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Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports

An official journal of the American Statistical Association

Editor-in-Chief: Mark Glickman PhD


SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.288
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.358
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.250

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ISSN
1559-0410
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A Markov Model of Football: Using Stochastic Processes to Model a Football Drive

Keith Goldner1

1Northwestern University

Citation Information: Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. Volume 8, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1559-0410, DOI: 10.1515/1559-0410.1400, March 2012

Publication History

Published Online:
2012-03-12

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.

Keywords: stochastic processes; football; markov chain

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