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Steelers, Packers, Super Bowl 2011 Stats Break Down

Predicting the winner of the Super Bowl can be a precarious game. What information should be used to base the judgment; individual statistics of players, team statistics, history between teams, coaching strategies, color of jerseys, or good ol’ gut feeling?

The way I see it, the method in which teams are universally judged and ranked is based on overall team record, wins vs. loses. The teams with the best records make playoffs while the teams who have bad records don’t (we won’t talk about the Seattle Seahawks of this year). When basing the analysis purely on wins/loses, it doesn’t really matter what a team’s offensive efficiency is, or what a running back’s yards-per-carry is, or what a team\s record is in domes vs. outdoor stadiums. Those stats are great for looking at specific aspects of the game, but I want to keep it simple and make a prediction on the game as a whole, hence, which team is going to win. So, lets base that off how many times they have won and lost, and how many times the teams they have played have won and lost. We are not going to be looking the type of stats that ESPN’s Stewart Scott throws around. Something similar to; “Interesting stat to consider, since the team’s inception in 1919, the Chicago Bears, when playing the Sunday afternoon game of the NFC championship game are 4-9, compared to when they are playing the evening game where they are 6-1.” Not an exact quote, but just something completely useless I could see coming from him.

So, let’s dig in. Over the 2010 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers finished the regular season with a record of 10 wins and 6 loses, while their opponents in next weeks Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers, finished with a record of 12 wins and 4 loses. Ok, this is a good start, the Steelers finished with two more wins than the Packers, but the question I want to ask is how did these records come about, and how difficult were the teams’ paths to get to the playoffs.

In the NFL, there are 32 teams and in one season each team only plays 16 games. Doing the math… each team cannot play every team in the league and plays a schedule that is unique compared to all other teams. This leads to the obvious assumption that some teams get to play easier/harder schedules than other teams in one season. The way this can be measured is through Difficulty of Opponents, which, going back to the theory that the most important thing in this analysis is wins vs. loses, is based on the combined records of all the teams that one team played in the regular season.

When this calculation is done for the Green Bay Packers, the overall record of the 16 teams they played over the regular season (teams they played twice were counted twice) was 133 wins and 123 loses. This gives give the Packers Difficulty of Opponents a +10 game differential.

For the Steelers, the over all record of the 16 teams they played over the regular season was 128 wins and 128 loses. This gives the Steelers Difficulty of Opponents a 0 in the game differential.

So, although the Steelers had an overall better record of 12-4 in the regular season compared to the Packers 10-6 record, the opponents of the Packers were 10 wins stronger than the opponents of the Steelers. I am going to say that this evens things out when looking at overall team records. And this is good for what I want to measure. When we apply the phrase “it was nice what you did for me back then, but what have you done for me lately?”, that we all hear from girlfriends/fiancés/wives/mothers, to the analysis of the game next weekend, we have to look at more recent results. A team’s performance in week 1 of the regular season is very much at play in the previous analysis, and based on the amount of injuries and personnel changes that NFL teams go through in one season, that is about as relevant as that bouquet of flowers you brought over to your mother-in-laws house in September. So, what have the Packers and Steelers done lately?

The Packers entered the playoffs as the 6th (lowest) seed in the NFC playoff bracket. This required them to play the third ranked Philadelphia Eagles, followed by the top seeded Atlanta Falcons, and finally the second seeded Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game. The regular season record and Opponent Difficulty of the Packers’ recent and relevant opponents are as follows: Eagles (10-6, -4), Falcons (13-3, -8), Bears (11-5, -14).

The Steelers came into the playoffs as the 2nd seed in the AFC behind the New England Patriots. Being the second seed gave the Steelers a bye in the first week, followed by wins over the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets to get to the Super Bowl. The regular season record and Opponent Difficulty of the Steelers’ recent and relevant opponents are as follows: Ravens (12-4, -8), Jets (11-5, -4).

Ok, so with the Packers playing three playoffs games and the Steelers playing only two, the average regular season records and Opponent Difficulty of each teams playoffs opponents are: Packers’ opponents (11.3-4.6, -8.6), Steelers’ opponents (11.5-4.5, -6).

So, what does this tell us? Looking at the strength of the teams that the Packers and Steelers have played recently, the Steelers opponents have had a better record while having a more difficult path to those records than the Packers opponents. I think this is where we come to the end of this analysis.

Considering that the Packers and the Steelers have even regular season records (when we take Opponent Difficulty into account), and that they have both obviously won their last few games in order to make it to the Super Bowl, we have to look at who they have won against recently. The Steelers have won against stronger opponents than the Packers have. Is that to say that the Packers couldn’t have won against the Jets and Ravens like the Steelers did? We won’t ever know that, so we have to go off comparative stats.

Based on the analysis above that shows the Steelers have beaten better teams recently than the Packer have, I have to put my money on the Steelers winning next weeks Super Bowl. I don’t want to be a stats robot and base my pick purely on numbers, so here are a few quick non-statistical notes will back up my prediction:

– The Packers beat the Bears, who, although they won their division, they beat the lowly 7-9 Seahawks in the second round.
– The Steelers beat the Jets in the AFC title game, who romped the concensus Super Bowl favorites, the New England Patriots, in the second round.
– Big Ben and the rest of the Steelers have done this before (winning two Super Bowls in the last 5 years) while Aaron Rodgers is playing in his 5th play off game ever.

Steeler over Packers, 17-10. Low scoring affair. But both of my picks last week were wrong, so what do I really know.

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  1. Gareth Ho
    January 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Jesus going against the packers again? Didn’t you learn your lesson last time?

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