Surprise Criteria Point to Super Bowl Match-Up, Winner

The Associated Press

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.



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