Sharon Machlis

Super Bowl data point: All wins aren't equal

January 31, 2014 6:18 AM EST

When the 12-4 Patriots went to Denver for the AFC Championship game, it was arguably a fairly even match. New England had beaten the Broncos in the regular season, and the Broncos' record was just one better at 13-3.

But it turns out all wins aren't created equal.

Yes, the Patriots beat the Broncos, but that was when the Pats were at home. On the road, not only was New England just 4-4, but it turns out they didn't beat a single team that ended up over .500 away from Gillette Stadium.

So that got me wondering about this weekend's two Super Bowl teams and their identical 13-3 regular-season records. How many of those wins were against tough teams? And could either defeat tough challengers away from their home stadiums?

This is admittedly a somewhat inexact science -- for example, beating the Packers while Aaron Rodgers was out was likely an easier victory than after he came back, regardless of the Packers' final record. But graphing opponents' final records does give a little more data than simply "13-3."

Here are your dataviz details:

Denver Broncos 13-3 record

Seattle Seahawks 13-3 record

It turns out that Denver was 4-3 against winning teams this year, including a respectable 2-2 record on the road. And almost half of their wins came against teams that were at least .500 for the season. And Seattle was also 4-3 against winning teams and 2-2 on the road. While the Seahawks didn't play anyteams to finish at exactly 8-8, they did have four wins against teams that ended up 7-9 (including the St. Louis Rams, whose two of nine losses came at the hands of Seattle.)

And despite the reputation that both teams have for huge home-field advantages, it turns out that both were 6-2 on the road.

Conclusion? If this data matters in determining whether teams are roughly equivalent, it could be a close game Sunday.

This data was collected, analyzed and graphed using R (the R Project for Statistical Computing) and several add-on R packages. It's not particularly elegant, but if you're interested, you can see the R code used for this blog post on the next page.

Update: It turns out the data point that mattered was the Seattle Seahawks' number-one-ranked defense. 

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