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On any given Sunday, maybe

Jan 14, 2003 7:07 AM

On any given Sunday, the side that ultimately triumphed as Super Bowl champion was indeed the best team in the league and deserving of the trophy.

This was easy to swallow in the years when the Super Bowl game was won by teams overflowing with star power like Dallas, San Francisco, Green Bay, and Denver.

In light of the New England victory to close out the 2001 season and, to a lesser extent, the Baltimore title in the 2000 season, this belief may have changed.

One interesting experiment is to look back and see if there’s much of a pattern as to the makings and style of the past champions. A good starting point is to use the final regular season offensive and defensive rankings for rushing and passing yards.

Let’s break it out by the Super Bowl winners and losers:

The most important area was rushing offense. Even though most teams win games with the pass, the teams that dominate and outscore their opponents by a large margin will usually have excellent rushing yardage statistics. Teams that are behind pass the ball.

Super Bowl teams often rank down the list in passing yards allowed, again because they tend to get ahead in games and force their foes to pass. If you look instead at Top 3 rankings, by far the most telling category has been rushing defense. A top 3 ranking has been a characteristic of 55% of the participants.

Also, the Super Bowl winner has ranked in the top 10 in at least three of the four main areas over 80% of the time from 1991-2001. Prior to the second round games, here’s how the remaining playoff teams stack up in the key rankings:

”¡ Top 10 Rushing Offense: Atlanta, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh.

***

”¡ Top 3 Rushing Defense: Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Oakland

”¡ Three or more Top Ten Ranks: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

”¡ One or fewer Top Ten Rankings: Atlanta, N.Y. Jets, Tennessee

***

Before plunking down a wager on a Philadelphia-Pittsburgh matchup, it’s wise to note that the percentages only reflect the breakouts on the Super Bowl pair.

Most of the time, the Super Bowl "runner-up" has not held quite the same level of statistical excellence as the winner.

Underdog lovers can take heart though that New England’s dramatic win may mark a turning point. Perhaps, any playoff team can win.

Two Minute Warning.com features innovative statistical coverage of the NFL to help you win.

 

Top 10 Ranking Percentage (1991-2001)

Statistic  

 SB Winner  

 SB Loser S  

B Teams

Rushing Offense  

 82%  

 73%  

 77%

Passing Offense  

 73%  

 55%  

 64%

Rushing Defense  

 73%  

 64%  

 68%

Passing Defense  

 55%  

 18%  

 36%

# of Top 10 Ranks  

 SB Winner  

 SB Loser  

 SB Teams

4  

 18%  

 9%  

 14%

3  

 64%  

 18%  

 41%

2  

 9%  

 55%  

 32%

1  

 0%  

9%  

 9%

0  

 9%  

 9%  

 18%