By Adam Dobrowolski (@tabsports)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Super-Powered Mathlete

Once upon a time, it seemed like the NFL playoffs lacked consistent drama year in and year out.

Sure, moments like “The Catch” and “The Fumble” highlight the most exciting and most heartbreaking of postseason outcomes, but they never symbolized the chaos created by a wide-open playoff field.

In fact, the NFL postseason did not feature a wild card team winning the Super Bowl until the 40th installment, when the 2005 Steelers made history.

That postseason started a vast and sweeping change to the postseason climate, despite the league’s movement away from parity in the regular season.

Suddenly, the six seeds have the most Super Bowl championships since 2005, and each seed earned a league championship in that span.

After the 2005 Steelers became the first sixth seed to defeat a conference’s top seed, four more six seeds pulled off the feat.

This shifting dynamic resulted in unlikely champions like those 2005 Steelers (a sixth-seeded 11-5 team), the 2006 Colts (a traditional playoff flopper that finished dead last in rush defense), the 2007 Giants (the second 10-6 team to win the Super Bowl), the 2010 Packers (the third 10-6 team to win the Super Bowl) and the 2011 Giants (the first 9-7 team to win the Super Bowl).

From the naked eye, it seems like the NFL playoffs are truly open to anybody that makes it to the NFL’s second season, with the 2012 season being no different.

Still, some teams are particularly well suited to win Super Bowls. Others are certain long shots. We broke down every single Super Bowl champion in runner up in NFL history, 92 teams over 46 years, to see how they stacked up in 12 different major measures of team success.

We also red-flagged those few that were statistical outliers. Finally, we compared all those Super Bowl contenders to the 2012 postseason field to see how many red flags, statistical warning signs, that they had.

The Patriots came out on top with zero red flags, perhaps a bit of a surprise given the shaky state of their defense at times this year. But that unit ended the season No. 9 in scoring defense. The Broncos are right behind the Patriots, with just one red flag. The Bengals, who were bumped out 19-13 by the Texans in the wildcard round, were simply not equipped to win a Super Bowl. They had eight statistical red flags.

  • New England Patriots (12-4, AFC 2 seed): 0 red flags
  • Denver Broncos (13-3, AFC 1 seed): 1 red flag
  • Green Bay Packers (11-5, NFC 3 seed): 2 red flags
  • Houston Texans (12-4, AFC 3 seed): 2 red flags
  • San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1, NFC 2 seed): 2 red flags
  • Atlanta Falcons (13-3, NFC 1 seed): 3 red flags
  • Seattle Seahawks (11-5, NFC 5 seed): 3 red flags
  • Washington Redskins (10-6, NFC 4 seed): 4 red flags
  • Minnesota Vikings (10-6, NFC 6 seed): 5 red flags
  • Baltimore Ravens (10-6, AFC 4 seed): 6 red flags
  • Indianapolis Colts (11-5, AFC 5 seed): 6 red flags
  • Cincinnati Bengals (10-6, AFC 6 seed): 8 red flags

These results suggest that the likely AFC championship game showdown between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will determine who wins Super Bowl XLVII.

However, we have seen unlikely recent teams become champions. Would you be TRULY shocked to see the Ravens, for example, make a run, despite six red flags? Perhaps there will be more magic in the works for this postseason.

Here's our painstakingly-detailed look at playoff history. A few key outliers among the Super Bowl combatants can illustrate which teams are most likely or least likely to reach Super Bowl XLVII. This super study includes 12 statistical factors that impact a playoff team’s championship viability.

1. Record and Their Splits

Usually, champions are good enough so they don’t have to worry about unusually mediocre play at home on the road. Perhaps fate rolls in favor of a team, like the 2007 Giants taking its 7-1 road record away from the Meadowlands as the NFC’s fifth seed. However, those teams make a rare breed.

The table below examines the home and away for each Super Bowl combatant.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

W-L (H/A)

 

SB

Team

W-L (H/A)

I66 Packers

12-2 (6-1/6-1)

 I66 Chiefs

11-2-1 (4-2-1/7-0)

II67 Packers

9-4-1 (4-2-1/5-2)

 II67 Raiders

13-1 (7-0/6-1)

III68 Jets

11-3 (6-1/5-2)

 III68 Colts

13-1 (6-1/7-0)

IV69 Chiefs

11-3 (6-1/5-2)

 IV69 Vikings

12-2 (7-0/5-2)

V70 Colts

11-2-1 (5-1-1/6-1)

 V70 Cowboys

10-4 (6-1/4-3)

VI71 Cowboys

11-3 (6-1/5-2)

 VI71 Dolphins

10-3-1 (6-1/4-2-1)

VII72 Dolphins

14-0 (7-0/7-0)

 VII72 Redskins

11-3 (6-1/5-2)

VIII73 Dolphins

12-2 (7-0/5-2)

 VIII73 Vikings

12-2 (7-0/5-2)

IX74 Steelers

10-3-1 (5-2/5-1-1)

 IX74 Vikings

10-4 (4-3/6-1)

X75 Steelers

12-2 (6-1/6-1)

 X75 Cowboys

10-4 (5-2/5-2)

XI76 Raiders

13-1 (7-0/6-1)

 XI76 Vikings

11-2-1 (6-0-1/5-2)

XII77 Cowboys

12-2 (6-1/6-1)

 XII77 Broncos

12-2 (6-1/6-1)

XIII78 Steelers

14-2 (7-1/7-1)

 XIII78 Cowboys

12-4 (7-1/5-3)

XIV79 Steelers

12-4 (8-0/4-4)

 XIV79 Rams

9-7 (4-4/5-3)

XV80 Raiders

11-5 (6-2/5-3)

 XV80 Eagles

12-4 (7-1/5-3)

XVI81 49ers

13-3 (7-1/6-2)

 XVI81 Bengals

12-4 (6-2/6-2)

XVII82 Redskins

8-1 (3-1/5-0)

 XVII82 Dolphins

7-2 (4-0/3-2)

XVIII83 Raiders

12-4 (6-2/6-2)

 XVIII83 Redskins

14-2 (7-1/7-1)

XIX84 49ers

15-1 (7-1/8-0)

 XIX84 Dolphins

14-2 (7-1/7-1)

XX85 Bears

15-1 (8-0/7-1)

 XX85 Patriots

11-5 (7-1/4-4)

XXI86 Giants

14-2 (8-0/6-2)

 XXI86 Broncos

11-5 (7-1/4-4)

XXII87 Redskins

11-4 (6-1/5-3)

 XXII87 Broncos

10-4-1 (7-1/3-3-1)

XXIII88 49ers

10-6 (4-4/6-2)

 XXIII88 Bengals

12-4 (8-0/4-4)

XXIV89 49ers

14-2 (6-2/8-0)

 XXIV89 Broncos

11-5 (6-2/5-3)

XXV90 Giants

13-3 (7-1/6-2)

 XXV90 Bills

13-3 (8-0/5-3)

XXVI91 Redskins

14-2 (7-1/7-1)

 XXVI91 Bills

13-3 (7-1/6-2)

XXVII92 Cowboys

13-3 (7-1/6-2)

 XXVII92 Bills

11-5 (6-2/5-3)

XXVIII93 Cowboys

12-4 (6-2/6-2)

 XXVIII93 Bills

12-4 (6-2/6-2)

XXIX94 49ers

13-3 (7-1/6-2)

 XXIX94 Chargers

11-5 (5-3/6-2)

XXX95 Cowboys

12-4 (6-2/6-2)

 XXX95 Steelers

11-5 (6-2/5-3)

XXXI96 Packers

13-3 (8-0/5-3)

 XXXI96 Patriots

11-5 (6-2/5-3)

XXXII97 Broncos

12-4 (8-0/4-4)

 XXXII97 Packers

13-3 (8-0/5-3)

XXXIII98 Broncos

14-2 (8-0/6-2)

 XXXIII98 Falcons

14-2 (8-0/6-2)

XXXIV99 Rams

13-3 (8-0/5-3)

 XXXIV99 Titans

13-3 (8-0/5-3)

XXXV00 Ravens

12-4 (6-2/6-2)

 XXXV00 Giants

12-4 (5-3/7-1)

XXXVI01 Patriots

11-5 (6-2/5-3)

 XXXVI01 Rams

14-2 (6-2/8-0)

XXXVII02 Bucs

12-4 (6-2/6-2)

 XXXVII02 Raiders

11-5 (6-2/5-3)

XXXVIII03 Patriots

14-2 (8-0/6-2)

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

11-5 (6-2/5-3)

XXXIX04 Patriots

14-2 (8-0/6-2)

 XXXIX04 Eagles

13-3 (7-1/6-2)

XL05 Steelers

11-5 (5-3/6-2)

 XL05 Seahawks

13-3 (8-0/5-3)

XLI06 Colts

12-4 (8-0/4-4)

 XLI06 Bears

13-3 (6-2/7-1)

XLII07 Giants

10-6 (3-5/7-1)

 XLII07 Patriots

16-0 (8-0/8-0)

XLIII08 Steelers

12-4 (6-2/6-2)

 XLIII08 Cardinals

9-7 (6-2/3-5)

XLIV09 Saints

13-3 (6-2/7-1)

 XLIV09 Colts

14-2 (7-1/7-1)

XLV10 Packers

10-6 (7-1/3-5)

 XLV10 Steelers

12-4 (5-3/7-1)

XLVI11 Giants

9-7 (4-4/5-3)

 XLVI11 Patriots

13-3 (7-1/6-2)

The recent craze of unlikely Super Bowl champions perhaps begins to cloud the message that champions consistently won at any and all venues. Meanwhile, save for a four-year span in the weak AFC, even the Super Bowl losers adhered to the rule.

Perhaps both are nothing more than an outlying stretch of unlikely conference champions. Notice that home record holds a bit more significance, as only four Super Bowl combatants owned a .500 or worse record in the regular season. Giants fans of the Tom Coughlin era already know the drill.

Perhaps Packers fans may know the drill by February. Aaron Rodgers and the 2012 Packers are one of three teams, along with the 2012 Ravens and 2012 Colts, to own a 4-4 road record. Of note, Baltimore plays .500 ball again on the road, and that came back to haunt them in the final seconds in New England in last year’s conference championship game.

Meanwhile, both the 2012 Seahawks and 2012 Vikings own a 3-5 road record. With only three Super Bowl combatants owning a losing record split, these two teams would likely to make a huge run, especially considering they are the bottom two seeds in the NFC. Finally, we look at the lone team to fail to protect its own turf. The 2012 Bengals finished with an even 4-4 record at home.

2. Divisional Dominance

Not only should championship teams consistently win both at home and on the road, but they should dominate against their divisional foes.

After all, teams spent more than two decades playing half of their games against divisional opponents. If a team can’t clobber their most hated foes, how can they prevail against the best in other divisions?

True, divisional games generally play to tighter scoring margin, but that doesn’t translate to losses for the championship-caliber teams. They normally control the roost in the division.

The chart below examines the divisional record for each Super Bowl combatant after the AFL-NFL merger. 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 acts a rough equivalent to divisional record.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

W-L

 

SB

Team

W-L

I66 Packers

10-2

 I66 Chiefs

5-1

II67 Packers

4-1-1

 II67 Raiders

6-0

III68 Jets

7-1

 III68 Colts

6-0

IV69 Chiefs

5-3

 IV69 Vikings

6-0

V70 Colts

6-1-1

 V70 Cowboys

5-3

VI71 Cowboys

7-1

 VI71 Dolphins

5-3

VII72 Dolphins

8-0

 VII72 Redskins

7-1

VIII73 Dolphins

7-1

 VIII73 Vikings

6-0

IX74 Steelers

4-2

 IX74 Vikings

4-2

X75 Steelers

6-0

 X75 Cowboys

6-2

XI76 Raiders

7-0

 XI76 Vikings

5-1

XII77 Cowboys

7-1

 XII77 Broncos

6-1

XIII78 Steelers

5-1

 XIII78 Cowboys

7-1

XIV79 Steelers

4-2

 XIV79 Rams

5-1

XV80 Raiders

6-2

 XV80 Eagles

6-2

XVI81 49ers

5-1

 XVI81 Bengals

4-2

XVII82 Redskins

6-1

 XVII82 Dolphins

6-1

XVIII83 Raiders

6-2

 XVIII83 Redskins

7-1

XIX84 49ers

6-0

 XIX84 Dolphins

8-0

XX85 Bears

8-0

 XX85 Patriots

6-2

XXI86 Giants

7-1

 XXI86 Broncos

5-3

XXII87 Redskins

7-1

 XXII87 Broncos

7-1

XXIII88 49ers

4-2

 XXIII88 Bengals

4-2

XXIV89 49ers

5-1

 XXIV89 Broncos

6-2

XXV90 Giants

7-1

 XXV90 Bills

7-1

XXVI91 Redskins

6-2

 XXVI91 Bills

7-1

XXVII92 Cowboys

6-2

 XXVII92 Bills

5-3

XXVIII93 Cowboys

7-1

 XXVIII93 Bills

7-1

XXIX94 49ers

6-0

 XXIX94 Chargers

6-2

XXX95 Cowboys

5-3

 XXX95 Steelers

6-2

XXXI96 Packers

7-1

 XXXI96 Patriots

6-2

XXXII97 Broncos

6-2

 XXXII97 Packers

7-1

XXXIII98 Broncos

8-0

 XXXIII98 Falcons

7-1

XXXIV99 Rams

8-0

 XXXIV99 Titans

9-1

XXXV00 Ravens

8-2

 XXXV00 Giants

7-1

XXXVI01 Patriots

6-2

 XXXVI01 Rams

7-1

XXXVII02 Bucs

4-2

 XXXVII02 Raiders

4-2

XXXVIII03 Patriots

5-1

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

5-1

XXXIX04 Patriots

5-1

 XXXIX04 Eagles

6-0

XL05 Steelers

4-2

 XL05 Seahawks

6-0

XLI06 Colts

3-3

 XLI06 Bears

5-1

XLII07 Giants

3-3

 XLII07 Patriots

6-0

XLIII08 Steelers

6-0

 XLIII08 Cardinals

6-0

XLIV09 Saints

4-2

 XLIV09 Colts

6-0

XLV10 Packers

4-2

 XLV10 Steelers

5-1

XLVI11 Giants

3-3

 XLVI11 Patriots

5-1

As history shows, playing in a division with fewer teams will result in fewer divisional wins. However, it should not translate to a middling 3-3 or 5-3 record against divisional foes. While the recent string of unlikely champions again cloud the result, this part of the study clearly illustrates the champions must control the divisional roost.

This year’s teams see a strange mix of teams that struggled against the division. The NFC West clearly had a spoiler in the St. Louis Rams, who owned a 2-1-1 record against the Seahawks and 49ers. This showed in both team’s divisional struggles.

The 2012 Seahawks, along with the 2012 Falcons and 2012 Bengals, are the three teams to finish with a 3-3 divisional record. The 2012 49ers, meanwhile, finished 3-2-1 against the NFC West. Who knows where the 49ers will fit in this study. Meanwhile, the Falcons and Bengals likely have to worry the most, as they split against each of their three divisional opponents.

3. Start Strong and Finish Strong

Again, this seems like quite a simple concept. Teams that start the season with a poor record normally are simply bad teams, as evidenced with only three Super Bowl champions starting the season with a 0-2 record.

Meanwhile, teams need to play a good team when the season carries over the playoffs, as evidenced with only two Super Bowl champions entering the playoffs with a losing streak.

The chart below details each half of the regular season for every Super Bowl regular season. The chart examines the maximum amount of games under .500 each team totaled in each half.

However, the second half schedule analysis will go in reverse order to follow the “hottest team wins” theory. Teams that never a sub .500 record will be marked “over” or “even” to avoid any confusion.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Start (W-L)

End (W-L)

 

SB

Team

Start (W-L)

End (W-L)

I66 Packers

Over

Over

 I66 Chiefs

Over

Over

II67 Packers

Even

-2 (0-2)

 II67 Raiders

Over

Over

III68 Jets

Over

Over

 III68 Colts

Over

Over

IV69 Chiefs

Over

-1 (0-1)

 IV69 Vikings

-1 (0-1)

-1 (0-1)

V70 Colts

Even

Over

 V70 Cowboys

Over

Over

VI71 Cowboys

Over

Over

 VI71 Dolphins

Even

-1 (1-2)

VII72 Dolphins

Over

Over

 VII72 Redskins

Over

-2 (0-2)

VIII73 Dolphins

Even

Even

 VIII73 Vikings

Over

Over

IX74 Steelers

Even

Over

 IX74 Vikings

Over

Over

X75 Steelers

Even

-1 (0-1)

 X75 Cowboys

Over

Over

XI76 Raiders

Over

Over

 XI76 Vikings

Over

Over

XII77 Cowboys

Over

Over

 XII77 Broncos

Over

-1 (0-1)

XIII78 Steelers

Over

Over

 XIII78 Cowboys

Over

Over

XIV79 Steelers

Over

Even

 XIV79 Rams

-1 (0-1)

-1 (0-1)

XV80 Raiders

-1 (2-3)

Over

 XV80 Eagles

Over

-2 (1-3)

XVI81 49ers

-1 (1-2)

Over

 XVI81 Bengals

Over

Over

XVII82 Redskins

Over

Over

 XVII82 Dolphins

Over

Over

XVIII83 Raiders

Over

Even

 XVIII83 Redskins

-1 (0-1)

Over

XIX84 49ers

Over

Over

 XIX84 Dolphins

Over

Over

XX85 Bears

Over

Over

 XX85 Patriots

-1 (2-3)

Even

XXI86 Giants

-1 (0-1)

Over

 XXI86 Broncos

Over

-1 (x4)

XXII87 Redskins

Even

Even

 XXII87 Broncos

Even

Over

XXIII88 49ers

Over

-1 (0-1)

 XXIII88 Bengals

Over

Even

XXIV89 49ers

Over

Over

 XXIV89 Broncos

Over

-2 (1-3)

XXV90 Giants

Over

Even

 XXV90 Bills

Over

-1 (0-1)

XXVI91 Redskins

Over

-1 (0-1)

 XXVI91 Bills

Over

-1 (0-1)

XXVII92 Cowboys

Over

Over

 XXVII92 Bills

Over

-1 (x2)

XXVIII93 Cowboys

-2 (0-2)

Over

 XXVIII93 Bills

Over

Over

XXIX94 49ers

Over

-1 (0-1)

 XXIX94 Chargers

Over

Even

XXX95 Cowboys

Over

Even

 XXX95 Steelers

-1 (3-4)

-1 (0-1)

XXXI96 Packers

Over

Over

 XXXI96 Patriots

-2 (0-2)

Even

XXXII97 Broncos

Over

-1 (1-2)

 XXXII97 Packers

Even

Over

XXXIII98 Broncos

Over

-1 (1-2)

 XXXIII98 Falcons

Over

Over

XXXIV99 Rams

Over

-1 (0-1)

 XXXIV99 Titans

Over

Over

XXXV00 Ravens

Over

Over

 XXXV00 Giants

Over

Over

XXXVI01 Patriots

-2 (x2)

Over

 XXXVI01 Rams

Over

Over

XXXVII02 Bucs

-1 (0-1)

Even

 XXXVII02 Raiders

Even

Over

XXXVIII03 Patriots

-1 (0-1)

Over

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

Over

Even

XXXIX04 Patriots

Over

Over

 XXXIX04 Eagles

Over

-2 (0-2)

XL05 Steelers

Over

Over

 XL05 Seahawks

-1 (0-1)

-1 (0-1)

XLI06 Colts

Over

-1 (x2)

 XLI06 Bears

Over

-1 (0-1)

XLII07 Giants

-2 (0-2)

-1 (x2) XLII07 Patriots

Over

Over

XLIII08 Steelers

Over

Even

 XLIII08 Cardinals

Even

-2 (2-4)

XLIV09 Saints

Over

-3 (0-3)

 XLIV09 Colts

Over

-2 (0-2)

XLV10 Packers

Even

Even

 XLV10 Steelers

Over

Over

XLVI11 Giants

-1 (0-1)

-2 (3-5)

 XLVI11 Patriots

Over

Over

As you can see, the recent tear of unlikely Super Bowl combatants clouds the picture just a bit. Still, the evidence supports the theory that elite teams rarely or finish the regular season in poor fashion.

This looks like a bad sign for two teams. The 2012 Texans finished the regular season 1-3, limping after double-digit losses to the Patriots, Vikings and Colts. Meanwhile, the 2012 Ravens finished the regular season 1-4, as they opted to rest their starters of the Week 17 game against the Bengals. Both teams hope to rekindle recent magic of teams flipping the switch out of nowhere, but that seems unlikely.

As for the beginning of the season, note that the 2012 Bengals and 2012 Redskins owned a 3-5 record as the season’s midpoint. No team ever reached a Super Bowl with such a poor record through eight games.

4. Avoid the Big Losing Streak

To go one step beyond the preceding part of this study, it should hold true that championship games never struggle for an extended period of time. Sure, the struggles look worse when they come early in the season, and they loom fresher in the minds of fans when they come late in the season. However, any extended losing streak shows a sign of a team that quite simply isn’t up to snuff in the postseason.

The table below examines each Super Bowl combatant’s longest losing streak.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Count

 

SB

Team

Count

I66 Packers

1

 I66 Chiefs

1

II67 Packers

2

 II67 Raiders

1

III68 Jets

1

 III68 Colts

1

IV69 Chiefs

1

 IV69 Vikings

1

V70 Colts

1

 V70 Cowboys

2

VI71 Cowboys

1

 VI71 Dolphins

2

VII72 Dolphins

0

 VII72 Redskins

2

VIII73 Dolphins

1

 VIII73 Vikings

1

IX74 Steelers

1

 IX74 Vikings

2

X75 Steelers

1

 X75 Cowboys

2

XI76 Raiders

1

 XI76 Vikings

1

XII77 Cowboys

2

 XII77 Broncos

1

XIII78 Steelers

1

 XIII78 Cowboys

2

XIV79 Steelers

1

 XIV79 Rams

3

XV80 Raiders

2

 XV80 Eagles

2

XVI81 49ers

1

 XVI81 Bengals

1

XVII82 Redskins

1

 XVII82 Dolphins

1

XVIII83 Raiders

1

 XVIII83 Redskins

1

XIX84 49ers

1

 XIX84 Dolphins

1

XX85 Bears

1

 XX85 Patriots

2

XXI86 Giants

1

 XXI86 Broncos

1

XXII87 Redskins

1

 XXII87 Broncos

1

XXIII88 49ers

2

 XXIII88 Bengals

1

XXIV89 49ers

1

 XXIV89 Broncos

2

XXV90 Giants

2

 XXV90 Bills

1

XXVI91 Redskins

1

 XXVI91 Bills

1

XXVII92 Cowboys

1

 XXVII92 Bills

2

XXVIII93 Cowboys

2

 XXVIII93 Bills

2

XXIX94 49ers

1

 XXIX94 Chargers

2

XXX95 Cowboys

2

 XXX95 Steelers

2

XXXI96 Packers

2

 XXXI96 Patriots

2

XXXII97 Broncos

2

 XXXII97 Packers

1

XXXIII98 Broncos

2

 XXXIII98 Falcons

1

XXXIV99 Rams

2

 XXXIV99 Titans

1

XXXV00 Ravens

3

 XXXV00 Giants

2

XXXVI01 Patriots

2

 XXXVI01 Rams

1

XXXVII02 Bucs

1

 XXXVII02 Raiders

4

XXXVIII03 Patriots

1

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

3

XXXIX04 Patriots

1

 XXXIX04 Eagles

2

XL05 Steelers

3

 XL05 Seahawks

1

XLI06 Colts

2

 XLI06 Bears

1

XLII07 Giants

2

 XLII07 Patriots

0

XLIII08 Steelers

1

 XLIII08 Cardinals

2

XLIV09 Saints

3

 XLIV09 Colts

2

XLV10 Packers

2

 XLV10 Steelers

1

XLVI11 Giants

4

 XLVI11 Patriots

2

Perhaps we’re seeing one of the many arguments that support league parity, of course which contradict the many arguments that support the lack of league parity. Who know these days what the answer is, other than that the recently higher scoring league creating higher peaks and lower valleys. When a team struggles, opponents now have more than enough offense to take advantage. No matter how you slice it, this still illustrates an outlier.

The beltway won’t have many fans of this precedent. Both the 2012 Ravens (Weeks 13-15) and 2012 Redskins (Weeks 7-9) lost three consecutive games. At least for Washington, they followed up the losing streak with a seven-game winning streak to close the regular season. Of course, that falls short of the four-game losing streak the 2012 Bengals suffered in Weeks 5-9. The Bengals continue to look like the long shot of all long shots.

5. No Need for a Big Leap of Faith

While nearly all of this data focus on the “here and now” of the season, there is something to understand about what a championship team did relative to the previous season. Normally, teams that make a huge improvement from the previous season need to earn stripes in the postseason before they make a Super Bowl run. Meanwhile, a significantly-declining team rarely makes a Super Bowl run, and instead normally fade away in the playoffs.

The table below look at each Super Bowl combatant’s win differential from the previous season. Note that the 1978 Steelers and 1978 Cowboys played two more games than they did in 1977, so those results may be skewed. Also, the 1982 strike-season significantly skews those stats. Therefore, any seasons with an inconsistent amount of games will have a prorated win differential. The numbers for prorating the 1982 season are considered unreliable.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Differential

 

SB

Team

Differential

I66 Packers

+1.5

 I66 Chiefs

+3.5

II67 Packers

-2.5

 II67 Raiders

+4.5

III68 Jets

+2.5

 III68 Colts

+1.5

IV69 Chiefs

-1

 IV69 Vikings

+4

V70 Colts

+3

 V70 Cowboys

-1.5

VI71 Cowboys

+1

 VI71 Dolphins

+0.5

VII72 Dolphins

+3.5

 VII72 Redskins

+1.5

VIII73 Dolphins

-2

 VIII73 Vikings

+5

IX74 Steelers

+0.5

 IX74 Vikings

-2

X75 Steelers

+1.5

 X75 Cowboys

+2

XI76 Raiders

+2

 XI76 Vikings

-0.5

XII77 Cowboys

+1

 XII77 Broncos

+3

XIII78 Steelers

+3.7

 XIII78 Cowboys

-1.7

XIV79 Steelers

-2

 XIV79 Rams

-3

XV80 Raiders

+2

 XV80 Eagles

+1

XVI81 49ers

+7

 XVI81 Bengals

+6

XVII82 Redskins

+6.2

 XVII82 Dolphins

+0.9

XVIII83 Raiders

-2.2

 XVIII83 Redskins

-0.2

XIX84 49ers

+5

 XIX84 Dolphins

+2

XX85 Bears

+5

 XX85 Patriots

+2

XXI86 Giants

+4

 XXI86 Broncos

Even

XXII87 Redskins

-0.3

 XXII87 Broncos

+0.2

XXIII88 49ers

-3.9

 XXIII88 Bengals

+7.7

XXIV89 49ers

+4

 XXIV89 Broncos

+3

XXV90 Giants

+1

 XXV90 Bills

+4

XXVI91 Redskins

+2

 XXVI91 Bills

Even

XXVII92 Cowboys

+2

 XXVII92 Bills

-2

XXVIII93 Cowboys

-1

 XXVIII93 Bills

+1

XXIX94 49ers

+3

 XXIX94 Chargers

+3

XXX95 Cowboys

Even

 XXX95 Steelers

-1

XXXI96 Packers

+2

 XXXI96 Patriots

+5

XXXII97 Broncos

-1

 XXXII97 Packers

Even

XXXIII98 Broncos

+2

 XXXIII98 Falcons

+7

XXXIV99 Rams

+9

 XXXIV99 Titans

+5

XXXV00 Ravens

+4

 XXXV00 Giants

+5

XXXVI01 Patriots

+6

 XXXVI01 Rams

+4

XXXVII02 Bucs

+3

 XXXVII02 Raiders

+1

XXXVIII03 Patriots

+5

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

+4

XXXIX04 Patriots

Even

 XXXIX04 Eagles

+1

XL05 Steelers

-4

 XL05 Seahawks

+4

XLI06 Colts

-2

 XLI06 Bears

+2

XLII07 Giants

+2

 XLII07 Patriots

+4

XLIII08 Steelers

+2

 XLIII08 Cardinals

+1

XLIV09 Saints

+5

 XLIV09 Colts

+2

XLV10 Packers

-1

 XLV10 Steelers

+3

XLVI11 Giants

-1

 XLVI11 Patriots

-1

Given the ability to go from a competitive team (8-8 or 9-7) to go to an elite team (13-3 or 14-2), it seems like the upper bound should be a five-game improvement. Meanwhile, because a few plays can impact a handful of games, the lower bound should be a two-game decline.

Among the playoff teams, the 2012 Broncos just make the cut. They along the lines of non-outlying champions like the 2003 Patriots and 2009 Saints. Meanwhile, the 2012 Redskins also improved by five games, but they double their win total. Perhaps this could be invested further with a win differential study by percentages.

While two just missed the cut, two teams made the cut and will be the front-running candidates for overall regression in 2013. The 2012 Colts improved from 2-14 to go 11-5 despite the interim change of Chuck Pagano to Bruce Arians as head coach. Perhaps Pagano’s battle against Leukemia was the most inspirational story in the NFL this season. Meanwhile, the 2012 Vikings improved from 3-13 to go 10-6 as Adrian Peterson pursued the single-season rushing record less than a year removed from suffering a significant knee injury. While both stories are quite amazing, those regular season fairy tales will suffer a rude awakening in the postseason.

On the other side, the 2012 Packers regressed from 15-1 to 11-5, but they fit a similar path to that of the 2005 Steelers. Simple regression can explain this outlier, so the Packers’ chances aren’t severely hurt.

6. The Starting Quarterback’s Playoff Record

As Cold, Hard Football Facts can prove in more ways than a troll can count, the passing game plays the most important role in a football game. Ultimately, that puts the pressure on the two starting quarterbacks to win, even if the rest of the team fails along the way. Just ask players like Jim Kelly and Tony Romo about how the critics handle a heartbreaking playoff loss. Championship-caliber quarterbacks will win playoff games more often than not, and Super Bowl history proves that the “have-nots” normally don’t become champions out of thin air.

The title below examines each Super Bowl quarterback and his playoff record entering that postseason.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Quarterback

W-L

 

SB

Team

Quarterback

W-L

I66 PackersBart Starr

4-1

 I66 ChiefsLen Dawson

1-0

II67 PackersBart Starr

6-1

 II67 RaidersDaryle Lamonica

0-0

III68 JetsJoe Namath

0-0

 III68 ColtsEarl Morrall

0-0

IV69 ChiefsLen Dawson

2-2

 IV69 VikingsJoe Kapp

0-1

V70 ColtsJohnny Unitas

2-1

 V70 CowboysCraig Morton

0-1

VI71 CowboysRoger Staubach

0-0

 VI71 DolphinsBob Griese

0-1

VII72 DolphinsBob Griese

2-2

 VII72 RedskinsBilly Kilmer

0-1

VIII73 DolphinsBob Griese

3-2

 VIII73 VikingsFran Tarkenton

0-0

IX74 SteelersTerry Bradshaw

1-2

 IX74 VikingsFran Tarkenton

2-1

X75 SteelersTerry Bradshaw

4-2

 X75 CowboysRoger Staubach

4-2

XI76 RaidersKen Stabler

3-3

 XI76 VikingsFran Tarkenton

4-3

XII77 CowboysRoger Staubach

6-4

 XII77 BroncosCraig Morton

3-2

XIII78 SteelersTerry Bradshaw

8-4

 XIII78 CowboysRoger Staubach

9-4

XIV79 SteelersTerry Bradshaw

11-4

 XIV79 RamsVince Ferragamo

0-0

XV80 RaidersJim Plunkett

0-0

 XV80 EaglesRon Jaworski

2-2

XVI81 49ersJoe Montana

0-0

 XVI81 BengalsKen Anderson

0-2

XVII82 RedskinsJoe Theismann

0-0

 XVII82 DolphinsDavid Woodley

0-1

XVIII83 RaidersJim Plunkett

5-1

 XVIII83 RedskinsJoe Theismann

4-0

XIX84 49ersJoe Montana

4-1

 XIX84 DolphinsDan Marino

0-1

XX85 BearsJim McMahon

0-0

 XX85 PatriotsTony Eason

0-1

XXI86 GiantsPhil Simms

2-2

 XXI86 BroncosJohn Elway

0-1

XXII87 RedskinsDoug Williams

1-3

 XXII87 BroncosJohn Elway

2-2

XXIII88 49ersJoe Montana

7-4

 XXIII88 BengalsBoomer Esiason

0-0

XXIV89 49ersJoe Montana

10-4

 XXIV89 BroncosJohn Elway

4-3

XXV90 GiantsJeff Hostetler

0-0

 XXV90 BillsJim Kelly

1-2

XXVI91 RedskinsMark Rypien

0-0

 XXVI91 BillsJim Kelly

3-3

XXVII92 CowboysTroy Aikman

0-0

 XXVII92 BillsJim Kelly

5-4

XXVIII93 CowboysTroy Aikman

3-0

 XXVIII93 BillsJim Kelly

6-5

XXIX94 49ersSteve Young

2-2

 XXIX94 ChargersStan Humphries

1-1

XXX95 CowboysTroy Aikman

7-1

 XXX95 SteelersNeil O’Donnell

1-3

XXXI96 PackersBrett Favre

4-3

 XXXI96 PatriotsDrew Bledsoe

0-1

XXXII97 BroncosJohn Elway

7-7

 XXXII97 PackersBrett Favre

7-3

XXXIII98 BroncosJohn Elway

11-7

 XXXIII98 FalconsChris Chandler

0-0

XXXIV99 RamsKurt Warner

0-0

 XXXIV99 TitansSteve McNair

0-0

XXXV00 RavensTrent Dilfer

1-1

 XXXV00 GiantsKerry Collins

1-1

XXXVI01 PatriotsTom Brady

0-0

 XXXVI01 RamsKurt Warner

3-1

XXXVII02 BucsBrad Johnson

1-3

 XXXVII02 RaidersRich Gannon

2-2

XXXVIII03 PatriotsTom Brady

3-0

 XXXVIII03 PanthersJake Delhomme

0-0

XXXIX04 PatriotsTom Brady

6-0

 XXXIX04 EaglesDonovan McNabb

5-4

XL05 SteelersB. Roethlisberger

1-1

 XL05 'HawksMatt Hasselbeck

0-2

XLI06 ColtsPeyton Manning

3-6

 XLI06 BearsRex Grossman

0-1

XLII07 GiantsEli Manning

0-2

 XLII07 PatriotsTom Brady

12-2

XLIII08 SteelersB. Roethlisberger

5-2

 XLIII08 CardinalsKurt Warner

5-2

XLIV09 SaintsDrew Brees

1-2

 XLIV09 ColtsPeyton Manning

7-8

XLV10 PackersAaron Rodgers

0-1

 XLV10 SteelersB. Roethlisberger

8-2

XLVI11 GiantsEli Manning

4-3

 XLVI11 PatriotsTom  Brady

14-5

As playoff history shows, quarterbacks normally need to get a playoff win out of system, unless they are making a playoff run in their first try. In the 2012 postseason, six quarterbacks will make their playoff debut: Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Christian Ponder, Matt Schaub and Russell Wilson. Note that despite 19 first-time playoff quarterbacks making the Super Bowl run, only two Super Bowl match-ups featured multiple green-thumb quarterbacks. Don’t two of that kind to show up in February.

The one quarterback that sticks out has to be Matt Ryan, who owns a 0-3 playoff record. As highlighted in red, only two Super Bowl champion quarterbacks owned a winless record (with previous playoff starting experience) that preceded their title run. These winless quarterbacks own a 2-12 record in the Super Bowl. Furthermore, only two quarterbacks who lost in the Super Bowl held a winless record with two playoff starts. No quarterback followed the 0-3 start with a Super Bowl appearance.

In fact, the list of starting quarterbacks who began 0-3 in the playoffs include:

  • Peyton Manning: made AFC Championship Game in 2003; currently 9-10
  • Randall Cunningham: won a Wild Card game in 1992; finished 3-6
  • Jack Kemp (AFL): won the 1964 AFL Championship; finished 2-4
  • Y.A. Tittle: lost his fourth and final playoff start; finished 0-4
  • Bert Jones, Bobby Hebert and Steve Grogan: finished 0-3

Matt Ryan could join Y.A. Tittle in the infamous playoff annals with a playoff loss in the Divisional Round. Perhaps the Falcons should just settle with a playoff win. Also, keep an eye on Andy Dalton’s 0-1 playoff record.

7. Record against Non-Quality Opponents (and One-Possession Wins)

At Cold, Hard Football Facts, we use our Quality Standings as an important indicator for which teams can perform well against quality competition. The theory follows that the better teams against quality competition in the regular season will perform better against playoff opponents than the teams that did not perform well against quality competition. This study would like to take that theory to a new level.

Not only should elite teams play well against quality competition, but they should easily handle their inferior opponents. Teams that frequently earn close wins against inferior competition are normally teams that cannot step up their playing level to an elite level come playoff time. Of course, if the playoff teams are frequently losing to non-quality opponents, it says a more telling and ominous story.

The table below examines each Super Bowl team’s record against non-quality opponents (teams with a .500 record or worse) with the number of one-possession wins in parentheses.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

W-L (OPW)

 

SB

Team

W-L (OPW)

I66 Packers

7-2 (1)

 I66 Chiefs

6-0 (2)

II67 Packers

6-2-1 (1)

 II67 Raiders

7-0 (3)

III68 Jets

7-2 (2)

 III68 Colts

7-0 (0)

IV69 Chiefs

8-1 (2)

 IV69 Vikings

5-2 (2)

V70 Colts

10-0-1 (6)

 V70 Cowboys

8-0 (2)

VI71 Cowboys

9-2 (2)

 VI71 Dolphins

8-2-1 (1)

VII72 Dolphins

12-0 (3)

 VII72 Redskins

7-2 (1)

VIII73 Dolphins

7-1 (0)

 VIII73 Vikings

9-0 (2)

IX74 Steelers

10-2 (4)

 IX74 Vikings

8-3 (2)

X75 Steelers

8-0 (1)

 X75 Cowboys

7-2 (3)

XI76 Raiders

9-0 (4)

 XI76 Vikings

10-1 (4)

XII77 Cowboys

8-1 (3)

 XII77 Broncos

7-0 (3)

XIII78 Steelers

10-0 (4)

 XIII78 Cowboys

8-1 (1)

XIV79 Steelers

5-1 (2)

 XIV79 Rams

7-2 (4)

XV80 Raiders

8-1 (5)

 XV80 Eagles

9-1 (2)

XVI81 49ers

10-3 (5)

 XVI81 Bengals

8-3 (3)

XVII82 Redskins

5-0 (3)

 XVII82 Dolphins

4-0 (2)

XVIII83 Raiders

8-0 (2)

 XVIII83 Redskins

7-1 (2)

XIX84 49ers

11-0 (3)

 XIX84 Dolphins

8-1 (2)

XX85 Bears

10-0 (2)

 XX85 Patriots

9-1 (4)

XXI86 Giants

9-1 (5)

 XXI86 Broncos

5-1 (1)

XXII87 Redskins

10-3 (6)

 XXII87 Broncos

5-1-1 (2)

XXIII88 49ers

4-4 (1)

 XXIII88 Bengals

7-1 (3)

XXIV89 49ers

8-0 (2)

 XXIV89 Broncos

6-2 (2)

XXV90 Giants

9-0 (4)

 XXV90 Bills

9-0 (2)

XXVI91 Redskins

8-0 (3)

 XXVI91 Bills

11-1 (4)

XXVII92 Cowboys

10-1 (3)

 XXVII92 Bills

6-2 (1)

XXVIII93 Cowboys

7-2 (3)

 XXVIII93 Bills

8-0 (3)

XXIX94 49ers

9-1 (1)

 XXIX94 Chargers

7-2 (1)

XXX95 Cowboys

7-2 (2)

 XXX95 Steelers

8-3 (1)

XXXI96 Packers

9-0 (1)

 XXXI96 Patriots

7-1 (3)

XXXII97 Broncos

10-1 (3)

 XXXII97 Packers

6-2 (1)

XXXIII98 Broncos

11-1 (4)

 XXXIII98 Falcons

11-0 (6)

XXXIV99 Rams

13-2 (0)

 XXXIV99 Titans

10-2 (5)

XXXV00 Ravens

7-1 (2)

 XXXV00 Giants

9-1 (7)

XXXVI01 Patriots

8-2 (2)

 XXXVI01 Rams

8-1 (2)

XXXVII02 Bucs

8-0 (2)

 XXXVII02 Raiders

5-3 (0)

XXXVIII03 Patriots

6-2 (4)

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

10-2 (8)

XXXIX04 Patriots

7-1 (2)

 XXXIX04 Eagles

11-2 (3)

XL05 Steelers

8-1 (1)

 XL05 Seahawks

10-1 (4)

XLI06 Colts

8-3 (5)

 XLI06 Bears

11-2 (5)

XLII07 Giants

9-1 (4)

 XLII07 Patriots

9-0 (2)

XLIII08 Steelers

8-0 (3)

 XLIII08 Cardinals

7-1 (2)

XLIV09 Saints

8-2 (2)

 XLIV09 Colts

8-1 (4)

XLV10 Packers

6-3 (2)

 XLV10 Steelers

9-0 (4)

XLVI11 Giants

8-4 (4)

 XLVI11 Patriots

12-1 (3)

The outliers marked in red expose the 14 Super Bowl combatants who (A) lost at least three games against non-quality opponents, or (B) won six or more one-possession games against non-quality opponents.

For those wondering if Andrew Luck deserves serious consideration for the Rookie of the Year, it’s important to note how many of Luck’s close victories came against non-quality opponents. The 2012 Colts own an 8-2 record against non-quality opponents with seven one-possession wins. This includes three fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives. Luck doesn’t deserve that hardware, and he likely won’t add a Super Bowl ring to the collection this year either.

Luck’s OROY counterparts also had their own struggles against non-quality opponents. Russell Wilson and the 2012 Seahawks lost four games to non-quality opponents, while Robert Griffin’s 2012 Redskins lost three games to non-quality opponents. There are multiple reasons why a rookie quarterback never started in any of the first 46 Super Bowls, and this part of study seems to point to one of those reasons. Not only do these rookies have their growing pains, but so do the teams that employee them. Eventually, those growing pains catch up to them.

Finally, it seems like Mr. Ryan and Mr. Dalton continue to face bad news. The 2012 Falcons owned a 10-3 record against non-quality opponents, with all three losses coming against fellow NFC South teams. Meanwhile, the 2012 Bengals owned a 7-4 record against non-quality opponents, including the first three games of a four-game losing streak in Weeks 5-9. My condolences, guys.

8. Record against Playoff Teams

Given the ever-growing nature of the NFL postseason over the years, this part of the study won’t be as reliable as most. Remember, the league didn’t expand to a 16-game season until 1978, and the playoff format didn’t expand to 12 teams until 1990. Therefore, any figures before that time won’t tell a definitive picture.

Still, we try to hold the theory that the playoff teams with winning experience against their counterparts are more likely to make that playoff run. And to stick with the theme, every Super Bowl team enters the study.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

W-L

 

SB

Team

W-L

I66 Packers

0-0

 I66 Chiefs

1-1

II67 Packers

1-1

 II67 Raiders

1-0

III68 Jets

1-1

 III68 Colts

1-1

IV69 Chiefs

2-2

 IV69 Vikings

2-0

V70 Colts

1-1

 V70 Cowboys

0-1

VI71 Cowboys

1-1

 VI71 Dolphins

1-1

VII72 Dolphins

0-0

 VII72 Redskins

2-1

VIII73 Dolphins

2-1

 VIII73 Vikings

2-1

IX74 Steelers

0-1

 IX74 Vikings

1-1

X75 Steelers

2-1

 X75 Cowboys

2-1

XI76 Raiders

1-1

 XI76 Vikings

1-0-1

XII77 Cowboys

2-1

 XII77 Broncos

3-2

XIII78 Steelers

3-2

 XIII78 Cowboys

3-3

XIV79 Steelers

3-3

 XIV79 Rams

1-4

XV80 Raiders

1-3

 XV80 Eagles

3-3

XVI81 49ers

3-0

 XVI81 Bengals

2-2

XVII82 Redskins

2-1

 XVII82 Dolphins

2-1

XVIII83 Raiders

4-3

 XVIII83 Redskins

5-1

XIX84 49ers

4-1

 XIX84 Dolphins

2-1

XX85 Bears

4-1

 XX85 Patriots

2-5

XXI86 Giants

4-0

 XXI86 Broncos

3-3

XXII87 Redskins

1-0

 XXII87 Broncos

2-3

XXIII88 49ers

3-2

 XXIII88 Bengals

4-2

XXIV89 49ers

3-1

 XXIV89 Broncos

2-3

XXV90 Giants

4-3

 XXV90 Bills

4-3

XXVI91 Redskins

5-1

 XXVI91 Bills

3-2

XXVII92 Cowboys

3-2

 XXVII92 Bills

4-2

XXVIII93 Cowboys

5-1

 XXVIII93 Bills

3-3

XXIX94 49ers

3-2

 XXIX94 Chargers

3-2

XXX95 Cowboys

5-2

 XXX95 Steelers

2-2

XXXI96 Packers

4-2

 XXXI96 Patriots

4-3

XXXII97 Broncos

2-3

 XXXII97 Packers

7-1

XXXIII98 Broncos

3-1

 XXXIII98 Falcons

3-2

XXXIV99 Rams

0-2

 XXXIV99 Titans

3-1

XXXV00 Ravens

1-2

 XXXV00 Giants

2-1

XXXVI01 Patriots

2-2

 XXXVI01 Rams

6-1

XXXVII02 Bucs

4-2

 XXXVII02 Raiders

3-1

XXXVIII03 Patriots

5-0

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

1-3

XXXIX04 Patriots

5-1

 XXXIX04 Eagles

2-2

XL05 Steelers

2-4

 XL05 Seahawks

2-2

XLI06 Colts

4-1

 XLI06 Bears

3-1

XLII07 Giants

1-5

 XLII07 Patriots

6-0

XLIII08 Steelers

3-4

 XLIII08 Cardinals

1-4

XLIV09 Saints

3-1

 XLIV09 Colts

3-1

XLV10 Packers

3-3

 XLV10 Steelers

2-4

XLVI11 Giants

1-3

 XLVI11 Patriots

1-2

This part of the study holds no water in this postseason, as every playoff team defeated at least two playoff counterparts. Of note, the 2012 Seahawks defeated a league-best four playoff teams.

9. Blowout Losses (by More Than Two Possessions)

Obviously, blowing out non-quality opponents and earning your stripes by defeating a few playoff-caliber teams both help to build championship team. However, championship teams normally also avoid the pathetic performances. Rarely do elite teams get blown out in competition, as they should be among the best teams in the game. It would make sense champions will normally find ways to stay competitive in their losses.

The chart below examines each Super Bowl team’s blowout loss. Remember, the AFL implemented the two-point conversion throughout the league’s history, while NFL adopted the rule in 1994. In those seasons, the teams must lose by 17 points or more. In the other seasons, the teams must lose by 15 points or more.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Count

 

SB

Team

Count

I66 Packers

0

 I66 Chiefs

1

II67 Packers

0

 II67 Raiders

0

III68 Jets

0

 III68 Colts

0

IV69 Chiefs

0

 IV69 Vikings

0

V70 Colts

2

 V70 Cowboys

2

VI71 Cowboys

0

 VI71 Dolphins

1

VII72 Dolphins

0

 VII72 Redskins

0

VIII73 Dolphins

0

 VIII73 Vikings

1

IX74 Steelers

1

 IX74 Vikings

0

X75 Steelers

0

 X75 Cowboys

0

XI76 Raiders

1

 XI76 Vikings

0

XII77 Cowboys

1

 XII77 Broncos

0

XIII78 Steelers

0

 XIII78 Cowboys

0

XIV79 Steelers

2

 XIV79 Rams

4

XV80 Raiders

1

 XV80 Eagles

0

XVI81 49ers

1

 XVI81 Bengals

1

XVII82 Redskins

0

 XVII82 Dolphins

0

XVIII83 Raiders

0

 XVIII83 Redskins

0

XIX84 49ers

0

 XIX84 Dolphins

0

XX85 Bears

0

 XX85 Patriots

1

XXI86 Giants

0

 XXI86 Broncos

2

XXII87 Redskins

0

 XXII87 Broncos

1

XXIII88 49ers

2

 XXIII88 Bengals

1

XXIV89 49ers

0

 XXIV89 Broncos

0

XXV90 Giants

1

 XXV90 Bills

2

XXVI91 Redskins

0

 XXVI91 Bills

1

XXVII92 Cowboys

1

 XXVII92 Bills

3

XXVIII93 Cowboys

1

 XXVIII93 Bills

2

XXIX94 49ers

1

 XXIX94 Chargers

1

XXX95 Cowboys

1

 XXX95 Steelers

2

XXXI96 Packers

0

 XXXI96 Patriots

1

XXXII97 Broncos

1

 XXXII97 Packers

0

XXXIII98 Broncos

0

 XXXIII98 Falcons

1

XXXIV99 Rams

0

 XXXIV99 Titans

2

XXXV00 Ravens

0

 XXXV00 Giants

0

XXXVI01 Patriots

1

 XXXVI01 Rams

0

XXXVII02 Bucs

0

 XXXVII02 Raiders

0

XXXVIII03 Patriots

1

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

1

XXXIX04 Patriots

0

 XXXIX04 Eagles

2

XL05 Steelers

1

 XL05 Seahawks

0

XLI06 Colts

1

 XLI06 Bears

2

XLII07 Giants

2

 XLII07 Patriots

0

XLIII08 Steelers

1

 XLIII08 Cardinals

4

XLIV09 Saints

0

 XLIV09 Colts

1

XLV10 Packers

0

 XLV10 Steelers

0

XLVI11 Giants

1

 XLVI11 Patriots

0

Perhaps this part of the study gave the best distinction between the three 9-7 teams that made the Super Bowl. Although the Giants were the only one of the three to be outscored in the regular season, they only suffered one blowout loss. The other two (1979 Rams and 2008 Cardinals) suffered four blowout losses each. Clearly, the 2011 Giants played more consistent football, and their extended playoff run held more gravity than the others.

As for this postseason, five teams will be on red alert. The 2012 Texans and 2012 Colts each suffered three blowout losses. Heck, it could have been worse. Each team won at home by 12 points in the regular season split. In a very small consolation, all three losses for the Texans came to playoff teams. The Colts don’t have such an excuse, as those losses included the lowly Jets and the offensively-challenged Bears. Blame Andrew Luck in large part, as the Colts finished with a -4 turnover margin in each game.

Meanwhile, a trio of teams suffered a blowout loss twice each. The 2012 49ers, 2012 Ravens and 2012 Vikings each lost two games by at least 17 points. Only the Vikings took one on the chin against the loss, with the Doug Martin coming out party in Week 8 resulting in a blowout loss for Minnesota. As least this trio of teams has an outside chance, according to league precedent. However, all three teams face their offensive limitations.

10. Turnover Margin

As this study moves to more statistical aspects, we first look at arguably the important quantitative statistic in an individual game. Turnover margin plays a key role, especially in the Super Bowl. No team that lost the turnover battle won the Super Bowl until the 40th installment, when the 2005 Steelers concluded their game-changing run.

Therefore, it’s easy to argue the importance of this stat. However, this stat can be tricky simply because the regular season turnover stats can easily stack in favor of a playoff team against the worst teams in the league. Of the 37 teams to build a +20 turnover margin on better in the Super Bowl Era, only six made the big game. This suggests that these teams normally can’t handle a playoff team when they don’t win the turnover battle, the sample size needs to be a big larger before the +20 turnover teams are considered outliers in the postseason.

For now, let’s look at each Super Bowl combatant’s turnover margin.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Margin

 

SB

Team

Margin

I66 Packers

+18

 I66 Chiefs

+10

II67 Packers

+3

 II67 Raiders

+9

III68 Jets

+15

 III68 Colts

+7

IV69 Chiefs

+8

 IV69 Vikings

+12

V70 Colts

-2

 V70 Cowboys

+11

VI71 Cowboys

+16

 VI71 Dolphins

+8

VII72 Dolphins

+18

 VII72 Redskins

+6

VIII73 Dolphins

+1

 VIII73 Vikings

+10

IX74 Steelers

+7

 IX74 Vikings

+11

X75 Steelers

+5

 X75 Cowboys

+9

XI76 Raiders

-4

 XI76 Vikings

+3

XII77 Cowboys

+7

 XII77 Broncos

+12

XIII78 Steelers

+9

 XIII78 Cowboys

+1

XIV79 Steelers

-10

 XIV79 Rams

-8

XV80 Raiders

+8

 XV80 Eagles

+7

XVI81 49ers

+23

 XVI81 Bengals

+13

XVII82 Redskins

+8

 XVII82 Dolphins

+4

XVIII83 Raiders

-13

 XVIII83 Redskins

+43

XIX84 49ers

+16

 XIX84 Dolphins

+8

XX85 Bears

+23

 XX85 Patriots

+5

XXI86 Giants

+11

 XXI86 Broncos

+6

XXII87 Redskins

-3

 XXII87 Broncos

+11

XXIII88 49ers

+12

 XXIII88 Bengals

+9

XXIV89 49ers

+12

 XXIV89 Broncos

+11

XXV90 Giants

+20

 XXV90 Bills

+14

XXVI91 Redskins

+18

 XXVI91 Bills

+2

XXVII92 Cowboys

+7

 XXVII92 Bills

-3

XXVIII93 Cowboys

+6

 XXVIII93 Bills

+12

XXIX94 49ers

+11

 XXIX94 Chargers

+9

XXX95 Cowboys

+2

 XXX95 Steelers

Even

XXXI96 Packers

+15

 XXXI96 Patriots

+7

XXXII97 Broncos

+10

 XXXII97 Packers

Even

XXXIII98 Broncos

+10

 XXXIII98 Falcons

+20

XXXIV99 Rams

+5

 XXXIV99 Titans

+18

XXXV00 Ravens

+23

 XXXV00 Giants

+7

XXXVI01 Patriots

+7

 XXXVI01 Rams

-10

XXXVII02 Bucs

+17

 XXXVII02 Raiders

+12

XXXVIII03 Patriots

+17

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

-5

XXXIX04 Patriots

+9

 XXXIX04 Eagles

+6

XL05 Steelers

+7

 XL05 Seahawks

+10

XLI06 Colts

+7

 XLI06 Bears

+8

XLII07 Giants

-9

 XLII07 Patriots

+16

XLIII08 Steelers

+4

 XLIII08 Cardinals

Even

XLIV09 Saints

+11

 XLIV09 Colts

+2

XLV10 Packers

+10

 XLV10 Steelers

+17

XLVI11 Giants

+7

 XLVI11 Patriots

+17

These results suggest that teams that struggle with turnover margin will normally falter in some capacity in the postseason. After all, these teams either made too many turnovers or failed to consistently create turnovers. If that can’t be done against average or bad teams, how can it be done against the best? Just ask the 1983 Raiders.

In this postseason, the 2012 Broncos must overcome their -1 turnover margin from the regular season. Peyton Manning won’t be a turnover liability, but the defense doesn’t create many turnovers. The 2012 Vikings also lost the turnover battle with a -1 margin, while the 2012 Colts finished with a pathetic -12 turnover margin. Andrew Luck better hope to channel his inner Jim Plunkett in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ struggles seem to point around the inconsistent Christian Ponder. That’s not a good sign against the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the wild card round.

11. Point Margin

Teams with a strong point margin last the test of 60 minutes or more in each game. Some experts believe point margin to be more reliable than record, simply because the point differential involves a much larger sample size. In a football game, only one team wins while an unlimited amount of points can be scored.

If playoff teams don’t possess a strong point margin, it suggests that those teams are not as good as their records say. Furthermore, it suggests they aren’t able to hang with the playoff teams that outscore their opponents as well as their records say. The table below supports this theory.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

Margin

 

SB

Team

Margin

I66 Packers

+172

 I66 Chiefs

+172

II67 Packers

+123

 II67 Raiders

+235

III68 Jets

+139

 III68 Colts

+258

IV69 Chiefs

+182

 IV69 Vikings

+246

V70 Colts

+87

 V70 Cowboys

+78

VI71 Cowboys

+184

 VI71 Dolphins

+141

VII72 Dolphins

+214

 VII72 Redskins

+118

VIII73 Dolphins

+193

 VIII73 Vikings

+128

IX74 Steelers

+116

 IX74 Vikings

+115

X75 Steelers

+211

 X75 Cowboys

+82

XI76 Raiders

+113

 XI76 Vikings

+129

XII77 Cowboys

+133

 XII77 Broncos

+126

XIII78 Steelers

+161

 XIII78 Cowboys

+176

XIV79 Steelers

+154

 XIV79 Rams

+14

XV80 Raiders+58 XV80 Eagles

+162

XVI81 49ers

+107

 XVI81 Bengals

+117

XVII82 Redskins

+62

 XVII82 Dolphins

+67

XVIII83 Raiders

+104

 XVIII83 Redskins

+209

XIX84 49ers

+248

 XIX84 Dolphins

+215

XX85 Bears

+258

 XX85 Patriots

+72

XXI86 Giants

+135

 XXI86 Broncos

+51

XXII87 Redskins

+94

 XXII87 Broncos

+91

XXIII88 49ers

+75

 XXIII88 Bengals

+119

XXIV89 49ers

+189

 XXIV89 Broncos

+136

XXV90 Giants

+124

 XXV90 Bills

+165

XXVI91 Redskins

+261

 XXVI91 Bills

+140

XXVII92 Cowboys

+166

 XXVII92 Bills

+98

XXVIII93 Cowboys

+147

 XXVIII93 Bills

+87

XXIX94 49ers

+209

 XXIX94 Chargers

+75

XXX95 Cowboys

+144

 XXX95 Steelers

+80

XXXI96 Packers

+246

 XXXI96 Patriots

+105

XXXII97 Broncos

+185

 XXXII97 Packers

+140

XXXIII98 Broncos

+192

 XXXIII98 Falcons

+153

XXXIV99 Rams

+284

 XXXIV99 Titans

+68

XXXV00 Ravens

+168

 XXXV00 Giants

+82

XXXVI01 Patriots

+99

 XXXVI01 Rams

+230

XXXVII02 Bucs

+150

 XXXVII02 Raiders

+146

XXXVIII03 Patriots

+110

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

+21

XXXIX04 Patriots

+177

 XXXIX04 Eagles

+126

XL05 Steelers

+131

 XL05 Seahawks

+181

XLI06 Colts

+67

 XLI06 Bears

+172

XLII07 Giants

+22

 XLII07 Patriots

+315

XLIII08 Steelers

+124

 XLIII08 Cardinals

+1

XLIV09 Saints

+169

 XLIV09 Colts

+109

XLV10 Packers

+148

 XLV10 Steelers

+143

XLVI11 Giants

-6

 XLVI11 Patriots

+171

The threshold for the outlier in this part of study is an average scoring margin less than +5.0 points per game (PPG). The 2011 Giants set a new precedent by becoming the first team with a negative scoring margin to make (and win) the Super Bowl. However, anything under a +80 margin normally will fall short of the Super Bowl.

This postseason has a quintet of teams looking to break the trend. The 2012 Colts are the only playoff team to finish the regular season with a negative margin, as they were outscored by 30 points. A big part has to do with their seven one-possession victories against non-quality teams and their three blowout losses. Meanwhile, the 2012 Redskins (+48) and 2012 Vikings (+31) both have an average scoring margin of +3.0 PPG for or worse. The Redskins can blame their defense for failing to fully support the dominance of Robert Griffin III, while the Vikings can look at their average passing game on both sides of the ball. Finally, the 2012 Ravens (+54) and 2012 Bengals (+71) also fail to reach the threshold. Both teams can look at their losing streaks to blame.

12. Passer Rating Differential

This study culminates with a look at the mother of all stats, Passer Rating Differential. Just check the extensive studies that Cold, Hard Football Facts previously conducted, and it shows how passing efficiency determines the best teams in the league. We’ll just remind you what’s going on with the chart below.

Winners

Losers

SB

Team

PRD

 

SB

Team

PRD

I66 Packers

+56.0

 I66 Chiefs

+42.6

II67 Packers

+22.2

 II67 Raiders

+31.4

III68 Jets

+22.4

 III68 Colts

+36.5

IV69 Chiefs

+29.3

 IV69 Vikings

+33.9

V70 Colts

+13.0

 V70 Cowboys

+27.0

VI71 Cowboys

+32.9

 VI71 Dolphins

+21.6

VII72 Dolphins

+39.5

 VII72 Redskins

+26.5

VIII73 Dolphins

+35.3

 VIII73 Vikings

+35.5

IX74 Steelers

+4.6

 IX74 Vikings

+28.2

X75 Steelers

+43.9

 X75 Cowboys

+24.1

XI76 Raiders

+33.4

 XI76 Vikings

+34.7

XII77 Cowboys

+37.1

 XII77 Broncos

+18.4

XIII78 Steelers

+29.7

 XIII78 Cowboys

+29.4

XIV79 Steelers

+20.2

 XIV79 Rams

-3.3

XV80 Raiders

+8.2

 XV80 Eagles

+34.4

XVI81 49ers

+27.5

 XVI81 Bengals

+14.4

XVII82 Redskins

+24.1

 XVII82 Dolphins

+15.3

XVIII83 Raiders

+7.0

 XVIII83 Redskins

+27.4

XIX84 49ers

+36.3

 XIX84 Dolphins

+37.1

XX85 Bears

+26.1

 XX85 Patriots

+26.1

XXI86 Giants

+6.4

 XXI86 Broncos

+2.8

XXII87 Redskins

+11.4

 XXII87 Broncos

+14.6

XXIII88 49ers

+11.3

 XXIII88 Bengals

+27.4

XXIV89 49ers

+46.3

 XXIV89 Broncos

+9.6

XXV90 Giants

+28.4

 XXV90 Bills

+25.0

XXVI91 Redskins

+39.1

 XXVI91 Bills

+32.4

XXVII92 Cowboys

+18.9

 XXVII92 Bills

+4.8

XXVIII93 Cowboys

+21.5

 XXVIII93 Bills

+11.0

XXIX94 49ers

+47.3

 XXIX94 Chargers

-0.7

XXX95 Cowboys

+19.4

 XXX95 Steelers

+0.2

XXXI96 Packers

+40.3

 XXXI96 Patriots

+14.3

XXXII97 Broncos

+15.9

 XXXII97 Packers

+32.9

XXXIII98 Broncos

+13.0

 XXXIII98 Falcons

+15.9

XXXIV99 Rams

+42.3

 XXXIV99 Titans

+0.8

XXXV00 Ravens

+10.2

 XXXV00 Giants

+9.4

XXXVI01 Patriots

+16.7

 XXXVI01 Rams

+32.3

XXXVII02 Bucs

+37.9

 XXXVII02 Raiders

+19.9

XXXVIII03 Patriots

+28.1

 XXXVIII03 Panthers

+4.8

XXXIX04 Patriots

+17.2

 XXXIX04 Eagles

+20.6

XL05 Steelers

+15.4

 XL05 Seahawks

+19.4

XLI06 Colts

+20.6

 XLI06 Bears

+7.0

XLII07 Giants

-10.4

 XLII07 Patriots

+37.9

XLIII08 Steelers

+18.5

 XLIII08 Cardinals

-0.8

XLIV09 Saints

+37.4

 XLIV09 Colts

+14.8

XLV10 Packers

+31.7

 XLV10 Steelers

+22.1

XLVI11 Giants

+6.8

 XLVI11 Patriots

+19.6

The threshold for this part of the study ends at a +8.0 Passer Rating Differential. This seems to offer fair amount to allow the good and dominant teams to have a legitimate chance at winning the Super Bowl. Note how there seems to be no certain correlation between the better teams in Passer Rating Differential winning the Super Bowl. Just get in the ballpark, and it seems like you can win as long as you execute in the postseason.

Four in this postseason fail to make the threshold. This includes the AFC North playoff teams in the 2012 Ravens (+5.78) and the 2012 Bengals (+7.26) failing to own a significant advantage in passing efficiency. Both teams are in the middle of the pack on both sides of the football in those passing indicators. Meanwhile, a pair of teams owns a negative Passer Rating Differential.

The 2012 Vikings own a -11.07 Passer Rating Differential, due in large part to the team finishing 25th in Defensive Passer Rating. The 2012 Colts own a -13.71 Passer Rating Differential, putting the team 27th overall in that quality stat category. It seems like those two teams have a long way to go.

Statistical Summary

As we look back to the 12 parts of the study, it’s very important to see how many red flags each Super Bowl combatant overcame. First, let’s look at the 46 winners, as organized by amount of red flags:

  • Ten: 2007 Giants
  • Seven: 2011 Giants
  • Five: 1988 49ers
  • Four: 2006 Colts
  • Three: 1970 Colts, 1987 Redskins, 2010 Packers
  • Two: 1967 Packers, 1979 Steelers, 1980 Raiders, 1981 49ers, 1983 Raiders,1999 Rams, 2000 Ravens, 2001 Patriots, 2005 Steelers, 2009 Saints
  • One: 1969 Chiefs, 1974 Steelers, 1976 Raiders, 1986 Giants 1993 Cowboys, 1995 Cowboys, 1997 Broncos
  • Zero: 1966 Packers, 1968 Jets, 1971 Cowboys, 1972 Dolphins, 1973 Dolphins, 1975 Steelers, 1977 Cowboys, 1978 Steelers, 1982 Redskins, 1984 49ers, 1985 Bears, 1989 49ers, 1990 Giants, 1991 Redskins, 1992 Cowboys, 1994 49ers, 1996 Packers, 1998 Broncos, 2002 Buccaneers, 2003 Patriots, 2004 Patriots, 2008 Steelers

Clearly, Tom Coughlin earned his reputation as the big-game killer. His 2007 Giants and 2011 Giants pulled off Herculean efforts to overcome their red flags and hoist a pair of Lombardi Trophies. (However, I think this adds some proof that Eli Manning is too regular of a quarterback in the regular season to be elite.)

With some slightly different criteria (re: more lenient results for blowout losses and starting quarterback playoff records) for red flags among the Super Bowl losers, let’s take a look at each team to lose the Super Bowl, as organized by the amount of red flags:

  • Eight: 1979 Rams
  • Six: 2003 Panthers, 2008 Cardinals
  • Four: 1986 Broncos, 1992 Bills
  • Three: 1981 Bengals
  • Two: 1985 Patriots, 1988 Bengals, 1994 Chargers, 1995 Steelers, 1998 Falcons, 1999 Titans, 2002 Raiders
  • One: 1970 Cowboys, 1971 Dolphins, 1972 Redskins, 1974 Vikings, 1980 Eagles, 1987 Broncos, 1989 Broncos, 1996 Patriots, 2000 Giants, 2001 Rams, 2004 Eagles, 2005 Seahawks, 2006 Bears, 2009 Colts, 2011 Patriots
  • Zero: 1966 Chiefs, 1967 Raiders, 1968 Colts, 1969 Vikings, 1973 Vikings, 1975 Cowboys, 1976 Vikings, 1977 Broncos, 1978 Cowboys, 1982 Dolphins, 1983 Redskins, 1984 Dolphins, 1990 Bills, 1991 Bills, 1993 Bills, 1997 Packers, 2007 Patriots, 2010 Steelers

The underdog story of the 2003 Panthers seems to be quite underrated, as very few talking about what that team did to make their run. Especially when the quarterback change to Jake Delhomme is considered, it looks like the 2003 Panthers should be considered one of the most unlikely Super Bowl teams ever.