2016-2017 NFL Playoff Analysis

By | January 4, 2017

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
1970 Baltimore 21 -2 0.4
1971 Dallas 112 16 9.9
1972 Miami 124 18 11
1973 Miami 59 1 13.4
1974 Pittsburgh 93 7 6.8
1975 Pittsburgh 88 5 14.2
1976 Oakland 58 -4 8.5
1977 Dallas 114 7 7.8
1978 Pittsburgh 52 7 8.2
1979 Pittsburgh 124 -10 11.9
1980 Oakland 0 5 4.2
1981 San Francisco 45 23 6.2
1982 Washington 47 8 7.4
1983 Los Angeles 59 -13 6.8
1984 San Francisco 74 16 12.7
1985 Chicago 106 23 15.9
1986 NY Giants 39 11 9
1987 Washington 36 -3 3.9
1988 San Francisco 83 12 4.8
1989 San Francisco 103 12 10.7
1990 NY Giants 37 20 7.7
1991 Washington 91 18 16.6
1992 Dallas 105 7 9.9
1993 Dallas 53 6 9.6
1994 San Francisco 76 11 11.6
1995 Dallas 49 2 9.7
1996 Green Bay 86 15 15.3
1997 Denver 75 10 10.7
1998 Denver 72 10 8.9
1999 St Louis 107 5 11.9
2000 Baltimore 65 23 8
2001 New England (29) 7 4.3
2002 Tampa Bay 60 17 8.8
2003 New England 23 17 6.9
2004 New England 47 9 12.8
2005 Pittsburgh 38 7 7.8
2007 NY Giants 26 -9 3.3
2008 Pittsburgh 75 4 9.8
2009 New Orleans 46 11 10.8
2010 Green Bay 49 10 10.9
2011 NY Giants 9 7 1.6
2012 Baltimore 2 9 2.9
2013 Seattle 65 20 13
2014 New England 21 12 10.5
2015 Denver 72 -4 5.8

Here are this years playoff teams

Year Team Yards Diff / Game TO Diff SRS
2016 New England 60 12 9.29
2016 Miami (50) 2 -2.4
2016 Pittsburgh 30 5 4.74
2016 Houston 13 -7 -2.63
2016 Oakland (2) 16 3.26
2016 Kansas City (26) 16 5.6
2016 Dallas 33 5 6.97
2016 NY Giants (9) -2 2.13
2016 Green Bay 5 8 2.83
2016 Detroit (16) -1 -0.65
2016 Atlanta 45 11 8.48
2016 Seattle 39 1 2.13

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

Year Team OPR DPR PRDiff
1970 Baltimore 73.3 60.3 13
1971 Dallas 88.8 55.9 32.9
1972 Miami 86.9 47.4 39.5
1973 Miami 75.2 39.9 35.3
1974 Pittsburgh 48.9 44.3 4.6
1975 Pittsburgh 86.7 42.8 43.9
1976 Oakland 102.2 68.8 33.4
1977 Dallas 85.3 48.2 37.1
1978 Pittsburgh 81.5 51.8 29.7
1979 Pittsburgh 76.6 56.4 20.2
1980 Oakland 70 61.8 8.2
1981 San Francisco 87.7 60.2 27.5
1982 Washington 91.8 67.7 24.1
1983 Los Angeles 84.8 71.8 13
1984 San Francisco 101.9 65.6 36.3
1985 Chicago 77.3 51.2 26.1
1986 NY Giants 75 68.6 6.4
1987 Washington 80.7 69.3 11.4
1988 San Francisco 83.5 72.2 11.3
1989 San Francisco 114.8 68.5 46.3
1990 NY Giants 90.6 62.2 28.4
1991 Washington 98 58.9 39.1
1992 Dallas 88.8 69.9 18.9
1993 Dallas 96.8 75.3 21.5
1994 San Francisco 111.4 68.1 43.3
1995 Dallas 91.7 72.3 19.4
1996 Green Bay 95.7 55.4 40.3
1997 Denver 87.4 71.5 15.9
1998 Denver 93.5 80.5 13
1999 St Louis 106.6 64.1 42.5
2000 Baltimore 72.7 62.5 10.2
2001 New England 85.3 68.6 16.7
2002 Tampa Bay 86.3 48.4 37.9
2003 New England 84.3 56.2 28.1
2004 New England 92.5 75.3 17.2
2005 Pittsburgh 91.5 74 17.5
2007 NY Giants 73 83.4 -10.4
2008 Pittsburgh 81.9 63.4 18.5
2009 New Orleans 106 68.6 37.4
2010 Green Bay 98.9 67.2 31.7
2011 NY Giants 92.9 86.1 6.8
2012 Baltimore 86.4 80.6 5.8
2013 Seattle 102.4 63.4 39
2014 New England 97.51 83.96 13.55
2015 Denver 101.9 87 14.9

Here are this seasons playoff teams and their PR Differentials

 

Year Team OPR DPR PRDiff
2016 New England 109.3 84.4 24.9
2016 Miami 95.53 88.38 7.15
2016 Pittsburgh 93.92 87.26 6.66
2016 Houston 73.25 84.33 -11.08
2016 Oakland 95.31 89.78 5.53
2016 Kansas City 93.15 79.84 13.31
2016 Dallas 103.01 94.08 8.93
2016 NY Giants 86.02 75.76 10.26
2016 Green Bay 102.25 95.95 6.3
2016 Detroit 93.32 106.49 -13.17
2016 Atlanta 116.76 92.37 24.39
2016 Seattle 93.37 84.98 8.39

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
1970 Baltimore 22 5 12 4
1971 Dallas 7 2 1 5
1972 Miami 2 1 12 4
1973 Miami 2 15 7 2
1974 Pittsburgh 2 22 3 2
1975 Pittsburgh 2 6 22 2
1976 Oakland 14 2 15 23
1977 Dallas 5 3 8 1
1978 Pittsburgh 21 1 2 5
1979 Pittsburgh 1 1 1 2
1980 Oakland 9 10 1 15
1981 San Francisco 26 9 21 4
1982 Washington 17 3 13 9
1983 Los Angeles 14 3 5 7
1984 San Francisco 2 3 21 8
1985 Chicago 5 6 7 2
1986 NY Giants 11 12 11 6
1987 Washington 5 1 11 16
1988 San Francisco 2 9 5 3
1989 San Francisco 11 1 9 3
1990 NY Giants 19 9 8 1
1991 Washington 17 1 15 2
1992 Dallas 10 8 3 3
1993 Dallas 3 4 18 1
1994 San Francisco 7 1 16 6
1995 Dallas 5 3 19 16
1996 Green Bay 12 7 4 1
1997 Denver 2 6 30 4
1998 Denver 2 5 8 11
1999 St Louis 2 1 6 7
2000 Baltimore 8 21 1 4
2001 New England 24 14 21 17
2002 Tampa Bay 27 19 4 1
2003 New England 30 13 6 1
2004 New England 17 9 11 15
2005 Pittsburgh 12 1 1 5
2007 NY Giants 4 28 8 19
2008 Pittsburgh 29 14 1 1
2009 New Orleans 6 3 26 15
2010 Green Bay 27 3 31 7
2011 NY Giants 32 3 23 20
2012 Baltimore 12 14 7 17
2013 Seattle 12 2 9 1
2014 New England 23 19 10 15
2015 Denver 14 22 1 2

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.

 

Year Team Scoring Margin
1970 Baltimore 6.2
1971 Dallas 13.1
1972 Miami 15.3
1973 Miami 13.8
1974 Pittsburgh 8.3
1975 Pittsburgh 15.1
1976 Oakland 8.1
1977 Dallas 9.5
1978 Pittsburgh 10.1
1979 Pittsburgh 9.6
1980 Oakland 3.6
1981 San Francisco 6.7
1982 Washington 6.9
1983 Los Angeles 6.5
1984 San Francisco 15.5
1985 Chicago 16.1
1986 NY Giants 8.4
1987 Washington 5.9
1988 San Francisco 4.7
1989 San Francisco 11.8
1990 NY Giants 7.8
1991 Washington 16.3
1992 Dallas 10.4
1993 Dallas 9.2
1994 San Francisco 13.1
1995 Dallas 9.0
1996 Green Bay 15.4
1997 Denver 11.6
1998 Denver 7.3
1999 St Louis 17.8
2000 Baltimore 10.5
2001 New England 6.2
2002 Tampa Bay 9.4
2003 New England 6.6
2004 New England 11.1
2005 Pittsburgh 8.8
2007 NY Giants 2.1
2008 Pittsburgh 7.8
2009 New Orleans 11.4
2010 Green Bay 9.7
2011 NY Giants 1.9
2012 Baltimore 4.6
2013 Seattle 11.6
2014 New England 9.7
2015 Denver 9.4

 

2016 Scoring Margins

Year Team Scoring Margin
2016 New England 11.9
2016 Miami -1.1
2016 Pittsburgh 4.5
2016 Houston -3.1
2016 Oakland 1.9
2016 Kansas City 4.9
2016 Dallas 7.2
2016 NY Giants 1.6
2016 Green Bay 2.8
2016 Detroit -0.8
2016 Atlanta 8.4
2016 Seattle 3.9

 

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.

 

Year Team Total
2016 New England 2.9
2016 Miami -7.7
2016 Pittsburgh -3.3
2016 Houston -9.6
2016 Oakland -6.1
2016 Kansas City -3.3
2016 Dallas -1.0
2016 NY Giants -6.4
2016 Green Bay -6.4
2016 Detroit -9.1
2016 Atlanta 1.7
2016 Seattle -3.7

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.

Analysis

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.

That eliminates;

Miami
Houston
Detroit

Only 1 team ever won the Super Bowl with a negative yard differential

That eliminates;
Oakland
Kansas City
NY Giants

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.

Dallas +410

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.

Pittsburgh +840

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

Atlanta +800

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

Bets

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.

 

Bol

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