Archives for Football Freakonomics



Is the Analytics Revolution Coming to Football?

In the New Republic, Nate Cohn explores the small but growing role of advanced statistics in football. Projects like Football Freakonomics notwithstanding, the NFL isn’t usually thought of as a realm where stats hold all that much sway, in part because the game is so much more of a complex-dynamic system than, say, baseball. Here’s Cohn on one big change fans might notice if more coaches start relying on statistics:

The one place where fans could see analytics at work is in play calling, which also happens to be the place where analytics could impact the average fan’s experience of the game. The numbers suggest, for instance, that teams should be aggressive on fourth down, and that it’s better to go for first down with a lead in a game’s final minutes than to run the ball on third down to run out the clock. Yet even the teams with well-regarded analytics departments, including San Francisco and Baltimore, largely adhere to a conservative and traditional play calling approach: the coaches “just aren’t listening to them yet,” [Brian] Burke says. And the few coaches with a reputation for following the statistics, like New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, aren’t even close to as aggressive as the numbers would advise.  

Read More »



Football Freakonomics: How Do Players’ Body Clocks Affect Their Performance?

I have been lucky enough to visit the secret lair at the NFL’s headquarters where each year a crew of industrious people try to come up with an NFL schedule that pleases every team, player, TV network, fan, mayor, police department, religious official, and sports pundit in America.

This is of course impossible.

But they do try their best, and in today’s Times there’s a nice article by Judy Battista about how this year’s schedule was made by the NFL’s Howard Katz and his team.

After you look over the 2012-13 schedule, you might also want to take a look at the latest Football Freakonomics video we’ve done for the NFL Network. It considers the “body clock” factor on teams’ schedules: Read More »



Football Freakonomics Nominated for a Sports Emmy

I had a blast working with the NFL Network/NFL.com on our Football Freakonomics series this season, and now we’ve been nominated for a Sports Emmy in “Outstanding New Approaches, Sports Programming.”

I know it’s a cliché to say that it’s a thrill just to be nominated but holy cow, it really is! Especially when you see the other nominees in our category: CBS Sports, ESPN, NBC Sports, and another NFL Network entry. Read More »



Football Freakonomics: What Can Linsanity Teach Us About the Upcoming NFL Draft?

In his first six NBA starts, Jeremy Lin averaged 24.3 points and 9.5 assists while leading the Knicks to six straight wins. 

If those numbers were attached to someone like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, you wouldn’t bat an eye. But until a couple weeks ago, Lin was little more than roster fodder, an undrafted player already cut by two teams and about to be cut by his third. That’s when a desperate coach who had run out of able-bodied point guards threw him into the fire. The rest – for the moment, at least – is history.

Let’s be honest: the reason we’re hearing so much about Lin is because he was overlooked. This might lead you to think he’s a true anomaly, a great game-time athlete who somehow slipped through a pro sports league’s finely-tuned talent-scouting machine. But if you look closely at the NFL, you’ll find Jeremy Lins all over the place. Read More »



Football Freakonomics: The First Annual Dough Bowl Awards

Are you the kind of person who loves to hunt for undervalued stocks that are ready to pop? Or maybe you cruise tag sales and flea markets hoping to find an old stamp collection or oil painting that’s worth millions?

If so, you may like our latest Football Freakonomics episode. It’s called “Dough Bowl.” It is our tribute to the NFL’s best bargains, the players who lit it up this year for far fewer dollars than their counterparts. (We had a lot of help on this one, since it isn’t always easy to get good salary and cap-hit data. Big shout-outs to Scott Kacsmar and to Spotrac.com founder Michael Ginnitti; also: a big hat tip to the Ravens’ Domonique Foxworth for suggesting the idea.)

We put together an entire offensive and defensive roster of Dough Bowl stars: Read More »



Football Freakonomics: Tackling the Old Defense-Wins-Championship Cliche

We all know the cliché. Go ahead, put on your best John Facenda voice and say it with us:

DEFENSE. WINS. CHAMPIONSHIPS.

What’s that even supposed to mean? That defense is more important during the playoffs than the regular season? That defense is generally more important than the offense?

Or is the saying maybe the collective echo of some grizzled defensive coordinator in a long-ago championship game, trying to fire up his troops during halftime? “Men, you and I know that our teammates on offense are good men, tough men, talented men. And they helped get us here. But let me be clear, gentlemen: DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS!”

What’s that even supposed to mean? That defense is more important during the playoffs than the regular season? That defense is generally more important than the offense? Read More »



Are Super Bowl Ads Too Cheap?

The Super Bowl has by now become such an institution – it’s practically a second New Year’s Day – that just about everyone feels compelled to watch it, even if they don’t care one bit about football. One consequence of this fact is that the broadcast of the game (on NBC this year; it rotates annually among NBC, CBS, and Fox) has turned into an another event entirely: the most massive real-time advertising opportunity in history.

This has had a few linked effects: the price of the ads has risen ever higher; advertisers spend more time and effort making better ads; and the ads have gotten so good that a lot of people time their kitchen or bathroom breaks to the game action in order to not miss the ads. Read More »



Swallowing the Whistle: A Guest Post by Tobias Moskowitz

With the upcoming Super Bowl this Sunday pitting the Giants against the Patriots again (they last faced off in 2008), who could forget the most infamous play in Super Bowl history?  And in case you did forget, the image of David Tyree reaching back until he was nearly parallel to the field and snatching the ball with one hand and pinning it to his helmet has been either shown or referred to at least 150 times on ESPN and the NFL Network in the last week — and we’re still a week away from the game!

The play was extraordinary, no doubt about it, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of that play was something rather ordinary that happened well before Tyree made his remarkable grab (it was the last catch of his career by the way—one hell of curtain call!), something that is much more likely to be a factor in the upcoming game.  Read More »