Thursday, December 24, 2015

In the AFC, Strength of Victory Could Determine the Postseason

Professional sports tiebreaking procedures tend to be an exercise in multiple redundancy. In the NFL, to break a tie within a division, there are 12 potential steps, starting with head to head record, progressing through divisional and conference records, strength of schedule metrics, various scoring margin measures, and ultimately culminating in step 12, a coin flip.

In a previous analysis, I found that this tiebreaking system was sufficiently redundant. Based on 10,000 simulations of the 2013 season, I found that there was just a 0.01% chance of the 8th tiebreaker, net points scored and allowed, needed to break a tie. That left a 3 tiebreaker buffer before the last resort coin flip was needed.

With just two weeks remaining in the 2015 regular season, we are still in no danger of a coin flip determining the postseason participants. However, there does appear to be a good chance that both the AFC North and AFC South will need one of the more esoteric tiebreakers to determine their respective division winners.

The AFC South

According to my simulations (derived from my betting market rankings), there is a 20% chance that the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts will finish the season with the same regular season record. And here are the respective probabilities for which procedure will be needed to break that tie:
  1. Head to Head - 0.0% (Colts and Texans split in the regular season)
  2. Division Record - 6.7%
  3. Record against common opponents - 0.0%
  4. Conference record - 0.0%
  5. Strength of victory - 13.2%
  6. Strength of schedule - 0.1%
  7. Net points scored and allowed in conference - 0.1%
Strength of victory, in case you were wondering, is the combined win/loss/tie percentage of the teams you beat. As it turns out, this is the most likely tiebreaker needed in the event of a Colts-Texans tie. And there remains the slightest of chances things will have to progress to strength of schedule, or even net points in conference.

The AFC North

The Bengals currently have a two game lead on the Steelers, but there is an 8% chance they will finish with the same record (in the event the Bengals drop their final two, and the Steelers win out). If that happens, there appear to be only two possible tiebreaker outcomes:
  1. Head to Head - 0.0% (Colts and Texans split in the regular season)
  2. Division Record - 0.0%
  3. Record against common opponents - 0.0%
  4. Conference record - 0.0%
  5. Strength of victory - 7.7%
  6. Strength of schedule - 0.2%
  7. Net points scored and allowed in conference - 0.0%

2 comments:

  1. Love the rankings.

    Your simulator must be having some hiccups (perhaps with the tiebreaks?) as Kansas City's division odds are being seriously underrated.

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    1. Thanks for the heads up. Correction should run with tomorrow's rankings. Stupid error on my part where all the London games were getting dropped in the simulation.

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