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pX Nl Statsational 2020-21 NFL Playoff Analysis | SportsBet Army
Statsational 2020-21 NFL Playoff Analysis

Every year I analyze each team in the NFL Playoffs to look for value on a potential Super Bowl winner. The playoffs do not determine the best team of the season. We crown the team that wins the tournament at the end of the year, the champion. Since deciding who the best team is can be subjective, we like having it settled on the field. But that does open it up to an inferior team getting hot at the right time or getting favorable matchups to win it all.


Over the last 20 seasons, just 5 of the 20 teams with the best regular-season record or tied for the best record went on to win the Super Bowl. The ’02 Buccaneers, ’03 Patriots, ’13 Seahawks, ’14 Patriots (1 of 5 12-4 teams that year), and ’17 Philadelphia Eagles (1 of 4 teams tied at 13-3). Looking for a long shot is usually beneficial.

 

I used to look at just three filters to determine a potential winner for the Super Bowl. It is a very basic strategy but a good way to weed out the teams that are unlikely to win it all.  I have since added a few which we will get to.


Here are my original filters

1. The team must have a total yardage differential per game >18 (just four teams have won the Super Bowl with less)

2. Teams must be + in turnover differential (just seven teams won the Super Bowl with a – differential)

3. SRS from Pro Footbal Reference >5.8 (just 10 teams had a lower ranking including the 2015 Broncos at 5.8)

 

Since the merger

 

-36 of the 49 Super Bowl winners satisfied all three criteria.

-The average Super Bowl winner has a +62 yardage differential and +8.8 TO differential. Average SRS is 8.97

The yardage differential of Super Bowl winners since 2001 is where we see some weaker teams prevailing. It is taking less dominant teams from a yardage standpoint to win it all. The turnovers have become increasingly important, though. Since 1988 only two teams have won with a negative TO ratio (2007 Giants, 2015 Broncos). This makes sense because teams that are close in yardage differential need to create turnovers to outscore their opponent.


Here is a list of all the Super Bowl winners and their stats for that season.

 

Year Team Yards Diff / Game TO Diff SRS
1970 Baltimore 21 -2 0.4
1971 Dallas 112 16 9.9
1972 Miami 124 18 11
1973 Miami 59 1 13.4
1974 Pittsburgh 93 7 6.8
1975 Pittsburgh 88 5 14.2
1976 Oakland 58 -4 8.5
1977 Dallas 114 7 7.8
1978 Pittsburgh 52 7 8.2
1979 Pittsburgh 124 -10 11.9
1980 Oakland 0 5 4.2
1981 San Francisco 45 23 6.2
1982 Washington 47 8 7.4
1983 Los Angeles 59 -13 6.8
1984 San Francisco 74 16 12.7
1985 Chicago 106 23 15.9
1986 NY Giants 39 11 9
1987 Washington 36 -3 3.9
1988 San Francisco 83 12 4.8
1989 San Francisco 103 12 10.7
1990 NY Giants 37 20 7.7
1991 Washington 91 18 16.6
1992 Dallas 105 7 9.9
1993 Dallas 53 6 9.6
1994 San Francisco 76 11 11.6
1995 Dallas 49 2 9.7
1996 Green Bay 86 15 15.3
1997 Denver 75 10 10.7
1998 Denver 72 10 8.9
1999 St Louis 107 5 11.9
2000 Baltimore 65 23 8
2001 New England (29) 7 4.3
2002 Tampa Bay 60 17 8.8
2003 New England 23 17 6.9
2004 New England 47 9 12.8
2005 Pittsburgh 38 7 7.8
2007 NY Giants 26 -9 3.3
2008 Pittsburgh 75 4 9.8
2009 New Orleans 46 11 10.8
2010 Green Bay 49 10 10.9
2011 NY Giants 9 7 1.6
2012 Baltimore 2 9 2.9
2013 Seattle 65 20 13
2014 New England 21 12 10.5
2015 Denver 72 -4 5.8
2016 New England 60 12 9.29
2017 Philadelphia 59 11 9.41
2018 New England 34 10 5.2
2019 Kansas City 30 8 9.14

Here are this years playoff teams

Year Team Yards Diff / Game TO Diff SRS
2020 Kansas City 58 6 2.3
2020 Green Bay 55 7 1.8
2020 New Orleans 66 9 4.5
2020 Buffalo 44 4 0.6
2020 Baltimore 33 4 4.3
2020 Tampa Bay 57 8 2.8
2020 Seattle (11) 4 0.7
2020 Pittsburgh 29 9 4.4
2020 Tennessee (2) 11 (3.1)
2020 Indianapolis 46 10 1.6
2020 LA Rams 95 (3) 6.2
2020 Cleveland 11 5 (2.8)
2020 Chicago (14) (4) 2.4
2020 Washington 13 (4) 3.2

A few seasons ago, I added Passer Rating Differential to our analysis. Simply put, this stat looks at a team’s Offensive Passer Rating and subtracts its Defensive Passer Rating. This stat was shown to be relevant to Super Bowl success by the guys at Cold Hard Football Facts. In their analysis, they go back to 1940. Here are some key points

– 18 of 79 NFL Champs finished #1 in Offensive Passer Rating (23%)

– 21 of 79 finished #1 in Defensive Passer Rating (27%)

– 27 of 79 finished #1 in Passer Rating Differential (34%)

– 45 of 79 finished in the top 3 in Passer Rating Differential (57%)

– 74 of 79 finished in the top 10 in Passer Rating Differential (94%)

Here are the Passer Rating Stats for each champion since 1970

Year Team OPR DPR PRDiff
1970 Baltimore 73.3 60.3 13
1971 Dallas 88.8 55.9 32.9
1972 Miami 86.9 47.4 39.5
1973 Miami 75.2 39.9 35.3
1974 Pittsburgh 48.9 44.3 4.6
1975 Pittsburgh 86.7 42.8 43.9
1976 Oakland 102.2 68.8 33.4
1977 Dallas 85.3 48.2 37.1
1978 Pittsburgh 81.5 51.8 29.7
1979 Pittsburgh 76.6 56.4 20.2
1980 Oakland 70 61.8 8.2
1981 San Francisco 87.7 60.2 27.5
1982 Washington 91.8 67.7 24.1
1983 Los Angeles 84.8 71.8 13
1984 San Francisco 101.9 65.6 36.3
1985 Chicago 77.3 51.2 26.1
1986 NY Giants 75 68.6 6.4
1987 Washington 80.7 69.3 11.4
1988 San Francisco 83.5 72.2 11.3
1989 San Francisco 114.8 68.5 46.3
1990 NY Giants 90.6 62.2 28.4
1991 Washington 98 58.9 39.1
1992 Dallas 88.8 69.9 18.9
1993 Dallas 96.8 75.3 21.5
1994 San Francisco 111.4 68.1 43.3
1995 Dallas 91.7 72.3 19.4
1996 Green Bay 95.7 55.4 40.3
1997 Denver 87.4 71.5 15.9
1998 Denver 93.5 80.5 13
1999 St Louis 106.6 64.1 42.5
2000 Baltimore 72.7 62.5 10.2
2001 New England 85.3 68.6 16.7
2002 Tampa Bay 86.3 48.4 37.9
2003 New England 84.3 56.2 28.1
2004 New England 92.5 75.3 17.2
2005 Pittsburgh 91.5 74 17.5
2007 NY Giants 73 83.4 -10.4
2008 Pittsburgh 81.9 63.4 18.5
2009 New Orleans 106 68.6 37.4
2010 Green Bay 98.9 67.2 31.7
2011 NY Giants 92.9 86.1 6.8
2012 Baltimore 86.4 80.6 5.8
2013 Seattle 102.4 63.4 39
2014 New England 97.51 83.96 13.55
2015 Denver 101.9 87 14.9
2016 New England 109.3 84.4 24.9
2017 Philadelphia 97.58 79.48 18.1
2018 New England 97.80 85.40 12.40
2019 Kansas City 104.4 83.5 20.9

Here are this seasons playoff teams and their PR Differentials

Year Team OPR DPR PRDiff
2020 Kansas City 107.3 89.4 17.9
2020 Green Bay 121.5 91.1 30.4
2020 New Orleans 104.1 83.3 20.8
2020 Buffalo 107.5 86.9 20.6
2020 Baltimore 95.7 87.2 8.5
2020 Tampa Bay 102.8 94.3 8.5
2020 Seattle 105 90.2 14.8
2020 Pittsburgh 93.5 76.7 16.8
2020 Tennessee 105.9 97.5 8.4
2020 Indianapolis 95.9 90.5 5.4
2020 LA Rams 88.4 80.4 8
2020 Cleveland 96.6 94.8 1.8
2020 Chicago 86.5 94.9 -8.4
2020 Washington 80.1 81.4 -1.3

To reinforce the notion that passing and being able to stop the pass are the most important factors in championship success, we will look at a couple more stats. Yards per Pass and Yards Per Rush. Both offensive and defensive and combined.

Super Bowl winners have averaged a rank of 7.58 in Offensive Yards Per Pass and 6.9 in Defensive YPP while averaging 12.34 in Offensive Yards Per Rush and 11.62 in Defensive YPR. In only 12 of the 49 Super Bowl winners, did the winner have a better combined rushing ranking than passing. Of those 12, the 1979 Steelers ranked first in 3 of the 4 categories, with a 2 ranking in DYPP. The 1988 49ers were no worse than 9(OYPP) in any category. In 2015 the Broncos were dominant defensively, ranking 1 in rushing and 2 in passing.

Here are the Super Bowl Winners and their rankings in these stats

Year Team OYPR Rank OYPP Rank DYPR Rank DYPP Rank
1970 Baltimore 22 5 12 4
1971 Dallas 7 2 1 5
1972 Miami 2 1 12 4
1973 Miami 2 15 7 2
1974 Pittsburgh 2 22 3 2
1975 Pittsburgh 2 6 22 2
1976 Oakland 14 2 15 23
1977 Dallas 5 3 8 1
1978 Pittsburgh 21 1 2 5
1979 Pittsburgh 1 1 1 2
1980 Oakland 9 10 1 15
1981 San Francisco 26 9 21 4
1982 Washington 17 3 13 9
1983 Los Angeles 14 3 5 7
1984 San Francisco 2 3 21 8
1985 Chicago 5 6 7 2
1986 NY Giants 11 12 11 6
1987 Washington 5 1 11 16
1988 San Francisco 2 9 5 3
1989 San Francisco 11 1 9 3
1990 NY Giants 19 9 8 1
1991 Washington 17 1 15 2
1992 Dallas 10 8 3 3
1993 Dallas 3 4 18 1
1994 San Francisco 7 1 16 6
1995 Dallas 5 3 19 16
1996 Green Bay 12 7 4 1
1997 Denver 2 6 30 4
1998 Denver 2 5 8 11
1999 St Louis 2 1 6 7
2000 Baltimore 8 21 1 4
2001 New England 24 14 21 17
2002 Tampa Bay 27 19 4 1
2003 New England 30 13 6 1
2004 New England 17 9 11 15
2005 Pittsburgh 12 1 1 5
2007 NY Giants 4 28 8 19
2008 Pittsburgh 29 14 1 1
2009 New Orleans 6 3 26 15
2010 Green Bay 27 3 31 7
2011 NY Giants 32 3 23 20
2012 Baltimore 12 14 7 17
2013 Seattle 12 2 9 1
2014 New England 23 19 10 15
2015 Denver 14 22 1 2
2016 New England 24 3 10 8
2017 Philadelphia 3 13 7 3
2018 New England 17 10 30 5
2019 Kansas City 20 5 28 6

Here are this years playoff teams

Year Team YPR Rank YPP Rank DYPR Rank DYPP Rank
2020 Kansas City 12 5 17 18
2020 Green Bay 7 2 21 12
2020 New Orleans 10 10 4 6
2020 Buffalo 20 7.8 26 9
2020 Baltimore 1 20 22 4
2020 Tampa Bay 25 8 1 8
2020 Seattle 6 15 5 15
2020 Pittsburgh 32 25 13 3
2020 Tennessee 2 7 19 20
2020 Indianapolis 14 9 2 19
2020 LA Rams 17 19 3 1
2020 Cleveland 5 13 12 16
2020 Chicago 21 27 9 17
2020 Washington 28 30 11 2

One last stat to look at is Scoring Margin. Super Bowl winners have averaged a 9.53 scoring margin. No team has ever won with a negative scoring margin. Only six Super Bowl Champions have finished with a scoring margin below 6. Here is the list of past Super Bowl winners.

Year Team Scoring Margin
1970 Baltimore 6.2
1971 Dallas 13.1
1972 Miami 15.3
1973 Miami 13.8
1974 Pittsburgh 8.3
1975 Pittsburgh 15.1
1976 Oakland 8.1
1977 Dallas 9.5
1978 Pittsburgh 10.1
1979 Pittsburgh 9.6
1980 Oakland 3.6
1981 San Francisco 6.7
1982 Washington 6.9
1983 Los Angeles 6.5
1984 San Francisco 15.5
1985 Chicago 16.1
1986 NY Giants 8.4
1987 Washington 5.9
1988 San Francisco 4.7
1989 San Francisco 11.8
1990 NY Giants 7.8
1991 Washington 16.3
1992 Dallas 10.4
1993 Dallas 9.2
1994 San Francisco 13.1
1995 Dallas 9.0
1996 Green Bay 15.4
1997 Denver 11.6
1998 Denver 7.3
1999 St Louis 17.8
2000 Baltimore 10.5
2001 New England 6.2
2002 Tampa Bay 9.4
2003 New England 6.6
2004 New England 11.1
2005 Pittsburgh 8.8
2007 NY Giants 2.1
2008 Pittsburgh 7.8
2009 New Orleans 11.4
2010 Green Bay 9.7
2011 NY Giants 1.9
2012 Baltimore 4.6
2013 Seattle 11.6
2014 New England 9.7
2015 Denver 9.4
2016 New England 11.9
2017 Philadelphia 10.1
2018 New England 6.9
2019 Kansas City 8.9

Here are this years playoff teams

Year Team Scoring Margin
2020 Kansas City 6.9
2020 Green Bay 8.8
2020 New Orleans 9.1
2020 Buffalo 7.9
2020 Baltimore 10.3
2020 Tampa Bay 8.6
2020 Seattle 5.5
2020 Pittsburgh 6.5
2020 Tennessee 3.2
2020 Indianapolis 5.6
2020 LA Rams 4.8
2020 Cleveland -0.7
2020 Chicago 0.1
2020 Washington 0.4

A few of seasons ago, I started taking a look at the average for each of the most important stats and finding the standard deviation from the mean for each team in each stat. I take each team’s Z Score in each stat and add them up.

I like this because it gives a quick look at who the best teams are.  This is a crazy season as we have every team scoring below average.  No matter who wins we will have one of the weakest Super Bowl Champions ever.  That also means we may be primed for a long shot to come in.  Here are the Z scores for every Super Bowl winner and this year’s playoff teams.

Year Team Z Score
1970 Baltimore -6.14
1971 Dallas 5.05
1972 Miami 7.27
1973 Miami 1.89
1974 Pittsburgh -2.83
1975 Pittsburgh 5.45
1976 Oakland -2.67
1977 Dallas 3.10
1978 Pittsburgh 0.72
1979 Pittsburgh 1.30
1980 Oakland -7.64
1981 San Francisco 0.07
1982 Washington -1.46
1983 Los Angeles -4.60
1984 San Francisco 5.18
1985 Chicago 7.58
1986 NY Giants -2.51
1987 Washington -5.92
1988 San Francisco -2.23
1989 San Francisco 5.53
1990 NY Giants 0.57
1991 Washington 8.29
1992 Dallas 1.47
1993 Dallas 0.26
1994 San Francisco 4.64
1995 Dallas -2.06
1996 Green Bay 6.73
1997 Denver 1.37
1998 Denver -1.24
1999 St Louis 6.01
2000 Baltimore -0.44
2001 New England -7.55
2002 Tampa Bay 1.27
2003 New England -1.20
2004 New England -0.55
2005 Pittsburgh -1.10
2007 NY Giants -13.07
2008 Pittsburgh -0.98
2009 New Orleans 1.41
2010 Green Bay 1.38
2011 NY Giants -8.23
2012 Baltimore -8.05
2013 Seattle 5.50
2014 New England -3.33
2015 Denver -3.96
2016 New England 1.45
2017 Philadelphia -0.21
2018 New England -3.45
2019 Kansas City -1.10
Year Team Total
2020 Kansas City -4.5
2020 Green Bay -2.1
2020 New Orleans -1.7
2020 Buffalo -4.5
2020 Baltimore -4.8
2020 Tampa Bay -3.6
2020 Seattle -8.6
2020 Pittsburgh -5.1
2020 Tennessee -9.3
2020 Indianapolis -6.4
2020 LA Rams -4.4
2020 Cleveland -11.4
2020 Chicago -14.0
2020 Washington -11.0

Analysis

Whenever I am betting on a future event with many possibilities, I want to eliminate the teams I do not think to have a chance to win. There are a bunch of terrible teams in this season’s playoffs. Indeed the worst group since 2011 when I first started writing up this analysis.

No team has ever won the Super Bowl with a negative SRS.
That eliminates;
Cleveland
Tennessee

With just 6 teams winning with a scoring margin sub 6 let’s eliminate those teams
Seattle
Tennessee
Indianapolis
LA Rams
Cleveland
Chicago
Washington

We are left with 7 contenders

Here they are in Z Score order
New Orleans
Green Bay
Tampa Bay
Kansas City
Buffalo
Baltimore
Pittsburgh

Looking at the numbers these teams are so tight it makes taking Kansas City +200 a really poor choice.

Green Bay +450
It is tough to pass on Green Bay.  +450 is a bit expensive considering this tournament looks fairly open.  I am going to take a shot with the Packers because of their passing game and their ability on defense to stop the pass.  They are the best by far in QB passer rating differential.  They have the best combined YPP ranking for offense and defense.  They are 1 of 2 teams (Tennessee) to be ranked in the top 10 in YPR and YPP.  Rodgers is playing at an extremely high level and he has the best WR in the game right now.  Having that first-round bye does not hurt matters.  

New Orleans +750
The NFC South played the toughest schedule in football this season.  With their share of adversity, the Saints were still able to get the 2 seed in the NFC. I like the balance in this team.  They are the only team ranked in the top 10 in YPR and YPP on both sides of the ball.  New Orleans has the 2nd best scoring margin in the league.  Passer rating differential is a very good 20.8 which is 2nd overall.

Tampa Bay +1000
We will take one more old QB and play the Bucs with Brady.  I am not in love with the 8.5 passer rating differential but the 8.6 scoring margin is good for 4th best this year.  What moves me to play the Bucs is their combined YPP stats.  They are second best in the all-important passing numbers.  My biggest concern is Brady has shown to be vulnerable to a great pass rush.  They face a team in the first round that can get to the QB.  If they can get passed Washington then they should not face anyone nearly as good at putting pressure with just the front 4.

 

If we take each of these to win 1 unit our total risk is ~.45 units.  It is a bit unusual to have all 3 teams in from the NFC.  I think the NFC side is where the value is.  If KC gets knocked off in the AFC bracket then it will boost the value of our plays.  We should be able to get one of these into the Super Bowl.  Hopefully as the favorite.