NFL Playoff Simulation 2022 | Simulating Playoff Scenarios & Matchups

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By Kevin Davis

Feb 8, 2022

After an entertaining Wild Card Weekend, we had one of the best weekends of NFL action in recent memory in the Divisional Round.

With the Rams, Bengals, Chiefs, and 49ers all winning nail biters, there are only four teams remaining in the postseason. The Chiefs will host the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game and the Rams will host the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

As Super Bowl 56 draws nearer, I decided once again to simulate the remaining NFL playoff games to determine the best NFL futures bets for the Super Bowl and Conference winners.

Last week, two of my three favorite bets were eliminated. This week, I ran the numbers with the remaining teams, and I am taking another stab at the best Super Bowl futures.

How The NFL Playoff Simulation Works

To simulate the remaining NFL playoff games, I gave each team a power rating. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I took publicly available power ratings and averaged them out. Then, I adjusted them manually to reflect my personal opinions.

NFL oddsmakers and handicappers all have their own sets of power ratings. It is something that is relatively simple to make, even though it sounds complicated.

Generally, you are comparing two teams and trying to figure out if Team X played Team Y, who would win and by how many points. Repeat that process for all 32 teams, and voila, you have power ratings for the whole league.

For example, if Team X is three points better than Team Y on a neutral field, Team X will given a power rating of 3 and Team Y will have a power rating of zero. As a result, Team X should be a three-point favorite in a neutral site game.

Additionally, you can factor home-field advantage into the spread by adding points to the home team.

That will only really come into play this weekend for the Conference Championship Games as the Super Bowl is a neutral site game in Los Angeles.


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While the Rams theoretically should have home-field advantage in the Super Bowl, my model gives them a much slimmer advantage than usual due to the general nature of the Super Bowl.

As a CFL (Canadian Football League) bettor, I bet heavily on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Grey Cup (CFL Championship Game) this year even though they were playing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a neutral site game in Hamilton. In that game, the market strongly disagreed with me, and Winnipeg won.

Even though I got burnt by the closing line in that game, I still stand by my conviction that home-field advantage in what are meant to be neutral site games is relatively meaningless.

Obviously, the NFL is a whole different animal than any sport, but the value of home-field advantage has become much more widely debated since 2020 when we first started seeing fan-less games and limited capacity crowds.

That is why I have gone contrarian and given the Rams less of a home-field advantage than usual in the Super Bowl than they would have in a home regular season or playoff game.

Once I put together all that information, I simulated the NFL playoffs 100,000 times in Microsoft Excel to determine what percentage of the time certain bets won and then compared that to the breakeven odds.

Breakeven odds are what percentage of the time a bet hits for you to break even. If the payoff is better than breakeven odds, then it is the type of bet that you should be making so that you can be a long-term profitable bettor.

For example, if something has a 50% chance of happening, it has a breakeven price of +100. If odds of +120 are being offered, you should take that bet. If odds of -120 are offered, it is a bad bet to make.

Betting is all about probability and if a bet pays off better than the breakeven odds that I have calculated, my model recommends a bet on it.

Here are my results.

Super Bowl 2022 Simulation

Based on some changes I have made to my power ratings, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that I believe that my projections are more accurate this time around.

The bad news is that the sports betting markets agree with my numbers, and there is only one team worth betting on: the Los Angeles Rams.

TeamSuper Bowl Win %Breakeven Odds
Chiefs38.6%159
Bengals8.8%1036
Rams36.0%178
49ers16.6%501

Qualitatively, there are good reasons why the other teams are not good bets to win the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs have won the AFC the last two years, so obviously they will be a popular betting pick. My model gives them the best chance to win the Super Bowl (39% chance), however, the best price on Kansas City is +130 (43.5% breakeven odds) at Caesars.

San Francisco’s defense held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to only 10 points at Lambeau Field last weekend. As a result, I upgraded their power rating, but it appears others have as well.

My model gives them a 16.6% chance of winning the big game and their best price is +475 at PointsBet (17.4% breakeven odds)

Finally for the Cincinnati Bengals, I must break Commissioner Yas’ heart. Commissioner Yas is one of the most entertaining personalities here at The Game Day. She is also from Cincinnati, so predictably she loves the Bengals and Skyline Chili.

Normally, I like to ride with Yas, but my model isn’t feeling it right now. Joe Burrow is legit, but on the road against the Chiefs, my model has Cincy as a seven-point underdog. That is exactly what the current spread is for the AFC Championship Game.

If the Bengals make it to the Super Bowl, I have them as six-point underdogs against the Rams and a three-point underdog against the 49ers. There is a plausible chance that they beat the Chiefs and then lose in the Super Bowl to the Rams.

That leaves the Rams, who my model gives a slight edge. They should be priced at +180 to win the Super Bowl as they lifted the Lombardi Trophy in 35.7% of my simulations. Right now, you can get them at +210 at Caesars Sportsbook.

Matthew Stafford has had a good year, and the Rams should beat the 49ers this weekend. If they play the Chiefs in the Super Bowl at home, I view that game as a toss-up, whereas they should have an easier time against the Bengals if that matchup comes to fruition.

Super Bowl Exact Result Simulations

In the Super Bowl itself, my model doesn’t see any value in the specific matchup bets except with the Rams beating the Bengals at +1000.

That result occurred in 11.0% of my simulations, so I am taking a flier on that long-shot exotic futures bet.

Super Bowl ScenarioScenario %Breakeven Odds
Rams Defeat Chiefs25.0%301
Rams Defeat Bengals11.0%805
49ers Defeat Chiefs11.7%757
49ers Defeat Bengals5.0%1919
Chiefs Defeat Rams24.6%306
Chiefs Defeat 49ers13.9%618
Bengals Defeat Rams5.3%1796
Bengals Defeat 49ers3.5%2735

AFC Championship Simulation

My model has the Kansas City Chiefs as a seven-point favorite against the Cincinnati Bengals. Great minds think alike, as the betting markets have them installed as a seven-point favorite as well.

In 75.2% of my simulations, the Chiefs win the AFC to return for the Super Bowl for a third straight year. Even though KC is a clear favorite, they aren’t a good bet this weekend.

The Chiefs may have had a 12-5 record in the regular season, but they were only 8-9 against the spread this year. In general, NFL betting markets correctly price games, especially for the Chiefs.

Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes, who is one of the best players in the NFL, a +7.5 average scoring margin, and an average defense. My gut says that Cincinnati may cover the spread since a touchdown is a lot to lay, but I don’t have the stones to make that bet.

NFC Championship Simulation

Similarly to the AFC Championship, my model agrees with the betting odds for the NFC Championship. The LA Rams are 3.5-point favorites, and my model pegs them as a four-point favorite.

Even though the Rams are not worth betting on in the NFC Championship Game, because they should win, I believe that they are a great bet to win the Super Bowl, even if they face the Chiefs.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams


Super Bowl Simulation Bet Picks

Rams to Win Super Bowl 56 (+210) at Caesars

Wager: 1 Unit

prop bet

+210

Rams to Win Super Bowl 56

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Bet $20, Payout $62

Rams to Defeat Bengals in Super Bowl (+1000) at Caesars

Wager: .5 Units

According to my model, the only team worth betting on is the Los Angeles Rams. After the Packers and Buccaneers exited the playoffs this past weekend, no team rose higher in my projections than the Rams.

The Bucs were my favorite to win the NFC, until they lost in a stunning upset against the Rams. The Packers were the betting market favorite to win the conference, until they where shocked at home by the 49ers.

LA faces a stiff test as a home favorite this weekend against San Francisco, a team they lost two twice during the regular season, but they should have the edge this time around. In the Super Bowl, the Rams will either be touchdown favorites against Cincinnati or a narrow underdog against the Chiefs.

Based on having home-field advantage in a neutral game, I would add a point to the Rams spread in the Super Bowl. As a result, even though Kansas City should be a favorite to win the Super Bowl, they are still overvalued, and Los Angeles is undervalued.

prop bet

+1000

Rams to Defeat Bengals in Super Bowl

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Bet $20, Payout $220





Author

By Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is a Betting Analyst at The Game Day residing in Hoboken, NJ. Previously a Bronx resident, Kevin got his start betting on sports at his local Bronx barbershop. When sports betting was legalized across the river in Jersey, Kevin was there on the ground floor making regular trips to the Hoboken PATH station or for soup dumplings in Fort Lee. Previously, Kevin has written for The Action Network, and Vegas Insider.

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