Monday, January 26, 2015

Super Hold

As the build-up to next Sunday's NFL Super Bowl continues, more evidence is surfacing about the amazing ability of the New England Patriots to hold onto the football. First, there was the football deflation controversy, termed InflateGate by some and Ballghazi by others. Somehow 11 of the 12 balls that the Patriots used in the first half of their rainy game against the Indianapolis Colts were under-inflated by as much as 2 psi. The twelfth ball was also under-inflated but not by as much. It is claimed that this makes the ball easier to hold onto, especially in the rain.

Now, from football data analyst Warren Sharp we get the histogram above. This shows data from 2010-2014 on the number of offensive plays run divided by the number of fumbles lost. This ratio of Plays per Fumble for the Patriots was 187, far out in the tail of the histogram. Based on Sharp's data on the 32 NFL teams, the mean number of Plays per Fumble was just over 105 and the standard deviation was just over 21. This makes the Patriots' value of 187 over 3.9 standard deviations above the mean. Assuming a normal distribution for this measure, as Sharp reported, such results have only a one chance in over 16,000 of occurring. A clear outlier.

Have they practiced and honed the skill of holding onto the football or is possibly deflation also at work here?

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