By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) – In sports – and life for that matter – there are fairy tale book fantasies, and then there are impossible illusions. This Pibe dream used to sit among the latter, but now it may be about to return to the former.
The vision in this case is a Super Bowl with Tom Brady’s Buccaneers going top-to-head and toe-to-toe and hoodie-to-hoodie with Bill Belichick’s Patriots. It’s a dream scenario for the football world that … actually now has a chance to become a reality.
The Buccaneers beat the Colts on Sunday and improved to 8-3 this season. The Patriots beat the Titans on Sunday and improved to 8-4 this season. Both teams are within reach of the top seed in their respective conferences, and both teams are clearly rushing towards playoff spots.
It’s clear what’s going on between now and week 18, is anyone’s guess. What happens beyond that, in the unpredictable NFL postseason, remains a mystery.
But consider this: Vegas odds give the Bucs the best chance of winning the Super Bowl. They also give the Patriots the third-best odds in the AFC to win the Super Bowl. MGM has the Bucs at +500 to win this year’s championship, followed by the Packers and Chiefs (each team is +700), the Bills (+800) and the Cardinals (+850). Then the Patriots are at +1000 to win the Super Bowl LVI.
DraftKings has similar numbers overall, with the Bucs (+500) having the best odds and the Patriots (+1000) in sixth place overall and third in the AFC. The DraftKings also have the Patriots at +450 to win the AFC, behind the Chiefs (+300) and the Bills (+350).
Apart from gambling numbers, the data breakers also see this scenario as being plausible. FiveThirtyEight is currently estimating The Bucs have a 12 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, third best in the league behind the Packers (17 percent) and the Cardinals (14 percent). Just behind the Bucs? It would be the Patriots, who now have a 10 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, based on FiveThirtyEight’s calculations. And if the Patriots beat the Bills next week, that number jumps markedly up to 15 percent. If the Bucs beat Atlanta next week, their numbers will rise to 14 percent as well.
Focusing too close to this option at this point is obviously a waste of time. Between injuries and disruptions and tipped bugs and expensive fumbles and bad calls and crazy weather and the general unpredictability of football, estimates and odds-creating and database projections are far from an exact science. It’s much more likely that neither the Bucs nor the Patriots will make it to the Super Bowl this year, let alone win it.
But considering how far New England has come since the loss to Brady’s Bucs in Week 4, it’s remarkable that what was once a completely farcical proposal – rookie Mac Jones vs. 44-year-old Tom Brady, Bill Belichick vs. Bruce Arians, a Lombardi Trophy at stake – is now a legitimate option.
You can send an email to Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.