Here’s a fun exercise. Remember back in high school calculus when you would find the peak of a curve by setting its derivative to zero? That’s a basic example of mathematical optimization. Regression is another, more complicated form of optimization. In regression we want to fit a line or curve so that the difference between the predicted values and the observed values is minimized. Simply put, optimization is finding either the maximum or minimum of a function, subject to a list of constraints.
Optimization is the hidden science behind much of the world around us. It’s how airlines know how to schedule routes, how politicians gerrymander districts, and how companies plan advertising campaigns. It’s also how sports leagues manage to build schedules to accommodate a dizzying myriad of requirements. Optimization is why we had to suffer through the Titans-Jaguars game Thursday night.
Let’s say we want to find the best-fitting set of team ratings that would explain the game outcomes so far in the season. What we can do is start out with an assumed set of team ratings. Anything is fine, but let’s start with a rating of zero points for every team. Then we can list each game and its net score result (home score – visitor score - 3). We’ll subtract 3 because that’s the value of home field.
Mike Sando, national NFL reporter for ESPN returns to the podcast to recap his list of the best and worst offseason player acquisitions. Mike and Dave discuss the challenges of building a roster through veteran acquisitions, and review Mike’s picks for 2015 NFL MVP. They look at which coaches are on the hot seat, and debate which potential coaching vacancies present the best opportunities for success. The episode ends with a deep dive into Mike’s daily work covering the NFL. He provides Dave some detailed pointers on how he watches live and televised games in order to learn the most about…
Live playoff probabilities are back. I’m breaking my resolution to only work on the ‘useful to teams’ subset of the football analytics Venn diagram because this was such a fun project last year. If you recall, AFA featured live updates for each teams’ chances of making the playoffs and advancing through each round, all the way to the Super Bowl. Fans of MIA, PIT and BAL might remember (and rue) this graph of the moment-by-moment chances their teams would win the last AFC wildcard slot in week 17. SD defied all odds and snagged it.
The playoff probabilities are updated as the games progress…
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Brian Burke is back for the final AFA podcast of the 2014-15 NFL season. Brian and Dave discuss the Patriots deflated ball controversy with a quick recap of high school physics before analyzing the key analytical storylines of Super Bowl XLIX.