22 September 2009

Tuesday Gridiron (2/2009)

Last year, I made a new post after every week of NFL games.  Each post showed only the standings with my Victory Weighting system, with a few comments here and there.  This year, since Blogger allows HTML-based gadgets, the current Victory Weighted standings will appear at the bottom of the blog.  Actual Victory Weighting related posts will appear most Tuesdays until the Pro Bowl in February, but they'll consist of comments on the standings.

To recap what's been posted here at the Cat: In Victory Weighting, each team has a Strength rating.  At the end of each game that ends in regulation, the winning team adds 4 points to its Strength.  For games that end in overtime, the winner adds 3 points to its Strength, and the loser adds 1 point.  In the rare case of a tie, each team adds 2 points to its Strength.

Teams are then ranked by Strength.  If two teams have the same Strength, the one with the better winning percentage gets the higher rank. Victory Weighting also modifies some NFL tie-breaking procedures:
  1. For tiebreakers that compare sub-records, Strength precedes winning percentage. For example, if two teams have the same Strength from division games, then the team with the better winning percentage in its division advances.
  2. For head-to-head tiebreakers, Strength from the relevant game(s) replaces winning percentage.
  3. A team's strength of schedule, most commonly used as the final draft-order tiebreaker, is redefined as the sum of all of its opponents' Strength ratings. Division opponents count twice in this calculation, since every team plays its division rivals (but no one else) twice.
  4. Likewise, the definition of the rarely used strength of victory becomes the VP-weighted sum of opponents' Strength ratings. Each game played contributes a "game strength," which is the product of (a) the number of Strength points the team earned from that game and (b) the opponent's overall Strength. The strength of victory, then, is the sum of all the game strengths.
Besides mitigating the inherent unfairness of sudden-death overtime, Victory Weighting offers additional advantages:
  • Fairer playoff seeding:  Since victory-point totals better reflect the quality of teams' victories, they also better reflect the quality of the teams themselves.
  • Faster tiebreakers:  Because Victory Weighting changes the standings every time an overtime period is played, it spreads teams out. Rivals who share a common won-loss record can nevertheless have different Strengths. If the rivals are competing for playoff spots, no tiebreakers need apply, since the different Strengths sort them out.
  • Quicker playoff scenario resolution:  One team's performance in its last regular-season game can affect not only its own playoff status but also those of several rivals. Under traditional rules, the rivals have to wait until the whole of this central game is completed, even it it requires overtime. Under Victory Weighting, however, overtime itself can either provide or take away the single Strength point required to determine everyone's fate. The waiting ends when regulation time does.
Victory Weighting does expand the number of playoff scenarios. Instead of three potential outcomes (win, loss, draw), each game now has five (win, OT win, loss, OT loss, draw).  For a two-team race, the total number of scenarios increases from 9 to 25; for three teams, from 27 to 125. On the other hand, the resulting tiebreakers work faster, resolving the additional scenarios almost as quickly as they are added.

Finally, Victory Weighting exerts an impact that is neither positive or negative. At the end of the season, it does affect draft order, especially for those teams whose final Strength falls between 26 and 38. These are the teams in the middle of the overall table, with 7-9, 8-8 and 9-7 records.  Even when Victory Weighting jumbles their draft positions, such teams can usually work their way around the changes – just as they do now.

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