Championship factors related to sports psychology were studied -- based on research with Dr. Jay Granat, psychotherapist. The results are based on championships going back several decades – and across major sports including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and professional tennis and golf.
Our work has shown that traits associated with hard work, focus on fundamentals, consistency, and minimizing errors can help to win championships. Indeed, these factors may be overlooked by many. Since our book, Who Will Win the Big Game came out in 2010, our published predictions based on these sports psychology "quant facts” have correctly predicted the winner of major sports events more than 60% of the time – while picking underdogs regularly. The results below are based on every Super Bowl ever played, since the first Super Bowl in January 1967.
Across all major sports, the numbers show that defense has a greater relationship with winning championships -- than offense. Defense is associated with hard-nosed, gritty work. Defense is typically more consistent – and interestingly, can overcome glitzy offenses - which may have "run up numbers" against weaker opponents. A large majority of Super Bowls (62%) has been won by the team with the better defense, measured by "points against." Both the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos have strong defenses, but Denver takes this category. Edge: Denver.
Champions need to execute at a high-level, while minimizing errors and mistakes. The quarterback, as the team’s offensive leader, has a major impact in determining championships. In particular, quarterback interceptions during the regular season are great predictors of Super Bowl success. The team with fewer interceptions during the regular season has gone on to win a majority of all Super Bowls. Cam Newton and the Panthers had a strong season -- leading the NFL in offense and points scored this year, while throwing just 10 INTs. Denver struggled at the quarterback position, throwing 23 INTs. Edge: Carolina.
Even with today’s high-powered NFL offenses, ball control remains one of the most important offensive indicators studied in both professional and college football. The team with a better running game, as measured by "average yards per rush," has won a majority of all Super Bowls. The Panthers edged Denver in this consistency category. Edge: Carolina.
Similarly, stopping your opponent’s running game is related to winning the big game. The team with the better rushing defense has a leg up in winning the Super Bowl. Denver led the league in this category during the regular season. Edge: Denver.
Big Game Experience and Summary
Denver appeared in the 2014 Super Bowl (although they were blown out by Seattle that year). Results have shown, however, that big game experience can be an indicator of success. This factor goes to Denver, tipping the "quant fact" scales in favor of Denver, 3-2. This will be another battle of offense versus defense. Since inception, the quant facts have won at a rate of more than 60% even while picking underdogs from time to time. For the 2016 Super Bowl, we are going with an underdog again! At the time of this article, Denver is a 6-point underdog.
Other Popular Articles
Super Bowl Square Pool Odds - By Quarter -- updated for 2016; VERY popular article
Original "Who Will Win" article(Wall St. Journal on 2010 Super Bowl)
Carlton Chin, a graduate of MIT, is a portfolio strategist and fund manager -- and has worked on sports analytics with sports organizations. Jay Granat is a psychotherapist and founder of StayIntheZone.com. They are authors of “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method” and have previously been quoted by the Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and ESPN.