The study states that a football team’s alpha is simply the ROI to a systematic wager on the team to win outright in every game of the regular season.
The analysis indicates the Green Bay Packers, currently 2.5 point favorites, as Super Bowl winners and spread beaters, despite their 1% alpha for the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ alpha of 29%, according to the analysis, “is likely leading bettors to overestimate their probability of victory.” However, if you were to compare teams’ performance to the S&P 500 over the course of the season, the Steelers outperformed the Packers.
If you’re thinking this is a counterintuitive way to choose a Super Bowl winner and you have a better way to pick not just the winner but the best ROI, you might want to consider the study’s history. Not only did the NFL Alphas study correctly choose the New Orleans Saints to win the game last year and also cover the spread, but over the last 10 Super Bowls the study has also picked an undervalued team eight times—seven of them in a row.
Which team had the highest alpha in the 2011 study? The Oakland Raiders came in at 45%, taking the top spot for the second year in a row. Even though their season wasn’t a stunner at 8-8, they were only favored in four of their 16 games.
According to the study, the Washington Redskins are the best example of an outperforming team, with an alpha of 7%; that’s a 64% increase over last year.
Ten teams did better than the S&P 500 in terms of total return, say the data. Superior ROI was delivered to “investors” by:
- New England
- Tampa Bay
- New York Jets
- Kansas City
The other 22 teams in the league underperformed compared to the S&P 500.