Shared traits of recent Super Bowl teams: NFL playoffs edition

January 10, 2023 10:05 AM

One of my favorite things to do at the conclusion of the NFL’s regular season is to update my analysis of the shared traits of past Super Bowl teams in order to compare those traits to our current crop of NFL title hopefuls. The traits were snapshots of the last 42 Super Bowl teams at the conclusion of the regular season, and my assumption is that though the teams involved may change, what it takes to be a champion in the NFL for the most part does not. This can help a great deal for bettors looking to make futures wagers, and I suppose to a lesser degree, those betting game lines and totals as well. With that in mind, read on as I share the qualifications and the chart detailing the resumes of the 14 playoff teams.

A quick review before we get into the specific analysis after 17 regular-season games. One of my favorite habits in looking for futures wagers in all sports is to compare the resumes of current teams with those of past champions. It’s a good way to discover which teams have the pedigree to accomplish something special. When I look for comparisons of these teams, I look at all kinds of characteristics from Strength Ratings to momentum to raw statistics. My favorite place to use this methodology has been for the NCAA tournament each March, and if you’ve been a reader of VSiN for any of the last five tournaments, you’ll recognize the format.

For this week’s NFL version, I’m going to take a look at the teams vying for the Super Bowl title in February. Naturally, the current futures odds at the sportsbooks reveal the feelings of the experts as to which teams they feel have the best shot to win, but these aren’t always resume-built, more often they are formed simply from won-lost records, recent games, path to the title, or even from simply where the most money is coming in. My method for finding shared characteristics from past success stories provides bettors more concrete evidence from which to base their wagers. So, let’s take a look as some of the key statistical characteristics each team boasts now in comparison to those of the Super Bowl teams of the last 21 years.

You will see that the stats are “body of work” type of figures, in other words, they encompass the entire regular season for teams. This is a list of the 27 statistical/strength characteristics I’m using to qualify this year’s teams for their worthiness of winning a Super Bowl title next month.

Steve Makinen’s Power Rating

Steve Makinen’s Effective Strength Indicator

Steve Makinen’s Bettors Rating

Steve Makinen’s Momentum Ratings

Won-Lost Record

ATS Won-Lost Record

Offensive PPG

Offensive Rushing Yards per Game

Offensive Rushing Yards per Attempt

Offensive Passing Yards per Game

Offensive Passing Yards per Attempt

Offensive Total Yards per Game

Total Offensive Yards per Play

Offensive Third-Down Conversion Percentage

Defensive PPG

Defensive Rushing Yards per Game

Defensive Rushing Yards per Attempt

Defensive Passing Yards per Game

Defensive Passing Yards per Attempt

Defensive Total Yards per Game

Total Defensive Yards per Play

Defensive Third-Down Conversion Percentage


Scoring Differential

Yards per Play Differential

Turnover Differential

Average Time of Possession

In general, I’m typically looking for teams that share the same traits as 80% or so of the sample group I’m studying. So, in order to find separations in the teams’ stats/ranks of the last 42 Super Bowl participants, I’m looking for about 33 or 34 teams to fit the bill. You will find the qualifying teams for each trait in the chart linked below. Of the Super Bowl teams since 2001, AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE REGULAR SEASON, approximately 80% of them:

-   Had a Steve Makinen Power Rating of 28 or higher

-   Had a Steve Makinen Effective Strength Indicator of +4.0 or higher

-   Had a Steve Makinen Bettors Rating of -6.0 or better

-   Had a Steve Makinen Momentum Rating of +6.0 or better

-   Won 11 games or more (>=68.%)

-   Won 9 games or more ATS (>=56%)

-   Scored 24 PPG or more on offense

-   Rushed for >=100 YPG

-   Averaged 4.0 yards or more per rushing attempt

-   Passed for >=210 YPG

-   Averaged 7.0 yards or more per passing attempt

-   Gained >=350 total yards per game offensively

-   Averaged >=5.5 yards per play or more on offense

-   Converted 37% of third-down opportunities on offense

-   Allowed 22 PPG or fewer on defense

-   Allowed <=120 rushing yards per game

-   Allowed 4.5 yards or fewer per rushing attempt

-   Allowed <=238 or fewer passing yards per game

-   Allowed 6.6 yards or fewer per passing attempt

-   Allowed <=350 total yards per game defensively

-   Allowed 5.6 yards per play or fewer on defense

-   Yielded opponents to 39% or less on third-down conversions

-   Recorded 2.5 sacks per game or more

-   Outscored opponents by 6.8 PPG or more

-   Outgained opponents by 0.3 yards per play or more

-   Had turnover differential of +6 or more (+0.38)

-   Averaged more than 30 minutes time of possession

Qualifying each of the 14 NFL teams that have reached the playoffs this season, we come up with this chart, with marks indicating they meet the criteria for that statistic:

Theoretically, the more marks, the more qualified that team’s resume would figure to be to make a run at the Super Bowl in February. That would put San Francisco against either Buffalo or Kansas City as the matchup at this time, with the 49ers holding a perfect 27 score and large four-mark edge over any other team in the NFC, including the top-seeded Eagles. Interestingly, two of this weekend’s wild-card round underdogs earn more marks than their favored opponents, those being the Giants (at Minnesota) and the Jaguars (vs. L.A. Chargers). The Chargers, at least on paper, stack up as the worst statistical team to qualify for the playoffs this season, with just eight marks. Last year’s worst team, Pittsburgh, earned just seven marks and was beaten soundly in its wild-card game.

It should be a great month of playoff football. Hopefully this analysis helps you score a futures wager or two.

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