# Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football

By Wayne Winston | Go to book overview

26
WHY IS THE NFL'S OVERTIME SYSTEM
FATALLY FLAWED?

When an NFL game goes into overtime a coin toss takes place and the team that wins the coin toss has the choice of kicking off or receiving. Since the overtime is sudden death, the team winning the coin toss invariably chooses to receive so they have the first chance to score and win the game. During the 1994–2006 seasons the team that received the kickoff in overtime won 60% of the games. It seems unfair that in NFL overtime the team winning the coin flip should have such a huge edge. In attempt to lessen the impact of the coin flip result on the game's outcome, the NFL recently proposed moving the kickoff from the 30- to the 35- yard line. This would give the team receiving the kickoff slightly worse field position and theoretically would decrease the chance that the team receiving the kickoff would score on the first possession. This should give the team kicking off a better chance to win the game. As we will see, a simple mathematical analysis (our model is a simplified version of Jones's model)1 indicates that it will be difficult to give each team an equal chance to win in sudden death if the overtime begins with a kickoff.

A Simple Mathematical Model
of Sudden Death Overtime

Let p be the probability that an average NFL team scores on a possession. Assuming that each team has a probability p of scoring on each possession, what is the probability that the team receiving the kickoff will win the game? During the regular NFL season, overtime games last only one quarter. If no team scores during the first overtime session, the game is a tie. This happens

1 M. A. Jones, “Win, Lose, or Draw: A Markov Chain Analysis of Overtime in the
National Football League,” College Mathematics Journal 35 (November 2004): 330–36.

-175-

If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

#### Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.
Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.
Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
• Saved book/article
• Highlights
• Quotes/citations
• Notes
• Bookmarks
Notes

#### Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

#### Cited page

Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football

Settings

Typeface
Text size
Search within

Look up

#### Look up a word

• Dictionary
• Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 358

## Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

## Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

## Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.