26 Jan 2008
This comment was made by reader Gerry in the thread discussing Friday's ESPN article on the Giants' place as one of the weakest teams to ever make the Super Bowl.
One more thing that sticks in my craw: "Out of the 10 teams that required three wins in order to make the Super Bowl, the Giants have the LOWEST average margin of victory in the playoffs."
Perhaps. However, they have had over 40% DVOA in each of their playoff victories. I know you don't have DVOA numbers for all 10 of the teams that required three wins to make the SB, but you do have some. What was their average three game DVOA? Why the sudden return to using conventional stats when they are saying something different than the advanced stats?
First of all, to answer the question posed in the last sentence: When you write for a larger audience, and the conventional numbers and advanced numbers tell the same story, you want to use the conventional numbers. They are simply easier for the general public to understand.
Nonetheless, we can answer this question by looking at the seven teams since 1996 that required three playoff wins to make it to the Super Bowl (any team seeded third through sixth).
What we have listed here is the game-by-game DVOA for each team in their first three playoff victories, along with the average of those three games. Then I've listed the regular-season DVOA and rank of each team, along with the regular-season DVOA and rank of the team they would face in the Super Bowl. Teams that need three wins to make the Super Bowl are certainly not all cut from the same regular-season cloth, and they don't all go into the Super Bowl as underdogs. I've ditched the decimal points for space purposes.
The Giants have had the most consistent run out of all seven teams, especially if we also consider their final regular-season game, where they were also above 40%. However, it has not been the most impressive playoff run out of the seven. Four teams had a higher average DVOA during the three games. The 2005 Steelers also had 40% in all three games (actually 39.7% against the Colts in the Divisional round) and the 2003 Panthers and 2006 Colts each topped 30% in all three games.
Four of these teams eventually won the Super Bowl, but you'll notice that three of those four teams actually had a higher regular-season DVOA than their opponents did, and the other one (the 2006 Colts) came pretty close. Longtime readers may be surprised to see the Steelers ranked third for 2005, but these numbers are based on the current version of DVOA created after that season, not the less accurate numbers we used in 2005 which had the Seahawks ahead of the Steelers.
The 1997 Broncos had the lowest average DVOA during their three playoff wins, but they are also the only wild card team to ever finish the season with the league's best DVOA. In both 1997 and 2000, the top two teams in the league were both in the same division: Denver and Kansas City in 1997, and Tennessee and Baltimore in 2000. Each time, the two teams played in the Divisional round. Denver won 14-10. Baltimore won 24-10 but, as you can see from that "-3%," DVOA thought Tennessee actually had the better game. The Titans had 23 first downs in that game, the Ravens only six. The Titans held the ball for over 40 minutes. You may remember that the Ravens scored one touchdown on a blocked field goal return, another on an interception return. Al Del Greco was 1-for-4 on field goals for the Titans. The AFC had the top four teams and seven of the top eight teams in DVOA that year, so whichever of those two teams won that game was going to be a heavy favorite against the Giants in the Super Bowl.
I want to point out that none of these articles regarding the Giants' performance during the regular season are meant to suggest that the Giants have no chance to beat New England. Of course the Giants have a chance. At least a 20 percent chance, maybe even a 40 percent chance. That's not what it means to pick the Giants. When somebody in the media like Dr. Z or Dan Patrick picks the Giants, it means that this person believes the Giants have a greater than 50 percent chance of winning this game. Given the historically unprecedented gap between the quality of these two teams in the regular season -- and the fact that the Giants' "hot playoff run" is actually not as hot as other recent "hot playoff runs" by teams like the 2003 Panthers, 2005 Steelers, and 2006 Colts -- that seems like a gigantic leap in logic.
54 comments, Last at 03 Feb 2008, 7:40pm by mush
Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.