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Feb 18

Super Bowl Super Study, Part 2: Divisional Success

Over two weeks, we’re conducting a super study to assess Super Bowl teams. With this painstakingly-detailed look at playoff team precedence, a few key outliers can illustrate which future playoff teams are likely to win the Super Bowl and which future playoff teams are likely to come up short. This study includes 13 statistical factors that impact a playoff team’s championship viability.

Today, the study focuses on how Super Bowl teams fare within the division. The chart below examines the divisional record for EVERY Super Bowl combatant after the AFL-NFL merger. Note that professional football didn’t always have divisions, so the chart also examines the conference record for each AFL team before the merger and 1966 Packers, as those teams did not play in a division. The conference record during that time acts a rough equivalent to divisional record in the application of this study.

Table 2: Divisional Record

SB Winner W-L SB Loser W-L
I 66 Packers 10-2 I 66 Chiefs 5-1
II 67 Packers 4-1-1 II 67 Raiders 6-0
III 68 Jets 7-1 III 68 Colts 6-0
IV 69 Chiefs 5-3 IV 69 Vikings 6-0
V 70 Colts 6-1-1 V 70 Cowboys 5-3
VI 71 Cowboys 7-1 VI 71 Dolphins 5-3
VII 72 Dolphins 8-0 VII 72 Redskins 7-1
VIII 73 Dolphins 7-1 VIII 73 Vikings 6-0
IX 74 Steelers 4-2 IX 74 Vikings 4-2
X 75 Steelers 6-0 X 75 Cowboys 6-2
XI 76 Raiders 7-0 XI 76 Vikings 5-1
XII 77 Cowboys 7-1 XII 77 Broncos 6-1
XIII 78 Steelers 5-1 XIII 78 Cowboys 7-1
XIV 79 Steelers 4-2 XIV 79 Rams 5-1
XV 80 Raiders 6-2 XV 80 Eagles 6-2
XVI 81 49ers 5-1 XVI 81 Bengals 4-2
XVII 82 Redskins 6-1 XVII 82 Dolphins 6-1
XVIII 83 Raiders 6-2 XVIII 83 Redskins 7-1
XIX 84 49ers 6-0 XIX 84 Dolphins 8-0
XX 85 Bears 8-0 XX 85 Patriots 6-2
XXI 86 Giants 7-1 XXI 86 Broncos 5-3
XXII 87 Redskins 7-1 XXII 87 Broncos 7-1
XXIII 88 49ers 4-2 XXIII 88 Bengals 4-2
XXIV 89 49ers 5-1 XXIV 89 Broncos 6-2
XXV 90 Giants 7-1 XXV 90 Bills 7-1
XXVI 91 Redskins 6-2 XXVI 91 Bills 7-1
XXVII 92 Cowboys 6-2 XXVII 92 Bills 5-3
XXVIII 93 Cowboys 7-1 XXVIII 93 Bills 7-1
XXIX 94 49ers 6-0 XXIX 94 Chargers 6-2
XXX 95 Cowboys 5-3 XXX 95 Steelers 6-2
XXXI 96 Packers 7-1 XXXI 96 Patriots 6-2
XXXII 97 Broncos 6-2 XXXII 97 Packers 7-1
XXXIII 98 Broncos 8-0 XXXIII 98 Falcons 7-1
XXXIV 99 Rams 8-0 XXXIV 99 Titans 9-1
XXXV 00 Ravens 8-2 XXXV 00 Giants 7-1
XXXVI 01 Patriots 6-2 XXXVI 01 Rams 7-1
XXXVII 02 Buccaneers 4-2 XXXVII 02 Raiders 4-2
XXXVIII 03 Patriots 5-1 XXXVIII 03 Panthers 5-1
XXXIX 04 Patriots 5-1 XXXIX 04 Eagles 6-0
XL 05 Steelers 4-2 XL 05 Seahawks 6-0
XLI 06 Colts 3-3 XLI 06 Bears 5-1
XLII 07 Giants 3-3 XLII 07 Patriots 6-0
XLIII 08 Steelers 6-0 XLIII 08 Cardinals 6-0
XLIV 09 Saints 4-2 XLIV 09 Colts 6-0
XLV 10 Packers 4-2 XLV 10 Steelers 5-1
XLVI 11 Giants 3-3 XLVI 11 Patriots 5-1
XLVII 12 Ravens 4-2 XLVII 12 49ers 3-2-1
XLVIII 13 Seahawks 4-2 XLVIII 13 Broncos 5-1
XLIX 14 Patriots 4-2 XLIX 14 Seahawks 5-1

Red flag: .500 divisional record or worse
Amber flag: Winning divisional record below a .666 winning percentage

There is one major problem in assessing teams based the “red flag, amber flag” rules in this factor. Since the divisional realignment in 2002, teams now only have six divisional games. Therefore, unless a team ties a divisional game (like the 2012 49ers), it will earn either a red flag or no flag. No team earned a red flag before realignment.

Now let’s compile a list of Super Bowl teams that earned red or amber flags in the 13 factors for playoff team precedence. This will allows us to see how many Super Bowl teams compiled flags and determine how many flags a normal Super Bowl team should own. We’ll then determine the most unlikely Super Bowl combatants. First, here’s the overall Super Bowl champions flag count:

  • Two red flags: 2007 Giants, 2011 Giants
  • One red flag, one amber flag: 2006 Colts
  • One red flag: 1988 49ers, 2010 Packers
  • One amber flag: 1969 Chiefs, 1979 Steelers, 1995 Cowboys, 1997 Broncos, 2012 Ravens

Next, here’s the overall Super Bowl losers flag count:

  • One red flag: 1979 Rams, 2008 Cardinals
  • Two amber flags: 1986 Broncos
  • One amber flag: 1970 Cowboys, 1971 Dolphins, 1985 Patriots, 1987 Broncos, 1988 Bengals, 1992 Bills, 2012 49ers

With only two factors evaluated, we’re already seeing the expected “weakest Super Bowl teams” emerging to the top. The two recent Giants teams will likely finish with the most red flags of all, while the 1979 Rams and 2008 Cardinals will probably finish close behind. Meanwhile, the rest are open for interpretation, based on the rest of the study.

Up next: Strong Starts and Strong Finishes

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