I just ran across an interesting (make that fascinating, if you’re into probability and statistics) look at the alleged recent trend of teams that were not the best during the regular season going on to win the Super Bowl, from Aaron Schatz at Football Outsiders, titled 10,000 Seasons Revisited; thought it was good enough to be worth sharing.
From 1989 to 2000, there was a 12-year span where every single champion was either first or second in wins during the regular season. Only three of the last six NFL champions have ranked in the top ten in wins, and four of the last six champions have been either 9-7 or 10-6.
Without giving it all away, the article does dispute (or at least explain) the popular notion that there have been ‘four surprise champions in six years’, and takes an in-depth look at attempting to find a way to successfully predict who will win it all. Rather than a team being ‘built for the playoffs’ as opposed to being built to only win regular season games, there are some other explanations.
The article references and expand on another very good column from Pro Football Reference that was written in 2006, titled Ten Thousand Seasons.
After simulating NFL seasons 10,000 times, PFR found that the best team does win the Super Bowl more often than the 2nd best team, who wins more often than the 3rd best team, etcetera…. in other words, no, you can drop the absurd notion that your team is better off not being the number one seed. However, do consider this: the best team wins the Super Bowl only 24% of the time.
One reason for the recent ‘trend’ that many want to dismiss: injuries. The reality is that of the recent ‘upset’ winners, they tended to be healthy at that point in time while the team they were playing was not as healthy. It is not a reason for the collective trend of surprise champions; it is however an explanation for some of the individual championships.
One last tidbit: in the original 10,000 simulations, teams went undefeated 115 times – and went on to win the Super Bowl just 40 times. In other words, the Patriots not winning the Super Bowl following the 2007 season was not the anomaly that so many would have us believe that it was.
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