Of course there are fixed games. Anyone watch the GB game earlier this year? Or how about the Chiefs getting called for only 1 penalty against the Panthers after Belcher's death(despite them being at the bottom of the league in penalties), winning the game. It was the first game this season they managed to score 28 points in regular time. Likewise Cowboys beat the Bengals on an unlikely comeback after their recent tragedy....how nice.
In all seriousness, let's talk about something that might hold some more water. I spent a lot of time a year ago, about a month, researching this topic myself but more about the big games than regular season games. I never posted the results because I understand the backlash to these types of accusations, and kept it for my own personal information but I figure I could at least share a summary of some of my findings. It's one thing to rig regular season games, but Superbowls? Mine is a more mathematical approach rather than in-game observations.
Last year it was brought to my attention in some article that 2 # 6 playoff seeds won the Superbowl in the past 7 years, which was a bit strange so I decided to start looking into it only to find more oddities.
It turns out all 6 different
seeds won a Superbowl in the past 6 years: 3, 5, 2, 1, 6, 4 in addition to another number 6 seed in 2005. I thought to myself, what are the chances? Especially when I considered 5 of the past 7 seeds didn't have a bye week, so they played 1 extra game just to get there.
Turns out up until this past decade #6 seeds never even appeared
in a Superbowl, let alone win 2. And we only had 1 #5 seed appear
in a Superbowl prior to this past decade. Now all of a sudden not only do these seeds pop up in a Superbowl, but also win it all. Now there is nothing wrong with lower seeds winning superbowls, however
, in order for lower seeds to start winning Superbowls, one would expect to see a more frequent appearance
first. But oh no, today it seems that #5 and #6 seeds do not lose
Superbowls.....they only win them.
I decided to pull winning records and seeding of every single NFL team since the AFL-NFL merger, and match them up with playoff seeds, appearances and superbowl wins.
By default the single elimination, bye-week tournament structure, gives a higher probability for the #1 and #2 seed to both appear and win a superbowl far more often than any other seed because they play 1 less game in the playoffs to qualify due to the bye week. All the other teams have to win 1 extra game. In addition top seeds are generally stronger teams. Each tournament structure gives a certain statistical probability, and over the long course, each seed would eventually even out so I wanted to see how expected probabilities matched up with reality.
After plugging in all the numbers, I was pretty surprised to find out the huge spikes in statistical anomalies that have been taking place within the past decade. While prior to the 2000's the #1 and #2 seeds made frequent appearances and also won Superbowls on a regular basis, over the past decade the numbers were completely off the chart and over the past 7 years more than 80% of the time the #1 and #2 seed LOST the Superbowl. In fact more often, the higher
The amount of appearances of bottom seeds in the Superbowl increased, and generally, the lower seeds won at a higher percentage.
In short, the odds were completely reversed. Top seeds which by default have a greater chance of appearing and winning due to playing 1 less game, were getting decimated in the big game and championship games by bottom seed underdogs to the point where it exceeded what one would normally accept as random variance.
These anomalies started creeping up in the late 80's, early 90s where unusual things started popping up like for example the #5 seed showing up in a Superbowl the year after it was introduced. An immediate impact. Then never to be seen again until the past decade. But in general throughout the 90's #1 and #2 seeds dominated the appearances, as one would expect, with a few 3 and 4 scattered in. The #3 should be more rare than the #4 and for 20+ years, it was, but in the past decade once again we had an increase, appearing twice in the superbowl in a 3 year span. Now seeing the first, the Panthers in 2004 wasn't so bad, but when the 2nd one showed up 2 years later it raised some eyebrows especially when you consider it was Peyton Manning's team that held this #3 seed, and it was part of this consecutive 1-6 seed winning streak. When you start looking at who the #6 and #5 seed winners were(hint: Steelers vs Seattle) it just raises more eyebrows. In general these lower seeds that are popping up in superbowls and defining the odds....always seem to be the big market or popular teams. Steelers, Colts, Patriots, Giants, etc. I should also point out last year the NFL took a poll prior to the playoffs and asked the fans what their favorite superbowl rematch would be. Patriots vs Giants 2 was 1st by a significant number.
Of course in the middle of this amazing streak, where all 6 seeds won a Superbowl and dominated by low seed underdogs, we still managed to have a #1 vs a #1 Superbowl matchup in that same 6 year span. So wonderful for us fans.
Simply put, this was the most ideal parity and seeding match ups one could ever hope for and imagine, upsets galore and underdogs didn't just win, they have been regularly dominating
the results. Too good to be true. Made me remember reading an article praising Roger Goodell on his work to achieve NFL's amazing parity where he himself point it out...it was pretty much perfect.
But I didn't look just at seeding, I also did it with regular season win-loss records, and once again prior to this past decade, the teams with the best winning records, generally got the better seeds, appeared in and won more Superbowls. Winning % was a pretty good indicator before. Not so anymore. I also looked at the championship games, and found the same oddities where recently, the teams with the better records and better seeding were getting knocked out early or losing the championship games.
I actually had to go back to the 1970's when there was a different tournament playoff structure to actually find a time period where seed appearance and winners matched up with the statistical probabilities dictated by the tournament structure.
Draw your own conclusion but personally when seeing so many anomalies, the data pointed to the conclusion that this variance wasn't random. There just was no mathematical, statistical and probability explanation for it to change so drastically(even with the re-arranging of divisions) and go against
what the tournament structure was designed to churn out. It was manipulated.