Predicting Parity: Part 6 (Points of Parity)

Anyone who follows football knows how big a part of the game that parity is. One team can be good one year and bad the next and vice versa for seemingly no reason. This series, called Predicting Parity, seeks to discover why that is and figure out how to predict it. This 2nd to last part talks about what I have named points of parity. A point of parity is a change in win total, either positive or negative. If a team wins 8 and then wins 5, that’s 3 points of parity. Same if they go from 8 to 11. The following chart lists team’s points of parity totals in descending order since 2003 and then totals them at the end.

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2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
7 9 7 7 8 10 6 7 8
6 8 6 7 6 7 5.5 6 7
6 7 6 7 6 7 5 6 6
5 6 6 6 6 7 5 6 5
5 6 6 5 5 6 5 6 5
5 6 5 5 5 6 5 6 5
5 5 5 4 5 6 4 5 4
5 4 5 4 5 6 4 5 4
4.5 4 4 4 5 5 4 4 4
4.5 4 4 4 4 5 4 4 4
4 4 4 4 4 5 3 4 3
4 4 4 4 4 5 2 4 3
4 3 4 4 4 4 2 4 3
3 2 4 3 3 3 2 4 3
3 2 3 3 3 3 2 4 3
3 2 3 3 3 2.5 2 3 3
3 2 3 3 3 2 2 3 3
3 2 3 3 3 2 2 3 2
3 1 3 3 2 2 2 3 2
2 1 3 3 2 2 2 2 2
2 1 3 2 2 2 1.5 2 2
2 1 3 2 2 1.5 1 2 2
2 1 3 2 2 1 1 2 1
2 1 2 2 2 1 1 2 1
1 1 2 2 2 1 1 2 1
1 1 2 2 2 1 1 2 1
1 0 2 2 2 1 1 2 1
1 0 1 2 1 1 1 1 1
1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0
1 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0
1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
100 88 110 104 104 106 78 106 89

That just shows how much parity there is in the NFL. Since 2003, there has been about 98.3 points of parity per season, more than 3 per team. That means, on a yearly basis, teams, on average, either win or lose 3 more games than the year before. Season predictions almost never take this into account. Mine didn’t before this year, but it has to be taken into account. What teams did the year before is actually not that great a predictor of future performance.

On average, 1.8 teams have 7+ points of parity, 4.4 teams have 6+ points of parity, 7 have 5+ points of parity, 11.3 have 4+ points of parity, 15.5 have 3+, 23.8 have 2+, and 29.6 have 1+. That means, on a yearly basis, only 2.4 teams, on average, post the exact same win total as the year before.  In the final part of this series (to be posted after all season previews are posted), I’ll put this into action, as well as the other parts, in order to predict team’s records for 2012. From that, I’ll be able to identify which teams are going to be under/overrated by Vegas early in the season.

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What you see below are some Vegas odds from weeks 1-3 last season.

Detroit (+1) at Tampa Bay

Indianapolis (+9) at Houston

Cincinnati (+6.5) at Cleveland

Tennessee (+3) at Jacksonville

Seattle (+5.5) at San Francisco

Chicago (+7) at New Orleans

Houston (-3) at Miami

Dallas (-3) at San Francisco

San Diego (+7) at New England

St. Louis (+4.5) at NY Giants

Philadelphia (-3) at Atlanta

San Francisco (+3) at Cincinnati

NY Giants (+9) at Philadelphia

Kansas City (+15) at San Diego

Baltimore (-4) at St. Louis

Green Bay (-4) at Chicago

Those look comical to us now, but they were once legitimate lines. If you had predicted beforehand that teams like Detroit, San Francisco, Houston, Tennessee, and Cincinnati would exceed expectations and teams like Tampa Bay, Chicago, St. Louis, San Diego, Philadelphia would do the opposite, that’s 15 wins (and one push) for you in 3 weeks easily. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, but I’m going to try. In the final part of this series, I will predict 5 overrated and underrated teams that I will bet on or against early and often.

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