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Feb 21

Super Bowl Super Study, Part 5: Single-Season Improvements

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 the leap in win totals for every Super Bowl combatant. The table below look at each Super Bowl combatant’s win differential from the previous season. Note that the 1978 season began the 16-era, while the 1982 season (seven games) and 1987 season (one game) involved strikes that took away games from the schedule. Therefore, any season pairings with an inconsistent amount of games will use a PRORATED win differential (for 1978, 1982, 1983, 1987 and 1988). Because the 1982 season only involved a nine-game season, we cannot consider the prorated differentials in the 1982 and 1983 seasons as reliable results.

Table 5: Single-Season Improvements

SB Winner Differential SB Loser Differential
I 66 Packers +1.5 I 66 Chiefs +3.5
II 67 Packers -2.5 II 67 Raiders +4.5
III 68 Jets +2.5 III 68 Colts +1.5
IV 69 Chiefs -1 IV 69 Vikings +4
V 70 Colts +3 V 70 Cowboys -1.5
VI 71 Cowboys +1 VI 71 Dolphins +0.5
VII 72 Dolphins +3.5 VII 72 Redskins +1.5
VIII 73 Dolphins -2 VIII 73 Vikings +5
IX 74 Steelers +0.5 IX 74 Vikings -2
X 75 Steelers +1.5 X 75 Cowboys +2
XI 76 Raiders +2 XI 76 Vikings -0.5
XII 77 Cowboys +1 XII 77 Broncos +3
XIII 78 Steelers +3.7 XIII 78 Cowboys -1.7
XIV 79 Steelers -2 XIV 79 Rams -3
XV 80 Raiders +2 XV 80 Eagles +1
XVI 81 49ers +7 XVI 81 Bengals +6
XVII 82 Redskins +6.2 XVII 82 Dolphins +0.9
XVIII 83 Raiders -2.2 XVIII 83 Redskins -0.2
XIX 84 49ers +5 XIX 84 Dolphins +2
XX 85 Bears +5 XX 85 Patriots +2
XXI 86 Giants +4 XXI 86 Broncos Even
XXII 87 Redskins -0.3 XXII 87 Broncos +0.2
XXIII 88 49ers -3.9 XXIII 88 Bengals +7.7
XXIV 89 49ers +4 XXIV 89 Broncos +3
XXV 90 Giants +1 XXV 90 Bills +4
XXVI 91 Redskins +2 XXVI 91 Bills Even
XXVII 92 Cowboys +2 XXVII 92 Bills -2
XXVIII 93 Cowboys -1 XXVIII 93 Bills +1
XXIX 94 49ers +3 XXIX 94 Chargers +3
XXX 95 Cowboys Even XXX 95 Steelers -1
XXXI 96 Packers +2 XXXI 96 Patriots +5
XXXII 97 Broncos -1 XXXII 97 Packers Even
XXXIII 98 Broncos +2 XXXIII 98 Falcons +7
XXXIV 99 Rams +9 XXXIV 99 Titans +5
XXXV 00 Ravens +4 XXXV 00 Giants +5
XXXVI 01 Patriots +6 XXXVI 01 Rams +4
XXXVII 02 Buccaneers +3 XXXVII 02 Raiders +1
XXXVIII 03 Patriots +5 XXXVIII 03 Panthers +4
XXXIX 04 Patriots Even XXXIX 04 Eagles +1
XL 05 Steelers -4 XL 05 Seahawks +4
XLI 06 Colts -2 XLI 06 Bears +2
XLII 07 Giants +2 XLII 07 Patriots +4
XLIII 08 Steelers +2 XLIII 08 Cardinals +1
XLIV 09 Saints +5 XLIV 09 Colts +2
XLV 10 Packers -1 XLV 10 Steelers +3
XLVI 11 Giants -1 XLVI 11 Patriots -1
XLVII 12 Ravens -2 XLVII 12 49ers -1.5
XLVIII 13 Seahawks +2 XLVIII 13 Broncos Even
XLIX 14 Patriots Even XLIX 14 Seahawks -1

Red flag: At least a seven-game improvement
Amber flag: Either five- or six-game improvement AND owned a losing record the previous season

Finally, we see a factor that wasn’t negatively affected by the 2002 realignment. In fact, the last team to be flagged was the 2001 Patriots. This finished a stretch of five teams being flagged in a six-year span. This seems to suggest that some experts overvalue some facets of parity in the NFL, because some suggest to us that a team can go from bottom dweller to Super Bowl contender in one year.

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:

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

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

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

Through five factors, there are still 59 Super Bowl combatants (60.20 percent) who don’t have a flag, compared to the 39 teams who have at least one flag. We’re continuing to see the trend building, but we will eventually move away from team result-based factors. When we switch over to differential statistical areas, this trend could change.

Up next: The Starting Quarterback’s Experience

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