Formulating Super Bowl Picks Based on Defensive Efficiency Statistical Analysis

Nikki Adams

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 7:17 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 7:17 PM UTC

In order to improve our NFL picks, we examine in detail the Seattle Seahawks’ betting odds, power rankings & statistics, before deciding on whether they can win Super Bowl XLIX.

ESPN NFL Power Rankings
By and large the consensus is that the two best teams in the 2014-2015 NFL season have reached the Super Bowl XLIX. Both the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks underscored that label by not only winning their respective Conference titles, but also by securing the top seed ahead of the playoffs.

The Seattle Seahawks finished the season as the best teams in the NFL, underscoring their title winning run of last year and their early Super Bowl betting futures odds as the team to beat in 2014-2015. On the strength of their last two seasons, it follows the Seattle Seahawks could emerge repeat champions in Super Bowl XLIX, something that hasn't been accomplished in a decade.

In Chart 1 (below), we chart their weekly ESPN NFL Power Rankings en route to the top of their respective Conferences, beginning with the rankings ahead of week 1 and ending with the rankings after week 17, right before the wild card round of the playoffs.

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Chart 1: Weekly ESPN NFL Power Rankings

As the table shows, Seattle Seahawks began and ended the season at the top of the rankings, with only a brief drop off midway through the season (a low of 11th spot). New England Patriots, similarly, started in the top five, with only a slight slip down (a dramatic low to 16th spot) in the rankings in the first few weeks before righting the ship down the stretch. Over the course of several weeks, they enjoyed top spot (week 10-13 and 16-17). Largely down to a 17-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills in week 16 NFL betting were the Patriots admonished in the ESPN NFL Power Rankings and dropped down to second place.


Defense Is The Name Of The Game
The stingiest defense in the league paved the way for the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl and it's largely expected to be the key factor if the Seahawks do pull off the win.

Down the stretch, Seattle's defense perked up something huge, Stifling all six opponents from week 12 to 16 and holding them to less than 10-points on average. In the playoffs, they beat the Panthers 31-17 before masterminding the Great Escape with a 28-22 overtime win over the Packers. Defense has been the name of the game all season long and that has continued through to the postseason. . (See Table 1).


Table 1: Regular Season Offensive and Defensive Stats

These overarching stats (and others bettors could resort to) however only give a sample of what the Patriots' offense can produce. All data-analysis does is to provide a sense of what systematic production looks like over an extended period of time. There are definite takeaways that bettors can look for when making their NFL picks. More than anything though stepping outside of the box and taking into consideration current form, the X-factor certain players have in Big Game situations, the overall momentum a team hitting its stride and the tactical savvy of the coaching team is also necessary.

Check out our free Super Bowl pick over/under the NFL odds total.

How the Seahawks Will Win Super Bowl XLIX
As Bill Belichick put it succinctly, the Seahawks are the best 60-minute football team this side of the decade. They are one of the toughest outfits to beat, even when things aren't going their way and they aren't playing up to their lofty standards. One can never underestimate the Seahawks because of the many intangibles they bring to the table, over and above their statistical efficiency.

The NFC Championship game against the Packers is proof positive. Against the Packers, the Seahawks turned the ball over three more times than the Packers, chucked away crucial points and ground against a high-powered offense, yet somehow ended up winning the game. Granted luck, recent Super Bowl winning experience and the overall attitude on the bench played a huge factor in winning a game that started to look improbable they would win as it wore down and the Packers gained the lead. Had the Packers converted on a few more third and fourth downs into touchdowns rather than field goals, we could have been talking about the Packers here instead. As it stands, we're talking about the Seahawks because they won the game in the end with sheer determination, will power and tremendous defending that denied Aaron Rodgers almost certain touchdowns and forced them into field goal attempts.

Defense is synonymous with the Seahawks. They are built to tackle pass-happy teams. We can focus on the early struggles Russell Wilson and his O-line underwent, but that would be a grievous error. First of all, take nothing away from the Packers defense, who did an exceptionally good job in the beginning to throw them off their rhythm. Besides, it's highly unlikely we'll see those offensive woes emerge in the Super Bowl game. They'll have ironed those out by then surely. It's what the defense did while Wilson and the O-line were struggling that was outstanding and allowed the Seahawks to eventually win the game. Despite being on the field for the bulk of the game and taxed to their limits, they were brilliant, containing Aaron Rodgers and his O-Line and kept the Seahawks in it to the very end.


The Takeaway
Seattle Seahawks may have squeaked into the Super Bowl but one could argue the New England Patriots similarly squeaked into the AFC Championship game behind a daredevil win over the Ravens. Whichever way you slice this matchup, it's one between two teams that are equally good in their own right. Hence, either side has a fair shot to win the coveted Lombardy Trophy, as evinced by the tight NFL betting lines currently trading. If you are the bettor that prefers statistical efficiency and believes in the maxim defense wins titles, you can back Seattle as the tempting 1-point underdog and at -105 on the money line for your Super Bowl picks . 

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