Friday, August 23, 2013

So. Who's not going to win the Super Bowl this year?

This is the time of the year where, among other things, people try to make predictions about what teams are going to the Super Bowl next February. Something that occurred to me recently is reversing this question: can we say anything about what teams aren't going to the Super Bowl, based, say, on their win-loss records from last year?

Based on that, I put together the following table of Super Bowl winners, along with their record from the season before, and what (if anything) they did in the postseason. Here's the result:

prev Year
prev Year
1Packers 10-3-1 1965won NFL CG
2Packers 12-2 1966won NFL CG, SB
3Jets 8-5-1 1967out of playoffs
4Cheifs 12-2 1968lost to Raiders in DV
5Colts 8-5-1 1969out of playoffs
6Cowboys 10-4 1970lost to Colts in SB
7Dolphins 10-3-1 1971lost to Cowboys in SB
8Dolphins 14-0 1972won SB
9Steelers 10-4 1973lost to Raiders in DV
10Steelers 10-3-1 1974won SB
11Raiders 11-3 1975lost to Steelers in CG
12Cowboys 11-3 1976lost to Rams in DV
13Steelers 9-5 1977lost to Broncos in DV
14Steelers 14-2 1978won SB
15Raiders 9-7 1979out of playoffs
1649ers 6-10 1980out of playoffs
17Redskins 8-8 1981out of playoffs
18Raiders 8-1 1982lost to Jets in DV
1949ers 10-6 1983lost to Redskins in CG
20Bears 10-6 1984lost to 49ers in CG
21Giants 10-6 1985lost to Bears in DV
22Redskins 12-4 1986lost to Giants in CG
2349ers 13-2 1987lost to Vikings in DV
2449ers 10-6 1988won SB
25Giants 12-4 1989lost to Rams in DV
26Redskins 10-6 1990lost to 49ers in DV
27Cowboys 11-5 1991lost to Lions in DV
28Cowboys 13-3 1992won SB
2949ers 10-6 1993lost to Cowboys in CG
30Cowboys 12-4 1994lost to 49ers in CG
31Packers 11-5 1995lost to Cowboys in DV
32Broncos 13-3 1996lost to Jags in DV
33Broncos 12-4 1997won SB
34Rams 4-12 1998out of playoffs
35Ravens 8-8 1999out of playoffs
36Patriots 5-11 2000out of playoffs
37Buccaneers 9-7 2001lost to Eagles in WC
38Patriots 9-7 2002out of playoffs
39Patriots 14-2 2003Won SB
40Steelers 15-1 2004lost to Pats in CG
41Colts 14-2 2005lost to Steelers in DV
42Giants 8-8 2006lost to Eagles in WC
43Steelers 10-6 2007lost to Jags in WC
44Saints 8-8 2008out of playoffs
45Packers 11-5 2009lost to Cards in WC
46Giants 10-6 2010out of playoffs
47Ravens 12-4 2011lost to Pats in CG

A number of things are worth observing from this table:

  • Even in the old, 14-game season days, it was pretty common for a Super Bowl winner to have had double-digit wins the previous year.

  • With three exceptions, nobody has gone from a losing season to winning the Super Bowl the following year.

  • Besides a losing record, those three exceptions have another point of correlation:
    • 1981 was the first year Joe Montana started full-time for the 49ers
    • In 1999, Kurt Warner took over as quarterback after Trent Green tore his ACL in a preseason game..
    • In 2001, Drew Bledsoe was injured in week 2, making way for Tom Brady to take over that starting job.
  • So, if your team had double-digit losses last year, don't look for them to be hoisting the Lombardi trophy next February (unless you've got a Montana/Warner/Brady type guy waiting in the wings).

  • On the other hand, there's a handful of 7- and 8-loss teams there, so coming off a near-500 season isn't a total deal-breaker.

  • Also note that while many of Super Bowl winners made it at least to the divisional round the previous season, it's not also a deal-breaker to be coming off a season out of the playoffs.

  • In fact, if you look at the last 14 winners (going back to the Rams in Super Bowl 34), only 4 teams made it to the divisional round the previous season.

    I'm not really sure what, if anything, that streak means. But if it's going to continue next February, your candidate group is: Steelers, Giants, Cowboys (at least 8 wins but out of the playoffs), and Bengals, Colts, Vikings, Redskins (lost in the Wildcard round).

    I would say, of that group, the Giants, the Redskins (as long as RG3 stays healthy) and maybe the Steelers (if Roethlisberger and Polamalu can stay healthy) have the best chance to win out.

  • But, if you look at the teams that made it to the Divisional Round last year (Patriots, Broncos, Texans, Ravens, Falcons, 49ers, Packers, Seahawks), there's some pretty stiff competition. If I was going to pick this season's Super Bowl winner, I'd be hard pressed to go outside that group.