The Impact of EPA on Making Super Bowl Predictions


In recent times there has been an explosion in the popularity of some metrics. The xG and xGA stats were brought into the picture, which is a predictive measure of how many points are likely to be scored or conceded by a team, based on the quality of chances. Expected points have been a huge new buzz-term in sports and it takes a phenomenal amount of factors into consideration, like the field position and distance of where a shot on goal is taken from.

While this has been the cool, hip new stat for bettors hitting sportsbooks at NFL Super Bowl 57 betting sites, an equivalent metric had likely already been looked at for predictions. That’s the EPA (Expected Points Added), but what were the key takeaways from this metric in the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory over the Eagles in 2023?

Expected Points Added

For those not familiar with the EPA stat, let’s break it down. The EPA sets a predictive value on how likely the team playing offense is to score, and there’s a defensive variation for the defending team’s ability to shut down points. The EPA can apply to both overall team performance and to individuals.

On top of that, EPA is continuously re-evaluated, it’s not just a one-time static pre-game stat. After every play, the EPA numbers are crunched, depending on things like the field position of the attacking team, what down they are on and what the current clock time is at.

Kansas City Bossed The EPA Offense

During the 2022 NFL regular season, the Kansas City Chiefs were well ahead of the rest of the pack in the EPA per-play stat on offense. It was simply dominant from them, and perhaps therefore, it was no surprise that Patrick Mahomes led them to the title.

The Philadelphia Eagles had the third-best EPA-per-play record of the regular season (with the Bills sandwiching Kansas and Philly). So overall the EPA was very informative with predictive outcomes.

Don’t Forget The Defense

The Eagles were far superior on defense compared to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Defensive EPA-per-play area during the season. While the ability to convert drives into points is a major indicator of success, the balance of defense has to come into the picture. At least a little bit, as the defensive EPA doesn’t carry quite as much predictive weight to it.

A bit of balance is the key. The further along the x-axis (Offensive EPA) that a team is, combined with where they sit vertically on the y-axis (Defensive EPA) is a massive predictor of how well a team is shaping up as a Super Bowl contender during the season.

Success in the NFL is rarely built on just one aspect. New England for example had fantastic Defensive EPA numbers in the 2022 season, bettered only by San Francisco. But they were little more than average Super Bowl contenders at best because of their poor Offensive EPA.

Where Did Tampa Fall?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a slightly improved offensive EPA but still ended the season negative in the offensive EPA stat. They were below the median line when both defensive and offensive metrics were married.

But the Buccaneers clinched the divisional title though, right? Yes, but as the EPA predicted, only narrowly as the Saints and Panthers had tracked along very similar EPAs, while the Falcons just tanked with the second-worst defensive EPA of the entire NFL and were never a major threat.

The Bucs bowing out in the playoffs to Dallas was therefore not a major surprise. Dallas had one of the best defensive EPA stats in the entire NFL and at the end of the regular season were also well ahead of Tampa Bay in the offensive EPA department as well.

Back To Super Bowl LVII

Sliding back to Patrick Mahomes at the 2023 Super Bowl he produced a staggering 0.45 EPA/Drop Back which is the metric for a QB’s ability to pass and scramble. Since the turn of the century, only Tom Brady and Nick Foles produced a higher EPA-per-Drop Back which was 0.47 at Super Bowl LII.

Remarkably in the second half of the 2023 Super Bowl, the hobbling Mahomes took his individual EPA-per-play up from a poor 0.17 in the first half to 0.70 in the second. That was in the face of bigger pressure compared to what he had been under in the first half.

 The EPA has many factors built into it. It’s a truly fascinating area and one that NFL bettors should start incorporating for their future NFL predictions. For the Bucs, the stats from last season are clear, they were predicted not to score enough points to make a Super Bowl run, and they didn’t.

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