Saturday, January 26, 2013

Super Bowl Squares: Fair Value

It's a Super Bowl tradition that goes back further than I can remember. Families gather together and risk their love for one another for the sake of winning a prize: the Super Bowl Squares game.

The game is fairly simple. A 10x10 checkerboard is signed by the initials of everyone who wants to play in the game- the wager is usually a couple dollars here or there- until the whole board is filled. Once all the names are signed, digits 0-9 are drawn randomly and filled out on the top and on the side of the board, with each set of numbers representing the score of one of the Super Bowl teams.

The goal is to have the game's score at the end of each quarter match up with your square. Imagine you have signed up and were randomly assigned the squares Ravens 4, 49ers 7. You hope is that the score at the end of each quarter is some variation of Ravens X4 - 49ers X7. That means you can hope for the score to be Ravens 4, 14, 24, 34, etc, and for the 49ers to put up 7, 17, 27, 37, etc. If you match up the score with your square, you win a prize; if you don't match, you lose and wait until the next quarter of play ends and hope for the best.

Got it?

Well, clearly not all squares are created equal. Some games will have automatic prizes for peoples assigned 2-2, 5-5, and 8-8 due to the lack of chance that the score will result in those matches at the end of each quarter of play. Is that fair? We'll see.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why the Patriots Want a Fullback

The New England Patriots have brought offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels back into the fold and he has been trying to incorporate the fullback position into the offense for the entire off-season. The Patriots have tried Spencer Larsen, Tony Fiammetta, Eric Kettani, James Develin, and now Lex Hilliard. They've historically utilized linemen, like Dan Connolly, Donald Thomas, and Ryan Wendell, at fullback, and even defenders like Dane Fletcher. Last year, they tried one of the better fullbacks of the past decade, Lousaka Polite. The Patriots have been churning through players at the position and it leads to the question: Why the heck do the Patriots, a pass-first team, want a fullback so badly?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Defending the Jaguars and Anger

The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised the public when they grabbed punter Bryan Anger in the third round. Anger was considered the best punting prospect, so it wasn’t a shock that he was the first one taken, but the fact he was taken so early earned the scorn of the general public. Specialists are typically left until the end of the draft due to their perceived limited every-down contribution. Well, the pick isn’t a bad one, if he’s as good as he’s expected to be. In fact, it’s actually a very good one.

Very few punters are taken so early in the draft- the most recent being the successful Dustin Colquitt. More recently, Anger has drawn comparisons to Zoltan Mesko. Should Anger live up to those comparisons, he could develop into a top 10 punter in the league. That’s a considerable improvement when the Jaguars ranked in the bottom 5 of punting statistics last season (31st in average punting yards, 28th in net punting yards, 3rd in total punts).

Anger averaged 45 yards/punt in college and has great skill in placing the ball away from the returnman. He’s still growing and can continue to add strength to his leg. As he stands, he would add 3-4 yards/punt over the Jaguars’ last season average. If he continues to grow to match Colquitt or Mesko, his benefit to the Jaguars should roughly be 5 yards/punt and should bring the Jaguars punting unit into the top 10 of the league. Should.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sportfolio Management: Football Freakonomics

I'm not going to lie; I've had this project in the back of my mind for a couple of years. The past few football seasons, I've dedicated my time to writing at Pats Pulpit, one of the leading Patriots fan blogs on the internet, but now I feel like turning another chapter in my life as a fan of the NFL.

A little bit about myself: I'm born and raised in the Boston area, went to high school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and went on to graduate college at Boston College while triple majoring in Finance, Operations, and Leadership. I've always been a Patriots fan, but I never felt the bite of the football bug until my sophomore year in college. It was the season that Tom Brady returned from his knee injury and I really started focusing on the team and how the Patriots were able to become such a successful franchise. Additionally, I was smitten with power rankings and started to apply really broad statistics to try and deduce which team had the best chance to win the Super Bowl.

There was no real foundation to my claims. I weighted winning percentage with point differential, while giving bonus points for beating top teams and subtracted points for losing to bottom feeders. At the end of the season, my rankings almost matched reality for playoff seeds and I was inspired to continue my work. Of course, with such a heavy emphasis on winning percentage, the playoff seeds should have definitely aligned with my projections- but don't tell me that three seasons ago.

Over the years, I've developed my knowledge of the game and have created a deep respect for the calculus behind constructing an NFL roster. Clearly I had an advantage as one of the best minds in the NFL- Patriots coach and GM Bill Belichick- was in my headlights, yet my curiosity grew. How are good teams built? Why do bad teams remain bad? I wanted to examine the flesh and bones of rosters to determine the best way to build a team.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How to Draft a Quarterback

Back in 2010, I took a class called “The Business of Sports” where I was asked to write a paper on any sports subject that I wanted. Naturally, I decided to write something about football. Looking around the league, it was interesting to see how many teams have drafted quarterbacks that do not pan into NFL successes. Quarterbacks like JaMarcus Russell flame out, while Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn never get a chance. Other players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady thrive. What’s the reasoning? Is there some way of predicting NFL success by just looking at college success?

It turns out, yeah, there’s a way of determining a quarterback’s potential success. Others have already written on the subject and they’ve done a pretty solid job of evaluating this subject. However, I wanted to come up with a new metric, so I came up with a 100 point scoring system, based on 5 qualifications. When I wrote the paper, I hadn’t fully ironed out my scoring system, so some of my numbers have changed, but the point still remains on the prospects.

The paper is over 20 pages. It’s copied and pasted from Microsoft Word so it might have an odd format, but it’s all after the jump. Be ready. I hope you enjoy reading!

Jaguars Should Sell on MJD

I'm a huge fan of the Jaguar's Maurice Jones-Drew. He's a bowling ball with the nose for extra yards. He can run the ball, he can catch, and he can block in the backfield. He has carried the Jaguars for many years and he's looking for a new contract, as he has two season left on a five year deal he signed in 2009. At just 27, MJD is in the peak of his career and is looking to cash in since running backs are known for breaking down after 30. He has been holding out of camp as he looks for more money- the contract he signed was front loaded- and now he is demanding a trade. The Jaguars are left with a decision to make, but the answer is clear: they should sell while they still can.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Value of Demps

The New England Patriots signing of former Florida running back and Olympian Jeff Demps will have a clear impact on the Patriots return game, should Demps make the roster. The Patriots did not have a consistent return game in 2011 as running back Danny Woodhead was asked to shoulder the load. He was largely ineffective and, likely impacted by the new kick-off marker, was the one of the returnmen with the least impact in the Belichick era.

Over the seasons, the Patriots have been largely mediocre in the return game, although they have always managed to find a talented returnman who provided either depth or starting quality on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.