And today I'm thrilled to give you the lowdown with info that Vegas oddsmakers don't have.
We've put our elves to work this holiday (and playoff) season, and it would appear that flight searches have a lot to say about who will and won't be going to New York to pass the pigskin this February. We took a close look at flight searches the last few months for playoff hopeful cities (sorry Houston, there's always next year), analyzing the volume of searches between that city and New York for the weekend of February 2nd. And if you're a Seattle fan like me, then the results will put a little pep in your step (or make you a little more trigger-happy for booking that dream football trip).
A couple weeks ago saw Seattle all but lock up home field advantage for the playoffs after they (resoundingly) defeated New Orleans. The next day saw flight searches on Expedia.com between Seattle and New York City skyrocket, with six times the search volume from the previous month. Seattle fans are clearly confident of their chances this playoff season. And with a 12-2 record, no one can fault them. And what about the rest of the league?
Well San Francisco fans aren't about to let their neighbors to the north have their cake and eat it too. While a couple games behind Seattle in the NFC West, they're riding a four-game winning streak, and many are hopeful for a trip to New York, since they are right behind Seattle (though a distant second) in search volume. There can, however, only be one NFC team in the big game. So while the expectations are high in San Francisco, with the second-most searches to NYC of any playoff-eligible team, the probability of them actually getting to be in the final game are actually relatively low according to oddsmakers. Do they know something that we don't know in the Bay City?
While the NFC has a strong showing in search volume, the same can't be said for the AFC. If we were determining who had the most team spirit, it'd be a runaway NFC victory! Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis may be in good positions to win their division and make a run for the final game of the season, but flight searches would say otherwise. That's because all three are neck and neck at the bottom of our list of search volume for playoff-hopeful cities. Indianapolis must still be in Peyton Manning withdrawal and Kansas City and Cincinnati fans must be as surprised about this season as the rest of us. Well there's always baseball season (though maybe not for Kansas City and Cincinnati). The AFC's best representer is Denver, who came in at number four behind Carolina.
The most-likely AFC contender, Denver, has seen ticket searches continually grow week on week since they beat their division opponents, Kansas City, back on November 17. Even with the overtime loss to New England, they still remain the team with the highest probability to reach the big game and their flight searches show their excitement:
And finally, even though they lost to New Orleans in week 14, Carolina fans remain hopeful that they will head to New York this February and possibly get revenge on New England from their loss in Houston 10 years ago this season:
All we can talk about in the halls of Expedia these days seems to be how the playoffs will go and who will end up in the big game when this year's football season is said and done. If searches on Expedia.com are any indicator, it's shaping up to be a Seattle and Denver showdown in New York. Personally, I can't wait.
*Data in these charts has been updated through 14 December. The playoff probabilities are from the Massey Peabody Analytics page with no explicit direction as to the use of their data.