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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.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. carpeicthus says:

    I’m not sure if you get statistics. Nate Silver IS right that the 49ers are the favorite. That does not mean that they will win, or that he was wrong if they lose.

    For example, if Nate called 100 elections and picked the winner every time, he would actually be wrong, since he was only calling for it to happen 80 percent of the time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. bernieyeball says:

    Go 49er’s!!!
    When the game is over there will be nothing left of the
    Baltimore Colts (oops) Ravens but little black feathers floating in Lake Pontchartrain!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  3. Xerxes says:

    Let the record show that before the playoffs started, Nate Silver projected that the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots would be the Super Bowl teams

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. anjin-san says:

    Nice to have the niners back in it – that was a long dry spell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Xerxes is right.
    I’ll take the Ravens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. stonetools says:

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNS!

    Heart over head here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. al-Ameda says:

    If they played 10 games at a neutral site, I think the 49ers would win 6, but … it’s one game.

    As Kaepernick and the 49er secondary go … so go the 49ers.
    If they’re good today the 49ers will win, if not, the Ravens will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. C. Clavin says:

    C. Clavin was smarter than Nate Silver today.
    And that rocks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. C. Clavin says:

    Shit…Turns out god wanted the Ravens to win.
    This according to a man charged with murder and convicted of Obstruction OG Justice.
    (but not Scooter Libby)
    Amazing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @al-Ameda:

    As Kaepernick and the 49er secondary go … so go the 49ers.
    If they’re good today the 49ers will win, if not, the Ravens will.

    The secondary was below average and special teams allowed a 108 yard touchdown return …. the 9’ers lost.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. An Interested Party says:

    When the game is over there will be nothing left of the
    Baltimore Colts (oops) Ravens but little black feathers floating in Lake Pontchartrain!!!

    More like confetti floating in the Superdome as the Baltimore Ravens (I mean, really, who needs the Colts?) hoist the Lombardi Trophy…so glad that Silver was right about the election but wrong about this…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. bernieyeball says:

    @An Interested Party: So how is raven crow best cooked?
    Bar-B-Q, baked or broiled?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Franklin says:

    @Xerxes: Exactly what I came here to say. Nate is great with the odds, but a single football game is harder to predict than an election. For the election, he’s combining hundreds of measurements of how people are going to vote, to see how they’re going to vote. You can’t do the equivalent for football, unless you had the Ravens play the 49ers several times in New Orleans first.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. stonetools says:

    Nate Silver may know baseball,
    He may know politics,
    But he don’t know jack about football.

    MVP should have been Jacoby Jones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. An Interested Party says:

    So how is raven crow best cooked?
    Bar-B-Q, baked or broiled?

    I wouldn’t know…perhaps you should ask Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and/or Colin Kaepernick…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0