Longtime commenter Jason Winter has chimed in with today’s guest post. Jason is a part-time video game journalist and full-time sports fan. You can read more of him at his blog: https://jasonwinter.wordpress.com/, and follow him on twitter at @winterinformal.
As always, we thank Jason for contributing. He submitted this article a couple of weeks before the season began, but I was a bit tardy in posting. But hey, it’s still relevant.
A couple of months ago, I happened upon Peter King’s NFL power rankings, where he listed Baltimore as his #1 team. “Really?” I thought. I mean, they were pretty good last year, going 10-6, but they were the #6 seed in the AFC and hadn’t done anything really notable in the offseason. Surely you wouldn’t rank them above obvious powerhouses like Seattle, New England, Green Bay, Indianapolis, or Denver, right?
We know that the best teams in any given year rarely are the best the next year. And sometimes teams can have complete turnarounds – for better (like the 1998-1999 Rams) or worse (like the 1993-1994 Oilers). But how uncommon would it be for a team like the 2014 Ravens to actually be the best team – or at least the Super Bowl winner – the next year?
Excluding the years following the two strike-shortened years, I took every Super Bowl-winning team in the NFL in the 16-game-season era and looked at how good they were the year before winning it all. I charted each team’s wins and SRS the previous year, as well as their league-wide rank in wins and SRS in those years. In case of ties, I averaged out the ordinal rankings, which is why you’ll see several fractional rankings in the table below.
|Year N||Champion||Year N-1 wins||Year N-1 rank||Year N-1 SRS||Year N-1 SRS rank|
|2011||New York Giants||10||10||2.1||13|
|2007||New York Giants||8||16.5||0.1||17|
|1990||New York Giants||12||2||6.4||4|
|1986||New York Giants||10||9.5||3.9||8|
Some observations, all of which carry the qualifier of applying to teams that played 16-game seasons:
* The average team to win the Super Bowl in year N had 10.4 wins in Year N-1 (Baltimore had 10 in 2014), with a win rank of 8.6 (Baltimore: 11.5). Super Bowl Year N winners had an average 5.3 SRS (Baltimore: 4.6) in Year N-1, with an average rank of 7.8 (Baltimore: 8).
So, by those measures, King’s prediction of Baltimore as the best team in the NFL in 2015 doesn’t seem that absurd. The Ravens are below average by all four measures, though not exceptionally so.
* 9 of 34 (26.5%) Super Bowl winners didn’t qualify for the playoffs in their previous season. That seems unusually high to me, but maybe gives hope to fans in Philadelphia, San Diego, and Kansas City this year.
* Four times has a team with more wins than any other team in the NFL won the Super Bowl the following year: Pittsburgh in 1979, the year following the first 16-game-season, and, curiously, three years in a row, from 2004 to 2006. None of those teams were the only team with the most wins the year of their Super Bowl victories.
* The worst team to win the Super Bowl the next year? In terms of wins (4) and win rank (26), it was the 1998-99 Rams, but their -2.3 SRS in 1998 was actually almost around league average (17th). The 1980 49ers, as you might recall, had two more wins but a hideous -6.2 SRS, good for 25th in the league – out of 28 teams!
* It was an odd stretch from 1999 to 2003, when each Super Bowl winner had fewer than 10 wins the previous year, and four of the five never even made the playoffs. That was coming on the heels of 14 straight seasons of Super Bowl winners nabbing 10+ wins the previous year, and all of them making the playoffs.
* Then again, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the 8-8 1999 Ravens won the Super Bowl the next year. There were nine 8-8 teams that year, probably sparking any number of “Parity has come to the NFL” headlines.
* I think I knew this at the time, but it’s worth repeating. The 10-6 2010 Giants didn’t qualify for the playoffs. The 9-7 2011 Giants won the Super Bowl.
* Teams with win totals from four to 15 have won Super Bowls the following season – except for seven. Sorry, Vikings, Browns, and Saints fans (and fans of the 7-8-1 Panthers – no team with a tie has ever won the Super Bowl the next year either).
So, when you make your predictions, maybe you be like Peter King and go out on a limb and choose a feisty nine- or 10-win team instead of the obvious juggernauts. They might just surprise you.