MGM has announced that the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers are the two most likely teams to win the Super Bowl next year, both with 5-to-1 odds. In theory that means each team has a 16.7% chance of winning the title. Before you place a wager, though, realize that based on these odds there is an 88 percent chance an NFC team will win the title and a 76 percent chance an AFC team – which is impossible.
Could the actuaries at the country’s biggest casinos be that bad at math?
No, the fact is that no one is more reliant on actuaries than the gambling and insurance industries, but the average fan must be wary. Basically, there is a 164% chance someone will win the Super Bowl if you follow the odds that are released, which means that if $100 million are placed on everyone’s favorite team, then the average profit the gambling industry would get to keep off the top is $64 million.
When one takes the Broncos 16.7% chance of winning, reflected by the public 5-to-1 odds, and divide by the 1.64 commission Vegas has built-in for themselves, we find that that the actual odds of the Broncos winning the Super Bowl are 10.1 percent, as is the chance of the 49ers winning.
When one does the same math for every team, one sees that the NFC actually has a 53.7 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.
Because the Broncos play in the weaker AFC (only a 46.4 percent chance) they actually have a better chance than the 49ers of making the Super Bowl – 21.8 percent to 18.9 percent.
Multiply the two together and the chances of a Broncos-49ers Super bowl are 4.1 percent – more likely than any of the other 255 possible combinations. The possibility of Jacksonville and St. Louis hooking up is 0.01 percent.
The following table shows the MGM-publicized odds, with their 64% commission built-in, and then the actual odds of each team making the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl once the commission is taken out.
|MGM Odds of NFC Win||Making Super Bowl||Winning Super Bowl|
|San Francisco 5-1||18.9%||10.1%|
|Green Bay 7-1||14.1%||7.6%|
|New Orleans 15-1||7.1%||3.8%|
|N.Y. Giants 20-1||5.4%||2.9%|
|Tampa Bay 50-1||2.2%||1.2%|
|St. Louis 100-1||1.1%||0.6%|
Here are the odds for each AFC team.