Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports
An official journal of the American Statistical Association
Editor-in-Chief: Steve Rigdon, PhD
4 Issues per year
CiteScore 2017: 0.67
SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.290
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.853
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.