Super Bowl 2012: Ranking the Numbers in the Squares Pool
Football is a numbers game.
Certain numbers come up more frequently than others in football scores. That's the idea behind the Super Bowl squares pool.
If you've never played a square before, here's how it works.
You choose a square on a grid. When all the squares are filled, each square is randomly assigned two numbers, one for the AFC team and one for the NFC team.
Using Super Bowl XLVI as an example, you might get "Giants 6, Patriots 9" or "Giants 7, Patriots 4" or "Giants 0, Patriots 2."
The pot is divided by quarters. At the end of each quarter, the winner is the one whose numbers are the last digits of the score.
If you have "Giants 0, Patriots 0" and the game is scoreless after one quarter, you win the first quarter. If you have "Giants 7, Patriots 4" and the final score is Giants 17, Patriots 14, you win the fourth quarter.
Winning the fourth quarter usually earns the most money. Halftime normally is the second-largest prize.
If you know football, you know 7s and 3s are good numbers to get, and 5s and 8s aren't so great. But have you ever really thought about 0-9 stack up one through 10?
That's why I'm here.
I did some research, used a super-secret point system and came up with a ranking.
I looked at every Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXIX, which is the first Super Bowl in which two-point conversions were an option. That diversifies the scoring patterns a little.
I also looked at every New York Giants and New England Patriots game this season, and placed a little weight on their regular-season meeting against each other.
If you're new to football, you should find this article helpful. Even if you know football, my number-crunching revealed a couple of surprises.
Having any of these numbers is reason to shout for joy like the Green Bay Packers' Greg Jennings did in Super Bowl XLV, even if none of these digits are in his uniform number.
It's one of the oldest jokes in the book.
Someone says he'll bet you money that he can guess the score of the game before it starts. You shake hands on the bet, and the shyster says "0-0." Of course that's the score of the game "before it starts."
That's why zero is the best number to get in the Super Bowl squares pool. If you draw a zero, the game starts on at least one of your numbers. Not only that, but when the Super Bowl XLVI participants met in Week 9, they played one of only two scoreless first halves during the regular season.
There's never been a Super Bowl shutout, but any number ending in zero is common in football scores, whether it's a low-scoring game or a high-scoring game.
A little bit of a math lesson here.
Seven can be a tricky number to multiply. It's not a convenient number. It's an odd number. It's the largest single-digit prime number.
You've heard of six-packs, but have you ever heard of seven-packs? People just don't think in terms of sevens.
Except for football fans.
You can pretty much assume seven points when a touchdown is scored. That makes seven common in single-digit form. Add in a field goal here and there, and any number ending in seven is common. That makes seven just as versatile a number as zero, except for the fact that unlike zero, the game doesn't start with sevens on the scoreboard. That's why seven is second and not first.
Despite being nearly impossible as a single-digit occurrence, four is the third-best number you can get in the Super Bowl squares game.
Safeties are rare enough. To get four points, a team needs two safeties. Not going to happen.
However, beginning with 14, any number ending in four is quite common in football scores.
No. 1 is No. 4. This is the first surprise in the rankings.
One is impossible as a single-digit occurrence. The only scoring play in football worth one point is the extra point, and a team needs to score a touchdown before attempting an extra point. It's rare for a team to score 11 points, as that involves either a safety or a two-point conversion.
Not until you get to 21 does one become common as the last digit in football scores. This makes one a better number to have later in games.
Because the prize structure in these pools usually gives the biggest prize to the contestant with the final-score digits, my point system put more weight on final scores. One is a good final-score number to have, which is why it moves ahead of three in the rankings.
My best guess regarding why three isn't ranked higher is that teams good enough to get to the Super Bowl don't like to settle for field goals.
The Giants and Patriots both have good kickers. So there could be a lot of field goals.
Drawing any of these numbers might be reason to react like the Pittsburgh Steelers' Hines Ward did here in Super Bowl XLV.
Six is the ultimate not-as-good-as-you-think number.
Six is common in single-digit form, but for that to happen in Super Bowl XLVI, one of these high-powered offenses is going to have to struggle in the red zone. A score of 16 is fairly common, but 26 and 36 aren't quite as frequent.
For nine to be a winner, you need a lot of field goals (Super Bowl XLVI is indoors, so that might help) or a safety/two-point conversion needs to come into play.
In the two-point conversion era, four Super Bowls have ended with one team's final score ending in nine. This includes the Patriots' 32-29 win over the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Patriots led that game 14-10 at halftime and after three quarters before things got wacky in the fourth quarter.
Eight is more likely to help you later in the game than earlier in the game.
Super Bowl XLVI has shootout potential, so a 28 or a 38 is plausible.
For eight to occur in single-digit form, you need a safety or a two-point conversion. Since teams don't normally go for two-point conversions until the fourth quarter, it would have to be a low-scoring game for a team to arrive at eight points on a two-point conversion.
Five is a maligned number for good reason, but in my research I have found that it's not the worst number to get.
The Packers provided the number some salvation in three of their four championships. They beat the Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I. Thirty years later, they beat the Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI and then inverted the numbers in beating the Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.
A safety is necessary for five to happen as a single-digit occurrence. Only six Super Bowls have included a safety.
The high-scoring potential of Super Bowl XLVI makes five more likely at 35 or even 45.
The worst Super Bowl ever was the infamous Speed Limit 55, Broncos 10 game in Super Bowl XXIV. Five came up in that game because the 49ers missed an extra point, which you can't count on happening.
This is the worst number to get.
We've talked about the rarity of safeties, which is the only way two can occur as a single digit. To get 12 points, a team might need to settle for four field goals. Not likely with Tom Brady and Eli Manning running these offenses. The only other way to get to 12 would be to miss an extra point or get a safety.
Even though the Patriots scored 32 in Super Bowl XXXVIII, 22 and 32 aren't very likely, and this would have to be a real air show for one of these teams to get to 42.
If you drew two in your pool, find another pool and hope for better numbers.