Pursuit of Perfection

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Beyond the Rankings: More Analysis of the Best of the Decade Formula

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After the big first day for my formula being unveiled to determine who the most successful franchise of the 2000’s was (and where the other 31 teams ranked), I’ve had the opportunity to revise numbers, compare results, and generally mull over the statistics that I gathered to put together the initial rankings in the first place.

Following that trend, I decided to analyze particular statistical trends among the 32 National Football League teams and try to see if there were any connections between these bits of data and the overall ranking for “Best of the 2000’s”.  If you’re interested in seeing the numbers crunched and munched even further, read on.

One of the more “controversial” differences between my formula’s results and the rankings put up by USA Today was the 6-spot differences in the placement of the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos; my formula placed the Raiders 6 spots higher than USA Today’s did and their rankings had the Broncos 6 spots higher than my formula did.

Looking at the numbers for the 2000’s, there is no comparison between the Raiders and Broncos when it comes to regular season victories; Oakland had 62, one of the lower totals of the decade, while the Broncos had a strong 93, placing them in the Top 10 in regular season record.  The major difference between the teams that saw the Raiders end up 16th and the Broncos end up 19th (separated by less than a full point) was that Oakland had a Super Bowl appearance and 3 AFC West Division Titles while the Broncos did not make the Super Bowl and had only 1 AFC West Division Title with 3 AFC Wild Card berths.

The first statistical breakdown I would like to analyze is number of Super Bowl wins in the 2000’s, just as a starting point.  To avoid wasting space below, I will only include teams that actually won the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Winners of the 2000’s

  1. New England Patriots — 3 Wins — Overall Rank: 1st
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers — 2 Wins — Overall Rank: 2nd
  3. Indianapolis Colts — 1 Win — Overall Rank: 3rd
  4. New York Giants — 1 Win — Overall Rank: 5th
  5. Baltimore Ravens — 1 Win — Overall Rank: 6th
  6. New Orleans Saints — 1 Win — Overall Rank: 7th
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 1 Win — Overall Rank: 8th

Analysis: As should be expected, the teams that won Super Bowls in the decade find themselves in the Top 10 of the rankings overall.  The only hiccup here is that 4th-ranked Philadelphia did not win a Super Bowl (though they made an appearance) and they found themselves ahead of the Giants, Ravens, Saints, and Buccaneers by virtue of a strong regular season record and solid playoff runs.  Even though a team like Tampa Bay did not have a consistent decade, their status as a Super Bowl Champion propels them into this elite realm for the decade on the whole.

Progressing onward, the next statistical breakdown is to look at Super Bowl appearances in the 2000’s.

Super Bowl Appearances of the 2000’s

  1. New England Patriots — 4 Appearances — Overall Rank: 1st
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers — 2 Appearances — Overall Rank: 2nd
  3. Indianapolis Colts — 2 Appearances — Overall Rank: 3rd
  4. New York Giants — 2 Appearances — Overall Rank: 5th
  5. Philadelphia Eagles — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 4th
  6. Baltimore Ravens — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 6th
  7. New Orleans Saints — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 7th
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 8th
  9. Seattle Seahawks — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 9th
  10. Carolina Panthers — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 11th
  11. Chicago Bears — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 15th
  12. Oakland Raiders — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 16th
  13. St. Louis Rams — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 17th
  14. Arizona Cardinals — 1 Appearance — Overall Rank: 20th

Analysis: Unlike the list of Super Bowl Winners, belonging to the list of 14 teams that made the Super Bowl in the 2000’s is not a free pass to the top of the heap.  The 10th (Packers), 12th (Titans), 13th (Chargers), 14th (Vikings), 18th (Jets), and 19th (Broncos) rankings are held by teams that did not make a Super Bowl appearance.  As a result, it is clear that even though Super Bowl appearances have significant weight–a team needing to have won multiple playoff games to reach the Super Bowl–the formula is not blindly set up to place teams with Super Bowl appearances above all others.  Indeed, the Rams and Cardinals are in the bottom half of the league ranking, and the Bears and Raiders just barely make the top half.

Moving to the next progression, I wanted to investigate what effect multiple Division Titles had on the overall ranking.  Again, this list is limited to teams that actually won Division Titles in the 2000’s.

Division Titles of the 2000’s

  1. New England Patriots — 7 Division Titles — Overall Rank:  1st
  2. Indianapolis Colts — 6 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 3rd
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers — 5 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 2nd
  4. Philadelphia Eagles — 5 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 4th
  5. San Diego Chargers — 5 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 13th
  6. Seattle Seahawks — 4 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 9th
  7. Green Bay Packers — 4 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 10th
  8. New York Giants — 3 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 5th
  9. New Orleans Saints — 3 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 7th
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 3 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 8th
  11. Tennessee Titans — 3 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 12th
  12. Minnesota Vikings — 3 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 14th
  13. Chicago Bears — 3 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 15th
  14. Oakland Raiders — 3 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 16th
  15. Baltimore Ravens — 2 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 6th
  16. Carolina Panthers — 2 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 11th
  17. St. Louis Rams — 2 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 17th
  18. Arizona Cardinals — 2 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 20th
  19. Dallas Cowboys — 2 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 21st
  20. Miami Dolphins — 2 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 23rd
  21. Cincinnati Bengals — 2 Division Titles — Overall Rank: 27th
  22. New York Jets — 1 Division Title — Overall Rank: 18th
  23. Denver Broncos — 1 Division Title — Overall Rank: 19th
  24. Atlanta Falcons — 1 Division Title — Overall Rank: 22nd
  25. San Francisco 49ers — 1 Division Title — Overall Rank: 25th
  26. Kansas City Chiefs — 1 Division Title — Overall Rank: 28th

Analysis: Let those results marinate for a bit; that means that of 32 teams in the league, 26 different teams won at least 1 Division Title during the 2000’s.  That’s over 80% of the teams in the National Football League having at least one stellar year in the 10-year span.  Of those 26 teams, 14 had 3 or more Division Titles.  However, this analysis also reveals that the formula used here does not over-value Division Titles either; see San Diego, ranked 5th in number of Division Titles won in the 2000’s but only 13th Overall due to playoff disappointments.  Consider the Ravens, who placed 15th of the 26 Division Champions for the 2000’s but ended up in 6th place Overall thanks to playoff success.  And though those controversial Raiders and Broncos are separated by less than a point overall, the Raiders are 14th among Division Champions while the Broncos are 23rd.

When the original analysis to produce my rankings for the NFL in the 2000’s was released, it was quickly pointed out to me that the formula was leaning too much on postseason success; despite my attempts to balance the regular season and playoff results equally.  After making the decision to award 0.10 points for every regular season game a team won during the 2000’s, I was able to arrive at my more complete results that are currently on the blog page.  However, I did not rank the teams based on how many regular season games they won during the decade; this changes now.

Regular Season Victories in the 2000’s

  1. Indianapolis Colts — 115 Wins — Overall Rank: 3rd
  2. New England Patriots — 112 Wins — Overall Rank: 1st
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers — 103 Wins — Overall Rank: 2nd
  4. Philadelphia Eagles — 103 Wins — Overall Rank: 4th
  5. Green Bay Packers — 95 Wins — Overall Rank: 10th
  6. Denver Broncos — 93 Wins — Overall Rank: 19th
  7. Baltimore Ravens — 92 Wins — Overall Rank: 6th
  8. Tennessee Titans — 91 Wins — Overall Rank: 12th
  9. New York Giants — 88 Wins — Overall Rank: 5th
  10. San Diego Chargers — 85 Wins — Overall Rank: 13th
  11. Minnesota Vikings — 84 Wins — Overall Rank: 14th
  12. New Orleans Saints — 83 Wins — Overall Rank: 7th
  13. Seattle Seahawks — 82 Wins — Overall Rank: 9th
  14. Dallas Cowboys — 82 Wins — Overall Rank: 21st
  15. Chicago Bears — 81 Wins — Overall Rank: 15th
  16. New York Jets — 80 Wins — Overall Rank: 18th
  17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 79 Wins — Overall Rank: 8th
  18. Carolina Panthers — 79 Wins — Overall Rank: 11th
  19. Miami Dolphins — 79 Wins — Overall Rank: 23rd
  20. Jacksonville Jaguars — 76 Wins — Overall Rank: 24th
  21. Atlanta Falcons — 75 Wins — Overall Rank: 22nd
  22. St. Louis Rams — 71 Wins — Overall Rank: 17th
  23. Washington Redskins — 70 Wins — Overall Rank: 26th
  24. Kansas City Chiefs — 70 Wins — Overall Rank: 28th
  25. San Francisco 49ers — 68 Wins — Overall Rank: 25th
  26. Cincinnati Bengals — 68 Wins — Overall Rank: 27th
  27. Buffalo Bills — 66 Wins — Overall Rank: 29th
  28. Oakland Raiders — 62 Wins — Overall Rank: 16th
  29. Arizona Cardinals — 62 Wins — Overall Rank: 20th
  30. Cleveland Browns — 57 Wins — Overall Rank: 30th
  31. Houston Texans — 49 Wins (in 8 seasons) — Overall Rank: 31st
  32. Detroit Lions — 42 Wins — Overall Rank: 32nd

Analysis: With 80 wins out of 160 played in the decade being the .500 mark, half the league was at over .500 and the rest had losing records on the decade.  For the most part, the ranking in number of regular season games won matches up pretty well against the overall rank received with the playoff information and seeds factored in through the formula.  There are, of course, notable differentials (teams whose ranks differ by more than 5 places between regular season and overall results), which can be explained most often by playoff performance given the number of playoff appearances:

  • Green Bay Packers — 5th in Wins, 10th Overall — Reason: Playoff Performance (3 Playoff Wins in 6 Appearances)
  • Denver Broncos — 6th in Wins, 19th Overall — Reason: Playoff Performance (1 Playoff Win in 4 Appearances)
  • New Orleans Saints — 12th in Wins, 7th Overall — Reason: Super Bowl XLIV Win (5 Playoff Wins in 3 Appearances)
  • Dallas Cowboys — 14th in Wins, 21st Overall — Reason: Playoff Performance (1 Playoff Win in 4 Appearances)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 17th in Wins, 8th Overall — Reason: Super Bowl XXXVII Win (3 Playoff Wins in 5 Appearances)
  • Carolina Panthers — 18th in Wins, 11th Overall — Reason: Super Bowl XXXVIII Appearance (5 Playoff Wins in 3 Appearances)
  • Oakland Raiders — 28th in Wins, 16th Overall — Reason: Super Bowl XXXVII Appearance, Division Titles (4 Playoff Wins in 3 Appearances)
  • Arizona Cardinals — 29th in Wins, 20th Overall — Reason: Super Bowl XLIII Appearance (4 Playoff Wins in 2 Appearances)

After this extended analysis of the numbers, it should be quite clear as to why certain teams “appear” to be ranked higher than they “should be.”  In the running examples of Raiders versus Broncos that I’ve pursued in this analysis, though the Raiders won far fewer games, they also won more Division Titles and had more playoff victories in fewer playoff appearances.  That’s the NFL for you: any given Sunday.

This is why, when deciding upon the “Best Team of the Decade,” it is important to let statistics speak for themselves.  The 2000 season feels a whole lifetime ago, it seems (particularly due to the fundamental shift in culture after the 9/11 attacks that are still fresh in the minds of Americans), and it is easy to forget teams like the Raiders who were dominant to begin the decade before falling apart in later years.


Written by Brian Parker

February 17, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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