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 17 seasons just 4 of the 17 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 7 teams won the Super Bowl with a – differential)
3. SRS from Pro Footbal Reference >5.8 (just 9 teams had a lower ranking including the 2015 Broncos at 5.8)
-34 of the 50 Super Bowl winners qualified for all 3 filters.
-The average Super Bowl winner has a +63 yardage differential and +8.7 TO differential. Average SRS is 9.03
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|
A couple of seasons ago 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 76 NFL Champs finished #1 in Offensive Passer Rating (24%)
– 21 of 76 finished #1 in Defensive Passer Rating (28%)
– 27 of 76 finished #1 in Passer Rating Differential (36%)
– 45 of 76 finished in the top 3 in Passer Rating Differential (59%)
– 71 of 76 finished in the top 10 in Passer Rating Differential (93%)
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|
The average Super Bowl winner has averaged a rank of 7.5 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 12 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 Broncos were dominant defensively ranking 1 in rushing and 2 in passing.
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.
2016 Scoring Margins
Last season I started 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. New England ranks the best coming in at a 2.9 total Standard Deviations above the mean for a Super Bowl winner. Miami, Houston, Oakland, NY Giants, Green Bay, Detroit 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. There are a bunch of really bad teams in this season playoffs. Certainly the worst group since 2011 when first started writing up this analyis.
No team has ever won the Super Bowl with a negative SRS.
Only 1 team ever won the Super Bowl with a negative yard differential
Of the remaining teams Green Bay and Seattle have SRS numbers that would make them the 2nd or worst Super Bowl winners of all time. We will eliminate both.
New England +175
New England is the best team in the tournament and they get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots don’t figure to be tested until the AFC Championship game and even then they will be close to a TD favorite against either KC or Pittsburgh.
If New England is a 10-13 pt favorite their first game they will win about 83% of the time. 6-7.5 point favorite in game 2 is about 72% and 1.5-3.5 point favorite in the Super Bowl would win about 58% of the time. That means there is about a 35% chance of the Patriots winning the Super Bowl assuming one of the favorites makes it in the NFC. 35% would be +185. It is close. Not great value but I think they are the best team here by far.
The Cowboys finished the regular season with the best record in the NFL. They secured home field in the NFC throughout the playoffs. As such they come in as the second choice to win it all. The Cowboys rank 3rd in Yarde Per Rush and 4th in Yards Per Pass showing that this is a very efficient offense. The defense is not quite as good but respectable with an 11th in DYPR and 12th in DYPP. The Cowboys rank 7th in Passer Rating Differential coming in at 8.93. That is more than 1 standard deviation from the mean which scares me for a team with such a short price. We will pass on the Cowboys.
According to our methodology the Steelers are the second best AFC team. But they will have 2 tough matchups after this weekend. More than likely they will have to beat both KC and New England on the road. The probability of both happening is about 15%. They would need to be a 7 point favorite in the Super Bowl to get us equal value. I do not think there is a matchup in which they would be a 7 point favorite. The Steelers do not have any top 10 rankings in the efficiency numbers. Only 2 teams have been able to win a Super Bowl with such numbers. We will pass on Pittsburgh
Dallas has been getting a lot of press because of their young stars, their record and because they are the Cowboys. With Rodgers heating up Green Bay is a team many are picking with a shot to make a run. The Giants and Eli have been in this spot before and came away with a Super Bowl win twice so some people are looking their way as a long shot pick. Atlanta seems to be a bit under the radar. Offense is where Atlanta has shown their dominance. They are the top rated offense on the Statsational rankings, their efficiency numbers are 5th for rushing and 1st for passing. Defensively they are not great against the run ranking 28th in efficiency but they are a respectable 11th against the pass. Looking at the Passer Rating Differential they have a solid above Super Bowl winner average of 24.39. That is 2nd best in the league. The problem we have here is the number is not the greatest at +800. I would have prefered something closer to +1000
Atlanta +800 .25 unit
New England +175 1 unit
Pretty unusual for me to take the favorite but I think the road is too easy for them to get there this season. The numbers back them being the top team. Atlanta a bit more of a long shot but I think they are neck and neck with Dallas so I will take the better price on the Falcons and roll with it. We will not go too strong here risking just 1.25 units.