10,000 Seasons Revisited
by Aaron Schatz
Once upon a time, the NFL playoffs were fairly predictable. There were upsets, sure. The Super Bowl didn't always pit one No. 1 seed against the other No. 1 seed. However, if you made a list of the top five teams in the league by conventional wisdom, usually one of those teams would end the season with the Lombardi trophy.
You can look at a number of different stats to see that this was the case, ranging from the simple to the complex:
From 1978 through 2006, not counting the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Super Bowl champion averaged 12.7 wins. Every Super Bowl champion during that time had at least 11 regular-season wins except for the 1988 San Francisco 49ers. Even every Super Bowl loser during that time had at least 11 regular-season wins except for the 1979 Los Angeles Rams (9-7) and the 1987 Denver Broncos (10-4-1).
From 1978 through 2006, 23 of 27 Super Bowl champions finished among the top five teams in Pythagorean wins. No Super Bowl champion finished out of the top ten. From 1989 to 2000, there was a 12-year span where every single champion was either first or second in Pythagorean wins during the regular season.
From 1978 through 2006, 25 of 27 Super Bowl champions finished among the top five teams in pro-football-reference's Simple Rating System. The exceptions both ranked seventh: the 1980 Oakland Raiders and the 2001 New England Patriots.
DVOA picks up in 1991, but from 1991 through 2006, only four teams won the Super Bowl without ranking in the top three in DVOA. The 2003 Patriots and 2005 Steelers were fourth, the 2006 Colts were seventh, and the 2001 Patriots were 11th.
Of course, you know what's happened since.
* Four of the last six champions have been either 9-7 or 10-6.
*Only three of the last six champions have ranked in the top ten in Pythagorean wins.
*Only three of the last six champions have ranked in the top ten in the Simple Rating System.
*Only four of the last six champions have ranked in the top ten in DVOA, and none of them have ranked in the top three.
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