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    Super Bowl Sims (1/28/14)

    John Ewing, Director of Research and Analytics, @johnewing
    By John Ewing
    Super Bowl simulations – Manning or Wilson – Who is better? Which team is better regardless of its quarterback - Broncos or Seahawks? What would happen if Richard Sherman did not play in the Super Bowl?

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    Manning (1999) or Wilson (2013) – Who is better?
     
    Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all time and Russell Wilson is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Comparing them at this point in their careers however does not make much sense. Instead let's compare the two quarterbacks during each of their respective sophomore campaigns.
     
    Manning has always been a prototypical passer. In 1999, his second year in the league, Manning completed 62.1% of his passes. That was second best in the NFL and at the time only seven quarterbacks topped the 60% mark. Wilson has completed a greater percentage (63.6%, 11th in NFL) of his passes in his sophomore season than Manning but 25 quarterbacks were over the 60% threshold this season.
     
    Of course Wilson is a dual threat averaging 33.7 rushing yards per game. Manning averaged just 4.6 rushing yards per game in his second season. Both quarterbacks have their advantages but what does the simulation say?
     
    We are currently projecting Seattle to win the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks win the Super Bowl 54.8% of the time by an average score of 23.8-21.5. To determine if Manning (1999) or Wilson (2013) is better we put Peyton in his sophomore year on the Seahawks and simulated the Super Bowl.
     
    After 50,000 simulations, with Manning in his second season on the Seahawks, Denver wins the Super Bowl 51.8% of the time by an average score of 24.0-23.1.
     
    This means that Russell Wilson in his second season is worth about 3 net points more in this game than Peyton Manning in his sophomore season. Note: this does not mean we are projecting Wilson to be better than Peyton Manning in his career.
     
    Which team is better regardless of its quarterback?
     
    To answer this question we added the current iteration of Peyton Manning to the Seahawks and played them against the Broncos with Manning at quarterback as well. In this simulation, the Seahawks (with Manning) win by score of 27.7-22.4. Manning this year is about 3 points better than Wilson in this game.
     
    In an average NFL game (faster pace) and against an average team (weaker defenses), Manning is worth about 4.5 points more than Wilson. Not that Manning needed it but this is just one more piece of evidence why he is the MVP this season.
     
    Should Richard Sherman Be Playing in the Super Bowl?
     
    We have all seen the rant, most talking heads seem to praise or denounce Sherman for his outburst. Rodger Goodell and the NFL fined Sherman for his unsportsmanlike conduct/taunting in the final minute of the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco that included making a choking gesture toward the 49ers bench.
     
    The fine was all that the NFL levied against the Seahawks cornerback. The question then isn’t should Richard Sherman be playing in the Super Bowl but rather, what would happen if he was not?
     
    We are currently projecting Seattle to win the Super Bowl. The Seahawks win 54.8% of the time by an average score of 23.8-21.5.
     
    Without Richard Sherman on the field, we would project Denver to win 54.0% of the time and by an average score of 24.5-23.4. This means that Sherman is worth about 3.3 points and +8.0% in expected win probability to this game.
     
    Having the best corner in the game is critical to Seattle’s chances of winning against the most prolific passer in NFL history.

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