NFL teams heading into the playoffs hope that they get “hot” at the right time and that it carries all the way to the Super Bowl. While this theory seems legit, look at last year’s Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens became the first team in Super Bowl history to lose four games in December and still win the championship. This year’s Super Bowl teams, the Seahawks and Broncos, each lost games in December with Seattle losing a pair of their last month contests and Denver losing once in December.
In the 47-year history of the Super Bowl, 17 champions did not lose in the last month of the season. Of the other 30 champs, 18 lost only once in last month; losing twice or more in the last month of the season, however, has become more commonplace… six of the last seven Super Bowl champs lost two or more regular season games in the last month of the season. The last team to go undefeated in the last month of the regular season were the 2003 New England Patriots.
Here’s another interesting stat: Of the 47 Super Bowl champs, only 10 lost their last regular season game: 1967 Green Bay, 1969 Kansas City, 1975 Pittsburgh, 1988 San Francisco, 1991 Washington, 1994 San Francisco, 1999 St. Louis, 2007 New York Giants, 2009 New Orleans, 2012 Baltimore. Of the 10 teams above, two, the 1067 Green Bay Packers and the 2009 New Orleans Saints, actually had losing streaks of two games or more to end the regular season. The Packers lost two straight to end the 1967 season, while the Saints lost their last three regular season games in 2009 before winning the Super Bowl.
All Super Bowl champs lost one or more games during the regular season, but you wouldn’t think that these title winners would get blown out in a regular season game. There have, however, been 14 games where the eventual Super Bowl champ was blown out by 20 points or more. Two Super Bowl champs, the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2007 New York Giants, each lost two regular season games by 20 or more points in their Super Bowl season.
Last year’s champs, the Ravens, played in one of those blowout games in their Super Bowl season. Baltimore lost 43-13 to the Houston Texans in Week #7 playing in Houston. They are one of four Super Bowl champs to lose a regular season game that year by 30-plus points.
(Note: This year’s Super Bowl teams each lost three games, but none were by more than seven points.)
Here’s a look at the Super Bowl champs who lost a regular season game that year by 20 points or more.
Super Bowl champ, 20-point regular-season defeat in their Super Bowl year
1994 San Francisco: 32-point loss, 40-8 to Philadelphia)
1976 Oakland: (31-point loss, 48-17 to New England)
2003 New England (31-point loss, 31-0 to Buffalo)
2012 Baltimore (30-point loss, 43-13 to Houston)
1979 Pittsburgh (28-point loss, 35-7 to San Diego)
2006 Indianapolis (27-point loss, 44-17 to Jacksonville)
2011 New York Giants (25-point loss, 49-24 to New Orleans)
1979 Pittsburgh (24-point loss, 34-10 to Cincinnati)
1992 Dallas (24-point loss, 31-7 to Philadelphia)
2007 New York Giants (24-point loss, 41-17 to Minnesota)
1988 San Francisco (22-point loss, 38-16 to Los Angeles Rams)
2007 New York Giants (22-point loss, 35-13 to Green Bay)
1970 Baltimore: (20-point loss, 44-24 to Kansas City)
2001 New England (20-point loss, 30-10 to Miami)
* Of the past 47 Super Bowl champs, 14 did not lose a regular season game by more than 10 points in their Super Bowl season. No matter who wins this year’s Super Bowl, that number will increase to 15 as neither the Broncos or Seahawks lost a game by 10 points or more.
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Looking for a sure thing when it comes to picking the winner of the Super Bowl? I wish I had some magical formula I could give you (or use myself), but there just doesn’t seem to be such a thing out there.
I can, however, give you a look at some stats that may help you when it comes time to choose the team that will win the Super Bowl.
I’ve looked at 15 regular season stats from the past 47 Super Bowl champions. In some cases, there is a strong case for a particular team winning based on how they performed in the regular season. In other cases, the regular season stats don’t reveal much.
Following are 15 regular season stats that may help determine who will win the next Super Bowl.
1. Wins. Thirty-nine of the 47 Super Bowl champs won 11 or more games in the regular season. (This stat will increase to 40 of 48 as both of this year’s Super Bowl teams won 13 regular season games in 2013.) Only three times in Super Bowl history did a team with less than 10 regular season victories win the Super Bowl: The first two were in 1967, when the Packers were 9-4-1, and 1982 when the 8-1 Washington Redskins won the title in that strike-shortened season. In case you don’t remember, the 2011 champion New York Giants became the third team in this stat when they defeated the New England Patriots. The Giants only had nine regular-season wins in 2011; they became the first team with less than 10 wins from a 16-game NFL season to ever win a Super Bowl.
2. Turnover Ratio. Forty-one of the 47 Super Bowl champs had a positive turnover ratio; 21 of the 47 had a +10 or more turnover ratio in the regular season. While the Broncos turnover differential was 0, the Seahawks led the NFL with a +20 turnover ratio.
3. Offensive rank by points. Forty of the 47 were in the Top 10 in offense based on points. Denver ranked number one in the league; Seattle was eighth.
4. Offensive rank based on yards. Thirty-six of the 47 were in the Top 10 in offense based on total yards. The Broncos were again ranked first in the league in this category; the Seahawks ranked 17th.
5. Defensive Rank by Points. Thirty-five of the 47 were in the Top 10 in defense based on points. The lowest ranked defense (by points) to win a Super Bowl were the 2011 Giants, who were ranked 25th that year on their way to a title. Seattle was ranked number one, the Broncos were 22nd.
6. Defensive rank based on yards. Thirty-eight of the 47 ranked in the Top 10 in defense based on total yards allowed. The Giants in 2011 established a new “low” in this stat as they won the Super Bowl with a “D” that was ranked 27th in yards allowed. Again, Seattle ranked first in the league in this stat, the Broncos were ranked 19th.
7. Offensive yards per play. Thirty-eight of the 47 Super Bowl champs averaged 5.0 or more yards per play during the regular season. Twenty-two of the 47 averaged 5.5 or more yards per play. This past year in the regular season both Seattle and Denver averaged above 5.5 (Seattle 5.6; Denver 6.3).
8. Three-game losing streak. Only five teams that lost three straight games during the regular season went on to win a Super Bowl that year: Baltimore in 2000, Pittsburgh in 2005, New Orleans in 2009 and the Giants last year. The Ravens did lose three straight in 2012 and became the fifth team in this category. Three of the last four Super Bowl champs lost three straight regular-season games in the year they won the Super Bowl. Both Seattle and Denver had three one-game losing streaks this season.
9. Winning streak to start season. Thirteen of the 47 won five straight games to start the season; 22 won three straight games to start the season; 30 of the 47 won their first two games. Baltimore in 2012 won their season-opener, but lost the following week. Denver won six straight to start the 2013 season; Seattle won four straight.
10. Away wins. Forty-six of the 47 won four or more games on the road in the regular season. The 2011 Green Bay Packers are the only team to win a Super Bowl and win three or fewer games on the road that regular season. Thirty-six of the 47 lost none, one or two away games during the regular season of their Super Bowl year. Baltimore went 4-4 in away games last season. This year’s Super Bowl teams each won six road games.
11. 1,000-yard rusher. Twenty-eight of the 47 had a 1,000-yard rusher during the regular season. Both teams in this year’s Super Bowl had a 1,000-yard rusher in the 2013 season.
12. 1,000-yard receiver. Twenty-five of the 47 had a 1,000-yard receiver during the regular season. The Seahawks did not have a 1,000-yard receiver in 2013; Denver had a pair.
13. More passing TDs than running TDs. Thirty-four of the 47 had more passing TDs than running TDs for the regular season. The last time a team that had more rushing TDs than passing in the regular season won a Super Bowl were the 1995 Dallas Cowboys. Both Denver and Seattle had more passing TDs than running TDs.
14. Losses by eight points or less. Forty of the 47 lost half or more of their defeats by one score (eight points or less). Both Denver and Seattle lost three games in ’13; both lost all of their games by seven points or less.
15. Point differential rank. Thirty-eight of the 47 ranked in the Top 3 in point differential in the regular season. Denver ranked number one in this category, while the Seahawks ranked second. Only three teams have ranked outside the Top 10 in point differential and won the Super Bowl: the New York Giants of 2007 ranked 13th in point differential when they won the Super Bowl later that year; last year the Giants ranked 17th in point differential in the regular season and won last year’s championship; this past year’s Super Bowl champs, the Ravens, ranked 11th in this category in the 2012 regular season.
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There is a lot to indicate that the two best teams from the 2013 NFL regular season are facing off in Super Bowl #48. First, the Broncos had the best offense in the league; the Seahawks had the number one ranked defense. The two teams ranked one-two in point differential, and the Broncos had the most wins in the AFC with 13 while the ‘Hawks had the most wins in the NFC, also with 13.
Their combined win total of 26 regular victories fell three short of tying the record for most regular season wins by Super Bowl opponents, but those 26 wins are only the 12th time in Super Bowl history that the teams entered the championship game with 26 regular season wins or more. In addition, with both Seattle and Denver winning 13 games, it marked only the eighth time in Super Bowl history that both teams had 13 or more victories.
Here’s a look at the Super Bowl matchups with teams that had a combined regular season win total of 26 or more.
Combined regular season wins, Super Bowl #, (Super Bowl opponents and wins)
29: Super Bowl #19: (San Francisco, 15 vs. Miami, 14)
28: Super Bowl #33 (Atlanta, 14 vs. Denver, 14)
27: Super Bowl #44 (Indianapolis, 14, vs. New Orleans, 13)
27: Super Bowl #39 (New England, 14 vs. Philadelphia, 13)
27: Super Bowl #26 (Washington, 14 vs. Buffalo, 13)
26: Super Bowl #48 (Denver, 13 vs. Seattle, 13)
26: Super Bowl #42 (New England, 16 vs. New York Giants, 10)
26: Super Bowl #34 (St. Louis, 13 vs. Tennessee, 13)
26: Super Bowl #25 (Buffalo, 13 vs. New York Giants, 13)
26: Super Bowl #20 (Chicago, 15 vs. New England, 11)
26: Super Bowl #18 (Washington, 14 vs. L.A. Raiders, 12)
26: Super Bowl #13 (Pittsburgh, 14 vs. Dallas, 12)
Of the eight games above where one team had more wins that the other, the team with more victories won the Super Bowl five times and lost three.
Note: There were also eight Super Bowls where the teams had a combined total of 25 wins.
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On February 1, 2009 in Super Bowl #43, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced Arizona in the Cardinals first Super Bowl appearance. The opposing QBs that day were 37-year-old Kurt Warner for the Cards and 26-year-old Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers. At that time, it was the first time that the age difference of the starting QBs in the Super Bowl was more than 10 years.
This year’s Super Bowl will be the second time… and it will also break the record for the largest age difference in starting quarterbacks in the game’s history.
Denver’s Peyton Manning will be 37 (and 315 days) old when the Broncos take the field in Super Bowl #48. His counterpart, Russell Wilson, will take the field for the Seahawks at the age of 25 years and 65 days. That’s an age difference of 12 years and 250 days.
Following are the seven Super Bowls where the age difference between the starting QBs was eight years or more.
Age difference, Super Bowl date, Super Bowl starting QBs
12 years, 250 days: 2/2/2014… Denver-Peyton Manning (37 years, 315 days); Seattle-Russell Wilson (25 years, 65 days)
10 years, 253 days: 2/1/2009… Arizona-Kurt Warner (37 years, 224 days); Pittsburgh-Ben Roethlisberger (26 years, 336 days)
9 years, 274 days: 1/17/1971… Baltimore-Johnny Unitas (37 years, 255 days); Dallas-Craig Morton (27 years, 346 days)
9 years, 104 days: 1/25/1998… Denver-John Elway (37 years, 211 days); Green Bay-Brett Favre (28 years, 107 days)
9 years, 46 days: 1/30/1983… Washington-Joe Theisman (33 years, 143 days); Miami-David Woodley (24 years, 96 days)
9 years, 14 days: 1/12/1969… Baltimore-Earl Morrall (34 years, 240 days); New York Jets-Joe Namath (25 years, 226 days)
8 years, 211 days: 1/12/1975… Minnesota-Fran Tarkenton (34 years, 343 days); Pittsburgh-Terry Bradshaw (26 years, 132 days)
* In the six Super Bowls prior to the upcoming game where the age difference in the starting QBs was eight years or more, the younger QB’s team won four of those games.
* In the 26 Super Bowls where a 20-something QB faced off against a 30-something QB, the 20-something QBs have won 14 of those 26 games.
* In the 47 Super Bowls to date, the older QB has defeated the younger QB in 24 of the 47 contests.
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Here’s one more take on today’s AFC and NFC championship games…
How important will it be for the 49ers, Broncos, Patriots and Seahawks to score TDs when their offenses don’t have the ball? In other words, will we see any scores from kick returns or from an intercepted pass or fumble recovery?
In looking at conference championships played in the Super Bowl era (since 1966), scoring a touchdown from an interception has been a good omen in these games. There have been 15 interceptions returned for TD in the AFC or NFC title game since 1966, with the team scoring on the pick-six winning 13 and losing only two. Here’s a snapshot look at return TDs in championship games.
Interception for TD: 15 (teams won 13 and lost two). Last interception for TD was 1/23/2011 by the Green Bay Packers.
Fumble recovery for TD: 8 (teams won five and lost three) Last fumble recovery for TD was 1/23/2011 by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Punt return for TD: 3 (teams won one and lost two) Last punt return for TD was 1/22/2006 by the Carolina Panthers.
Kick-off return for TD: 2 (teams won one and lost one) Last kick-off return for TD was 1/23/2000 by Tennessee.
Of the four teams playing in this year’s title games, the San Francisco 49ers during the 2013 regular season had the best return ration (+5). The 49ers scored five return TDs (two by interceptions, three by fumble recovery) and did not allow an opponent to score a return TD. The other three teams:
Seattle (+3): Scored TDs on three interceptions and one fumble recovery. Allowed one fumble recovery TD.
Denver (+1): Scored one TD on a kick-off return, a punt return, an interception and a fumble recovery. They allowed one kick-off return for TD and two interceptions.
New England (Even): Scored on two interceptions and one fumble recovery. They allowed one interception for score and two fumble recoveries for TD.
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