While others employ sophisticated modeling to pick Super Bowl winners, I’ve taken a different approach: feathers. Specifically, with the Falcons playing the Patriots, I wondered if the past could predict the performance of teams with birds in their name or logo. It might, and it hits upon an age-old question. Do team names matter?
Historically speaking, avians have been some of the biggest slackers when it comes to getting to the Super Bowl. Of 102 combined appearances — including this year’s game — just ten have been bird teams. The Ravens, Falcons, Eagles, Cardinals, and Seahawks represent 15.6% of the NFL but account for just 9.8% of SB appearances. Have birds no work ethic?
The recent trend, however, seems to be favoring the feathered. A bird made but one lonely appearance in the first 32 Super Bowls between 1967 and 1998. But from 1999 until now there have been a remarkable ten, an average of more than one every other year. That's the good. The problem is that when they get there, they tend to lose. Birds have lost 2/3rds of the Super Bowls they've played in with a record of 3 wins and 6 losses.
1981 Eagles lose to Raiders
1999 Falcons lose to Broncos
2005 Eagles lose to Patriots
2006 Seahawks lose to Steelers
2009 Cardinals lose to Steelers
2015 Seahawks lose to Patriots
2001 Ravens beat Giants
2013 Ravens beat 49ers
2014 Seahawks beat Broncos
Sadly, there has never been a Bird Bowl featuring two feathered teams.
Making matters more dire for the Falcons is the Patriots' total dominance over "animal" teams in the Super Bowl. They've played five animals and won 80% of the time with the sole loss to the Bears having taken place more than 30 years ago. Against bird teams specifically the Pats are undefeated (2 out of 2).
Wins over Animals
2002 Patriots beat Rams
2004 Patriots beat Panthers
2005 Patriots beat Eagles
2015 Patriots beat Seahawks
Losses to Animals
1986 Patriots lose to Bears
It's interesting to note that the Patriots have never beat a non-animal team in the Super Bowl. Not once. While they feast on fur and feathers, it's only the Giants and Packers that have handed them losses.
This does not bode well for Atlanta.