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Feb 23

Super Bowl Super Study, Part 7: Success against Non-Quality Opponents

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 each Super Bowl team’s games against non-quality opponents. The table below examines each Super Bowl team’s record against non-quality opponents (teams with a losing record) with the number of one-possession wins in parentheses.

Table 7: Record Against Non-Quality Opponents (with One-Possession Wins)

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

Red flag: At least three NQO losses WITH .667 record or worse in NQO games
Red flag: At least six OPW v. NQO WITH at least 50 percent OPW rate
Amber flag: Three NQO losses WITH greater than .667 record in NQO games
Amber flag: Six OPW v. NQO WITH less than 50 percent OPW rate
Amber flag: Four or five OPW v. NQO WITH at least 50 percent OPW rate

There’s no trend in this factor. What you do see is four teams receive a red flag for each of the two reasons. Meanwhile, four more teams earn an amber flag. The even distribution is nothing but an interesting note.

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:

  • Five red flags: 2011 Giants
  • Four red flags: 2007 Giants
  • Two red flags: 1988 49ers, 2010 Packers
  • One red flag, two amber flags: 2012 Ravens
  • One red flag, one amber flag: 1981 49ers, 2001 Patriots, 2006 Colts
  • One red flag: 1970 Colts, 1993 Cowboys, 1999 Rams
  • Two amber flags: 2009 Saints
  • One amber flag: 1967 Packers, 1969 Chiefs, 1979 Steelers, 1987 Redskins, 1995 Cowboys, 1997 Broncos, 2000 Ravens, 2005 Steelers

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

  • Two red flags, one amber flag: 1981 Bengals
  • Two red flags: 1998 Falcons, 2008 Cardinals
  • One red flag, two amber flags: 1979 Rams
  • One red flag, one amber flag: 1988 Bengals, 1996 Patriots, 2000 Giants, 2003 Panthers
  • One red flag: 1980 Eagles, 2002 Raiders, 2005 Seahawks
  • Two amber flags: 1970 Cowboys, 1985 Patriots, 1986 Broncos
  • One amber flag: 1969 Vikings, 1971 Dolphins, 1972 Redskins, 1982 Dolphins, 1984 Dolphins, 1987 Broncos, 1989 Broncos, 1992 Bills, 2004 Eagles, 2006 Bears, 2009 Colts, 2010 Steelers, 2012 49ers

Surprisingly, the 1981 Bengals look like the weakest or most unlikely Super Bowl losing combatant through seven factors. Also, the 1998 Falcons somehow caught up to 2008 Cardinals, which once seemed like a clear front runner to be the most unlikely Super Bowl losing combatant. Even the 1988 49ers and 2010 Packers (two 10-6 teams to win the Super Bowl) are on even ground with the 2008 Cardinals.

Up next: Success Against Playoff Teams

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