A common indicator stronger than quarterback rating or defensive points allowed suggests two teams have an edge in the conference championship games Sunday.
The Carolina Panthers ran four interceptions back for touchdowns—Luke Kuechly, Kurt Coleman, and Josh Norman (twice)—during the regular season and and Kuechly added another “pick-six” to provide the difference in the win over Seattle Sunday.
One of the other three NFL teams to manage four pick-six scores are the Broncos with Aqib Talib (two), Chris Harris, and Danny Trevathan. That points to them pulling the upset over New England in the AFC Championship to face Carolina.
Two out of Three
In the last decade, the quarterback’s EPA Passer Rating (but not his QBR), defensive’s pick-sixes, and home field advantage are the three most reliable predictors of wins in the Conference title games and Super Bowl (only the first two apply to the neutral-site Super Bowl).
The home team won over 70 percent of the conference title games since 2006, but the 2007 Giants, 2010 Packers, and 2012 Giants went on the road and won with the edge in more pick sixes and a higher quarterback EPA.
If that pattern held true this year, then the Panthers and Broncos (an underdog) would win on the basis of home field and pick-six defense despite the higher EPA ratings of Tom Brady and Carson Palmer.
In the Super Bowl there is no home field advantage, but the Panthers have the much higher-rated quarterback (Cam Newton over Peyton Manning) to claim the edge with both teams being even on the pick-six defense.
The sample is not large enough to know if this is just a short-term coincidence or if there is something more to it such as aggressive defenses being better suited to win the big games and to getting a couple of more pick-six scores.
Here are the ratings of all teams to make a conference championship since 2006:
|Team Ranks||Quarterback||Year||Conf||Home?||Def Pick6||Pass EPA|
|Carolina Panthers||Cam Newton||2015||NFC||Yes||1||12|
|Arizona Cardinals||Carson Palmer||2015||NFC||No||5||2|
|New England Patriots||Tom Brady||2015||AFC||Yes||23||6|
|Denver Broncos||Peyton Manning||2015||AFC||No||1||29|
|New England Patriots||Tom Brady||2014||won Super||Yes||25||7|
|Seattle Seahawks||Russell Wilson||2014||won NFC||Yes||7||15|
|Green Bay Packers||Aaron Rodgers||2014||NFC||No||3||8|
|Indianapolis Colts||Andrew Luck||2014||AFC||No||16||11|
|Seattle Seahawks||Russell Wilson||2013||won Super||Yes||7||9|
|Denver Broncos||Peyton Manning||2013||won AFC||Yes||19||1|
|San Francisco 49ers||Colin Kaepernick||2013||NFC||No||11||13|
|New England Patriots||Tom Brady||2013||AFC||No||11||5|
|Baltimore Ravens||Joe Flacco||2012||won Super||No||13||14|
|San Francisco 49ers||Colin Kaepernick||2012||won NFC||No||13||3|
|Atlanta Falcons||Matt Ryan||2012||NFC||Yes||21||4|
|New England Patriots||Tom Brady||2012||AFC||Yes||13||2|
|New York Giants||Eli Manning||2011||won Super||No||25||10|
|New England Patriots||Tom Brady||2011||won AFC||Yes||8||7|
|Baltimore Ravens||Joe Flacco||2011||AFC||No||13||14|
|San Francisco 49ers||Alex Smith||2011||NFC||Yes||13||7|
|Green Bay Packers||Aaron Rodgers||2010||won Super||No||2||10|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Ben Roethlisberger||2010||won AFC||Yes||2||11|
|New York Jets||Mark Sanchez||2010||AFC||No||2||1|
|Chicago Bears||Jay Cutler||2010||NFC||Yes||20||16|
|New Orleans Saints||Drew Brees||2009||won Super||Yes||1||4|
|Indianapolis Colts||Peyton Manning||2009||won AFC||Yes||5||3|
|Minnesota Vikings||Brett Favre||2009||NFC||No||27||25|
|New York Jets||Mark Sanchez||2009||AFC||No||16||2|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Ben Roethlisberger||2008||won Super||Yes||7||12|
|Arizona Cardinals||Kurt Warner||2008||won NFC||Yes||7||11|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Donovan McNabb||2008||NFC||No||7||21|
|Baltimore Ravens||Joe Flacco||2008||AFC||No||2||1|
|New York Giants||Eli Manning||2007||won Super||No||3||1|
|New England Patriots||Tom Brady||2007||won AFC||Yes||3||6|
|Green Bay Packers||Brett Favre||2007||NFC||Yes||16||16|
|San Diego Chargers||Philip Rivers||2007||AFC||No||7||18|
|Indianapolis Colts||Peyton Manning||2006||won Super||Yes||26||2|
|Chicago Bears||Rex Grossman||2006||won NFC||Yes||15||31|
|New England Patriots||Tom Brady||2006||AFC||No||26||21|
|New Orleans Saints||Drew Brees||2006||NFC||No||26||6|
A Breitbart Sports analysis of quarterback and defensive stats from the regular season do not predict the winners of Super Bowl and conference championship winners. The team that allowed more yards and points and forced fewer fumbles won more often. Likewise the teams with better running quarterbacks and more experienced quarterbacks lost more often, and even ESPN’s overall Quarterback Rating and the NFL’s overall team defensive rating only projected the winner in 14 of 27 games.