Adam Levitan

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Super Bowl Hangover?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I don't believe in such a thing as a "curse," especially when it comes to football. I do, however, believe in trends.

When a running back rushes 370 times or more in a season, he isn't cursed to have a poor encore -- he is simply worn down and more susceptible to injury. If a player is on the cover of Sports Illustrated, there is no hex on him -- we just notice it more when something bad happens to a star player that was playing well enough to be a cover boy.

The same thing can be said for the idea of a "Super Bowl hangover." All athletes are prone to natural statistical regressions after doing something great.

Ask Chris Johnson about that. After running for 2,006 yards on a 5.6 yards per carry average in 2009, he managed "just" 1,364 rushing yards this season. It isn't necessarily because Johnson didn't run as well, or his 2k season was a fluke. It's just that the multitude of factors that fell into perfect place during his magical campaign are unlikely to ever come together at the same time again.

The same can be said for the extraordinary feats from the 2010 season. It would be unrealistic to think that Jamaal Charles' 6.4 yards per carry can be duplicated, along with Dwayne Bowe's 15 receiving touchdowns. I love both players, but we have to be prepared for a natural statistical regression. Understanding that paying a premium for last year's outlier stats is a bad idea is the first step toward better drafting.

Now, let's get back to that "Super Bowl Hangover." Yes, it is true that teams often come back to earth after Super Bowl runs. This trend especially applies to losers in the big game.

A couple years ago, I looked specifically at how quarterbacks who lost in the Super Bowl fared the following year. The updated results: Over the last 17 years, just two quarterbacks (Jake Delhomme 2004 and Peyton Manning 2010) were better from a fantasy perspective the year after their loss. What does that mean for Ben Roethlisberger? Well, considering he only played in 12 games this season, he is a great bet to improve on this year’s QB17 rank. But is some type of hangover possible? History answers that with an emphatic yes.

Let's look at Super Bowl regression from a team perspective. Here are the total points scored for the last 20 Super Bowl participants. Listed first is the number of points scored in the Super Bowl season. The second number is the encore.

2010 Steelers 375
2011 Steelers ???

2010 Packers 388
2011 Packers ???

2009 Colts 416
2010 Colts 435

2009 Saints 510
2010 Saints 384

2008 Cardinals 427
2009 Cardinals 375

2008 Steelers 347
2009 Steelers 368

2007 Patriots 589
2008 Patriots 410

2007 Giants 373
2008 Giants 427

2006 Bears 427
2007 Bears 334

2006 Colts 427
2007 Colts 450

2005 Seahawks 452
2006 Seahawks 335

2005 Steelers 389
2006 Steelers 353

2004 Eagles 386
2005 Eagles 310

2004 Patriots 437
2005 Patriots 379

2003 Panthers 325
2004 Panthers 355

2003 Patriots 348
2004 Patriots 437

2002 Raiders 450
2003 Raiders 270

2002 Bucs 346
2003 Bucs 301

2001 Rams 503
2002 Rams 316

2001 Patriots 371
2002 Patriots 381

2000 Giants 328
2001 Giants 294

2000 Ravens 333
2001 Ravens 303

The units that improved from a points scored perspective are in bold. As you can see, seven of the 20 Super Bowl participants managed to put up more points the year after playing in the championship. It's not an overwhelming number, but it's a regression worth noting.

The bottom line is that logical thinking suggests an improvement offensively for both Super Bowl participants next year. The Packers will be getting back Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant, while the Steelers will have Roethlisberger for the whole year. But if they don't reach expectations next year, don't blame it on a curse. Many times, these things just happen naturally.

Adam Levitan is in his seventh season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
Email :Adam Levitan

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