Super Bowl Sims (1/29/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Super Bowl Simulations – Which quarterback is better, Tom Brady or Russell Wilson in their second Super Bowl? What would happen if Brady were suspended because of Deflate-Gate? Would Seattle have any hope without Lynch in the big game?

Brady (Super Bowl XXXVIII) or Wilson (Super Bowl XLIX)

Tom Brady is a three-time Super Bowl winner looking to join Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl rings. Russell Wilson has won more games through the first three years of his career than any other quarterback in NFL history.

Which signal caller is better? To answer this question let's compare apples to apples by looking at each quarterback leading up to their second Super Bowl appearance.

In 2003-04, Brady's fourth year in the league, his third year as a starter, the future two-time MVP winner completed 60.2% of attempts for 3,620 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Brady finished the regular season in the top ten in passing yards and touchdowns among quarterbacks.

This season, leading up to Wilson's second Super Bowl, the Seahawks' captain completed 63.1% of his passing attempts for 3,475 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Wilson did not finish in the top ten in completion percentage, passing yards or passing touchdowns.

Of course Wilson's real value is generated outside the pocket. His 849 rushing yards this season are the fifth most all-time for a quarterback. Wilson has averaged 7.2 yards-per-carry, which leads the NFL among qualified rushers.

Which quarterback is better?

We are projecting Seattle to defeat New England in Super Bowl XLIX. Russell Wilson leads the Seahawks to a victory 57.3% of the time by an average score of 23.5 – 20.3.

To determine which quarterback is better heading into their second Super Bowl, we took Brady from Super Bowl XXXVIII and put him under center for the Seahawks in this year's title game.

After 50,000 simulations, with Brady in his second Super Bowl on the Seahawks, Seattle wins 51.8% of the time by an average score of 22.2 – 21.4.

From these simulations we can determine that Russell Wilson is worth 2.4 net points more at this time in his career than Tom Brady from more than ten years ago.

Brady Suspended because of Deflate-Gate

The NFL has hired a lawyer to investigate Deflate-Gate. Top investigator Ted Wells said it will take “at least several more weeks” before any conclusions are drawn, which means punishments for the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick and/or Tom Brady are unlikely to occur before Super Bowl XLIX.

But what if Roger Goodell dropped the hammer on the Patriots and suspended Tom Brady for the Super Bowl before the investigation was complete?

In a Brady-less Super Bowl, New England would get rolled. With backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo starting for the Patriots, Seattle would win 75.5% of the time. An increase in expected win probability by nearly 20%. The Seahawks would cruise to a double digit win, average projected score 26.3 – 15.8.

"I'm just here so I won't get fined"

Marshawn Lynch spent media day, or the approximate five minutes he attended, answering each question he was asked with a variation of “I'm just here so I won't get fined.” Lynch has been fined $120,000 since the start of the regular season for violations of the league's media policy as well as on-field incidents (crotch grabs).

Lynch could face additional fines from media day as the NFL mulls whether the Beast Mode hat the Seahawks running back wore was in violations of league rules.

What would happen if Lynch were suspended from the Super Bowl, whether for media day violations, crotch grabs or other disruptions? If we are going to simulate the Super Bowl without Brady because of Deflate-Gate, we might as well see what happens with Lynch on the sidelines.

In a Super Bowl without Lynch, the Seahawks (still) win. Seattle would win the Super Bowl 51.2% of the time by an average projected score of 22.3-21.9. Lynch is worth 2.8 net points to Seattle in the title game.

Reports earlier in the season indicated that Lynch's days in Seattle were numbered because of dissatisfaction with his contract. If Lynch and the Seahawks were to part ways, the current iteration of the team would still be very competitive with Robert Turbin and Christine Michael at running back.