (19th). All three teams face incredibly long odds in Barnwell’s eyes, with Buffalo and Miami each holding a 1.1 percent chance at capturing the Lombardi Trophy, and the Jets checking in with a whopping 1.2 percent chance. The Browns are 32nd, with a .5 percent chance, and the Packers are first (11.4 percent). Teams ahead of Buffalo on his list include the Jaguars (1.9 percent), Falcons (1.2 percent), Texans (1.9 percent), Raiders (3.1 percent), and Cowboys (who are at 3.1 percent even without Tony Romo).
Luckily, the season’s outcome is not determined based on lists created prior to most games having been played. It appears that Barnwell isn’t quite giving his opinion, as he is merely listing teams in order (or very close) of their expected odds at Bovada. The Browns and 49ers share the longest odds at 150-1, and they come in at 32nd and 31st in his rankings. Buffalo, at 75-1, is tied with a host of teams (9, to be exact) in terms of their casino odds, and all of those teams are right around them in Barnwell’s list. He writes that the Bills will need to mirror the 2013 Seahawks in order to win the Super Bowl, riding a mobile starting quarterback and stout defense to victory. He also mentioned last year’s Panthers as a comparison; all three teams are quite similar offensively, with strong running games that open up the vertical passing game.
The difference, unfortunately, is in the defense. While Seattle’s 2013 defense is one of the best of all time (ranking 16th in Football Outsiders’ historical DVOA rankings released in 2014), the Bills’ defense has a lot of room to improve, ranking just 29th in the NFL last season. If last year’s issues with assignments and communication are in the past, and the replacements for Marcell Dareus, Reggie Ragland, Shaq Lawson, Mario Williams, et al can provide the kind of defense Bills fans expected last year, then the team stands a great shot at making the playoffs. If the offense continues to make strides, as well? The odds may finally end up in Buffalo’s favor.