Stats Made Easy

Practical Tools for Effective Experimentation

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fantasy football stats tracked with great interest -- $100s of millions worth

Tomorrow night my Minnesota Vikings kick off their National Football League season against their biggest rival – the Green Bay Packers of our neighboring State of Wisconsin. Dubbed the “Border Battle,” this game creates a civil war where I live – only a few miles from the line where Packer-mania runs rampant. I will watch the game with my son-in-law, who hails from Wisconsin and bleeds Packer green. Neither one of us is shy about rubbing in a victory by our favorite club, which will no doubt be the Purple, due to the hated Packers being without Brett Favre at quarterback.

However, with the huge interest in fantasy football, many fans pay more attention to stats than the game outcomes. In some cases they end up rooting against their home team and for an opposing player that could earn them significant prize money in a fantasy league. A year ago, the Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson (“AP”) broke out with a single-game NFL rushing record. CNBC Sports Biz blogger Darren Bovell estimated that fantasy team-owners who picked up AP earned $600 million from his stellar 2007 season.

For my chapter on “Extrapolation Can Be Hazardous to Your Health” in RSM Simplified, I analyzed quarterback sacks – a component in most fantasy scoring systems (more the better for your defensive team). Based on attributes collected for 167 defensive players in the 2002 season who got at least one sack, my regression analysis predicted that the ideal sacker would be a 7-footer, weighing only 100 pounds, who will produce over 60 sacks per year! These fanciful figures, generated by applying statistical tools incorrectly (that was my point!), better describe an overgrown Velociraptor than a human being (except possibly for famed Cowboy sacker Ed “Too Tall” Jones).

Who knows – this could be the shape of things to come via genetic engineering done for the sake of sports. Meanwhile, I am banking on our new Purple People Eater -- 2007 sack leader Jared Allen, who is very tall at 6’-6,” but weighs an appreciable 270 pounds. I’d put him up against a Velociraptor (provided he gets to wear all his football gear – helmet and all!).


  • At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think a helmet would fit the velociraptor.


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