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Mark Pesavento

If Saints win coin toss, Super Bowl could be over before it starts

Shutdown Corner

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Shortly before the kickoff of Super Bowl 44 on Sunday, a group of captains representing the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints will meet at midfield. Referee Scott Green will introduce the ceremonial coin and a member of the newly elected Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2010 will toss it to determine who gets the ball first. Saints quarterback Drew Brees(notes) will watch it spin into the Miami night and will call heads or tails.

And if he's lucky, he's wrong.

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Of the 43 Super Bowls, the team that won the pregame coin toss has won 20 times and lost 23, a .465 winning percentage, and has lost 10 of the last 13. The Arizona Cardinals won the coin toss last year in Tampa, Fla., and, trying to buck history, became the first team to defer. Didn't matter: They lost, too.

The NFL's conferences alternate as the home team in the Super Bowl. The AFC is home this year, so the Colts had their choice of jerseys (they'll be in blue) and will stand on the sideline closer to the main CBS cameras. As the visiting team, the NFC's Saints will call the coin flip. The recent trend points to them being right.

Whether this should make Saints fans nervous is a matter of debate; because of the small sample size, some statisticians argue that the win-loss record of coin-toss winners is statistically insignificant. But decide for yourself: The NFC has won 12 straight coin flips and is 2-10 in those games.

If the Saints do win the coin toss, would it improve their odds of victory if they score first? Yes and no. Teams that score first are 28-15 but have lost five of the last eight.

Other Super Bowl coin-flip facts:

• In 43 games, the coin has come up heads 22 times, tails 21.
• The NFC has won the toss 29 times, the AFC 14.
• As mentioned, the NFC has won 12 straight flips. The odds of that: 1 in 8,192.
• The game's coin traveled into space with the shuttle Atlantis in November.

It wasn't until Super Bowl XII between the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos that the NFL began honoring its legends during the pregame ceremony. Red Grange was the first honorary coin-tosser. The Cowboys correctly guessed heads and won the game 27-10.

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