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What if the Super Bowl Was a Series?

The NHL, NBA, and MLB all play playoff series; what if the NFL did too?

Super Bowl LIII - MVP & Winning Coach Press Conference Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It’s playoff season for both the NBA and the NHL, which means that there are a lot of multi-game series going down right now. Combine that with the way that the MLB schedule works, with teams hosting each other multiple times in a row we’re all watching the same teams play each other over and over each night, Groundhog Day style.

Last night, the Boston Bruins swept the Carolina Hurricanes to send them to the Stanley Cup, meaning they are just four games away from completing their quest to bring the third of the four major professional sports championships to Boston (nice going, Celtics), a feat no city has accomplished since the Mets, Knicks, and Jets all won a championship in 1969. Before that, it was the Detroit Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings all the way back in 1935.

And as I was watching yet another Boston sports team dominating, it got me to thinking:

What if the NFL structured their playoffs like the other major sports leagues? What if the Super Bowl was a series?

The Patriots have been to 11 Super Bowls in team history, winning six of them; not too shabby overall. But what would their SB record be if they had to get multiple wins in order to hoist the Lombardi Trophy?

I thought I’d give it a shot. I decided to go back through the 11 Patriots rosters that made it all the way to the Super Bowl, looked at their opponents, and see what New England’s record would be if they had faced each in a best of seven series.

Yes, I realize that this is a fruitless, stupid, and ridiculous exercise - there’s just no way to tell what the actual results would have been. And yes, I realize that “give Bill Belichick seven games against the same opponent and there’s no way he loses a series” is probably the correct answer to nine of the 11. But that makes this whole exercise pointless. So I’m going to try and take the Belichick factor out of it just a bit and assume that he wouldn’t figure everyone out eventually, otherwise it would always be Patriots in seven.

Super Bowl XX, vs. Chicago Bears. This is a no-brainer. Patriots get swept and swept handily. Maybe - MAYBE - they pull an upset game out of thin air at some point if Chicago doesn’t come out of the locker room until the fourth quarter, but they have zero chance of winning this series. Bears in four.

Super Bowl XXI, vs. Packers. I want to say that Drew Bledsoe and company would find a way to take down the Brett Favre led Packers over the course of a playoff series, but I just can’t do it. The ‘96 Patriots overachieved that season, and the Packers were pretty explosive. New England takes a game, but Green Bay ends up coming out on top in five.

Super Bowl XXXVI, vs. Rams. Can the Patriots upset the Greatest Show on Turf multiple times? Honestly, I don’t think so. The 2001 Patriots caught an overly confident Rams team completely off guard with punishing defense, constant contact, and a conservative offensive gameplan. St. Louis would adjust and find a way to give Kurt Warner more time to get the ball to his weapons, and the Rams would take the Patriots way more seriously as the series continued. Patriots go up early and steal one at home, but Rams take it in six.

Super Bowl XXXVII, vs. Panthers. These were two very evenly matched teams; I don’t think that history has been as kind to 2003 Jake Delhomme as it should be, and the Panther defense was fierce. The Patriots were a better team, though, and capable of beating you different ways. This is a matchup that favors the Patriots, and they still find a way to take the series on a multifacted gameplan. Patriots in six.

Super Bowl XXXIX, vs. Eagles. Maybe if Philly takes Game 1, they get a little more confidence coming into the rest of the series and manage to ride the momentum to a championship, but neither Andy Reid nor Donovan McNabb were ready for the pressure and spotlight that accompanies the Super Bowl. New England takes Game 1, then Game 2. and Philly just can’t see a way to dig themselves out of that hole. Pats take it in five.

Super Bowl XLII, vs. Giants. New England comes into Game 1 cocky and arrogant, and they get kicked in the mouth. They then come out fuming for Game 2, impose their will, and then ride the Giants into the ground for a convincing 5 game series win. The offense is just too potent and versatile to get caught like that again.

Super Bowl XLVI, vs, Giants. You’d think New England would remember the last time these two teams met in a championship series, but they don’t; once again, they come out flat, and drop Game 1. A narrow Game 2 victory evens it up, and the slugfest is on. New England ends up needing all seven games, but they’re able to get it done.

Super Bowl XLIX, vs. Seahawks. They say that defense wins championships, and the 2014 Seahawks had that in droves. It took Tommy B three and a half quarters to figure this Seahawks D out; are they versatile enough to fool him four times? I don’t think so; Pats take the series in 6 VERY hard-fought games. [I think this is a homer pick, to be honest. Hawks probably take this series]

Super Bowl LI, vs. Falcons. The 2016 Falcons offense was incredible, and Matt Ryan was the well-deserved NFL MVP. But as we saw in OT of that game, their defense gets gassed, and the 2016 Patriots offense was versatile and crafty. Falcons go up 3-0, but then completely blow the lead and allow the Patriots to storm back and take it in seven games.

Super Bowl LII, vs. Eagles. Perfect gameplans, brass balls, and everything going your way is a great way to win a game - but it isn’t going to win you a series. Eagles take game one, then the Patriots get to work, win the next three, allow Philly to steal one at home, and then take Game 6 in Foxboro to repeat as champs.

Super Bowl LIII, vs. Rams. If this past Super Bowl taught us anything, it’s that it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the moment, and I don’t think Sean McVay suddenly comes into his own given mutiple games to get it together. He spends the whole series two steps behind Belichick, who is always coaching a game ahead of his opponent, and the Rams continue to look lost and confused as the Patriots win it four games to one, and the three-peat is on.

So that has New England with a SB series record of 8-3, with no losses after that first Rams game. Maybe 7-4 if you want to make a case for Seattle taking that series, which you could very easily do. Regardless, the Patriots still have a winning record in championship games.

To be honest, I’m extremely glad the Super Bowl is only one game. The way the Patriots tend to play them, they’d most likely all go to seven, it would come down to one play at the very end, and I probably would have died of a heart attack back in 2004.