Wolfram Alpha Offers Some Data for Super Bowl XLVIII

Don Quixote

Which football team will win the Super Bowl this weekend? That’s a multi-million-dollar question, given the amount of cash people will bet on either the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos to win.

Fortunately, Wolfram Alpha (the self-billed “computational knowledge engine”) can analyze the historical statistics for both teams and throw out some potentially useful numbers.

Developed by Stephen Wolfram and based his Wolfram Research’s Mathematica analytical platform, Wolfram Alpha is an altogether different search engine from Bing or Google, which generally return pages of blue hyperlinks in response to queries. Instead of multiple results leading to still other Webpages, Wolfram Alpha usually returns set of definitive, numerical answers. (A lengthy rundown of the engine’s capabilities is found on its “About” page.)

So how does Wolfram’s engine, which features sophisticated algorithms chewing through trillions of pieces of data, break down the potentials for Sunday’s game? Out of the 38 times the two teams have met on the field, the Broncos have triumphed 25 times (versus 12 wins for the Seahawks), scoring 98 total touchdowns to the Seahawks’ 84. It’s definitely advantage Broncos, in that sense:

But the teams’ percentages are fairly close with regard to total yardage, penalties, penalty yards, and other metrics, although the Seahawks have managed to nab more interceptions (47, versus the Broncos’ 37):

As any sports fan knows, however, there’s a significant element of unpredictability to games (which is one of the reasons they’re fun, after all). Wolfram Alpha can crunch all the historical data it wants, and that data can suggest one team will likely triumph over another, but there’s always the likelihood that something random—a freak injury, or a tweak to the player lineup—can change the course of the game in ways that nobody can anticipate. Also, given how player and coaching rosters vary from year to year, the teams taking the field can change radically between meetings.

Those who want to see Wolfram Alpha’s analytics for themselves can head to the Website and type in, “football games with Denver Broncos versus Seattle Seahawks” or similar query. Just remember that, as always, historical performance can be a pretty poor predictor of current results. Check out how well Wolfram Alpha predicted last year’s Super Bowl.

 

Image: David Lee/Wolfram Alpha

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