Sports pundits across the country have been comparing the so-far unbeaten 2007 New England Patriots to the perfect 1972 Dolphins all year. A New York cardiologist has used the scientific statistics used in large-scale medical trials to determine which of the two teams is superior.
Using a format and approach typically reserved for the cardiovascular therapy studies he writes and reviews, Dr. Jonathan Sackner-Bernstein, a Food & Drug Administration advisor and the Chief Medical Officer at Clinilabs, a clinical research organization in New York, compares the 2007 New England Patriots and the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Sackner-Bernstein was able to draw conclusions by analyzing the two teams' performance relative to their peers in categories that reflect their relative dominance: total offensive and defensive points and yards. Game-by-game performance for the 2007 Patriots and 1972 Dolphins was adjusted to be relative to all of the games played in each respective year, and then those results were compared directly.
In statistical terms, the performance statistics were normalized to the median values. A second analysis further adjusted the two for the basis of comparison, by using the opponents' winning percentage to normalize the scores and yardage.
Sackner-Bernstein's data showed a statistical trend in favor of the Patriots as the better offensive team, scoring more than a touchdown more per game than the Dolphins. However, to counteract the offensive prowess of the Patriots, the '72 Dolphins defense gave up 50 percent fewer points than the '07 Patriots, giving the Dolphins a slight edge. The teams both enjoyed greater net yardage than their opponents by almost the same amount ('07 Patriots +123 yards vs. '72 Dolphins +124 yards).
Using the jargon of medical science, none of the differences noted were statistically significant. In the end, the statistical data show that, provided the Patriots win the Super Bowl, there is no evidence of statistical superiority of either team over the other.
"As a lifelong Dolphins fan, I acknowledge that I was really hoping the data would show that the 1972 Dolphins were superior to the 2007 Patriots," said Dr. Sackner-Bernstein. "Unfortunately, this analysis of the data doesn't lie -- the only way for that to happen now is for the Giants to give the Patriots a notch in the loss column."
Dr. Sackner-Bernstein continued, "It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the two teams beyond the statistics that were analyzed. Players these days are not only bigger, stronger and faster, but there have been changes in the rules for blocking and pass defense that make direct comparisons between the two teams arbitrary."
The full statistical analysis of the '07 Patriots and '72 Dolphins is available to read and includes further insight into parameters, omitted statistics and additional notes of interest. As a cardiologist, Dr. Sackner-Bernstein has made his analysis available on a Web site for cardiovascular health care professionals, theheart.org, at http://www.theheart.org/article/840959.do.