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In the regular season, Marcus Mariota threw 13 touchdown passes, Blake Bortles threw 21 touchdown passes, and Nick Foles threw 5 touchdown passes. If the Patriots win Super Bowl LII, New England will have done so by beating teams starting quarterbacks who threw just 39 touchdown passes in the regular season.

How unusual is that? Well, no Super Bowl champion has faced quarterbacks in the playoffs who threw fewer than 40 touchdowns since 1982, which was the year the regular season was shortened to 9 games by the player strike.  Washington faced four quarterbacks who combined for 38 touchdowns in the regular season; that’s an average of 9.5 per team, but on a per-16 team game basis, those quarterbacks still averaged 16.9 touchdowns.

If we look at things on a per team and per-16 team game basis, the Patriots opposing QBs — who threw for 13 TDs per team per 16 team games — would be the third lowest in history, and the lowest since 1979.

TeamYearGmsOpp QB TDsAvg Per TmAvg Per 16G
PIT197933311.011.0
DAL19773299.711.0
NWE201733913.013.0
SFO199434013.313.3
STL199934214.014.0
DAL197133913.014.9
WAS198734515.016.0
SFO198834916.316.3
NYG198634916.316.3
CHI198534916.316.3
MIA197234414.716.8
WAS19824389.516.9
OAK197634515.017.1
PIT197835217.317.3
IND200647017.517.5
BAL197034615.317.5
NYG199035317.717.7
MIA197334715.717.9
GNB199635518.318.3
BAL200047418.518.5
SFO198935618.718.7
SFO198135618.718.7
PIT197535117.019.4
RAI198335919.719.7
PIT197435518.321.0
DAL199536321.021.0
DEN199748521.321.3
TAM200236421.321.3
DAL199336622.022.0
GNB201048922.322.3
DAL199236722.322.3
WAS199137023.323.3
NWE200337224.024.0
SFO198437324.324.3
OAK1980410025.025.0
PIT2005410225.525.5
NWE200137725.725.7
DEN199837725.725.7
BAL2012410426.026.0
PIT200837826.026.0
GNB196737123.727.0
NWE201638227.327.3
KAN196937224.027.4
GNB196625025.028.6
NWE201438729.029.0
NYJ196825125.529.1
DEN201539230.730.7
NOR200939230.730.7
NYG2007412731.831.8
NWE200439732.332.3
NYG2011413032.532.5
SEA2013311538.338.3

So if you think New England facing two mediocre quarterbacks and one backup quarterback in the playoffs is a pretty unusual way to win the Super Bowl, well: you’re correct.

{ 14 comments }
  • sacramento gold miners

    Regardless of what Vegas thinks, I see New England as a two score advantage in this game. The Eagles will need Foles to replicate his NFC TG performance, along with a great defensive effort. I would be more surprised if the Eagles won than what the Giants did in SB42.

    • Deacon Drake

      2 weeks to prepare… Belichick vs. Pederson. I agree. This game is similar to the AFCCG, where Schwartz has the weapons to get after the QB, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the Pats get off to another slow start.

      Coughlin won the chess match because he was the one guy more patient than Belichick. Sure, having the pass rush clicking helped, but the Giants coaching staff never forced Eli into situations where he was prone to mistakes, never blitzed and gave Brady/Moss the space they wanted. The Pats blinked first, bringing the suicide blitz that left Hobbs exposed on Burress. In the rematch, they weathered the storm and stayed committed to a balanced attack despite playing from behind, wore down the Pats defense, and scored big when it mattered.

      I don’t see the Eagles having the discipline to pull off the upset. Before the season, I noted that the Pats and Eagles had two of the best back up QB situations in the league, meanwhile half the teams in the league aggressively avoid having competency at that position. Hell, based on last year’s results, I thought Foles could challenge for Wentz’s job if he stumbled out of the gate. This won’t be about Foles as much as will be establishing a plan to attach weaknesses and mask your own… huge advantage to the Pats. The right line here is an even 7, maybe 8. Anything less is like that beautiful 13.5 line Vegas floated when the Titans went to New England… so easy.

      • Tom

        I’d probably take Eagles at +8…Eagles capable of a meaningless late game TD.

    • Tom

      I’m not up to two scores, but it’s certainly possible. My spreadsheet is showing what Vegas has (around 5) , but that’s because it’s impressed with the Eagles blowing out the Vikings, and underwhelmed by the Pats “stunning” comeback over the Jags (after all the Jags were 9-point dogs out of the gate).

      But my eyeballs and recent history tell me the Pats win comfortably by a touchdown. Maybe something similar to 2004 – they dominate the entire game, Foles (this time instead of McNabb) leads a late TD drive, game ends 27-20.

  • The 1994 49ers played Erik Kramer (8), Steve Walsh (10), Troy Aikman (13), Stan Humphries (17), and Gale Gilbert (3). How are you arriving at the 40 figure?

    • The starting QBs in those games were Walsh, Aikman, and Humphries, I presume (not by my computer).

      • Okay, I smell what you’re steppin’ in.

  • kevin trammo

    The point spread is simply a reflection of their market and not truly what Vegas thinks. The site I use has tracked 58% of the bets on Philly, however I am not sure on what percentage of dollars have been placed on Philly. If the public keeps backing Philly Vegas will surely be rooting for the Pats, however I would expect some of the sharp money to come in on the Pats. Personally, I would be quite surprised to see Philly win. Belichick is going to have 2 weeks to completely breakdown everything Foles has done the last 2 weeks. I hope to line gets lower so I can get even more of a bargain with the Pats.

    • Tom

      Was surprised to see the line drop from 5.5 to 5. I thought if anything this line is going to go up…

  • Topher Doll

    It was just a down year in general for total TD’s among top QB’s. Only 3 had more than 30 passing TD’s. Even if the Pats had played Alex and Ben it still would have been a seemingly low number (19.7) and finish around 24th and only three teams from 2000 and onward would be higher. While Bortles and Mariota hurt, Foles is the real killer.

  • Richie

    This is an amusing fact, but I’m not sure how informative it is to say that Foles is a “5-TD QB”. Foles didn’t throw just 5 TD’s because he was bad. He threw just 5 TD’s because he only had 4 games with 10+ pass attempts. I think it would be better to use “per 16 games” for the QB’s.

    So, Foles had 20 TD’s per 16 games.
    Bortles had 21 TD’s per 16 games.
    Mariota had 13.8 TD’s per 16 games.

    That’s a total of 54.8 TD’s for the opposing QB’s. Still a low number, but probably more representative of the strength of the opposing QB’s.

    • I totally get what you’re saying, but I think using the raw number also does a good job of showing that the team is not using their primary quarterback. Foles could be playing well, but his low TD figure shows that the Eagles are not playing their preferred guy. Plus it would be hard to account for injuries and such in the past. Does a guy get credit for games he missed with injury or just games he missed due to a healthy scratch? Plus the Foles’ of the world produce some weird balloon figures that kind of distort everything due to a small sample. Like if you pro-rated Doug Williams’ 1987 season to 12 games (to match the number of Union games), he has 26.4 TDs – giving him the second most in the NFL that year. By doing average over 16 games, you can make a bunch of these late season backups look like Pro Bowlers.

      • Richie

        good points

  • Johhny Ohrl

    About the 5.5 line
    Let´s put things into “footballperspective”. A 5.5 translates into a 67% winning chance for NE…
    Does anybody here really think that PHI has a less than 33% chance to win that game? Rhetorical… I am almost 100% sure that the line was never that high between (more or less) evenly matched teams. Here come the two number one seeds with identical records, with PHI actually having the edge on D. Vegas already priced the sentiments of the fans into the line (like some commentors here go with sayings like “the Pats win by 8 or 14, because…”. As if that is a given. Ofc it´s not), otherwise it would be even lower…
    Actually the line started with 6 on some books, now it´s down to 5 on some. Means the sharks went already in heavily for the value they get with picking the Eagles.
    The public almost always backs the favourite. Thus the 5 is still too high. The true, fair line would be around three and a half to four, if guys wouldn´t go by sentiments like Brady/Beli always out-smart their opponents (ofc they dont, just have a look at the huge upsets they were in, like the NYJ debacle in 2010, or the SB losses against the NYG).
    Foles got enough repetitions now, thus playing to his true skills (rocket arm that finds small windows; can make all the required throws; throws a perfect tight spiral for accuracy). The O and D line of PHI has the edge going by hard numbers. NE has the edge on sentiments (experience, Beli/Brady “always” finds a way, “outsmarting” their opponents).
    IF the officals don´t favour NE again, they´ll be picked apart on both sides on the ball. It should be no contest, easy PHI win. But this is the NFL where prevent defenses prevent you from winning, the NFL trying to keep every SB close for max commercial profits, and maybe Foles get nervous (but no one can judge that in advance). I say 33-30 PHI after jumping to an early 21-0something lead…