Super Bowl Readiness: Seahawks vs Broncos
This is a follow-up post to our prior analysis comparing the Seattle Seahawks’ two Super Bowl teams–the 2005 and 2013 teams. If you didn’t have the opportunity to read it, we established three simple parameters to winning football games:
- The team with the higher QB Rating usually wins the game
- Defense Wins Championships
- You have to win either Offense or Defense + Special Teams to win the game
In Super Bowl games, the team with the higher QB Rating has won 42 of 47 games (or 89.4%). The best defense has won 29 of the 47 Super Bowl games played (or 61.7%), while the #1 Overall NFL Defense has won 16 of 21 Super Bowl games played (or 76.2%). Conversely, the #1 Overall NFL Offense has won only 10 of 23 games played (or 43.5%). Finally, the #1 Overall NFL Offense and the #1 Overall NFL Defense have played in six Super Bowls with the #1 Defense winning five of those six games (or 83.3%).
This year’s game features one coach (John Fox) who is bringing his second team to the Super Bowl and one coach who has never coached on this stage before (Pete Carroll). Using 5 statistics that I think are most indicative of quality coaching, we’ll look at both coaches head-to-head:
The overall winning percentage is neck and neck, and both teams were 13-3 in the 2013 regular season. Neither coach has won a Super Bowl. John Fox brought the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 38, but lost to the New England Patriots; however, his overall playoff winning percentage is better than Pete Carroll’s. Fox’s Net Penalty Differential is also superior, meaning that his teams tend to average fewer penalties than Carroll’s. Pete Carroll’s team generates more turnovers, but this stat alone isn’t enough to give Carroll an edge over Fox. The Denver Broncos coach gets a slight nod over Carroll in this area. ADVANTAGE: DENVER
Since the team with the higher QB Rating wins 89.4% of the time in the Super Bowl, the statistics lean heavily in favor of Denver. Peyton Manning’s 2013 season has been a truly special year. In fact, no other team in NFL history has scored more points in the regular season.
Peyton Manning’s 5.50 Touchdown to Interception ratio is eye-popping. Russell Wilson is a very efficient, above average NFL QB and Manning’s TD / INT ratio is nearly double Wilson’s. That is staggering. The chart on QB Rating shows Denver’s clear advantage. It is interesting to note that the Seattle Seahawks have held 5 of the 12 QBs that they have faced to their lowest QB Rating for the season. Manning’s lowest QB Rating this season is 70.4 against the Patriots. Since 2008, the NFL average QB Rating is 83.2, so even Manning’s worst game is still about average for most NFL QBs. This Super Bowl literally matches up strength vs. strength. When Denver has the ball, you don’t want to leave the room. The chart below shows the six times where the #1 Overall NFL Offense faced off against the #1 Overall NFL Defense. This statistic favors the Seattle Seahawks with the #1 Defense winning five of those six games (or 83.3%). ADVANTAGE: DENVER
A comparison of the running backs featured in this year’s Super Bowl shows two players with fairly comparable statistics.
The Seattle Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch has 1 more touchdown, 2 more 100+ yard games and 219 more yards for the season, giving him an edge over Denver’s Knowshon Moreno. ADVANTAGE: SEAHAWKS
After reviewing Peyton Manning’s impressive passing and scoring statistics, this comparison almost isn’t fair.
The Seattle Seahawks have a talented trio of WR, including Golden Tate, Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin. Across the field on Sunday, the Denver Broncos may suit up the best catch crew that the Legion of Boom has faced all year. Demariyus Thomas’ statistics this year are gaudy. 14 touchdowns, 1,430 yards, 633 yards after catch and 6 100+ yard games are jaw-dropping. It will be fun to watch the Seattle Seahawks defend against this group. ADVANTAGE: DENVER
Conversely, while the passing and receiving stats don’t seem fair, neither do comparison of the Defenses. The Seattle Seahawks are firm believers in the mantra “Defense Wins Championships.” This year’s team held 5 of the 12 QBs they faced to their lowest QB Rating for the season. If you included the awful game that Drew Brees played against Seattle on Monday Night Football, that would mean that half of the quarterbacks that played against the Seattle Seahawks had their worst game of the season.
There is no defensive category where the Denver Broncos best the Seattle Seahawks. Plus, the #1 Overall NFL Defense has won 16 of the 21 Super Bowl games played (76.2%). A key for the Seattle Seahawks will be their ability to get pressure on Peyton Manning. The New England Patriots (and Pete Carroll’s former NFL team) know this formula all too well. In fact, Manning had his worst outing of the 2013 season against the Patriots. ADVANTAGE: SEATTLE
Last, but not least, there are Special Teams. Afterall, it is called “football,” so it is still important that the pigskin meets the foot to establish field position, provide points after touchdowns (PAT), or possibly seal the victory or defeat of a team.
The Seahawks and Broncos are very close from a Special Teams comparison. The Seattle Seahawks have almost 1 yard better average net punt, which measures how well your punter kicks and your coverage teams preventing long returns. Seattle is 5+ yards better covering kickoffs, while Denver is 2% better in field goals made. Over 100 attempted field goals, that amounts to 6 points or just shy of a touchdown. While the teams are close, I give the Seahawks a nod for have better averages in 2 of 3 metrics. ADVANTAGE: SEATTLE
The following table summarizes this:
As we’ve already stated, 2013 was a special year for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. However, the Seattle Seahawks defense is equally tough. The Legion of Boom has made quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick, Peyton’s brother Eli Manning and Matt Schaub look downright silly. The Seahawk’s ability to hold opposing QB to a ridiculously low 64.1 QB Rating combined with its slightly better running back in Marshawn Lynch and Special Teams give the Seattle Seahawks the nod in this year’s Super Bowl. While it’s amazing to note that the team with best QB Rating wins 89.4% of the Super Bowls, when the #1 Offense meets the #1 Defense, the #1 Defense has owned the offense 83.3% of the time. After all, “Defense Wins Championships.” OVERALL ADVANTAGE: SEATTLE
Just in case I’m completely wrong and Peyton Manning rocks all the trends, here are several interesting statistics for the top QB performances all time in the Super Bowl. Each of these is the best performance in a QB category in Super Bowl history.
Let us know in the comments below, who do you think will win?
–by David Sheffield
Analytics Pros, Inc.
Stat pages used to complete this analysis:
NFL statistics on NFL.com
NFL statistics on ESPN.go.com
NFL statistics on sportingcharts.com
NFL penalty statistics on teamrankings.com
AFL & NFL statistics on pro-football-reference.com
Information on Wikipedia