Why the 2005 Steelers Help Predict Super Bowl XLVII

Big Ben's Super Bowl XL can hold the key to seeing whether Flacco or Kaepernick follow in his footsteps.

Try bringing the 2006 Super Bowl between the Steelers and the Seahawks up to a Seattle native. I'll wait.

Do the new scratches on your face hurt? Seahawks fans are still a little bit testy about the officiating in that game, but the Steelers fans don't mind the Starbucks-fueled hate: they got yet another ring. Behind Willie Parker's 75-yard touchdown run and Hines Ward's 123 receiving yards, the Steelers were able to pull it out 21-10 in the Ford Field battle.

But now, seven years later, why do I still care about a game between the Seahawks and Steelers? This is the 49ers and Ravens; it might be a law by now that Big Ben's not allowed within 1,000 feet of an angry Ray Lewis. But as it always is, the answer's in the numbers.

Just like we do every Sunday for the games in our numberFire premium product, we've run the numbers to find which historical games dating back to 2000 best match Super Bowl XLVII. But even better than that, we've determined which past Super Bowls can help predict what's happening on the field this Sunday.

Crunching the Numbers

The idea behind our numbers doesn't take an advanced math degree, or else I'd be in trouble. But to find the most similar Super Bowls, you'll have to follow me through a numbers-filled maze.

First, we take the spread. As it stands currently, the 49ers are four-point favorites. This helps us predict a winner against the spread later on when we compare the Ravens and 49ers to the teams playing way back when.

Then, we take the advanced analytics from these teams and match them up as best as possible to their historical counterparts. For example, the 2012 49ers' tenth-most comparable team from the past dozen years is the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, which they match with 91.7 percent similarity. In this step, we rely heavily on our Net Expected Points (NEP) figure, which measures a team's efficiency in gaining or losing points as compared to the league-average.

TeamOff. Total NEPOff. Pass NEPOff. Rush NEPDef. Total NEPDef. Pass NEPDef. Rush NEP
2012 49ers133.32107.2930.21-46.2811.74-66.51
2005 Steelers66.3884.24-19.88-74.69-15.55-61.44

Since the passing and rushing totals are adjusted for each opponent, and there aren't an equal number of passing and rushing plays in each game, the figures won't add up exactly. And since passing is much more efficient than rushing in today's NFL, you'll often see teams both gaining more NEP on the offensive end and allowing more NEP on the defensive end through passing than rushing. A negative figure means that a team has gained (or allowed) fewer than the league average.

Among the top 25 most comparable teams to the 49ers since 2000, there are two Super Bowl champions: those Big Ben-led '05 Steelers (No. 10 comparable) and the unstoppable '04 Patriots that came directly before them (No. 19 comparable). For the Ravens, there is only one Super Bowl champion in their top 25: the came-from-nowhere Patriots of 2001 (No. 8 comparable).

From there, we take the similarities between the two teams in Super Bowl XLVII, compare it to the historical game, and easier than Paula Deen making a butter-filled dessert, we've got our similarity score.

The Results

And when we go through those steps, what do we find? It's that if you want to figure out what's going to happen on Sunday, your best bet is popping in that Super Bowl XL game tape for a spin.

RankSeasonWinnerLoserFinal ScoreSimilarity %2012 Prediction ATS

No, that's not a typo: the Packers/Steelers Super Bowl XLV is on there twice. In comparable game No. 2, the Ravens are the most similar team to the Packers (86.9 percent). But since they also have a high similarity to the Steelers in that game as well (84.4 percent), the two sides switch and the 49ers become the predicted winning side for game No. 3, just with a lower similarity.

But overall, no Super Bowl can top the 2005 match between the Steelers and Seahawks. As mentioned above, the '05 Steelers have a high similarity to the '12 49ers, as they are a 91.7 percent match. But this year's Ravens team is pretty similar to the '05 Seahawks as well, coming in at an 82.9 percent match. Ravens fans have to hope that the similarity isn't too high however, seeing as the Seahawks would only score 10 points in that game against Pittsburgh's tough defense.

But that's why they play the game. You can never completely know who's going to take it home on Sunday, but through the power of numbers, we can provide a solid basis for your estimate.