The New England Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl championship Sunday night with their 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams and that victory certainly didn’t surprise me one bit thanks to one defensive stat that I’ve touted for several years now.
Entering the post season, the Patriots, were one of just three teams that registered a regular season defensive adjusted net yards per pass attempt (D ANY/A) stat under 6.0. The other two teams were the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens. Knowing that no team has ever won a Super Bowl with a regular season D ANY/A stat of 6.0 or greater, it made it easy to bet on the Patriots to win this year’s postseason tournament before it even started and especially when you looked at the two young quarterbacks leading the Bears and the Ravens.
While the Patriots barely made it under the 6.0 D ANY/A number this year, the Rams failed to despite registering a nice +11 regular season turnover differential. While the Rams did have 41 defensive sacks on the season, defensive tackle Aaron Donald was responsible for 20.5 of them and no other player had more than 4.5. The Rams had a decent pass defense at times throughout the 2018 regular season on their way to compiling a 13-3 record, but just not good enough to win a Super Bowl. In fact, it technically wasn’t good enough to beat the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game as well.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that over the course of the last five years that we’ve seen the average D ANY/A of the Super Bowl winning team slowly get higher and this is probably in direct correlation to the influx of the spread offenses making their way into the NFL from college, in addition to some rule changes that obviously favor offenses. Even so, the O ANY/A average of the Super Bowl winning team in the last five years is .3 lower than the previous five years.
As the chart shows below, team’s need to have a positive regular season ANY/A to win a Super Bowl. Only the New York Giants have managed to buck that rule in the last 28 years and we can all thank wide receiver David Tyree for that. Tyree also helped give us a first Super Bowl team since at least 1991 that had a negative turnover differential during the regular season. It’s amazing how that one play bucked so many trends.
The 2015 Denver Broncos is the other obvious outlier in the stats below as like the Giants, they had a negative regular season turnover differential in addition to a low O ANY/A of 5.1. That was the season that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning dealt with plantar fasciitis and he had to be sat down a good part of that year and backup quarterback Brock Osweiler had to start in his place. That 2015 Broncos defense, however, helped make up for the team’s offensive deficiencies. 52 regular season sacks that Broncos defense had that season and opposing quarterbacks registered a putrid 78.8 rating against that unit.
Here are some interesting thoughts about some of these key stats to keep in mind for 2019. For starters 19 of the last 28 Super Bowl champions have posted a regular season O ANY/A of 6.5 or greater. That’s usual not a problem these days for the Pittsburgh Steelers as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy. As far as D ANY/A regular season numbers go, the lower under 6.0 the better the chances and especially if that team has an above average quarterback. The Steelers 2018 D ANY/A stat was 6.3, their highest since 2014 (7.2). It also goes without sating that teams probably need to have a turnover differential of at least +7 or more during the regular season if they hope to become Super Bowl champions. The Steelers posted a differential in 2018 of -11, their lowest since 2013 (-13)
While these stats that I follow and outlined in this post certainly aren’t groundbreaking when it comes to today’s progressive analytics used mainly for predictive measures, they sure are still very telling and especially the D ANY/A one. If a team plays good pass defense throughout a regular season and they have an above average quarterback. they’ll have a better than average shot at winning the Super Bowl. That’s exactly what the Patriots accomplished in 2018 and why they now have six Lombardis in their trophy case. If not for Tyree, they’d likely have seven.