Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

21 Jan 2006

Which Super Bowl Matchup Would Be the Best?

There are a lot of you out there who don't root for Denver, Pittsburgh, Carolina, or Seattle. Which teams should you be rooting for, so that this year's Super Bowl is as exciting as possible?

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 21 Jan 2006

39 comments, Last at 23 Jan 2006, 6:25am by Cody


by luz (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 12:28pm

while i'm biased, i'd point out that while pittsburgh might not have had as good a regular season as the colts that doesn't mean they aren't one of the afc's top teams.

keep in my mind this steelers season featured tommy maddox and charlie batch for significant stretches. that, as much as anything, is responsible for the steelers being the 6th seed. they just as easily could have been the 3 seed, if not higher.

take out maddox and batch from the steelers dvoa and i think you'd see they'd be ranked as one of the top 3 teams.

by Walt Pohl (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 1:31pm

Luz, your last comment is true, and they already pointed this out in the AFC championship preview.

Now let us never speak of Tommy Maddox again.

by Not Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 1:34pm

As a completely unbiased fan, I think the best game would be the Steelers vs. the Top Cats.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 2:08pm

Not Fnor, the Top-Cats are really only into Girl-on-Girl matchups...much to my dismay (thogh it's made my wife a fan) the Steelers lack cheerleaders.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 2:11pm

Luz, your point is a good one, but I think more fundamentally, the question is? If the playoffs don't decide who the best team from each conference is, then should we get the NFL to switch over to a BCS format?

by MCS (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 2:33pm

Matt Hasselbeck is the quarterback so brash he once won an overtime coin flip, leaned into the referee's microphone, and said, "We want the ball and we're gonna score."

Lest we forget what happened once he got the ball, he threw an interception that was returned for a TD.

Go Al Harris!

by MCS (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 2:39pm

February in Detroit isn't the most alluring locale for the biggest sporting event in the year

You don't know the half of it. It has been unseasonably warm here since right before Christmas. The locals are waiting for the other shoe to drop when we get 18" of anow during Super Bowl week and the completely inadequate city service are overtaxed. Everything will grind to a halt and the city's already tarnished reputation will suffer a blow from which it will never recover. OCP wiil move in and, well, you know the rest. . . But if the game is a classic, the site won't matter.

by Israel (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 3:08pm

These teams were wild cards for a reason.

The reason is that they lost tiebreakers to number three seeds. Not very persuasive. These are not your normal WC teams.

by CA (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 3:32pm

I don't think that hometown TV market sizes affect Super Bowl TV ratings very much. We know that no matter who is playing, the Super Bowl is going to draw enormous ratings. To the extent that some teams would draw bigger ratings than others, I doubt that the population of the team's MSA has much to do with it. I'm sure that ABC would have been thrilled to have a star-studded Indianapolis Colts team that was hyped by the media all season in the Super Bowl, despite the relatively small size of that TV market. Do you really think that the Bears, with very few players that the casual fan knows by name, would be a bigger ratings draw overall than the Colts with Peyton Manning and company? The metro area of Pittsburgh is a small TV market as well, but the Steelers are one of the NFL's marquee franchises, and they have fans who have no affiliation with the city across the country who are eager to watch them play in the Super Bowl. Of course, those people are likely to watch the Super Bowl regardless of who is playing in it. This is a statistics-oriented site. If someone can demonstrate a clear empirical correlation between hometown TV market sizes and TV ratings for the Super Bowl, I'll admit that I'm wrong on this point.

by Kyle (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 3:33pm

Let's see if I understand the point of this article: we should root for Seattle and Denver because of their regular seasons??? Where is the logic in that? Where is it written that the Super Bowl about the best team during the course of the season?? I thought the whole purpose of the playoffs was to determine who the "best team" was. If Carolina and Pittsburgh win their conferences, doesn't that make them the best teams in football? Or maybe we should scrap that notion and just bring the Colts in for the Super Bowl, since they were annointed the best team for the regular season? Whoever represents their conferences in the Super Bowl, by virtue of their emerging victorious from the playoffs, deserves the "best team" label, regardless of the regular season. After all, they are called conference champions, aren't they? May the "best teams" win!!!

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 3:51pm

I'd like to see Denver against Carolina, just because of the secondary against Steve Smith. I think Denver against Seattle could be sort of boring just because it's happened so often before. I don't think Pittsburgh is as interesting a team offensively as Denver is. Then again, that's also because I'm a Denver fan, know all the players, know their storylines etc.

by Make Every Miles Davis Count (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 4:07pm

How can you root against Jake Plummer's beard?

by Make Every Miles Davis Count (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 4:13pm

Also, how can you root against Jerome Bettis retiring on a ring? I don't know who to root for! I'm just happy I'm not rooting against anyone in particular (Indy).

by Adam (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 4:48pm

The Steelers and anybody......

by Adam (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 4:49pm

Although my dream Super Bowl matchup for some reason has always been Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

But i'll settle for Pittsburgh and anybody.

Oh please God let this happen. I don't ask for much..........

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 5:14pm

IMO, Pittsburgh/Carolina is the best Super Bowl.

Carolina has blown out a few good teams this year, but generally their games are played pretty close.

by Kal (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 5:51pm

Crushinator, I disagree. With the other teams, we get a lot of consistency. With Carolina, no one knows what team will show up. Will it be the team that shut out the Giants, or will it be the team that allowed Dallas to rush for 200 yards? Will it be a team that can score 29 points against the best defense in the NFL, or will it be a team that allows 21 points to be scored by Rex Grossman? The one that beats Atlanta by 30, or the one that loses to Tampa by 20?

Carolina...ugh. So maddeningly inconsistent.

I'd like to see a Seattle/Pitt game too, though I think Seattle/Denver would be a fun game as well. I don't really think that Carolina would be a good match in either event.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 8:23pm

Re #4: You're absolutely right. And as TMQ is so fond of pointing out, Denver has one of the highest aesthetic-appeal cheer-babe squads.

Carolina/Denver, it is.

by Sam B (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 10:08pm

Carolina definately. Seahawks unis are just a bit too ugly, and I've always liked Delhomme. AFC's tricky. It's the lesser of two evils for Browns fans. I think it has to be Pittsburgh for me. And I think that would be quite a cool Superbowl in terms of stories.

One big potential story no-ones picked up on yet is that this Super Bowl could feature the match-up between two QB's named Jake! I mean, when was the last time that happened??

by Joon (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 10:11pm

denver it is. how can you not love a guy who's spent the entire regular season growing his playoff beard? jake has shown that he's ready for the playoffs.

by DGL (not verified) :: Sat, 01/21/2006 - 10:58pm

Pittsburgh and Carolina have played two great games in the playoffs, but they're not as good as Denver and Seattle.

Well, I guess we'll know whether that's right around this time tomorrow, won't we?

According to the regular season, Pittsburgh and Carolina aren't as good as Cincinnati, New York, Indy, and Chicago, either -- but once the playoffs start, the regular season doesn't count for "who's better", or else they wouldn't bother playing the playoffs.

I think a game featuring a team that won four straight win-or-play-golf road games against a team that won seven straight must-win games would be pretty good, myself.

by MAW (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 12:47am

This Eagles fan wants to see Seattle and Denver play. As a Philly fan, I just can't root for Pittsburgh, and I'm still bitter about the 2003 NFC Championship game.

by M Wu (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 2:10pm

Steelers vs. Seahawks would allow me to bust out my old Franco Harris "34" jersey.

by Derek (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 2:51pm

Who cares about the matchup? I think we're all curious about which team will dominate the most crucial category: RVOA (Respect Value Over Average).

With Brady out of the playoffs, Steve Smith is the current leader.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 3:20pm

If Carolina and Pittsburgh win their conferences, doesn’t that make them the best teams in football?


by Craig McLaughlin (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 4:46pm

#25 - Looks like it's time to bust out the polls. Looks like some of these guys can't handle the heartbreak of seeing the "best" teams mistakenly lose in the playoffs.

by Walt Pohl (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 5:09pm

I can't believe anyone would seriously argue that by definition whoever wins a game is the "best". By that logic, since New England won the Super Bowl last year, and since Miami beat them, Miami was the best team in the league last year, at least for one week.

by Craig McLaughlin (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 6:32pm

Then why bother with playoffs at all? Just give out the rings to the team with the best record. Or maybe the higher-seeds should get a mulligan.

by Luke (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 6:58pm

Seattle v Denver, with Seattle crushing Denver. Instant Revenge for all those years of having sand kicked in their face. Go the 100lb weaklings.

by Alex (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 7:00pm

The ONLY definitive way to determine the "best" team is through the playoff system. Scoreboard is all that matters. Any other discussion of who is the best team is purely opinion. Some guys quote statistics as "proof" of a team's superiority, but the fact is, the NFL champion comes from the playoff system, not some opinion poll, and whoever emerges victorious from that is the best team. Not necessarily the most talented, or the highest scoring, or the stingiest defensively, but for that season, they take home the hardware. So whoever represents their respective conferences is most certainly the best team. That's why they play the games, fellas...

by Kyle (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 7:24pm

I can't believe anyone would seriously argue that whoever wins the Super Bowl is NOT the best team in football. Are the Colts (insert Pats, Bears, whoever) the best team in football? Based on what criteria, exactly? Alex made a good point, the only crtieria that matters at the end of the season is who is still standing. The rest is just something to talk about until next season. The best teams always play in the Super Bowl, because they earned that right on the field, not in some subjective opinion poll.

by CA (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 11:31pm

The winner of the Super Bowl is the NFL champion, but that in no way necessarily makes it the best team. There is no way to determine the best team objectively, so there is no reason to attempt to do so. Ultimately, "best" is a matter of opinion. Therefore, it's fair to argue that it doesn't matter which team is the best. But to pretend that the team that happens to win the championship in the playoff format that the NFL happens to have chosen is automatically "the best" is to ignore all sorts of factors that affect winning several games in a row beyond the actual quality of the team's play. I would think that those who frequent this site are sophisticated enough to comprehend this concept.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 12:15am

32: If we define the "best" as the team who wins the superbowl, then the Superbowl winners are the Best team, and we've solved the problem.

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 12:19am

Just Like I Said........

The Pittsburgh Steelers and anyone...........

Thank you boys. Thank you.........

by Walt Pohl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 1:26am

Let's say that the Steelers are the best team in football. Let's rearrange their season so that their Tommy Maddox games happen right now. What happens then? They lose to the Colts. Does that mean they weren't the best team after all?

I'm not a secret Colts fan (I'm a Seahawks fan). But every football game involves some luck, and I don't see how you can deny that.

by EJP (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 1:38am

Before the NFL instituted playoffs, when there were only two divisions, the team with the best record in each division played in the championship. There was only a playoff if two teams in the same division finished with the same record.

I prefer the current playoff system, simply because there are more games to watch, and well, I'm greedy.

Any given Sunday. Who can now argue that Pittsburgh is not the best team in the AFC? They beat the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seeded teams in the playoffs, all on the road, and beat them all convincingly (yes, the Indy game was close, but ONLY because of HORRIBLE calls).

Just my two cents. By the way, I'm not biased towards the Steelers (I'm a Packers fan *sigh*).

by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 2:09am

Those who are arguing the semantics of "best" are running the risk of sounding like major purveyors of sour grapes.

Facts: On 1/22, the Steelers were better than the Broncos.

On 1/15, the Steelers were better than the Colts. (Even though DVOA doesn't agree.)

On 1/8, the Steelers were better than the Bengals.

Prior to 1/8, the Steelers were good enough to get into the post season.

And in two weeks, if the Steelers are better than the Seahawks (in which I define "better" as "scoring more points") they win the Lombardi.

Does that make them "the best team in football?" Honestly, I don't care.

by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 3:37am

It doesn't matter if your QB is Tommy Mattox or Elmer Fudd, the winner of the Super Bowl is considered by all reasonable definitions of the word the best team in football, as determined by the system in place to decide such matters. There is no more definitive measure than that. It's the game that counts, not power rankings, not regular season standings, not statistics. It's all about the ring.

by Cody (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 6:25am

RE: 35

Yes, there is some luck in every game. But it takes skill to create a situation in which you can get lucky, and skill to take advantage of the luck you may have.