What Does It Take To Be a Champion?


It is very hard to predict who will the Super Bowl. In the NFL, a champion rarely is the best team regular season. Sometimes, the champion isn’t even the top two or three team in the league. In fact, the last time the team won the Super Bowl with the top regular season record was during the 2003 season by the New England Patriots.

Oftentimes, the regular season champion has significantly more wins than the Super Bowl champion.


This makes it extremely hard to determine which playoff team will win the Super Bowl. Every team, as shown by the graph, is as likely the next to win.

Many people try and say there is a formula to winning– that you need to be balanced, but there is really no way to predict the champion.

But there is one thing that is consistent with the last five Super Bowl winners– they were each flawed, but played their best football at the very end.

In 2011, the Giants had one of the worst total defenses in the league. They gave up an average of 376 yards and 25 points per game. But, in the playoffs, they held opponents to an average of just 14 points. They played teams with top-ten ranked offenses in three of those four games, including the second and third best offenses in the league, and still held them to no more than twenty points.

Their defense struggled mightily during the season, but they figured out a way to stop teams in the post season and win games.

Something very similar happened to the Steelers in 2008. They had the top ranked defense, but their offense was a mess. Their offense was ranked 20th in the league. Come playoff time, they elevated their play and averaged over 28 points—all against good defensive teams. It was more than enough points for their defense.


The Saints, Packers, and Ravens all did not go into the playoffs as a favorite to win either. Each was coming off devastating losing streaks. Going into the playoffs, New Orleans lost their last three games, Green Bay lost two of their last four, and most recently Baltimore lost four of their last five. Yet, all three of these teams managed to win either three or four straight against the NFL’s best to win the Super Bowl.

The only possible way to explain it is these teams were humbled by their mid-season woes and understood it would take their best effort each week to win a championship—so they naturally elevated their game.

But with that being said, the Saints and Steelers were still considered among the favorites to go to the Super Bowl, and there were also several other teams in the playoffs who also had similar woes, but did not earn playoff victories. Thus, there is really no way to explain it—no way to predict it. It is just that these teams elevated their games at the right time.

Now on to the question as to whether the Patriots can win it all. The one big difference between New England and all these other teams is that the Patriots are dealing with significant injuries. They lost their two defensive captains in Wilfork and Mayo and their second most important player on offense in Gronkowski. But, they haven’t had these guys (all three of them in fact) for the majority of the season. Despite that, they still have the third most wins in the NFL and are putting up some pretty good numbers.

From an analytics standpoint, there is really no reason to say that the Patriots cannot win the Super Bowl. As shown, the Patriots still have a pretty good offense with or without Gronkowski and a defense that isn’t bad enough to keep them from winning the championship.

Also, by looking at the other potential playoff teams in both the AFC and NFC, none of them are completely “unbeatable.” Even if they were, the team with the highest record hasn’t won the Super Bowl for ten years.

So folks, do not count the Patriots out. Even with all the injuries, they still may be able to win it all. They just need a to not get too confident, elevate their game come playoff time and get lucky.

It sure will be interesting to watch to see what happens.

Hunter Morancy

About Hunter Morancy

Hunter is a second year Journalism and Political Science major at the University of Maine. He was a varsity debate champion, a varsity baseball and tennis player, and was captain of my club ultimate frisbee team.