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A Markov Model of Football: Using Stochastic Processes to Model a Football Drive

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  • Goldner Keith

    (Northwestern University)

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    Abstract

    A team is backed into a 4th-and-26 from their own 25, down 3 points. What are the odds that drive ends in a field goal? In the 2003 playoffs, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles scoffed at such a probability as they converted and ultimately kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime. This study creates a mathematical model of a football drive that can calculate such probabilities, labeling down, distance, and yard line into states in an absorbing Markov chain. The Markov model provides a basic framework for evaluating play in football. With all the details of the model—absorption probabilities, expected time until absorption, expected points—we gain a much greater situational understanding for in-game analysis.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.

    Volume (Year): 8 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 1-18

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    Handle: RePEc:bpj:jqsprt:v:8:y:2012:i:1:n:9

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    Web page: http://www.degruyter.com

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