Of course, there is such a thing as the Super Bowl hangover. Ask anyone who has overimbibed at the annual game watch party and awakened Monday morning with a hammer pounding upside the head.
Anyone who hits the “over” on their total number of drinks is odds-on to experience a dreary day after.
As for the existence of a Super Bowl hangover that applies to NFL teams, well, not so fast, my friend.
The theory holds that those hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the first Sunday evening every February are prone to decline the following year owing to an off-season of excess celebration, complacency and/or congratulations, along with roster churn. The premise can also apply to the Super Bowl runner-up but partly for a different reason: Heartache requires a long healing period, and it can linger deep into the off-season.
Casts of characters intact or upgraded
The betting public clearly does not anticipate a hangover effect this season. Oddsmakers did a cut-and-paste, taking the two finalists in the LVth championship showdown and placed Tampa Bay and Kansas City atop the roll call for futures betting to win No. LVI in Los Angeles.
However, they reversed the projected order of finish. The Chiefs are favored, with the Buccaneers nipping at K.C.’s heels.
“The main thing is, both teams have all of the returning characters,” noted Jay Croucher, head of trading at the sportsbook PointsBet, which lists Kansas City at +500 and Tampa Bay at +600. “There is definitely a gap between those two and the next tier.”
The Chiefs did overhaul their offensive line, which was reduced against the Bucs to a patchwork of late-round picks, backups, and players out of position. Tampa Bay ran roughshod over it in the 31-9 blowout, resulting this season in five fresh starters across the board — three of whom have yet to log an NFL snap.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his array of playmakers are back intact, however, while the defense is little changed.
The Bucs pulled off the remarkable feat of bringing back all 22 starters from the Super Bowl, unprecedented in the salary cap era. Titlists customarily undergo some makeover with retirements, free agents fleeing for greener pastures, and a natural urge by management to avoid standing pat.
Not this bunch. Hey, who wouldn’t want to play alongside Tom Brady?
It helps, as Croucher said, “to have incredibly elite quarterbacks” in an era when the role has risen to the most important in team sports.
“We probably won’t have much of a hangover” with either squad, agreed Alan Berg, senior trading manager with the WynnBet sportsbook, which posts the Chiefs at +475 and the Bucs at +650.
“The public,” he added, “is a little bit more on the favorites this year.”
In fact, Berg envisions a scenario with both teams breaking out of the gates on hot streaks, which would drive down their futures odds.
“Early in the season, this is where you have the best chance to get a price on the best teams,” he said.
Croucher considers the pair as “neck-and-neck” but concurs with the bettors who label Kansas City as the one to beat. What separates them, he suggested, is one young quarterback entering his prime and the other in career twilight, even though Brady, 44, still beams brightly.
“Brady is not going to play this way until he is 60,” Croucher said with a degree of confidence.
Another distinction is the Chiefs’ consistency, unparalleled in these times. They have claimed five consecutive AFC West titles, ascended to the past two Super Bowls, and were stopped one win short in the previous season.
Perhaps coach Andy Reid and staff should apply for the patent for a hangover cure.
It is rare for both Super Bowl finalists to dive into the following year as the two favorites.
Dating back to 2010, one champ (Denver from the ’15 season) carried odds of +2000 the succeeding year and two others (New York Giants in ’11, Baltimore in ’12) were a hefty +1400 next time around. Of that trio, only the Ravens managed double-digit wins (10-6).
Just three of the 10 defending winners were faves in the futures odds the following year, and there was no trace of a hangover among them. Seattle (’13) returned to go 12-4, as did New England (’16). The Chiefs went 14-2 in the aftermath of their 2019 triumph.
Collectively, the 10 teams barely missed a beat, capturing slightly over 70% of their regular schedule games in the post-championship campaigns. Two pulled off Super Bowl encore appearances, though both lost.
As for bridesmaids, two (Seattle from the ’14 season, New England from ’17) became the bettors’ top choices. While both compiled double-digit wins, the Patriots fell in the Super Bowl and the Seahawks did not reach it.
The public showed fondness for the runner-up teams early last decade, with three of them becoming the second-most heavily bet in the year after. All three responded with 12 wins but no trophies.
The 10 Super Bowl losers took 62.5 percent of their games in the alleged hangover years, winning exactly 100.
Expect some natural regression normally
When a surprise Super Bowl participant comes back with a clunker of a season, it’s attributed less to a hangover than a reversion to the mean.
Berg recalled longshot Carolina advancing in 2015 before losing to Denver for the marbles, then opening the succeeding year at +1200. Bettors who thought they found a bargain on the Panthers were fooled. Carolina sank to 6-10.
“Those are the types of teams that are usually going to regress pretty quickly,” he said.
More recently, San Francisco also followed its silver medal season of 2019 with a 6-10 record. The 49ers were among last year’s most injury-bitten squads, which begins to explain why the so-called hangover can be overridden by other factors.
As a rule, the amount of injuries suffered per team is a random occurrence. It is no coincidence that franchises that keep playing into February are among the least impacted by unhealthy scratches. They infrequently are blessed with the same fortune two seasons in a row. Failure to repeat as a finalist is likely more connected to ailing bodies than to, metaphorically speaking, an achy, alcohol-blurred head.
Plus, now that the Patriots have released their once vise-like grip on the league, a degree of parity has ensued.
Croucher reminded that the Brady-Belichicks went off at a mere +250 in 2007 and, despite not qualifying for the Super Bowl that year, +350 in ’08.
In most years nowadays, mindful that the last repeat winner occurred in ’05 — New England, naturally — “people tend to gravitate [to teams] outside the favorites,” Croucher said, adding that futures odds as short as +500 are unheard of anymore.
Back to Bucs
Besides injuries, ingredients that make dynasties more difficult to achieve include the fickle nature of generating and avoiding turnovers .
“To be able to get those breaks two years in a row,” Croucher said, “is extremely difficult.”
Yet, if any contemporary franchise can fight off the hangover, Croucher figures it’s K.C.
“They could be doing this for 15 or 20 years, like Brady and Belichick did,” he said.
Patrick Mahomes in September games:
♦️92.2 PFF Grade (1st)
♦️0 INTs pic.twitter.com/A7I6WG5bbN
— PFF (@PFF) September 1, 2021
Shorter term, as in this season, Berg views the Bucs as perhaps the main replay threat. From a wagering standpoint, he believes the +650 at WynnBet is generous and would welcome an excuse to lower the number.
“The Buccaneers, to me, are scary to go back-to-back,” he said. “They probably have a nice, relaxed atmosphere.”
So the case for the reigning kings of each conference solving any Super Bowl hangover is stronger than usual, even considering only eight losing teams in the history of the game made it back on the next try.
For the Chiefs, Reid seems to be a step — or more like 10 yards — ahead of his peers with offensive strategy and play-calling. Kansas City last missed the playoffs in 2014. It owns the division, having gone 31-5 since ’15 against AFC West foes. Mahomes is magical.
For the Bucs, the roster appears stronger than it did a year ago. The rest of the NFC South is so-so, with New Orleans in semi-rebuilding mode and Atlanta seemingly still in recovery from the epic collapse to the Pats in SB LI. Brady is ageless.
And if you go with the flow and dismiss the hangover concept by betting on K.C. or T.B., only to see another team seize the crown on Feb. 13, 2022?
Take two aspirin and drink lots of water.