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Saturday, January 03, 2009


Football -- and particularly the NFL -- is a percentages game. The storylines coming out of this game will be manifold, but to me it was quite simple.

  • On the Colts side of the equation, they had the advantage in turnovers -- zero to the Chargers' two. That was huge for the Colts, and they probably would not have been in the game without that advantage.

  • On the Chargers side, the Colts spent the entire game trying to start drives from what seemed like their own half-yard line. And we know that, when you have the ball far on your own end of the field -- even on first down -- your expected point value from the drive is negative: namely, the other team is still more likely to score than you are. So that was quite bad for the Colts.

  • But those two effects sort of canceled each other out in this game. The final tiebreaking probability push was the coin flip, which in the context of overtime is a fifty-fifty gamble where the winner gets a +10% increase in their chance of winning in an otherwise evenly matched game: the team that wins the coin flip wins the game roughly 60% of the time. (And the situation we had in this game, where one team wins the coin-flip and wins it without the other teams' offense taking the field, happens about 30% of the time.)
For the Chargers, two out of three ain't bad.

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