National Football League
History backs Ravens as title favorites
National Football League

History backs Ravens as title favorites

Published Jan. 21, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

Of the four teams left in the NFL playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens seem by far the least likely to win the Super Bowl. But history says they should be the favorite.

No Super Bowl champion ever finished the regular season ranked worse than 25th in either total offense or total defense. Which disqualifies everybody but the Ravens.

The New York Giants ranked 27th in defense this season, while their opponent Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers, finished 26th in offense. The New England Patriots — the Super Bowl favorite — were 31st in total defense.

That leaves Baltimore — a touchdown underdog Sunday at New England — as the only team that meets the criteria. The Ravens finished third in total defense and, despite the struggles of quarterback Joe Flacco, 15th in offense. This makes Baltimore easily the most balanced of the four semifinalists.


The "no-worse-than-25th" statistic basically tells us that teams that are deficient on either side of the ball cannot win it all. Or, at least, that they could not in the past.

A few teams in recent years have challenged the streak. The New Orleans Saints won Super Bowl XLIV two years ago with the league's best offense and its 25th-ranked defense. And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the league's 24th-best offense when they won Super Bowl XXXVII.


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