There are few NFL teams that are truly unique. Most teams follow a certain template and fit a historical archetype. The ground-and-pound teams. The all-offense, no-defense teams. The teams that ride a hot run into the playoffs in December. The good-not-great teams that sneak into the postseason thanks to an easy schedule.
We went looking for which archetypes fit the eight remaining playoff teams, and identified a team going back to 1990 that was heavily similar. Of course, no two teams are exactly the same, and similarities in the past don't guarantee future results. So we're not going to tell you the Patriots are going to follow in their own 2011 footsteps by losing the Super Bowl just because they have a similar defense, and we're not going to tell you the Patriots are in trouble this weekend because the Titans are similar to the 1996 Jaguars. However, we can learn something here about each team's strengths and weaknesses and how those may come into play in the postseason.
I started out by comparing this season's playoff teams to past playoff teams based on their ranks in various splits of Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings. Then I sorted through the most comparable teams to find one that was particularly similar when it came to player experience and season narrative. Teams are listed in order based on their chances of winning the Super Bowl (as detailed here). At the end, just for fun, we also tossed on some similarities for the four teams that were eliminated on wild-card weekend.
Chances of winning Super Bowl: 29.2 percent
Most similar to: 2011 New England Patriots
Our first comparison is an absurdly obvious one. Both the 2011 Patriots and 2017 Patriots went 13-3. Both teams ranked in the top three of offensive DVOA and the top five of special teams DVOA. Both teams were near the bottom of Football Outsiders' defensive ratings -- the 2011 Patriots have the worst defensive DVOA of any team to ever make the Super Bowl -- but ranked much higher in conventional stats. The reasons, however, were different.