NFL Playoffs: Washington Has a Lot of Similarities to Recent Surprise Super Bowl Runs

Dec 26, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates 22 yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed (86) against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Playoffs: Washington Has a Lot of Similarities to Recent Surprise Super Bowl Runs

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NFL Playoffs: Washington Has a Lot of Similarities to Recent Surprise Super Bowl Runs

The NFC has three strong contenders to win the Super Bowl in Carolina, Arizona, and Seattle. That will come as no surprise from watching this year. Then, if recent history is an indication, there could be one surprise team lurking. Yeah, I’m just as shocked as you.

Using the “expected points added” on offense and defense available at pro-football-reference.com going back to the 2000 season, I whipped up similarity scores for this year’s teams. I separated it by passing and rushing expected points on offense and defense, along with total expected points and win total. I then list the 12 most similar teams (irregardless of seeding/getting a bye) for this year’s playoff participants.

Carson Palmer

It should be no surprise that Carolina and Arizona, two balanced teams that are proficient at passing and with good defenses, rate very highly. Both have had 5 of their 12 comparable teams reach the Super Bowl, easily the most of any of this year’s playoff participant. They are the safest picks to reach the Super Bowl and win it.

Seattle has to come out of the 6 seed by winning three games on the road, and that difficulty is likely reflected in the slightly lower chance of advancing. Still, three of the Seahawks comps reached the Super Bowl, including the two teams to make runs out of a wildcard berth (Pittsburgh 2005 and Green Bay 2010).

The NFC North teams do not fare well in this analysis. 10 of the 12 Vikings’ comps lost their first playoff game, most in the Wildcard Round. The Packers’ comps went 3-9 in the playoff opener and none even reached so far as a championship game.

Kirk Cousins Redskins Tampa

Surprisingly, it is Washington who bears the resemblance to three teams that came out of 9 or 10 win seasons and mediocre overall regular season efficiency stats to make runs. The 2011 version of the Giants, along with the 2008 Cardinals team that reached the Super Bowl with Kurt Warner, and the 2012 Ravens, show up on the list. Without giving too much away, Washington’s comps actually won more playoff games than any of the comparable groups of teams for the AFC playoff contenders.

The full list of comparable teams is below:

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Carolina Panthers Playoff Comps 2015

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Arizona Cardinals Playoff Comps 2015

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Minnesota Vikings Playoff Comps 2015

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Washington Redskins Playoff Comps 2015

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Green Bay Packers Playoff Comps 2015

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Seattle Seahawks Playoff Comps 2015

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