News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

‘Go ’Hawks!’ and predicting the NFL

As you might know, on September 20, Week 2 of this National Football League (NFL) season, the NFL fined Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll $100,000 for violating the league’s new COVID-19 mask policy. His response is indicative of his intellect, enthusiasm, and professionalism.

According to media, Carroll said he wasn’t upset at the fine. Rather, Pete was upset with himself — that he didn’t do better. “‘I know it’s important to wear masks. Sometimes you’ve just got to be reminded. Sometimes you’ve got to get coached up.’” (As of December 27, only two Seahawks players had been placed on the COVID-19/Injured Reserve list since the NFL’s reporting began on July 26. Only Washington performed better with one reported incident.)

Coach Pete Carroll, the NFL’s oldest head coach at 69 years old, lives up to his “coached up” advice.

Pete knows and implements winning processes and now leads his Seahawks to their ninth playoff opportunity in 11 seasons. Carroll intuitively knows his team’s loss and wins thresholds. That is, if we score X amount of points, what is the probability of losing or winning?

In other words, what is an NFL team’s ability to win any football game? For instance, if they score X amount of points, will they win? Or lose? Calculating point thresholds are virtually guaranteed to predict whether they will win or lose.

To interpret the table, the Buffalo Bills will lose 100 percent of the time if they score 12 or fewer points. Also, they will win 100 percent of the time if they score 32 points or more.

Last year, I presented NFL score/outcome data, going back to the 2017 season. Seven teams’ results were presented in the December 2019 article.

That analysis’s accuracy was an overall whopping 99.4 percent. Data was from 45 games for each team, starting with Week 1 of their 2017 seasons. I wrote this performance/process was statistically sustainable and predictable (Column A).

The amount of points is the only factor in this extremely strong model. No consideration is made for home-field advantage, opponents’ season records, day/night game, injured reserve lists, etc. These latter factors are statistically insignificant over the longterm.

With COVID-19-related practices enacted and associated turbulences, most teams’ predictability went down (Column B) when including games from the 2020 season. The last 19 games for these teams dropped the accuracy by 2.1 percent — still highly consistent and predictable.

Just because a team has a higher ratio doesn’t necessarily mean it wins more games. Instead, it is an indicator of losing games — scoring fewer points established via the low (loss) threshold and winning games by exceeding the high (win) threshold. Column C averages the two different data points for each team. Column D shows regulation games won over the four seasons. Playoff-bound Buffalo (38) and Seattle (42) have the stronger performance factors in Column E over other teams; as well as better rankings by ESPN (Column F). Finally in Column G, statistical analysis company, FiveThirtyEight, assesses Super Bowl-winner probability for Buffalo (14 percent) and Seattle (4 percent).

Buffalo is extremely consistent, with Seattle very strong. Each is clearly more competitive than the other listed teams.

So, what about the Seahawks’ score/outcome performance for the past two seasons? And their consistency and predictability? As written in prior articles, we will derive averages and standard deviation.

Some key statistics from the Seahawks’ past two seasons:

This season, while they increased wins and average points per game, the Seahawks were less consistent. In the left chart below, 2019-2020 season, the loss games per Table A’s defined thresholds (red dots). In the 2020-2021 season (right chart), the Seahawks had losses when they scored 34 points (Weeks 7 and 9).

The three Seahawks’ seasons had three, distinct points scored/outcome phases:

1. “Let Russ Cook!” in the first five games; 2. “What Gives with the Offense/Defense?”; and 3. “Putting It Together Again!” in the last four games.

The left chart below (2019-2020) shows greater consistency; although the season’s points per game somewhat lower. The ’Hawks seem to be putting it together and are playoff competitive.

With all this in mind, Pete’s emphasis of learning, excellence, consistency, and “following the process” will hopefully be on display in this weekend’s playoff game versus the Los Angeles Rams. Cannot wait until this Saturday!

Per Pete’s connected-at-the-hip pupil, quarterback Russell Wilson, who ends each press conference: “Go ’Hawks”.

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