Passer ratings predicting Super Bowl winners

Passer rating is a well-known measure of the performance of quarterbacks and the same measure can be applied when measuring the performance of each NFL team on offense – Offensive Passer Rating (OPR) or defense – Defensive Passer Rating (DPR). In 2009, guys at Cold Hard Football Facts first introduced so-called Passer rating differential (PRD, PRD = OPR – DPR), which is one of my favorite stat explained in one of my earlier posts. They call it ‘The Mother of all stats’ because of its high rate of predicting the winners in NFL games. I looked at all 45 Super Bowl winners and losers to see how those numbers (regular season offensive passer rating, defensive passer rating and passer rating differential) predicted the outcome of each Super Bowl.
For example, 2010 Green Bay Packers had a better OPR than the Steelers (98.9 > 95.3), they had a better DPR (67.2 < 73.1) and consequently, they had the better PRD (+31.7 > +22.2) and … they beat the Steelers and won the Super Bowl.

As shown in the table above, teams entering Super Bowl with a better regular season Offensive Passer Rating won only 22 out of 45 Super Bowls played so far (49%), much higher rate of predicting Super Bowl winner has Passer Rating Differential (60%), but even higher rate has Defensive Passer Rating. Teams with a better DPR won 30 Super Bowls so far (67%). Teams who play better pass defense and have the ability to stop the opposing passing attack have a better chance of winning the game. In modern era of pass-happy NFL is that much more important to have the defense that can slow down opponent’s passing game. In the table I also highlighted Super Bowl winners with best/worst OPR, DPR and PRD, for example 1989 San Francisco 49ers have the best OPR (114.8) of all Super Bowl winners and 2007 New York Giants was a team with the worst DPR (83.4) and PRD (-10.4). In fact, they are the only one who managed to win the Super Bowl with a negative PRD.

Lets look now at Super Bowl XLVI opponents and how they rank on OPR, DPR and PRD.

Patriots hold the edge in OPR (105.7 > 92.9) and PRD (+19.6 > +6.8). But as stated above its more important to rule the DPR, in that stat Patriots and Giants are even with a 86.1 defensive passer rating, and no matter which team wins, it will become the team with the worst DPR of all Super Bowl winners. Both Patriots and Giants had hard time stopping the opposing passers and their passing attack in regular season. Come playoff time, they did better on DPR. If we take into account only playoff games and calculate DPR then the Patriots were better at stopping opposing air-attack (77.5 < 80.2) but the Giants faced much tougher competition than the Patriots did in the playoffs.
Patriots on defense had to play the Broncos (26th on offensive passer rating) and the Ravens (15th on OPR), Giants on the other hand had to play the Falcons (9th on OPR), the Packers (1st on OPR) and the 49ers (8th on OPR).

As already mentioned, regular season Defensive Passer Rating predicted the winner in 67% of all Super Bowls played so far. This season, with AFC champions Patriots and NFC champions Giants dead even in this stat alone, with their DPR at 86.1, we might see first ever Super Bowl decided in overtime.


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