For those that are new visitors this year, here’s a quick description of what we’re all about.
A few years back, I was reading one of those websites that purports to power-rank sports teams based off of every single in-game stat in the book. And, being a Broncos homer, I was peeved that the Broncos were ranked so low.
My gut-based thought – completely lacking in any evidence and data – was that wins aren’t always linked to stats. Sometimes it’s heart! And guts! Or the intelligence of a team’s scheme – sometimes they just play the matchup game better. But really, I was just thinking about how it all comes down to wins and losses, and damn the rest of the data.
The advanced ranking schemes pay attention to a lot of data – all the data except for wins and losses. So my perverse idea was to do the inverse. Focus only on wins and losses.
Turns out there are other schemes that also only pay attention to wins and losses – they use big words and probability and math and statistical theory.
I decided to use graphs. Here’s how the idea came about.
I started graphing the NFL season based off of one simple rule – if a team beats another, you draw a line from the winner to the loser. The End.
Soon, you start seeing long sequences of wins and losses – The Broncos beat the Steelers, who beat the Patriots, who beat the Giants — oh wait, they didn’t beat the Giants. Anyway, those sequences of wins become what I call a beatpath.
Now, early in the season, you see sportswriters try in vain to structure their own power rankings by always having teams ranked ahead of other teams they’ve beaten.
But soon, you notice that contradictions start appearing. Every year, there’s some silly article over in college football land about how Captain Doohickey Tech is better than Ohio State, since they beat Team A, who beat Team B, who beat Team C…. who beat Team X, who upset Ohio State back in week 2. When you know just as well that Ohio State has demolished someone who has in turn demolished the Raiders, I mean, Captain Doohickey Tech.
That contradiction is called a beatloop.
And so we, that is the Royal We, not to be confused with Eddie Royal, worked out a system to resolve these beatloops and come up with automatic power rankings. And surprisingly, it’s ended up weirdly accurate. Well, sometimes just weird. But a hell of a lot of fun.
Every week I’ll post graphs that are a snapshot of the NFL season so far. And the automatic power rankings that come from the graph. And we’ll be continuing to discuss ways to tweak the algorithm – commenters often come up with variants to the algorithm that might even be more accurate. And we’ll have arguments about whether the beatpath algorithm is actually predictive (when it’s doing well), or merely descriptive of the season so far (when there are lots of upsets). And there will probably be some subtle Broncos homerism littered throughout, until someone calls me out on it.
Welcome to the site (redesign coming soon!), and enjoy your stay!