Nate Silver: not Ravens

Nate Silver: not Ravens
February 1, 2013, 3:15 am
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The numbers aren’t with the Ravens. So the numbers man isn’t with them either.

The stat man of the moment, analyst Nate Silver, is picking the 49ers to beat the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Silver is still riding — and may ride for some time — his 50-for-50 prediction of how states would go in November’s presidential election, based on his analysis of aggregated poll data. Now, he’s looked at the football data and pointed to San Francisco.

Using pro-football-reference.com’s Simple Rating System, which ranks offenses and defenses based on points scored and allowed as related to the NFL average and adjusted for strength of schedule, Silver looked back over all the teams to have played in the Super Bowl and found that the better defensive teams fare better than the better offensive teams.

“Of the 92 teams to have played in the Super Bowl before this year, I identified those with the 20 best defensive and offensive ratings. …” Silver wrote this week in The New York Times. “The defensive list contains teams that you would expect, like the 1985 Bears. These teams have compiled a 14-6 record (.700) in the Super Bowl. Their winning percentage is actually nearly 80 percent when you ignore the three cases, Super Bowls IV, VIII and XLV, when two of the all-time great defensive teams faced each other.

“The 20 best offensive teams, however, are just 10-10 in the Super Bowl.”

This is good news for the 49ers, whose Simple Rating System mark puts them at No. 17 among all-time Super Bowl defenses. Their defensive SRS for the regular season was 6.7, while the Ravens’ was 1.0.

Not to dismiss Silver like some conservative commentators did before the election, but I think there is a major flaw in his relying on this data: It’s based on the regular season and ignores the playoffs. The Ravens defense has played much better in the postseason — though yielding 35 to the Broncos, the Ravens held the Colts to nine points and the Patriots to 13. The 49ers, meanwhile, gave up 31 and 24 in their two playoff games.

Plus there’s this: Back in early January, Silver predicted the Super Bowl would be the Patriots vs. the Seahawks.