This year’s Super Bowl matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs is so evenly split that not even Wall Street can figure out who might have the upper hand.
A team of quants at the $465 billion Allspring Global Investments, which publishes an annual view on possible winners for football’s biggest game, says it’s “painfully split down the middle” for Sunday’s contest. In their calculation, they look at “alpha,” or how well a team performs throughout any given season versus what the market had expected of them.
The Eagles, with 15% NFL alpha, and the Chiefs, with a reading of 16%, “seem to have been cut from the same cloth this season: identical records, identical seeding, near-identical expectations, and near-identical NFL Alphas,” says Matt Robinson, a portfolio manager at the firm.
“The Chiefs and the Eagles are right there next to each other in terms of alpha for this year — they were almost inseparable in terms of their performance relative to expectations,” he said in an interview. “It’s a tough one this year.” Allspring went with the Eagles by 1.5 points, noting that “lower-Alpha teams are undervalued in the postseason.”
Professional bookmakers seem to be just as befuddled as the quants. When betting for the game opened, the Chiefs were slight favorites but the odds have now shifted toward the Eagles. Betting apps such as FanDuel currently list Philadelphia’s team as favorites, but only by 1.5 points. That’s the fourth-tightest Super Bowl point spread in history, according to handicapper Jimmy Boyd’s website.
The team at Allspring say they’ve called 13 of the last 19 Super Bowls correctly. Last year, they chose the Los Angeles Rams — the winner — though they’re not counting it as an accurate projections because the victors would have needed to win by two more points for the forecast to have been correct.
The spread in this season’s alpha is the narrowest it’s ever been, said Robinson. “So as much as I’d like to say we’ve got the Eagles by a mile or the Eagles are severely mispriced, this is actually probably as efficient as the prices have been since we’ve been doing this.”
Robinson and his team say not much separates the two teams and “it could very well come down to a single play as time expires. All we can do is hope that the Eagles have at least one more ‘Philly Special’ hidden away for that moment,” they wrote. This reporter, whose beloved Buffalo Bills failed to make it to the big game, agrees: “Fly, Eagles, fly!”
Robinson says no pair of teams was more exemplary of the NFL alpha concept as the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos. The Broncos had Russell Wilson as their quarterback, and he was supposed to lead them to double-digit wins. But the team “bungled” its way to a 5-12 record and a -47.9% alpha reading, the worst in the league. The Giants, meanwhile, ended the 2022 season with an alpha reading of 38.5% after its coach Brian Daboll “managed to make lemonade out of his fresh bag of lemons, leading his team to a 9-7-1 record,” Allspring wrote in a report of its findings.
As for the Bills, who left all of Western New York depressed after a divisional-round walloping by the Cincinnati Bengals, research shows that they could underperform expectations during the 2023 season, says Robinson. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to have a bad year though.” Phew.
Learn how to navigate and strengthen trust in your business with The Trust Factor, a weekly newsletter examining what leaders need to succeed. Sign up here.