With the 2013 Super Bowl less than two weeks away, Johns Hopkins math expert Daniel Naiman has run the numbers. He has found that his favorite team faces tough odds, but also has an upbeat history on its side.
Naiman, chair of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, has analyzed National Football League “modern era” data from 1970, when the league was divided into two conferences, the AFC and the NFC.
Naiman has found that there have been 22 instances in which the AFC had a stronger season; among these, the AFC team won the Super Bowl 13 of those times, or 59 percent of the time. In 20 instances, the NFC had a stronger season, and its team won the Super Bowl in 14 of those years, a winning percentage of 70 percent.
What about the 2012 season?
The AFC’s Ravens will face off against the NFC’s San Francisco 49ers. In 2012, the NFC teams had their best year in knocking off AFC opponents since 1970, beating rival conference teams by an average of 5.6 points.
Does that mean the Ravens are doomed?
Not so fast, says Naiman.
The Ravens should not be counted out, he says, in part because of their recent underdog playoff victories against the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.
Beyond those wins, there is an interesting footnote from the first season of the modern football era, when, according to Naiman's review, the NFC appeared "super strong" in defeating its AFC rivals by an average of 7.8 points, the biggest such margin in the modern era. Nevertheless, the 1971 Super Bowl was won by Baltimore's AFC team at the time, the Colts, who clobbered the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13.