Super Study Breakdown of Super Bowl XLVII, Part 2

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 01, 2013



By Adam Dobrowolski (@tabsports)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Super-Powered Mathlete

**Click here for Part I** 

As yesterday began an in-depth look at the Ravens and 49ers matching up in Super Bowl XLVII, with the focus on January's epic Super Study, we saw a few reasons why the NFL continues to produce unlikely Super Bowl champions in the past decade. As the media focuses on the Harbowl and Ray Lewis' Last Ride, they haven't detailed what's really driving this year's narrative of the big game: more of the same.

We have more of the same because once again an unlikely team makes a run towards the Super Bowl. For the fifth time in six years, one of the Super Bowl combatants owns a 9-7 or 10-6 regular season record. Because of that, many recently concluded that the playoffs come down to which team gets hot at the correct time. Does that mean teams like the 2011 Packers (15-1 regular season record) and the 2012 Broncos (11-game winning streak) were doomed because they were no longer peaking?

We try to answer that question as we look back to our epic Super Study that analyzed how every Super Bowl combatant stacked up according to 12 possible red flags. Remember, the study showed the 2012 49ers had only two red flags, making them a decent candidate to win Super Bowl XLVII. Meanwhile, the 2012 Ravens had six red flags, proving this run was an unlikely and special one.

In the last seven Super Bowls, the team with more red flags won six times. Can the Ravens keep up the trend? We examine some of the key match-ups by breaking down the epic Super Study in this four-part series. Today, we look at weak starts, weak finishes and losing streaks for each Super Bowl combatant.

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First, let's look at the how each Super Bowl team started and finished in the regular season. Any time a team starts the season 0-2, the Mainstream Media quickly hits the panic button for these teams. Not only do teams rarely make it to the Super Bowl after that slow start (four teams total), but they are at a severe disadvantage just to make the playoffs. However, a slow finish holds just as much weight, as the chart shows below.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Start (W-L)

End (W-L)

 

SB

Team

Start (W-L)

End (W-L)

I66 Packers

Over

Over

 I66 Chiefs

Over

Over

II67 Packers

Even

-2 (0-2)

 II67 Raiders

Over

Over

III68 Jets

Over

Over

 III68 Colts

Over

Over

IV69 Chiefs

Over

-1 (0-1)

 IV69 Vikings

-1 (0-1)

-1 (0-1)

V70 Colts

Even

Over

 V70 Cowboys

Over

Over

VI71 Cowboys

Over

Over

 VI71 Dolphins

Even

-1 (1-2)

VII72 Dolphins

Over

Over

 VII72 Redskins

Over

-2 (0-2)

VIII73 Dolphins

Even

Even

 VIII73 Vikings

Over

Over

IX74 Steelers

Even

Over

 IX74 Vikings

Over

Over

X75 Steelers

Even

-1 (0-1)

 X75 Cowboys

Over

Over

XI76 Raiders

Over

Over

 XI76 Vikings

Over

Over

XII77 Cowboys

Over

Over

 XII77 Broncos

Over

-1 (0-1)

XIII78 Steelers

Over

Over

 XIII78 Cowboys

Over

Over

XIV79 Steelers

Over

Even

 XIV79 Rams

-1 (0-1)

-1 (0-1)

XV80 Raiders

-1 (2-3)

Over

 XV80 Eagles

Over

-2 (1-3)

XVI81 49ers

-1 (1-2)

Over

 XVI81 Bengals

Over

Over

XVII82 Redskins

Over

Over

 XVII82 Dolphins

Over

Over

XVIII83 Raiders

Over

Even

 XVIII83 Redskins

-1 (0-1)

Over

XIX84 49ers

Over

Over

 XIX84 Dolphins

Over

Over

XX85 Bears

Over

Over

 XX85 Patriots

-1 (2-3)

Even

XXI86 Giants

-1 (0-1)

Over

 XXI86 Broncos

Over

-1 (x4)

XXII87 Redskins

Even

Even

 XXII87 Broncos

Even

Over

XXIII88 49ers

Over

-1 (0-1)

 XXIII88 Bengals

Over

Even

XXIV89 49ers

Over

Over

 XXIV89 Broncos

Over

-2 (1-3)

XXV90 Giants

Over

Even

 XXV90 Bills

Over

-1 (0-1)

XXVI91 Redskins

Over

-1 (0-1)

 XXVI91 Bills

Over

-1 (0-1)

XXVII92 Cowboys

Over

Over

 XXVII92 Bills

Over

-1 (x2)

XXVIII93 Cowboys

-2 (0-2)

Over

 XXVIII93 Bills

Over

Over

XXIX94 49ers

Over

-1 (0-1)

 XXIX94 Chargers

Over

Even

XXX95 Cowboys

Over

Even

 XXX95 Steelers

-1 (3-4)

-1 (0-1)

XXXI96 Packers

Over

Over

 XXXI96 Patriots

-2 (0-2)

Even

XXXII97 Broncos

Over

-1 (1-2)

 XXXII97 Packers

Even

Over

XXXIII98 Broncos

Over

-1 (1-2)

 XXXIII98 Falcons

Over

Over

XXXIV99 Rams

Over

-1 (0-1)

 XXXIV99 Titans

Over

Over

XXXV00 Ravens

Over

Over

 XXXV00 Giants

Over

Over

XXXVI01 Patriots

-2 (x2)

Over

 XXXVI01 Rams

Over

Over

XXXVII02 Bucs

-1 (0-1)

Even

 XXXVII02 Raiders

Even

Over

XXXVIII03 Patriots

-1 (0-1)

Over

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

Over

Even

XXXIX04 Patriots

Over

Over

 XXXIX04 Eagles

Over

-2 (0-2)

XL05 Steelers

Over

Over

 XL05 Seahawks

-1 (0-1)

-1 (0-1)

XLI06 Colts

Over

-1 (x2)

 XLI06 Bears

Over

-1 (0-1)

XLII07 Giants

-2 (0-2)

-1 (x2) XLII07 Patriots

Over

Over

XLIII08 Steelers

Over

Even

 XLIII08 Cardinals

Even

-2 (2-4)

XLIV09 Saints

Over

-3 (0-3)

 XLIV09 Colts

Over

-2 (0-2)

XLV10 Packers

Even

Even

 XLV10 Steelers

Over

Over

XLVI11 Giants

-1 (0-1)

-2 (3-5)

 XLVI11 Patriots

Over

Over

Once again, it would seem that the recent tear of unlikely conference champions might be making the slow finish less detrimental than we originally thought. However, these results are actually misleading, because three of the red flag teams were the top seed in their conference.

The 2009 season provided a unique pair of "slow finishing" team, with the Saints starting 13-0 before their three-game losing streak and the Colts starting 14-0 before their two-game losing streak. New Orleans rested in their starters in Week 17, while the Colts rested their starters for the final six quarters of the regular season. Meanwhile, the the 2004 Eagles rested their starters very similarly to the 2009 Colts.

Keep in mind te resting starters as we take a look at each Super Bowl XLVII combatant.

  • Baltimore Ravens: "even" start (1-1), "-3" finish (1-4)
  • San Francisco 49ers: "over" start (2-1), "even" finish (1-1)

At first glance, it seems like the 49ers would have the clear cut advantage. After all, they've been amazingly consistent throughout the season, with no true valley to accompany their constant rise. However, two things must be considered for the Ravens when we look at their 1-4 finish.

First, they rested their starters in Week 17 after a few series. They already clinched the fourth seed, so they decided to play Tyrod Taylor to finish the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite allowing only nine first downs, the Ravens lost 23-17. With a win, Baltimore would've entered the playoffs on a winning streak and without a red flag. Second, the Ravens shed any negative momentum as soon as Ray Lewis announced he would retire after the postseason. If there's anything to trump increasing confidence heading into the postseason, it must be the transcendent motivation Baltimore possesses. Sometimes, these red flags can be misleading. For the Ravens, perhaps the 1-4 finish was simply the darkest time before dawn. Advantage: Ravens

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For the second part of today's analysis, we look at where Baltimore's three-game losing streak stands among the 94 Super Bowl combatants in league history. The Ravens lost three games in a row from Week 13 to 15. The first loss came at the end of regulation when the Pittsburgh Steelers kicked home a 23-20 win that ended Baltimore's home and divisional winning streaks. The second came in overtime against a Washington Redskins that concluded the regular season with a seven-game winning streak. The third loss featured a Denver Broncos blowout victory. This three-game losing streak is quite uncommon among Super Bowl teams, as seen below.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Count

 

SB

Team

Count

I66 Packers

1

 I66 Chiefs

1

II67 Packers

2

 II67 Raiders

1

III68 Jets

1

 III68 Colts

1

IV69 Chiefs

1

 IV69 Vikings

1

V70 Colts

1

 V70 Cowboys

2

VI71 Cowboys

1

 VI71 Dolphins

2

VII72 Dolphins

0

 VII72 Redskins

2

VIII73 Dolphins

1

 VIII73 Vikings

1

IX74 Steelers

1

 IX74 Vikings

2

X75 Steelers

1

 X75 Cowboys

2

XI76 Raiders

1

 XI76 Vikings

1

XII77 Cowboys

2

 XII77 Broncos

1

XIII78 Steelers

1

 XIII78 Cowboys

2

XIV79 Steelers

1

 XIV79 Rams

3

XV80 Raiders

2

 XV80 Eagles

2

XVI81 49ers

1

 XVI81 Bengals

1

XVII82 Redskins

1

 XVII82 Dolphins

1

XVIII83 Raiders

1

 XVIII83 Redskins

1

XIX84 49ers

1

 XIX84 Dolphins

1

XX85 Bears

1

 XX85 Patriots

2

XXI86 Giants

1

 XXI86 Broncos

1

XXII87 Redskins

1

 XXII87 Broncos

1

XXIII88 49ers

2

 XXIII88 Bengals

1

XXIV89 49ers

1

 XXIV89 Broncos

2

XXV90 Giants

2

 XXV90 Bills

1

XXVI91 Redskins

1

 XXVI91 Bills

1

XXVII92 Cowboys

1

 XXVII92 Bills

2

XXVIII93 Cowboys

2

 XXVIII93 Bills

2

XXIX94 49ers

1

 XXIX94 Chargers

2

XXX95 Cowboys

2

 XXX95 Steelers

2

XXXI96 Packers

2

 XXXI96 Patriots

2

XXXII97 Broncos

2

 XXXII97 Packers

1

XXXIII98 Broncos

2

 XXXIII98 Falcons

1

XXXIV99 Rams

2

 XXXIV99 Titans

1

XXXV00 Ravens

3

 XXXV00 Giants

2

XXXVI01 Patriots

2

 XXXVI01 Rams

1

XXXVII02 Bucs

1

 XXXVII02 Raiders

4

XXXVIII03 Patriots

1

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

3

XXXIX04 Patriots

1

 XXXIX04 Eagles

2

XL05 Steelers

3

 XL05 Seahawks

1

XLI06 Colts

2

 XLI06 Bears

1

XLII07 Giants

2

 XLII07 Patriots

0

XLIII08 Steelers

1

 XLIII08 Cardinals

2

XLIV09 Saints

3

 XLIV09 Colts

2

XLV10 Packers

2

 XLV10 Steelers

1

XLVI11 Giants

4

 XLVI11 Patriots

2

The Ravens became the seventh Super Bowl team in the last 13 years to have a three-game losing streak or worse. Only the 1979 Rams did this in the first 34 years. To be honest, there's no known explanation for this.

Perhaps the best answer involves improved parity among franchises. Sure, the AFC has been dominated by four teams since 2000 (the Ravens, Patriots, Steelers and Colts combined for 40 playoff wins... the rest combined for 10 playoff wins). However, parity is better than ever in terms of year-to-year potential.

Since 1997, 16 teams improved by at least seven games in the a single season, including the Indianapolis Colts (2-14 to 11-5) and Minnesota Vikings (3-13 to 10-6) this season. This leads to a one team per season average. From 1979 to 1996, only five teams did this.

Bottom line, we no longer see constant push overs, save for maybe the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders. When there's no near-automatic wins, a losing streak is quite possible. Also, with the franchises more balanced out, teams can no longer escape with victories on a consistent basis when the passing offense or defense hits a cold spell. Opposing teams are simply too efficient through the air. Now, onto the Ravens and the 49ers.

  • Baltimore Ravens: maximum three-game losing streak (Week 13-15)
  • San Francisco 49ers: no losing streak all season

In the Week 13 loss, Joe Flacco completed only 16 of 34 passes for 188 yards with a touchdown and interception (61.89 passer rating). After that, the Ravens ran into two statistically elite quarterbacks this season (Robert Griffin III and Peyton Manning). Believe it or not, though, the blowout loss against Denver helped in the long run. The Ravens saw what the Broncos did well on both sides of the ball, and they made the necessary adjustments in the Divisional Round. Without that first time battling the Broncos, perhaps the Ravens would be eliminated at this point.

Still, there's not much reason to over-analyze this. The Ravens got the advantage earlier because Ray Lewis' looming retirement gave the Ravens another peak to their rollercoaster season. Meanwhile, the 49ers have never wavered, despite switching quarterbacks in the middle of the season. After a loss or tie, San Francisco won all five games by a combined 133-39 margin with four wins by 14+ points. If there's any team you can confidently claim the team will play on Sunday like they have all season, it's the NFC representative. Advantage: 49ers

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Adam Dobrowolski continues this series with a look next at each team's blowout losses and their respective point differential. He illustrates the difference between a 49ers team that didn't waver despite blowout losses  and a Ravens team that suffered blowout losses more indicative of their overall quality.


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