The Atlanta Falcons couldn’t hold on to their 28-3 advantage in Super Bowl LI, dropping the game to the New England Patriots 34-28 in overtime. With the loss, the Falcons join a fraternity of Super Bowl runner-ups, teams that fell just short of their ultimate goal.
But where do the Falcons rank among fellow silver medalists? Using WhatIfSports.com’s NFL simulation engine, we played a round robin tournament with the 2016 Falcons, the 2015 Carolina Panthers and every other team to suffer a Super Bowl defeat. Every team in the field played every other team 101 times. Check out the results, ranked by winning percentage:
The Falcons ranked in the middle of the pack, winning 51.2 percent of the time and scoring as many points per game (27.6) as they surrendered. The 1998 Falcons finished two games behind the 2016 team in the standings, which is consistent with their head-to-head performance.
No franchise had more participants in the tournament than the Denver Broncos. Of the Broncos’ eight Super Bowl appearances, five ended in a loss. Their most recent runner-up finisher, the 2013 team, came up just short in the simulation with a second-place showing. Three Denver teams, the 1977, 1986 and 1989 runner-ups, placed in the bottom 10 of the tournament.
Two franchises, the Minnesota Viking and Buffalo Bills, are 0-4 in Super Bowl trips. The Vikings’ best team, their 1973 squad, finished 33rd in the simulation, while two Bills teams, from the 1991 and 1992 seasons, snuck into the top 20.
The New England Patriots also had four teams in the runner-up tournament. The 2007 Patriots, which went 16-0 before falling to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, had the highest winning percentage of any team in the field, coming out on top in 77.3 percent of games. The ’07 Patriots also led all teams in point differential, with +9.7. The 2011 Patriots, which also lost to the Giants, finished ninth in the tournament.
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