After going 15-1 in the regular season and throttling the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game, the Carolina Panthers look like a team that will be tough to beat in the Super Bowl. Nate Silver’s model at FiveThirtyEight agrees.
Using a rating system that accounts for margin of victory, home-field advantage, strength of schedule, and prior performance, and then simulating the playoffs thousands of times, Silver determined the probability each team had of winning every playoff game and the Super Bowl.
So far, the model is 9-1, having correctly picked both the Broncos and the Panthers to win their conference title games. The only game that Silver’s model missed so far was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Wild Card win over the Cincinnati Bengals. In that game, a fluky 18-16 win for the Steelers, Silver’s model had given the Bengals a 58% chance of winning.
Now, with just the Big Game remaining, the model is giving the Panthers a heavy 59% chance of beating the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Prior to the season, the Panthers had less than a 3% chance to win the Super Bowl and weren’t even the favourite to win the NFC South division. Silver’s model had given the New Orleans Saints a 37.7% chance to win the division.
However, when the playoffs started, the model liked the Panthers even though many observers were still not sold. The model gave the Panthers a 20% chance to win the Super Bowl when the playoffs started and a 38% chance to win the NFC.