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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

So, how good are the New England Patriots, anyways? 

Very, very good.

I know, you don't understand that link. Even I barely understand it. Okay, I don't understand it at all.

But, I do understand this: in lots and lots of normal team sports (not cricket; I totally don't understand the scoring system(s)), net points is an excellent proxy for team performance. That is, almost every team's position in the standings is closely related to its standing in (points scored - points allowed).

There are exceptions, but very few. Sometimes you'll hear that a particular team is really good in close games; that is, they win a lot more 1-goal games (to jump to hockey as an example) than they lose. This is usually a statistical anomaly, and the longer you watch such teams, the more likely statistical gravity (aka the law of large numbers) will reassert itself.

Well, that was a long runup, right? I just wanted to point out why I'm fascinated by the net points scored by the New England Patriots.

Note that they have more than double the points of the Steelers, second-best in that stat. (254 net pts. vs 124)

Note also the total distribution of this stat: The Steelers have 124, followed by teams with 119, 106, and 100. Then there's a big drop to 57 net points. The three worst teams in the league have -110, -108, and -91 points respectively. Everybody else groups somewhere in the middle, and this is of course a net zero-sum stat, since every point scored by a team is a point scored against some other team (their opponent of the day, of course).

So every team in the NFL has between -110 and 124 net points, except the Pats, who have 254 net points.

Yes, I know they're running up the scores. But no other team has demonstrated this kind of ability to score at will and in such volume. As in, maybe no other team ever.

Only the Colts seem to have given the Pats any serious challenge this year (actually, they darned near beat them!), and I think it's fair to guess that the only plausible challengers left on their pre-playoff schedule are Pittsburgh on December 9th, and themselves on December 29th, that being their last regular-season game, and having an extremely high chance of being completely meaningless except for the Perfect Season.

The Pats are on a mission and they are out to prove to the league and the masses that they can win with out cheating.
Oh, totally, and it's great fun to watch their utterly unjustifiable fury in action. After their victory over Indianapolis, I sent a note to one friend that simply read "evil wins!"

Of course, the foul temptation of the Pats is that they're so good, and so purely, gloriously competent (I have a special weakness for any team with a great offensive line), that this year, I'm rooting for evil.
cricket scoring is simple: imagine baseball where one base one point. Then there are ground rule doubles (score 4 in cricket) and home runs (6 in cricket).
Heh. I understand the scoring of individual runs in cricket, what I get confused by is the stuff like this.

My confusion arises from how, in a completed match, each team has extra associated numbers, which seem to be some combination of wickets, overs, and who-knows-what.

Some of this is related to showing the time left in in-progress matches, but once a game is scored, the winner is given in terms of some combination of runs, overs, and wickets, which I decline to bother with.

Given cricket's popularity in Australia, I feel certain that the scoring can't be that hard to comprehend, but at this point I just don't want to bother :).
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