Where Do the 2014 Seahawks and Patriots Rank Historically?
Since 2000, 478 different teams have played full seasons on an NFL gridiron. Some were great -- we'll never forget the undefeated (regular season, of course) 2007 New England Patriots. Some were not so great -- remember the winless 2008 Lions?
To reach the Super Bowl, you almost have to be more like the '07 Patriots than the '08 Lions. (Unless you're the Carolina Panthers.) That seems to be the case this year, as both New England and Seattle, one seeds, will face off in the big game.
We know both teams are good. This year, New England's defense ranked sixth in the league in terms of Net Expected Points (NEP), while the offense was second. Seattle's defense was one of the best, while the offense finished sixth.
You can't get much better than that.
Well, maybe you can. We have a metric we use at numberFire called nERD, which tells us the number of points a team would be expected to win by on a neutral field against an average team. A squad with a nERD of, say, 9.00 would be expected to beat an ordinary team by nine points on a neutral field. If the opposition had a nERD of 2.50, the expected point differential in the game would be 6.50.
In 2014, the Seahawks ended the regular season with a nERD of 8.95, the best in the NFL. New England's was a close 7.68.
Like I said, we've seen 478 different NFL teams compete since the turn of the century -- over the last 15 years. How do these nERD scores compete?
If you consider this logically, we've seen 30 Super Bowl teams since 2000, counting this season. You would expect, then, for these Super Bowl representatives to at least rank close to the top 30 in nERD. Sure, some teams make the Super Bowl when they're not very good, but the Patriots and Seahawks are both one seeds. They're good.
They're just not as good as you might think. Seattle's 8.95 nERD ranks 30th since 2000 -- according to our numbers, last year's Seattle team was 1.74 points better.
What's more shocking is that New England's nERD is 50th. Within the Patriots' history since the turn of the century, this is actually New England's eighth-best team. It just goes to show how dominant they've been over the last 15 years, considering eight of their 15 teams are top-50 ones.
From strictly a nERD perspective -- and, for the record, this isn't the end-all to our game projections, especially because this value can change in the playoffs -- we'd expect a 1.27-point Super Bowl game. It's going to be close.