Nate Silver Picks 49ers To Win Super Bowl
Nate Silver has taken the system he used to accurately call a second straight Presidential election in a row to pick the San Francisco 49ers to win tonight’s game:
It is the case, however, that the better defensive team has usually won the Super Bowl — and done so far more consistently than offensive juggernauts. The Web site Pro Football Reference publishes a statistic called the Simple Rating System (S.R.S.), which evaluates each team’s offense and defense based on the number of points it scored and allowed relative to the league average and adjusted for strength of schedule. Of the 92 teams to have played in the Super Bowl before this year, I identified those with the 20 best defensive and offensive ratings, according to S.R.S. (see charts above). The defensive list contains teams that you would expect, like the 1985 Bears. These teams have compiled a 14-6 record (.700) in the Super Bowl. Their winning percentage is actually nearly 80 percent when you ignore the three cases, Super Bowls IV, VIII and XLV, when two of the all-time great defensive teams faced each other.
The 20 best offensive teams, however, are just 10-10 in the Super Bowl. There have been successes in this group, like the Saints under Drew Brees, but there have been just as many failures, including two of Brady’s Patriots teams. (During his three championships, the Patriots had a much better balance between offense and defense.)
The reasons that exceptional defenses fare so much better in the Super Bowl are still somewhat murky, but this factor bodes well for this year’s 49ers, whose defense belongs in the elite group, according to S.R.S. (it ranks 17th among Super Bowl teams). The Ravens, despite all the hype surrounding Ray Lewis, allowed a rather pedestrian 21.5 points per game this year. The 49ers also have the better offense, according to S.R.S., so there isn’t much to recommend the Ravens . . . unless you look at the more sophisticated rankings published by Football Outsiders. Their system, known as Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (D.V.O.A.), accounts for a team’s success or failure on every play it ran during the year and not just on final scores.
The 49ers have the edge on both offense and defense under this system and so, Silver says, they’re the favorite to win. We’ll see if he’s right.