Podcast Episode 27 - Mike Sando

It's an episode full of pivot tables and preseason predictions as Mike Sando, ESPN Insider, joins the show to discuss coaching tiers, predict breakout candidates and preview the upcoming NFL season. Mike shares his process for ranking and evaluating players and coaches, makes some predictions for the upcoming season and reveals his secret analytical weapon - a massive excel spreadsheet he uses to track every conceivable type of player data.

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Sneak Peek at WP 2.0

I've just completed the development, validation, and testing of the next-generation Win Probability model. It took the better part of the past 6 months. Despite many heartaches and frustrating turns, I'm really thrilled with the results. But as excited as I am to have this new tool, I'm also somewhat humbled by how inadequate the original model is in some regards.

As a quick refresher the WP model tells us the chance that a team will win a game in progress as a function of the game state--score, time, down, distance...etc. Although it's certainly interesting to have a good idea of how likely your favorite team is to win, the model's usefulness goes far beyond that.

WP is the ultimate measure of utility in football. As Herm once reminded us all, You play to win the game! Hello!, and WP measures how close or far you are from that single-minded goal. Its elegance lies in its perfectly linear proportions. Having a 40% chance at winning is exactly twice as good as having a 20% chance at winning, and an 80% chance is twice as good as 40%. You get the idea.

That feature allows analysts to use the model as a decision support tool. Simply put, any decision can be assessed on the following basis: Do the thing that gives you the best chance of winning. That's hardly controversial. The tough part is figuring out what the relevant chances of winning are for the decision-maker's various options, and that's what the WP model does. Thankfully, once the model is created, only fifth grade arithmetic is required for some very practical applications of interest to team decision-makers and to fans alike.

Podcast Episode 26 - Keith Goldner

Keith Goldner, AFA contributor and Chief Analyst at Numberfire, returns to provide some fantasy football wisdom. He dissects the different strategies for snake, auction and keeper league drafts, and explains how to incorporate risk management strategies when creating your roster. Keith and Dave also touch on daily fantasy games, and look at how to craft the optimal lineups for various league types. They close out the episode by highlighting the players to watch during the 2014 fantasy season.

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Podcast Episode 25 - Aaron Schatz

Aaron Schatz, founder of Football Outsiders, joins the podcast to discuss the newly released 2014 Football Outsiders Almanac. Aaron explains how he and his team developed a system to combine game film analysis with box score data to create their own advanced metrics.  He breaks down the difference between rate statistics and totals, and explains how the concept of “replacement level” is important in football. Aaron also provides team-by-team breakdowns and predictions, and finishes up the episode by conquering Dave’s “lightning round” of questions.

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Implications of a 33-Yard XP

The NFL is experimenting with a longer XP this preseason. XPs have become so automatic (close to 99.5%) that there no longer much rationale for including them in the game. The Competition Committee's experiment is to move the line of scrimmage of each XP to the 15-yard line, making the distance of each kick 33-yards.

Over the past five seasons, attempts from that distance are successful 91.5% of the time. That should put a bit of excitement and drama into XPs, especially late in close games, which is what the NFL wants. But it might also have another effect on the game.

Currently, two-point conversions are successful at just about half that rate, somewhere north of 45%. The actual rate is somewhat nebulous, because of how fakes and aborted kick attempts into two-point attempts are counted.

It's likely the NFL chose the 15-yd line for a reason. The success rates for kicks from that distance are approximately twice the success rate for a 2-point attempt, making the entire extra point process "risk-neutral." In other words, going for two gives teams have half the chance at twice the points.