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|
Here are this years playoff teams
|Year||Team||Yards Diff / Game||TO Diff||SRS|
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
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 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|
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.
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