What’s the Championship Winning Formula?

Figuring out what it takes to win an NFL title.

Lombardi Trophy

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The age old saying in football is that defense wins championships. As we approach the big game, I wanted to see if, in fact, this notion was true. I gathered rankings for both offense and defense for the last 15 champions and the two teams that qualified for this year’s championship (Denver and Carolina), brought that data into Qlik Sense, and performed my analysis.

My calculations

The rankings used in the calculations were based on the regular season stats for each team.

DEF Rnk – The Total Defensive Rank calculation takes into account three categories: Points Against, Points per Drive Allowed, and Total Yardage Allowed. I added the rankings for each of these categories, divided by 3 and rounded.

Off Rnk – The Total Offensive Rank calculation takes into account the same three categories but from an offensive perspective: Points Scored, Points per Drive, and Total Yardage. I added the rankings for each of these categories, divided by 3 and rounded.

Passer Rating – This is the passer rating for the quarterback who started the game for the winning team.

Here are some things that I observed from the data:

Total Defense Rank:

9 of the last 15 champions (60%) had a defense that was ranked in the top 10.

Total Offense Rank:

7 of the last 15 champions (47%) had an offense that was ranked in the top 10.

 

As you can see from the scatter plot below, 12 of the last 15 champions (80%) were ranked in the top 10 in at least one category (top and bottom left quadrants and bottom right quadrant). Also of note, the size of each point on the scatter plot is the quarterback's Passer Rating.

11 of the last 15 champions (73%) had a quarterback with a passer rating ranked in the top 10.

So do defenses win championships? Yes, but it is not the only way. My recommendation would be for teams to concentrate on getting either the offense and/or the defense into the top 10 ranking. Only 3 of the past 15 champions (20%) ranked out of the top 10 in both offense and defense.

After taking a quick peek at where my team, the Philadelphia Eagles (the color choices in the app make sense now :), ranked this year (OFF Rnk =16th, DEF Rnk=27th and PR Rnk=26th), it seems that my boys have areas to address on both sides of the ball before we can think about parading down Broad Street.

Hopefully for you, your team is further along in the process.

Here is a detailed view of the last 15 champions:

Photo credit: Matt McGee via Foter.com CC BY-ND

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