The next two weeks will be all about New England in the media. Atlanta is a relatively anonymous squad compared with the Patriots, who have been in big games on national television for pretty much the last 15 years. New England is playing in a Super Bowl for the seventh time in the Brady/Belichick era, while Atlanta’s only other Super Bowl appearance pre-dated it.
When it comes to assessing the teams’ respective chances, the public will likely overvalue the advantages that New England has by “being there.”
Here’s a list of every Super Bowl going back to 1978 where one team had won a Super Bowl in the previous four years, and the opponent had not played in a Super Bowl during that same time frame:
The “big game experience” team has failed to cover in the last seven Super Bowls where there has been a discrepancy. You have to go back to the last time Atlanta played in the Super Bowl, when Denver won its second consecutive title, to find a favorite with the big game edge who won and covered.
Using the simple rating system (SRS) ratings each season as a rough proxy, the “experienced” teams were the better teams on average, and should have been favored more often than not. However, they were 3.8 points better by SRS, compared to favored by 6.4 points in the point spread, for about a 2.5 point boost for the “experienced” team.
New England could very well go out with the fifth Super Bowl title for Belichick and Brady. They are favored by about a field goal in early lines. (For what it’s worth, the SRS has New England by 0.8 over Atlanta). But if they win, it won’t be because they have more experience. The collective experiences of the last fifteen years should have taught us that by now, starting with a young unknown named Tom Brady knocking off the Greatest Show on Turf.