Bears win tonight, system says

Statistical model shows numbers are on Chicago's side

Super Bowl

February 04, 2007|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

John Dewan throws his life's passion and a traditionalist's approach into predicting the winner of the Super Bowl each year.

What he came up with this year is a Chicago Bears upset victory over the seven-point favorite Indianapolis Colts.

His passion is numbers, and his approach follows the adage that defense wins championships.

Forget for a moment that Dewan, a 52-year-old fellow of the Society of Actuaries, is a native of Chicago, and remember that he has correctly predicted the winner in 14 of the past 16 Super Bowls.

"There's some luck involved and there's not a large sample size," Dewan said. "[But] my system has worked. I believe that defense wins championships."

Sixteen years ago, Dewan devised a 12-point modeling system - based on regular-season statistics of the two Super Bowl teams - to pick a winner.

The only two games he missed were the New England Patriots' win over the St. Louis Rams after the 2001 season and the Denver Broncos' win over the Atlanta Falcons after the 1998 season.

The 12 categories are divided into five defensive statistics (covering yards and points allowed), four offensive (yards and points scored) and three team figures (including turnover and point differential).

Each category by itself can predict the winner in a range of 55 percent (rushing yards) to 71 percent (points allowed).

The Bears had the advantage in nine categories, the Colts in only two. There was one tie - for points scored; amazingly, the Bears scored as many points (427) as the Colts this season.

One curiosity of the predictors is fewer net passing yards. "The team that relies less on the passing game typically wins," Dewan said. "That's the Bears."

Dewan has applied his system to all 40 Super Bowls for some interesting results.

For instance, since 1981, there have been 11 straight wins by teams that allowed 50 or fewer points than their opponent. This season, the Bears allowed 105 fewer points than the Colts.

The unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only Super Bowl team that had the edge in all 12 categories. The 1985 Bears had the edge in 11 of the 12.

Dewan acknowledges the contrast in quarterbacks - Peyton Manning of the Colts and Rex Grossman of the Bears - represents his system's biggest risk.

"The risk is that Peyton could have a tremendous game," Dewan said. "The way I look at it is, it's more likely for a defense to be consistent than for a quarterback to be consistent."

Dewan is owner of Baseball Info Solutions, a company in Bethlehem, Pa., that does statistical work; the co-founder of Stats Inc.; and author of The Fielding Bible, a baseball book that ranks fielders.

He also has a Web site at www.statoftheweek.com. ken.murray@baltsun.com

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