pairLab Predicts Super Bowl LVI

Read the update (January 31, 2022)

Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs repeat their Super Bowl matchup in 2022? That’s the question pairLab endeavored to ask football fans through a public pairLab expairiment in the days between the NFL’s preseason matchups and the first game of the 2021 season on September 8.

We’ll get to the fan predictions and compare them with the experts and odds makers in a moment. But first the methodology …


I conducted two pairLab expairiments, one for each football conference (AFC and NFC) from September 6 through September 9. Each was seeded with teams from their respective conferences. 

This pairLab expairiment focused on fantasy matchups. The actual NFL scheduling formula pits divisional opponents against each other twice in a season and allocates remaining games among opponents in and out of their conference. 

Instead, pairLab asked survey participants: 

  • If each team within a conference played every other team in their conference, which teams would win and which would lose? 
  • And, how strongly do you feel about your prediction? 

The combination of these two questions yields results that tell us how much football fans feel one team’s likelihood of winning actually is for a given matchup.

pairLab crowdsources ideas by inviting participants to offer suggestions that are fed back into the survey to be voted on by subsequent participants. In this case, the number of teams is finite and so idea suggestions did not apply.

The survey was posted to Facebook to attract survey participants. The posts targeted: 

  • Geography: United States
  • Audience targeting: “National Football League” and “Education Level: College grad”
  • Gender: All
  • Age range: 25 - 56 years old

In all, 47 participants provided data within acceptable parameters and voted on 2,064 theoretical game matchups across the two conferences (by contrast, the NFL plays 272 games in the regular season).

Results: Packers vs. Chiefs in Super Bowl LVI

Survey participants predicted the Green Bay Packers to be the most likely to beat every team in the National Football Conference, and the Kansas City Chiefs to beat every team in the American Football Conference. The pairLab prediction, based on fan expertise, puts the Packers and the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVI on February 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

How did defending Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fare? Survey participants felt the Packers were more likely to end up in first place over the Bucs by a factor of 1.3. (To contrast, survey participants felt the Packers were 14.6 times more likely to end up at the top of NFC as compared with the Detroit Lions, which ranked last in this pairLab survey. Sorry, Lions fans).

Here’s how the survey participants rank the NFC:


pairLab NFC ratings chart

And here are the AFC predictions:

pairLab AFC ratings chart

How to read these charts: pairLab shows rankings in two dimensions. The first is an ordinal ranking (“survey participants feel the Cleveland Browns would rank in fifth place if each team in the AFC played each other this year”). The second dimension reflects likelihood and is expressed as a “pair score” (the number assigned to each team). A pair score is a unitless measure that shows the relative ranking between two teams. For example, the Kansas City Chiefs were ranked first with a pair score of 18.8. Comparing them to the second-place ranked Buffalo Bills, which had a score of 12.7, we can say survey participants feel the Chiefs are 1.5 times more likely to end up in first place over the Bills this season (18.8 / 12.7 = 1.5). Green bars show rankings above the mean for all teams, gray bars show rankings below the mean.

Comparing Fans to the Professionals

So, what do fans know? (Excuse me, fans know a lot.) It’s the expert professionals who make a living (in part) by predicting the future. What did they have to say about the teams most likely to make it to Super Bowl LVI? Here's a sample (pairLab predictions in bold):

The odds makers seem to be more sure. U.S. sportsbooks give the AFC championship to the Chiefs (with the Bills in second) and the NFC championship to the Buccaneers (with the Packers just behind).

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Posted by Christian
on September 8, 2021