From the Home of Small Sample Sizes

Continuing with my theme of wondering about the effects of playing in empty or reduced-crowd stadiums, I took a look at late-game comebacks in the NFL.

The base, as I’m using for these studies, is games played from 2002-2019. That’s 18 seasons of data with the current eight-division format. There were 4806 games played, including 57 at neutral sites. Through week 9 of 2020, there were 133 games played, which is a fairly low sample size.

For the purposes of providing a consistent metric for study, I consider a late-game comeback to be a score that puts the winning team in the lead in the last eight minutes of play, where the quarterback, on offense, has a drive that includes at least one first down. This includes most late comebacks, but wouldn’t include, for example, a pick-six that ends overtime.

From 2002-2019, there were 1146 comebacks at non-neutral sites. This encompassed 24.1% of all non-neutral-site games. Of those, 596, or 52.0%, came at home.

If you have perceived 2020 as providing more exciting finishes in the NFL, you’re not wrong. So far in 2020, there have been 35 of these winning drives in 133 games (26.3%). And 18 have come at home (51.4%).

The 26.3% is interesting. But it’s probably insignificant (if the 2002-2019 average held, we’d expect 32 of these drives), or it could be that quarterbacks are more efficient when it’s relatively quiet, or it could be that scoring is up a lot in general. There isn’t enough data to conclude anything at this point, but I thought it was interesting enough to mention.

Again, to non-update FOF9 News, I am still waiting for information related to the project that will determine what I do next. When I have that information, I will let everyone know what will happen. I thought I’d have an announcement back in August, but some things are a lot harder to finish in our new world and I think that’s what causing this delay. Can’t say for certain, only that I know how I’ll proceed either way – it just makes no sense to announce anything under these circumstances. Normally, I’d just keep quiet about everything until I had something to say, but I don’t want people to think I’m holding back on information given that FOF9 was originally announced more than two years ago.

Author: Jim Gindin

Founder and Lead Developer, Solecismic Software