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

By Wayne Winston | Go to book overview

18
WHAT MAKES NFL TEAMS WIN?
N FL teams want to win games. Is it more important to have a good rushing attack or a good passing attack? Is rushing defense more important than passing defense? Is it true that turnovers kill you? During the early 1960s statistician Bud Goode studied what makes a team win. He found that passing yards per attempt (PY/A) on both offense and defense were the most important factors in predicting an NFL team's success. This is intuitively satisfying because PY/A is more of a measure of efficiency than total yards passing. Since we divide by pass attempts, PY/A recognizes that passing plays use up a scarce resource (a down).Using team statistics from the 2003–6 season we will run a regression to try to predict each team's scoring margin (points for — points against). The independent variables used are listed below. All our independent variables will prove to have p-values less than .05. (See file NFLregression.xls.)
 • Team offense PY/A. We include sacks in pass attempt totals, and yards lost on sacks are subtracted from yards passing. • Team defense- passing yards per attempt: (DPY/A). We include sacks in pass attempt totals, and yards lost on sacks are subtracted from yards passing. • Team offense rushing yards per attempt (RY/A). • Team defense rushing yards per attempt (DRY/A). • Turnovers committed on offense (TO). • Defensive turnovers (DTO). • Differential between penalties committed by team and penalties committed by its opponents (PENDIF). • Return TDs—return TDs by opponent (RET TD) (includes TDs scored on fumbles, interceptions, kickoffs, and punts).

Again our dependent variable for each team is total regular season Points For—Points Against.

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