We need rehab

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 31, 2007



We have a problem this year.
 
Oh, sure, we have our usual problems: sloth, obesity, alcoholism.
 
But we have a problem peculiar to this 2006 season and Super Bowl XLI. We need statistical rehab, a visit to the Betty Ford Clinic of Pigskin.
 
Here's the deal: The Bears, on paper, are a better team than the Colts. That's right. The Bears are better.
 
On paper.
 
Here's a look at how the two teams stacked up statistically this season. The Bears:
  • Had a much better defense (255 PA to 360 PA)
  • Scored just as many points as the Colts (427)
  • Were much better on special teams (Bears average rank, 9.1; Colts average rank, 17.4)
  • Had a much greater point differential (+172 vs. +67)
  • Ranked much higher across the board in our Quality Stats
  • Oh, and before you forget: The Super Bowl underdog Bears actually won more games than the Colts (13 to 12)
History also favors Bears
Historical statistics aren't exactly on Indy's side either.
 
The worst defense to date ever to win a Super Bowl belonged to the 1983 Raiders, who surrendered just 338 points. The 2006 Colts surrendered 360 points.
 
The Colts have a point differential of just +67 (427 PF, 360 PA). Only one Super Bowl winner was worse: The 1980 Raiders posted a point differential of +58 (364 PF, 306 PA).
 
The Colts are a dome team. As most football fans know, only one dome team has ever won a Super Bowl (1999 Rams), and that Super Bowl was played indoors. Dome teams are just 40-60 all-time in postseason play, with just 16 of those wins coming away from their home domes. That's it, folks. In the entire history of the NFL, dome teams have won just 16 playoff games away from home.
 
You can even make an argument that, here in the playoffs, the Bears have been more impressive: They have bested their two playoff opponents by an average of 14.0 PPG. The Colts have bested their three playoff opponents by 9.3 PPG.
 
Even quarterbacking play has not been its usual strength for the Colts. Though he was brilliant in the second half of the AFC title game against New England, Indy quarterback Peyton Manning has played his worst football of the season in the playoffs. Chicago's Rex Grossman has been slightly better than he was in the regular season (which still isn't hot).
 
Here's how the two quarterbacks stack up so far this postseason:
 
Grossman: 32 for 64 (50%), 426 yards, 6.66 YPA, 2 TD, 1 INT, 75.4 rating
Manning: 72 for 115 (62.6), 787 yards, 6.84 YPA, 2 TD, 6 INT, 66.8 rating
 
BUT! With all that said ...
Does anybody believe the Bears are a better team?

No.
 
Neither do we.
 
To toss out one of the clichés we like to avoid like the plague, there's a reason why they play the games on the field, and not on paper.
 
The problem right now is that there is a historic disparity between the AFC (the home of the Colts) and the NFC (the home of the Bears).
 
The NFC, in fact, just had one of the worst years one conference has ever had in interconference play. AFC teams dominated the 2006 season series, 40-24. Here's a look at the most dominant years by one conference over another in interconference play. In almost every instance, the team from the dominant conference won the Super Bowl.
 
MOST DOMINANT SEASONS, interconference play              
Year
Winner (Record)
Winning Pct.
SB Winner
1979
AFC (36-16)
.692
AFC (Steelers)
1970*
NFC (27-12-1)
.688
AFC (Colts)*
2004
AFC (44-20)
.688
AFC (Patriots)
1977
AFC (19-9)
.679
NFC (Cowboys)
1980
AFC (33-19)
.635
AFC (Raiders)
1991
NFC (33-19)
.635
NFC (Redskins)
1999
AFC (38-22)
.633
NFC (Rams)
2006
AFC (40-24)
.625
TBD
 
* The 1970 Colts are an obvious exception to the winner-from-the-dominant-conference phenomenon. The NFC dominated the interconference series in 1970, the first year of the AFL-NFL merger. The Colts played in the AFC, but they were one of two teams (along with the Steelers) who moved from the NFL in 1969 to the AFC in 1970 in order to even the conferences at 13 teams each.
 
It gets even worse for the Bears. Sure, they laid waste to the NFC ... which we have just seen sucks.
 
But they did it in the weakest division in football's weakest conference. The NFC North – the Black & Blow Division – was the worst in the NFL this year, with a 4-12 mark in out-of-conference play.
 
The Bears themselves – the best the NFC has to offer – were just 2-2 against AFC opponents. They beat the 7-9 Bills and 10-6 Jets, but were humiliated, 31-13, by the 6-10 Dolphins.
 
Chicago also failed to beat the 12-4 Patriots, in a game in which New England coughed up the ball a feeble five times – a turnover total that almost always guarantees victory for the ball-hawking team. That Patriots team was 0-2 against the Colts – the very same team the Bears must attempt to beat on Super Bowl Sunday.
 
Indy faced five Quality Opponents this year and posted an NFL-leading 4-1 mark against them. Chicago faced just three Quality Opponents in the regular season, posting a 2-1 mark (good enough for them to lead the inept NFC).
 
Indy's opponents this year were a combined 128-128 (.500). Chicago's opponents were a combined 110-146 (.430), providing one of the very easiest schedules in the NFL this season.
 
Calling rehab!
So here's our conundrum:
 
1) The Bears are better than the Colts – on paper – in every statistical category, including our own Quality Stats.
 
2) The Colts have run through a much tougher gauntlet ... they are the one true, proven, battle-tested team in this Super Bowl, no matter what the statistics tell us.
 
In our first year in business (2004 season), we picked playoff games based solely upon a team's performance against Quality Opponents. The theory is that, at the end of the day, the individual statistics don't matter. You can either beat good teams or you can't beat good teams. The Quality Wins Quotient will tell you where you stand. It was a brilliant strategy: We went 10-1 picking postseason games that year. Using that 2004 model, we'd pick the Colts this year in the Super Bowl.
 
The Steelers upset the apple cart last year. As a result, we went just 7-4 picking postseason games.
 
So, this year, we put more stock in overall performance in Quality Stats and less stock in our widely praised Quality Wins Quotient. So, using this 2006 model, we'd pick the Bears to win the Super Bowl.
 
So this is our plan ... We'll get together today with our friends from Stat-aholics Anonymous, pore over the data (and maybe pour a few frosty Heinys, à la Jim Rome), and issue our findings tomorrow.
 
And if we need to, in 2007, we'll come up with a new system ... and call it statistical rehab.

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