Every year I analyze each team in the NFL Playoffs to look for some value on a potential Super Bowl winner. As I have stated in the past, we do not crown the best team of the season champion we crown the team that wins the tournament at the end of the year the champion. Since deciding who the best team is can always be subjective we like having it settled on the field. But that does open it up to an inferior team getting hot at the right time or getting favorable matchups to win it all.
Over the last 16 seasons just 4 of the 16 teams that had the best regular season record, or tied for the best record, went on to win the Super Bowl. The 2002 Buccaneers, 2003 Patriots, 2013 Seahawks, and 2014 Patriots (1 of 5 12-4 teams that year). Looking for a long shot is usually beneficial.
I traditionally look at 3 filters to determine a potential winner for the Super Bowl. It is a very basic strategy but a good way to weed out the teams that are highly unlikely to win it all.
Here are my filters
1. Team must have a total yardage differential >36 (just 8 teams won the Super Bowl with less)
2. Teams must be + in turnover differential (just 6 teams won the Super Bowl with a – differential)
3. SRS from Pro Footbal Reference >5.9 (just 9 teams had a lower ranking including the 2006 Colts at 5.9)
-34 of the 49 Super Bowl winners qualified for all 3 filters.
-The average Super Bowl winner has a +63 yardage differential and +8.9 TO differential. Average SRS is 9.09
The yardage differential of Super Bowl winners since 2001 is where we see some weaker teams prevailing. It is taking less dominant teams from a yardage standpoint to win it all. The turnovers have become increasingly important though. Since 1988 only 1 team has won with a negative TO ratio (2007 Giants). This makes sense because teams that are close in yardage differential need to create turnovers to outscore their opponent.
Here is a list of all the Super Bowl winners and their stats for that season.
|Year||Team||Yards Diff / Game||TO Diff||SRS|
Here are this years playoff teams
|Year||Team||Yards Diff / Game||TO Diff||SRS|
Last season I added Passer Rating Differential to our analysis. Simply put this stat looks at a teams Offensive Passer Rating and subtracts its Defensive Passer Rating. This stat was shown to be relevant to Super Bowl success by the guys at Cold Hard Football Facts. In their analysis they go back to 1940. Here are some key points
– 18 of 75 NFL Champs finished #1 in Offensive Passer Rating (24%)
– 21 of 75 finished #1 in Defensive Passer Rating (28%)
– 27 of 75 finished #1 in Passer Rating Differential (36%)
– 45 of 75 finished in the top 3 in Passer Rating Differential (60%)
– 71 of 75 finished in the top 10 in Passer Rating Differential (94.7%)
Here are the Passer Rating Stats for each champion since 1970
Here are this seasons playoff teams and their PR Differentials
To reenforce the notion that passing and being able to stop the pass are the most important factors in championship success we will look at a couple more stats. Yards per Pass and Yards Per Rush. Both offensive and defensive and combined.
Here are the Super Bowl Winners and their rankings in these stats
|Year||Team||OYPR Rank||OYPP Rank||DYPR Rank||DYPP Rank||Passing Combined||Rushing Combined|
The average Super Bowl winner has averaged a rank of 7 in Offensive Yards Per Pass and 7 in Defensive YPP while averaging 12 in Offensive Yards Per Rush and 11 in Defensive YPR. In just 11 of 45 Super Bowl winners did the winner have a better combined rushing ranking than passing. Of those 11 the 1979 Steelers ranked first in 3 of the 4 categories with a 2 ranking in DYPP. The 1988 49ers were no worse than 9(OYPP) in any category. Last season The Patriots were pretty equal with a 34/33 split Passing/Rushing.
In just 11 of 45 Super Bowls the winner ranked outside the top 10 in Offensive Yards Per Play.
Here are this seasons teams
|Year||Team||YPR Rank||YPP Rank||DYPR Rank||DYPP Rank||Combined Pass Rank||Combined Rush Rank|
One last stat to look at is Scoring Margin. Super Bowl winners have averaged a 9.55 scoring margin. No team has ever won with a negative scoring margin. Of the last 45 Super Bowl winners just 7 have finished with a scoring margin below 6. Here are the list of past Super Bowl winners.
Here is a lost of this seasons teams
|Year||Team||Scoring Margin||SM Rank|
This season I am taking a look at the average for each of the most important stats and finding the standard deviation from the mean for each team in each stat. Here are the totals for all playoff teams this season.
I like this because it gives a quick look at who the best teams are. Seattle ranks the best in the key Super Bowl stats coming in 2.1 total Standard Deviations above the mean for a Super Bowl winner. Washington, Minnesota, Houston, Green Bay would all be the 2nd to worst teams to win a Super Bowl based on this calculation. The 2007 Giants were the worst at -12.7.
Whenever I am betting on a futures event with many possibilities I want to first eliminate the teams I do not think have a chance to win. By having the numbers above I can quickly look at this years teams and see which are too far behind a typical Super Bowl team. The quickest way is to look at the total Standard Deviations which summed the standard deviations for each team in each of the important statistical categories. I will firstly eliminate any team that would finish in the bottom 10 if they were to win. The 10th worst team to win using this metric was 1974 Pittsburgh at -2.88.
This season we toss out
While some of these are not surprising you may have been considering others. Notably Pittsburgh, Denver and New England. You may also question some of the stats for Pittsburgh due to Ben Roethlisberger missing a few games. I added in his projected stats and while it does improve the Steelers it does not make them a contender. The defense is just not strong enough.
Denver is the top seed in the AFC and being eliminated right off the bat. The team was better offensively without Peyton Manning. He will be back under center for the playoffs. His arm strength has been a question mark for a few years and having a few weeks off won’t make it that much better. Manning has also not fared well in the post season with an 11-13 record. The story would be a great one but I don’t see why this team will be the one he wins with. He has had much better in the past.
New England is a team many will have. They are the favorites in the AFC despite being the 2 seed. The reason being the Patriots are generally over priced and the rest of the AFC looks very beatable. We can not pay top dollar for this team. Brady always scares you when you are against him however. He has an insane 21-8 record in the post season. That is worth something. But it is not enough to get me to wager on them at +350.
That leaves us with 5 teams.
Kansas City +1800
Cincinnati without Dalton can not be played. If he is going to play this weekend that number will come down a bit but even if he plays it is hard to imagine he will be very effective.
That leaves 4 teams and only one from the AFC.
Kansas City Chiefs, +1800, 11-5
The Chiefs are +1800 and our sole survivor in the AFC. For that reason alone we need to have a piece of them. Of course the road to the Super Bowl will be tougher having to play during the Wild Card Weekend. We have seen 5 of the last 8 Super Bowl winners start there run without a bye however. The Chiefs have a respectable 16 combined ranking in passing efficiency. That is close to the 13 average for a Super Bowl winner. The troubling thing for KC is they are more efficient running it than they are passing. That has not been a good combination historically with just 14 of 45 Super Bowl winners doing the same. Of those 14 only 5 had a significant disparity in the 2. 8 of the 14 ranked better on their combined rushing efficiency numbers than passing. Showing that those teams were so good at stopping the run and running it that they were able to compensate for the weaker passing numbers. Kansas City does not fall into this category. The Chiefs are close enough and at the right price to take a shot. .1 Units
Carolina Panthers, 15-1, +350
The Panthers came one game shy of a perfect regular season but the dream of a Super Bowl victory is still very much alive. The Panthers will be getting home field through the NFC playoffs. That is a nice advantage for a team that was 16 points better than their opponents at home this season. Looking through our Super Bowl contender stats Carolina qualifies in every category. Carolina has a really impressive combined pass ranking of 9. However that is the third best in this field and all 3 are in the NFC. If things go to form the Panthers will be looking at a matchup with Seattle and then Arizona to get to the Super Bowl. That is about as difficult a road as any 1 seed has ever had to face. Primarily because Seattle may be the best 6 seed we have ever seen. At +350 I am not getting enough value here so we will look elsewhere.
Arizona Cardinals, 13-3, +450
The Cardinals have been my bugaboo for 2 seasons now. Betting against them ATS has proven to be very costly. We did get some satisfaction with Seattle +7 last week however. Arizona finished atop my rankings 1 point above Seattle. The Cardinals come in with the second best overall Super Bowl numbers at 1.9 total standard deviations. This team finished top 11 in all 4 efficiency categories including tops in Offensive Yards Per Pass. The road to the Super Bowl likely looks like the winner of GB/Washington at home and then either hosting Seattle or at Carolina. The NFC championship game is going to be rough for anyone who makes it. Arizona is without question a contender. The question is does the price warrant a play. At +450 it is a fair price. .5 Unit
Seattle Seahawks, 10-6, +550
Looking at the numbers it is hard to believe Seattle was only 10-6. Their last game was a bit of a statement at Arizona. Seattle knows how to win in the playoffs getting to the last two Super Bowls. In many statistics they are a better team this year than they were the previous two years. The Seattle formula has been passing efficiency. This year is no exception. 2nd in offensive YPP and 5th in Defensive YPP. That said they aren’t too bad when it comes to the rushing efficiency either finishing 7th in offense and 4th in defense. Not quite as high as their 39 in 2013 the Seahawks boast the top Passer Rating Differential in the league at 31.7. Seattle will likely need to beat Carolina and Arizona to get to their 3rd straight Super Bowl so it will not be easy. Even with the tough road we will take them .5 unit at +550.
Kansas City +1800 .1 Units
Arizona +450 .5 Units
Seattle +550 .5 Units