Statsational 2014-15 NFL Playoff Analysis

By | December 29, 2014

Each 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 etc winning it all.

Over the last 15 seasons just three of the 15 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 and 2013 Seahawks.  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 7 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 48 Super Bowl winners qualified for all 3 filters.

-The average Super Bowl winner has a +64 yardage differential and +8.9 TO differential.  Average SRS is 9.06

1976-1988 there were 6 teams of the 13 winners who missed on at least one qualifier and 2001-2013 there have been 6 of 13 winners to not qualify in at least one category.  We appeared to be in the midst of a cycle where weaker teams were winning the Super Bowl until last year.  But one year where the best team wins does not mean we are in a cycle of dominant teams winning just yet.

The yardage differential of Super Bowl winners since 2001 is where we see 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 Yards +TO’s SRS
1966 Green Bay 48 18 66 13.5
1967 Green Bay 70 3 73 9.4
1968 NY Jets 120 15 135 7.9
1969 Kansas City 103 8 111 11.9
1970 Baltimore 21 -2 19 0.4
1971 Dallas 112 16 128 9.9
1972 Miami 124 18 142 11
1973 Miami 59 1 60 13.4
1974 Pittsburgh 93 7 100 6.8
1975 Pittsburgh 88 5 93 14.2
1976 Oakland 58 -4 54 8.5
1977 Dallas 114 7 121 7.8
1978 Pittsburgh 52 7 59 8.2
1979 Pittsburgh 124 -10 114 11.9
1980 Oakland 0 5 5 4.2
1981 San Francisco 45 23 68 6.2
1982 Washington 47 8 55 7.4
1983 Los Angeles 59 -13 46 6.8
1984 San Francisco 74 16 90 12.7
1985 Chicago 106 23 129 15.9
1986 NY Giants 39 11 50 9
1987 Washington 36 -3 33 3.9
1988 San Francisco 83 12 95 4.8
1989 San Francisco 103 12 115 10.7
1990 NY Giants 37 20 57 7.7
1991 Washington 91 18 109 16.6
1992 Dallas 105 7 112 9.9
1993 Dallas 53 6 59 9.6
1994 San Francisco 76 11 87 11.6
1995 Dallas 49 2 51 9.7
1996 Green Bay 86 15 101 15.3
1997 Denver 75 10 85 10.7
1998 Denver 72 10 82 8.9
1999 St Louis 107 5 112 11.9
2000 Baltimore 65 23 88 8
2001 New England (29) 7 (22) 4.3
2002 Tampa Bay 60 17 77 8.8
2003 New England 23 17 40 6.9
2004 New England 47 9 56 12.8
2005 Pittsburgh 38 7 45 7.8
2006 Indianapolis 47 7 54 5.9
2007 NY Giants 26 -9 17 3.3
2008 Pittsburgh 75 4 79 9.8
2009 New Orleans 46 11 57 10.8
2010 Green Bay 49 10 59 10.9
2011 NY Giants 9 7 16 1.6
2012 Baltimore 2 9 11 2.9
2013 Seattle 65 20 85 13

Here are this years playoff teams

Year Team Yards Diff / Game TO Diff SRS
2014 Green Bay 40 14 7.9
2014 Dallas 28 6 5
2014 Denver 98 5 9.2
2014 Seattle 109 10 9.1
2014 New England 21 12 10.5
2014 Cincinnati (11) 0 -0.1
2014 Indianapolis 64 5 4
2014 Pittsburgh 58 0 1.8
2014 Detroit 40 7 1.7
2014 Baltimore 28 2 4.1
2014 Carolina 7 3 -3.5
2014 Arizona (48) 8 1.6

 

This season I will add the Passer Rating Differential to the mix in our analysis.  Simply 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 74 NFL Champs finished #1 in Offensive Passer Rating (24%)

– 21 of 74 finished #1 in Defensive Passer Rating (28%)

– 27 of 74 finished #1 in Passer Rating Differential (36.5%)

– 45 of 74 finished in the top 3 in Passer Rating Differential (60.8%)

– 70 of 74 finished in the top 10 in Passer Rating Differential (94.5%)

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
2006 Indianapolis 101 80.4 20.6
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

Here are this seasons playoff teams and their PR Differentials

 

Year Team OPR DPR PRDiff Rank
2014 Green Bay 108.61 81.49 27.12 1
2014 Dallas 110.87 88.46 22.41 2
2014 Denver 101.33 82.29 19.04 3
2014 Seattle 95.07 80.34 14.73 4
2014 New England 97.51 83.96 13.55 5
2014 Cincinnati 84.02 75.77 8.25 7
2014 Indianapolis 96.78 88.76 8.02 8
2014 Pittsburgh 103.23 98.38 4.85 12
2014 Detroit 85.54 80.8 4.74 13
2014 Baltimore 90.87 90.61 0.26 18
2014 Carolina 86.24 89.52 -3.28 21
2014 Arizona 81.82 85.96 -4.14 22

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
1970 Baltimore 22 5 12 4 9 34
1971 Dallas 7 2 1 5 7 8
1972 Miami 2 1 12 4 5 14
1973 Miami 2 15 7 2 17 9
1974 Pittsburgh 2 22 3 2 24 5
1975 Pittsburgh 2 6 22 2 8 24
1976 Oakland 14 2 15 23 25 29
1977 Dallas 5 3 8 1 4 13
1978 Pittsburgh 21 1 2 5 6 23
1979 Pittsburgh 1 1 1 2 3 2
1980 Oakland 9 10 1 15 25 10
1981 San Francisco 26 9 21 4 13 47
1982 Washington 17 3 13 9 12 30
1983 Los Angeles 14 3 5 7 10 19
1984 San Francisco 2 3 21 8 11 23
1985 Chicago 5 6 7 2 8 12
1986 NY Giants 11 12 11 6 18 22
1987 Washington 5 1 11 16 17 16
1988 San Francisco 2 9 5 3 12 7
1989 San Francisco 11 1 9 3 4 20
1990 NY Giants 19 9 8 1 10 27
1991 Washington 17 1 15 2 3 32
1992 Dallas 10 8 3 3 11 13
1993 Dallas 3 4 18 1 5 21
1994 San Francisco 7 1 16 6 7 23
1995 Dallas 5 3 19 16 19 24
1996 Green Bay 12 7 4 1 8 16
1997 Denver 2 6 30 4 10 32
1998 Denver 2 5 8 11 16 10
1999 St Louis 2 1 6 7 8 8
2000 Baltimore 8 21 1 4 25 9
2001 New England 24 14 21 17 31 45
2002 Tampa Bay 27 19 4 1 20 31
2003 New England 30 13 6 1 14 36
2004 New England 17 9 11 15 24 28
2005 Pittsburgh 12 1 1 5 6 13
2006 Indianapolis 17 3 32 8 11 49
2007 NY Giants 4 28 8 19 47 12
2008 Pittsburgh 29 14 1 1 15 30
2009 New Orleans 6 3 26 15 18 32
2010 Green Bay 27 3 31 7 10 58
2011 NY Giants 32 3 23 20 23 55
2012 Baltimore 12 14 7 17 31 19
2013 Seattle 12 2 9 1 3 21

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 10 of 44 Super Bowl winners did the winner have a better combined rushing ranking than passing.  Last season Seattle was on of the best in combined passing at a combined total rank of 3.

 

Here are this seasons teams

Year Team YPR Rank YPP Rank DYPR Rank DYPP Rank Combined Pass Rank Combined Rush Rank
2014 Denver 20 5 5 1 6 25
2014 Seattle 1 7 2 2 9 3
2014 Green Bay 11 2 22 10 12 33
2014 Dallas 3 1 18 20 21 21
2014 Indianapolis 24 6 23 16 22 47
2014 Detroit 30 17 1 8 25 31
2014 Cincinnati 10 22 16 6 28 26
2014 Pittsburgh 16 3 26 28 31 42
2014 Baltimore 7 15 3 17 32 10
2014 Carolina 13 21 29 12 33 42
2014 New England 23 19 10 15 34 33
2014 Arizona 32 20 25 22 42 57

 

Team, Record, Super Bowl Odds

1. Seattle Seahawks, 12-4, +220

The defending champs got out of the gate slow but finished the season winning 10 of 11 and 7 straight.  They needed every one of those wins to get the home field throughout the NFC Playoffs.  Seattle is 5-1 against playoff teams.  They rank 1 in my power rankings with the help of the number 1 defense.  Seattle qualifies on my original 3 filters going 109/10/9.1.  They are better on the combined rush than they are on the pass which is usually grounds to disqualify but if you look at the teams who have done that in the past most were dominant (top 10) in rushing.  Seattle is 3 and a very good (2nd in the league) 9 in pass.  They come in 4th on Passer Rating Differential at 14.73.  A far cry from last seasons 39.  If 61% of the champions finish in the top 3 in PRD then I do not want to take a +220 team that finished outside of that.  I will pass on Seattle.

2. New England Patriots, 12-4, +310

The Patriots were able to lock up the all important home field advantage in week 16.  This has made the Pats the favorites to come out of the AFC.  Tom Brady does not make a habit of losing home playoff games with a 12-3 record.  2 of those losses have come to Baltimore, a team they may face in the divisional round.  They are 4-1 against playoff teams and rank 3 in my power rankings.  New England misses on yard differential with just 21.  Combined passing rank is higher than the rushing rank, 34-33.  Neither number is very impressive.  Looking at the PRD the Patriots rank 5.  We have too many misses on qualifiers to take a favorite here.  I will pass.

3. Denver Broncos, 12-4, +580

Denver is the 2 seed in the AFC tied with New England for the best record in the conference.  The Broncos are 2-3 against playoff teams.  The biggest question around this team is how healthy Peyton Manning is and can he throw it well enough in the potentially tough January weather conditions.  The original filters Denver qualifies on all with a 98/5/9.2.  Combined pass is 6 which is the best in the league.  PRD they finish 3rd.  Hard not to have a piece of Denver with these numbers but I am going to pass based on what my eyes are seeing on the field.  Hopefully they are not deceiving me.

4. Green Bay Packers, 12-4, +620

Green Bay was on its way to home field until they got tripped up in Buffalo.  Now they may have to win a game in Seattle, a place they have not been good in, to get to the Super Bowl.  Green Bay has gone 3-2 against playoff teams.  The Packers look good on the stat sheets.  On the original filters they go 40/14/7.9 to qualify.  Combined Pass rank is below the average for a champion at 12 and better than its rushing rank of 33.  PRD is tops in the league which means they are very live.  I have a +700 bet from earlier this season and will not add here but if I did not I would take +620 on Green Bay.

5. Dallas Cowboys, 12-4, +1150

Yet another 12-4 team but this one has to play in the wild card round.  Dallas surprised many when they looked like a team that was exposed on Thanksgiving by Philadelphia.  Since that game the Cowboys have steam rolled their opponents winning 4 straight and scoring 41,38,42,44.  Against playoff teams Dallas went 2-1.  Dallas played just 6 games against teams above .500 going 4-2.  They miss on 2 of the 3 original filters with just a 28 YPG differential and a 5 SRS.  Combined pass and rush are equal at 21 each.  Dallas ranks 2 in PRD which makes them a bit ore intriguing.  A small play here may be worth the nice payout of +1150.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-5, +2100

Pittsburgh has started to become a favorite of bettors looking for a long shot.  After starting 3-3 they finished 8-2 which has people excited.  Offensively they can score with anyone.  The question is can they stop a good offense.  Pittsburgh went 5-1 against playoff teams but did not play any of the teams on a bye this week.  Pittsburgh’s 58/0/1.8 misses on one qualifier.  Combined pass beats combined run 31-42 but neither of those numbers look very good.  The Steelers finished 12 in PRD which will knock them out automatically.

7. Carolina Panthers, 7-8-1, +3700

The Panthers managed to finish under .500 and make the playoffs thanks to how bad their division is.  But they are the 7th choice on the board in Vegas primarily because they have home field in their first game.  The Panthers were 1-4-1 against playoff teams.  On the original filters the Panthers miss on 2 of 3.  Combined passing is better than rushing rankings 33-42.  PRD is a lowly 21st ranked.  Nothing here says the Panthers have a chance.

8. Indianapolis Colts, 11-5, +4100

Who would have thought you could get a better price on Indianapolis than you could on Carolina a few weeks ago.  But that is where we are at now as the Colts have not looked super impressive down the stretch despite winning 5 of 6.  Against playoff teams the Colts are 2-3.  With a 64/5/4 on the original filters they miss on just the SRS.  The combined pass is a 22 with a bad 47 run.  On the PRD they rank 8th but at just 8.02 differential they would be the 6th worst Super Bowl winner.  I am going to go very small here just in case we see Luck turn into the guy everyone wants him to be.

9. Cincinnati Bengals, 10-5-1, +4300

Which Bengals team will show up in the playoffs?  The team that lost to Pittsburgh twice or the team that handled Denver fairly easily.  Dalton has not been good in the playoffs nor has anyone on offense.  They must be sick of hearing it and have a chance to change the conversation if they can put some wins together starting Saturday.  Against playoff teams they went 3-4-1.  Yard differential was -11 which tosses them out for me.  28 and 26 in combined pass and run ranking is a toss out as well.  They do finish 7 in PRD but just 8.25.  No bet here.

10. Baltimore Ravens, 10-6, +4300

Baltimore is a team that has been able to come out of the Wild Card to do damage in the recent past.  This year they start against division rival Pittsburgh.  Both teams know each other well.  If Baltimore can win they go to New England.  A place they have had great success in.  Against playoff teams the Ravens are 2-4.  They have not played a team in the playoffs since Week 9 when they lost to Pittsburgh.  Baltimore misses on 2 of 3 original filters 28/2/4.1.  They are 32 combined pass with a 10 combined run.  That is a strong run number but the 32 pass would be the 2nd worst of all time for Super Bowl winners.  PRD is 18 which is way below what we are looking for.  No bet on Baltimore.

11. Detroit Lions, 11-5, +4500

Detroit had a shot to win the division but they could not win at Green Bay in week 17.  Their loss puts them on the road for the entire playoffs.  The offense was supposed to be one of the best this season but they rank just 25th.  Defense has been stout ranked 2 overall but they will be without their best player Ndamukong Suh after he was suspended earlier today.  The Lions are 1-4 against playoff teams.  Detroit misses on just the SRS when looking at the original filters.  Combined passing is 25 and rushing 31.  Poor for both.  At 13 in PRD that is the final nail in the coffin.  We will not be playing Detroit.

12.  Arizona Cardinals, 11-5, +5900

Hard to imagine a team that was battling for the top seed up until the last week is now the longest shot on the board.  The Cardinals went 11-5 while averaging a +1 dog on the season.  The Cardinals have not gotten much respect at all.  Arizona is 2-3 against playoff teams.  On the original filters they look bad -48/8/1.6.  Combined passing is 42 and rushing 57.  That would by far be the worst combination ever to win.  Arizona is 22nd at -4.14 in PRD.  There is no reason to like the Cardinals.

Recap

Green Bay .50 Units +620 (assuming you did not take them earlier in the season when I did)

Dallas .25 Units +1150

Indianapolis .10 Units +4100

 

 

 

 

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