Super Bowl Super Study Says Patriots, Broncos Built Like Champs
By Adam Dobrowolski (@tabsports)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Super-Powered Mathlete
Once upon a time, it seemed like the NFL playoffs lacked consistent drama year in and year out.
Sure, moments like “The Catch” and “The Fumble” highlight the most exciting and most heartbreaking of postseason outcomes, but they never symbolized the chaos created by a wide-open playoff field.
In fact, the NFL postseason did not feature a wild card team winning the Super Bowl until the 40th installment, when the 2005 Steelers made history.
That postseason started a vast and sweeping change to the postseason climate, despite the league’s movement away from parity in the regular season.
Suddenly, the six seeds have the most Super Bowl championships since 2005, and each seed earned a league championship in that span.
After the 2005 Steelers became the first sixth seed to defeat a conference’s top seed, four more six seeds pulled off the feat.
This shifting dynamic resulted in unlikely champions like those 2005 Steelers (a sixth-seeded 11-5 team), the 2006 Colts (a traditional playoff flopper that finished dead last in rush defense), the 2007 Giants (the second 10-6 team to win the Super Bowl), the 2010 Packers (the third 10-6 team to win the Super Bowl) and the 2011 Giants (the first 9-7 team to win the Super Bowl).
From the naked eye, it seems like the NFL playoffs are truly open to anybody that makes it to the NFL’s second season, with the 2012 season being no different.
Still, some teams are particularly well suited to win Super Bowls. Others are certain long shots. We broke down every single Super Bowl champion in runner up in NFL history, 92 teams over 46 years, to see how they stacked up in 12 different major measures of team success.
We also red-flagged those few that were statistical outliers. Finally, we compared all those Super Bowl contenders to the 2012 postseason field to see how many red flags, statistical warning signs, that they had.
The Patriots came out on top with zero red flags, perhaps a bit of a surprise given the shaky state of their defense at times this year. But that unit ended the season No. 9 in scoring defense. The Broncos are right behind the Patriots, with just one red flag. The Bengals, who were bumped out 19-13 by the Texans in the wildcard round, were simply not equipped to win a Super Bowl. They had eight statistical red flags.
- New England Patriots (12-4, AFC 2 seed): 0 red flags
- Denver Broncos (13-3, AFC 1 seed): 1 red flag
- Green Bay Packers (11-5, NFC 3 seed): 2 red flags
- Houston Texans (12-4, AFC 3 seed): 2 red flags
- San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1, NFC 2 seed): 2 red flags
- Atlanta Falcons (13-3, NFC 1 seed): 3 red flags
- Seattle Seahawks (11-5, NFC 5 seed): 3 red flags
- Washington Redskins (10-6, NFC 4 seed): 4 red flags
- Minnesota Vikings (10-6, NFC 6 seed): 5 red flags
- Baltimore Ravens (10-6, AFC 4 seed): 6 red flags
- Indianapolis Colts (11-5, AFC 5 seed): 6 red flags
- Cincinnati Bengals (10-6, AFC 6 seed): 8 red flags
These results suggest that the likely AFC championship game showdown between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will determine who wins Super Bowl XLVII.
However, we have seen unlikely recent teams become champions. Would you be TRULY shocked to see the Ravens, for example, make a run, despite six red flags? Perhaps there will be more magic in the works for this postseason.
Here's our painstakingly-detailed look at playoff history. A few key outliers among the Super Bowl combatants can illustrate which teams are most likely or least likely to reach Super Bowl XLVII. This super study includes 12 statistical factors that impact a playoff team’s championship viability.
1. Record and Their Splits
Usually, champions are good enough so they don’t have to worry about unusually mediocre play at home on the road. Perhaps fate rolls in favor of a team, like the 2007 Giants taking its 7-1 road record away from the Meadowlands as the NFC’s fifth seed. However, those teams make a rare breed.
The table below examines the home and away for each Super Bowl combatant.
The recent craze of unlikely Super Bowl champions perhaps begins to cloud the message that champions consistently won at any and all venues. Meanwhile, save for a four-year span in the weak AFC, even the Super Bowl losers adhered to the rule.
Perhaps both are nothing more than an outlying stretch of unlikely conference champions. Notice that home record holds a bit more significance, as only four Super Bowl combatants owned a .500 or worse record in the regular season. Giants fans of the Tom Coughlin era already know the drill.
Perhaps Packers fans may know the drill by February. Aaron Rodgers and the 2012 Packers are one of three teams, along with the 2012 Ravens and 2012 Colts, to own a 4-4 road record. Of note, Baltimore plays .500 ball again on the road, and that came back to haunt them in the final seconds in New England in last year’s conference championship game.
Meanwhile, both the 2012 Seahawks and 2012 Vikings own a 3-5 road record. With only three Super Bowl combatants owning a losing record split, these two teams would likely to make a huge run, especially considering they are the bottom two seeds in the NFC. Finally, we look at the lone team to fail to protect its own turf. The 2012 Bengals finished with an even 4-4 record at home.