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Feb 19

Super Bowl Super Study, Part 3: Strong Starts and Strong Finishes

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 impact of a Super Bowl team’s respective start and finish to the regular season. The chart below details each half of the regular season for every Super Bowl regular season. The chart evaluates the maximum amount of games under .500 each team totaled in each half. The first half will be evaluated as normal, but the second half schedule analysis will go in reverse order to follow the “hottest team wins”  and “coldest team loses” theories. Teams that never held a sub .500 record relative to the regular season start or finish will be marked “over” or “even” to avoid any confusion.

Table 3: Regular Season Starts and Finishes

SB Winner H1 H2 SB Loser H1 H2
I 66 Packers Over Over I 66 Chiefs Over Over
II 67 Packers Even -2 (0-2) II 67 Raiders Over Over
III 68 Jets Over Over III 68 Colts Over Over
IV 69 Chiefs Over -1 (0-1) IV 69 Vikings -1 (0-1) -1 (0-1)
V 70 Colts Even Over V 70 Cowboys Over Over
VI 71 Cowboys Over Over VI 71 Dolphins Even -1 (1-2)
VII 72 Dolphins Over Over VII 72 Redskins Over -2 (0-2) 
VIII 73 Dolphins Even Even VIII 73 Vikings Over Over
IX 74 Steelers Even Over IX 74 Vikings Over Over
X 75 Steelers Even -1 (0-1) X 75 Cowboys Over Over
XI 76 Raiders Over Over XI 76 Vikings Over Over
XII 77 Cowboys Over Over XII 77 Broncos Over -1 (0-1)
XIII 78 Steelers Over Over XIII 78 Cowboys Over Over
XIV 79 Steelers Over Even XIV 79 Rams -1 (0-1) -1 (0-1)
XV 80 Raiders -1 (2-3) Over XV 80 Eagles Over -2 (1-3)
XVI 81 49ers -1 (1-2) Over XVI 81 Bengals Over Over
XVII 82 Redskins Over Over XVII 82 Dolphins Over Over
XVIII 83 Raiders Over Even XVIII 83 Redskins -1 (0-1) Over
XIX 84 49ers Over Over XIX 84 Dolphins Over Over
XX 85 Bears Over Over XX 85 Patriots -1 (2-3) Even
XXI 86 Giants -1 (0-1) Over XXI 86 Broncos Over -1 (x4)
XXII 87 Redskins Even Even XXII 87 Broncos Even Over
XXIII 88 49ers Over -1 (0-1) XXIII 88 Bengals Over Even
XXIV 89 49ers Over Over XXIV 89 Broncos Over -2 (1-3)
XXV 90 Giants Over Even XXV 90 Bills Over -1 (0-1)
XXVI 91 Redskins Over -1 (0-1) XXVI 91 Bills Over -1 (0-1)
XXVII 92 Cowboys Over Over XXVII 92 Bills Over -1 (x2)
XXVIII 93 Cowboys -2 (0-2) Over XXVIII 93 Bills Over Over
XXIX 94 49ers Over -1 (0-1) XXIX 94 Chargers Over Even
XXX 95 Cowboys Over Even XXX 95 Steelers -1 (3-4) -1 (0-1)
XXXI 96 Packers Over Over XXXI 96 Patriots -2 (0-2) Even
XXXII 97 Broncos Over -1 (1-2) XXXII 97 Packers Even Over
XXXIII 98 Broncos Over -1 (1-2) XXXIII 98 Falcons Over Over
XXXIV 99 Rams Over -1 (0-1) XXXIV 99 Titans Over Over
XXXV 00 Ravens Over Over XXXV 00 Giants Over Over
XXXVI 01 Patriots -2 (x2) Over XXXVI 01 Rams Over Over
XXXVII 02 Buccaneers -1 (0-1) Even XXXVII 02 Raiders Even Over
XXXVIII 03 Patriots -1 (0-1) Over XXXVIII 03 Panthers Over Even
XXXIX 04 Patriots Over Over XXXIX 04 Eagles Over -2 (0-2)
XL 05 Steelers Over Over XL 05 Seahawks -1 (0-1) -1 (0-1)
XLI 06 Colts Over -1 (x2) XLI 06 Bears Over -1 (0-1)
XLII 07 Giants -2 (0-2) -1 (x2) XLII 07 Patriots Over Over
XLIII 08 Steelers Over Even XLIII 08 Cardinals Even -2 (2-4)
XLIV 09 Saints Over -3 (0-3) XLIV 09 Colts Over -2 (0-2)
XLV 10 Packers Even Even XLV 10 Steelers Over Over
XLVI 11 Giants -1 (0-1) -2 (3-5) XLVI 11 Patriots Over Over
XLVII 12 Ravens Even -3 (1-4) XLVII 12 49ers Over Even
XLVIII 13 Seahawks Over Even XLVIII 13 Broncos Over Over
XLIX 14 Patriots -1 (0-1) -1 (0-1) XLIX 14 Seahawks Even Over

Red flag: Two games under .500 in either half and failed to meet the “amber flag” exception
Amber flag: Two games under .500 in second half, but already clinched their playoff slot (before 1975) or seed (since 1975) at the time of their final loss

Like with the first factor we discussed (home and away split), the recent string of unlikely Super Bowl teams caused a higher rate of flagged teams. However, there are also three flagged teams in this span that already earned a one seed in its respective conference. This includes both Super Bowl XLIV teams starting at least 13-0 but losing down the stretch. That might be an outlier we don’t see again.

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:

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

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

  • Two red flags: 2008 Cardinals
  • One red flag: 1979 Rams, 1980 Eagles, 1996 Patriots
  • Two amber flags: 1986 Broncos
  • One amber flag: 1970 Cowboys, 1971 Dolphins, 1972 Redskins, 1985 Patriots, 1987 Broncos, 1988 Bengals, 1989 Broncos, 1992 Bills, 2004 Eagles, 2009 Colts, 2012 49ers

The two recent Giants champions continue to tally red flags. On the flip side, there are 68 Super Bowl combatants (69.39 percent) who have yet to tally a flag. At this rate, receiving one flag might become the norm.

Up next: Maximum Losing Streaks

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