Going Deep Inside The Numbers For Our 2016 Super Bowl Picks

Ross Benjamin

Sunday, January 31, 2016 5:34 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 5:34 PM UTC

Our NFL odds analyst provides a unique preview on the upcoming 2016 Super Bowl. He breaks down some of the categories he deems to be extremely important, but are often overlooked.

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Super Bowl Betting: Intangible & Miscellaneous Factors
The 2016 Super Bowl is rapidly approaching and there will be millions of dollars bet on this extravaganza. I’ve decided to share some intangible and miscellaneous factors which sometimes, if not often, get overlooked when making Super Bowl picks. Instead of looking at the same old same old, let’s explore deep inside the numbers of this matchup.


Turnover Differential
Turnover differential is the difference between the number of times a team has taken the ball away from the opponent through either an interception or fumble, and the number of times the team has given up the ball to the opposition through a thrown interception or lost fumble.

When it pertains to this category, no team in the NFL was better than Carolina this season. The Panthers were a huge +20 in turnover differential during regular season action, and were a massive +8 in its two playoff games. They were also #1 in the NFL in net turnover points. What are net turnover points? This statistic measures the points a team generates off of takeaways which include interceptions and fumbles, and less the points its opponents have generated off of interceptions thrown and fumbles lost. Carolina was a huge +116 points during regular season play.

It’s a real rarity to see a team like Denver that ranked so low in turnover differential reach the Super Bowl. The Broncos were #21 in turnover differential at -4. Denver is also -22 in net turnover points which ranked 20th best in NFL regular season play.

Edge: A huge advantage goes to Carolina over Denver in this all important category.


Yards Per Play Differential
The yards per play differential statistic is a true indicator for a team’s offensive and defensive efficiencies. Teams with a differential above zero gain more yards per play than they allow, and the opposite is true for a negative differential. This statistic is a determining factor in regards to a team's all around quality on both sides of the ball.

Denver was extremely good in this category during regular season play, indicated by a +1.0 yards per game differential. That ranks second in the NFL. Carolina wasn’t too shabby as well, evidenced by a +0.7 mark, and that was sixth best of the 32 teams.

In Denver’s two playoff games, they were terrible in this category at -1.4. On the other hand, Carolina wasn’t nearly as impressive as they were in the regular season evidenced with just a +0.1 margin. As a result, you can clearly see how crucial the Panthers +8 turnover differential has been in the postseason.

Edge: My experience tells me that the difference between the teams two numbers doesn’t necessarily indicate any clear cut advantage. Although Denver’s postseason number is a real cause for concern.

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3rd Down Offensive Efficiency
This offensive efficiency rating is a measure of how often the team is able to convert a third down into a first down or a score. This may be the most underrated statistic of them all, and can certainly be tied in with time of possession as well. The success of a team can be largely dependent upon on their ability to convert on third down, thus sustaining drives, and can eventually lead to the ultimate goal of a score.

Carolina was #7 during the regular season in this category, converting on 42.4% of their third down attempts. Denver wasn’t nearly as good. As a matter of fact, the Broncos were below the norm at 35.2%.

During each team’s two playoff games, the disparity was even wider in favor of Carolina. The Panthers were an astounding 16-for-29 (55.1%) on third down conversions. Contrarily, Denver was a terrible 9-for-32 (28.1%).

Edge: Carolina holds a substantial edge on third down offense, not only based a sizable disparity in percentage of conversions, but also due to the mobility of quarterback Cam Newton who can beat an opponent with both his legs and arm.


3rd Down Defensive Efficiency
This defensive efficiency rating is a measure of how often a team prevents its opponents from converting a third down into a first down or a score. Similar to the offensive side of the ball, much can be drawn from a defense’s ability to stop an opposing offense from converting on its third down opportunities.

Denver was outstanding during the regular season, allowing its opponents to convert on just 35.2% (#7) of its third down tries. Even more impressive has been their performance in its two playoff games. The offenses of Pittsburgh and New England were a combined 4-for-27 on third down against Denver’s defense, and that equates to a dismal 14.8%. That’s off the charts good!

Carolina allowed opponents to convert on 37.7% of its third down attempts in regular season action. That was good for 13th best in the NFL. In the Panthers two playoff games, opponents were only 8-for-25 (32%). That’s nowhere near as dominant as Denver, but still an extremely good performance line.

Edge: The clear advantage in this department goes to Denver. It’s not like Carolina is bad in this specific area. Denver has just been spectacular on 3rd down defense all season long.


Denver accumulated the most sacks in the NFL during regular season play with 52. They added 7 more in their two playoff contests. Even though Cam Newton is one of the most elusive, and arguably the toughest quarterback to bring down in the NFL, Carolina allowed 33 sacks during the regular season, and 3 more in its two postseason contests.

Carolina amassed 44 sacks this season which was #6 in the league. In two playoff games the Carolina defense manufactured 8 additional sacks. They’ll have an excellent opportunity to reach 39 year old Peyton Manning, who lacked mobility even in his prime, let alone the twilight of his career. Denver quarterbacks have been sacked 39 times during regular season action, and 4 more have occurred during the playoffs.

Edge: I give the advantage in this area to Denver. The Broncos have shown the ability to get to the passer consistently by rushing four and dropping seven in coverage. Carolina relies on its blitzes quite a bit to pressure opposing signal callers. Blitzing a veteran quarterback the caliber of Peyton Manning can be a feast or famine proposition.


Time Of Possession
During regular season play, Carolina was #3 and Denver #17 in this category. The Playoffs have held true to form in that regard. As a matter of fact, Carolina dominated time of possession in playoff games against Arizona and Seattle by a huge margin of 72:14 to 47:43. In Denver’s postseason contests against Pittsburgh and New England, the Broncos held a slim edge of 61:45 to 58:15.

Edge: A clear cut advantage goes to Carolina, and you don’t need a doctorate in statistics to arrive at that conclusion.

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