Predicting a Super Bowl Win through Statistics (or Not)

nfl_g_lynch_b1_300x200Super Bowl XLIX was expected to be one heck of a close game – and it was. But not all expectations or statistical predictions panned out exactly as planned. A pre-game report in the Wall Street Journal gathered up a collection of statistics that pointed to Seattle over New England as this year’s Super Bowl victors – and they weren’t.

The Statistics

The WSJ analysis looked at 10 different statistics in each of the previous 48 Super Bowls, assessing how those stats related to the team that won each Super Bowl game. It then examined the past NFL season performance of Seattle and New England in relation to those stats.

Opponent Turnovers: Patriots
Past stats show teams that triumphed with turnovers in the Super Bowl won the game 92 percent of the time. Patriots ranked second with turnovers throughout their past season; Seahawks ranked fourth.

Passing: Seattle
Teams that gained more yards per pass won the Super Bowl 83 percent of the time. Seattle ranked third in passing; New England ranked 15th.

First Downs by Rushing: Seattle
Teams that fared best in rushing for a first down during the Super Bowl game won nearly 80 percent of time. Seattle ranked first in the league for rushing; New England ranked 15th.

More Total Yards: Seattle
Teams that gained the most yards in a Super Bowl gained the victory 79 percent of the time. Seattle again ranked first in the league; New England ranked 10th.

Passing Touchdowns: New England
Super Bowl teams that had the most passing touchdowns won the game nearly 77 percent of the time. New England ranked fifth in this standing; Seattle ranked 12th.

Time of Possession: Seattle
Teams that held onto the ball longer during Super Bowl games won the game 75 percent of the time. Seattle got third place in this category; New England ranked 22nd.

Third-down Efficiency: Seattle
Converting a third down into a first down or score is a solid stat, and teams most able to do it during a Super Bowl won the game nearly 73 percent of the time. Seattle ranked seventh; New England ranked ninth.

Average Gain per Play: Seattle
Getting the bigger gains per play in a Super Bowl gave teams the victory nearly 71 percent of the time. Seattle ranked second; New England ranked 12th.

Pass Completion Percentage: New England
Super Bowl teams with the higher pass-completion percentage won the game 70 percent of the time. New England ranked fifth; Seattle ranked 12th.

Sacks of Opposing QB: New England
Teams that had more sacks of the opposing quarterback during the Super Bowl won the game nearly 66 percent of the time. Here New England ranked fifth; Seattle ranked 12th.

Although the Seahawks outranked the Patriots in six of these 10 stats, they still didn’t win the Super Bowl. This doesn’t mean the statistics are worthless. It simply stresses that variables other than numbers can play a role in any game.

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Image: Christian Peterson/Getty Images