As all of us know, the Green Bay Packers went 10-6 in the regular season, coasting into the NFC playoffs with the sixth seed. They won three straight road playoff games to advance to Super Bowl XLV, a remarkable achievement, and supposedly, a minor upset.
Of course, it wasn't that big of an upset. As Brandon, this site's manager, and Michael David Smith of The Wall Street Journal pointed out, the Packers are the best six loss team ever. The Packers were in every single game that they played this season, and they weren't thoroughly outplayed in any of their losses. If any sixth seed was ever going to make a run all the way to the Super Bowl, this was probably going to be the one to do it. We all knew they weren't gigantic underdogs like sixth seeds usually are, but personally, I had no idea how much of not underdogs they were according to the people who know a lot more about making odds than I do. Today, I was informed.
John Fisher, an editor and statistics analyst at ESPN, was kind enough to e-mail me an article that ESPN published about the Packers' odds to advance in each one of their playoff games. It turns out that the Packers were in a very good position to win all of their games all along.
The game against the Philadelphia Eagles was the one where the Packers had the worst odds, and that was a coin flip situation. They were slight favorites to beat the Atlanta Falcons, and actually reasonably large favorites for a Conference Championship game to beat the Chicago Bears.
For the Super Bowl, the betting line opened at -2 1/2 for the Packers. For those not up on gambling, that means that the Packers are 2 1/2 point favorites. A majority of the early bets have been on the Packers, causing some sports books to shift their line to -3 in an attempt to get more people to bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers. After winning their tough division and winning both of their AFC Playoff games, the Steelers find themselves as the underdogs against a team who went 10-6 in the regular season, entering the playoffs as a sixth seed.
So, don't believe records and seeds. They tell you next to nothing. All that someone could imply from the Packers' record is they either lost their composure in some close games...or got really unlucky. Watching football teams with your own eyes and forming your own opinions about their play is probably the best way to measure a team's quality, but detailed statistics and Vegas odds tell the story much better than team records and seeds.
According to the odds, the Packers are, once again, not the underdogs they might seem to be.