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The Playoff Pressure Project

Posted by Jason Lisk on December 3, 2009

3571014541441_Classic_FootballI had this idea to look at how teams performed in the final two weeks of the regular season when they had different types of playoff pressure on them. We have "against the spread" information going back to the 1983 season, so that would give us 26 seasons to check how teams performed under pressure. The problem, of course, is sorting through the various situations at the time, to figure out who controlled their own destiny, who still had a sliver of hope, and who owned the tiebreakers over other teams. It's not something I can easily set up a search to do, and so it is something that needs to be done by digging into the actual season schedules. Doing so, for example, I find that in 1984, the NFC East had three teams at 9-5 (Dallas, New York and Washington) and another at 8-6 (Saint Louis) who were all alive for the playoffs and division title, and that it was the Giants who actually controlled their own destiny in terms of winning out to win the division. Those teams played each other in game 15 (New York at Saint Louis; Washington at Dallas) and when the smoke cleared a week later, the Cowboys and Giants were eliminated from division contention, and the final game between Saint Louis and Washington was for the division title.

But like I said, I couldn't tell that by just looking at records. I had to get into the results and calculate the various head to head, division record and conference record tiebreakers, as well as the possibilities in the final two weeks. I found that it was going to take me about 20 to 30 minutes to put together the scenarios in both conferences for a season, depending on how complex the playoff outlook was in a season, and I don't think I have the time to put in 12-13 hours to just do the background research for this project. So, I'm throwing it open, as I don't think I have the time to complete it by myself.

If you think that it sounds like something cool to look at
you are like me and like to look at old standings and results
you are the type that likes to solve brain puzzles such as those involved in figuring out playoff scenarios
you happen to have the free time over the next couple of weeks to do at least one or two specific seasons (30 minutes to an hour),

well, now's your chance. I don't know if anyone will be interested, which if not, will be my first hint that I shouldn't spend any more time on it. If you are interested in breaking down a season or two, post in the comments or send me an e-mail (it's my initials, "JKL", in place of "feedback" for the main site email address). If there are enough volunteers to justify going forward, we will then coordinate by e-mail and talk about things like dividing up seasons and the format for recording the information.

Hopefully, at the end, we will have something to talk about, and can answer things like: Do teams perform worse when they are the hunted (teams that have not clinched but control their own destiny) compared to when they are the hunter (teams that don't control own destiny)? Do teams that are fighting for just seeding perform better or worse than teams fighting for a playoff spot altogether? How often does the home team win in end of season showdown games where the winner gets the upper hand in the playoff chase? Which teams have overcome the longest odds to make the playoffs with two weeks to go?

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 at 11:21 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.