- Publication date
- CC0 1.0 Universal
- Rainbow Magazine
80C Picks the National Football League
It’s time for NFL FOOTBALL! Is it really? Well if you're a football
nut and you enjoy using your Color Computer, it's time to get ready
for the 1982 NFL season.
Starting with this issue, I begin a three-part series on the NFL.
Last year we spent the entire NFL season using our 80C to watch the
teams. During the next three months we'll tell you what we learned
and provide the program listings so you can try it yourself.
At one point last year we had three, 32K, 80C's analyzing data every
single week. Even if you're not interested in the programming, you'll
find the results fascinating. Why? Because we tried to predict the
outcome of future games. The software even took into account the
In Part I of this series we'll talk about what we learned from last
season and we'll get your 80C into the NFL with a program listing that
will generate a week-by-week schedule for the 1982 NFL games. In
addition to being informative, the output from that program will be
used to collect data for The NFL Report program.
Part II will present our program that generates The NFL Report, how to
read it, how to enter data, and how it works. This report contains 32
pages of summarized team data, and is updated each week of the season.
We've included the San Francisco 49er's team summary, from this
report, for your review in this article.
Finally, Part III will discuss what we found as a result of closely
watching each team's performance. From last year, we learned the NFL
season plays like a chess game. It has an Opening, Mid—game, and
End-game. Each has to be treated differently. See if you agree with
our predictions and trends in Part III.
So much for an overview, let's get on with Part I.
The NFL season is 224 games, played by 28 teams in a time period of 16
weeks. It's all run by the National Football League, 410 Park Avenue,
New York, (212)758-1500; nice folks. This year's season starts on
September 12 and we spin the team-wheel every weekend thereafter.
GIVE ME SOME OVERALL FACTS ABOUT LAST YEAR?
During last year's season we generated over 700 pages of printout
while watching the progress of each team. Let's start with a little
"cocktail knowledge" and some averages.
The next time you're at a party you can ask the question, "How many
total points were scored in the entire '81 NFL season?". The correct
answer is 9,282. When you have a computer plowing through home teams,
away teams, point spreads, favorites, underdogs, and team power
factors, you might as well have have it calculate totals like this.
On the surface the total points scored in a given season appears
totally useless, and it is. However, since we also know there are 224
games, and two teams in every game (in some games I have my doubts),
the total points scored in an *average*, 1981, NFL game was 42;
(21/team). Just think about that for a minute. That's a total of 6
touchdowns per game. It really looks like the recent rule changes
have opened up the scoring.
WHAT NAS THE SCORE FOR AN "AVERAGE" NFL GAME?
The average score in 1981 was 27-14. Here's the important fact you
need in order to calculate that number. The average point difference
per game last year was 11.8. That really yields a game score of
27-15, but since 15 is hard to come by we made it 27-14.
DOES THE HOME TEAM REALLY WIN MORE OFTEN?
Yes it does. After keeping data on all the games played in 1981, we
can say with accuracy that the home team won 62% of all games played.
From this statistic it would appear the home team has a small, but
DOES THE HONE TEAM HAVE AN ADVANTAGE WHEN YOU CONSIDER THE POINT
Yes, but it's very small. Again, for all games played last year, the
home team won 54% of the time when you include the point spread. It
looks like the people who establish the point spread are also aware of
the home team winning percentage. Using the spread, they've done a
good job of neutralizing the home team advantage.
For those readers who are not familiar with a point spread, or "line"
as it's sometimes called, it's a small number of points assigned to
one team, before the game, in an attempt to make the final score more
even. When you include the point spread, you are talking a closer
You don't have to go to Las Vagas to find the point spread either.
The NFL point spread is available in most major city newspapers under
the syndicated column "The Latest Line". For the purpose of our data
collection we used the "line" as published on Tuesday morning. The
day after Monday Night Football.
WHEN YOU INCLUDE THE POINT SPREAD, HOW OFTEN DOES IT REVERSE THE
OUTCOME OF THE GAME?
Actually, through the first 14 weeks of last season, the line only
changed the winner in 21 games. That's an average of less than two
games each weekend, or 10.7% of all games played.
Notice that I omitted the last two weeks of the season when I
calculated the answer to this question. There's a valid reason for
this. As the teams approached the playoffs, some games become
meaningless because neither team had a chance for post season play.
In most of these cases a line was not established. Since this would
influence the statistic we're after, the last two weeks were dropped
from our calculations.
HOM MANY TIMES DID THE POINT SPREAD MAKE THE GAME END IN A TIE?
For all 224 games played, only two ended in a tie when you include the
spread. So the next time you're looking at a 3 point spread, and
you're wondering if the other team will kick a field goal to end the
game in a tie, you have the odds in your favor. It only happened in
0.9% of all games played last year. Of course that doesn't provide
much consolation for the folks in the 0.9% category.
Not very often, or should I say just enough times to make things
really interesting. Take your pick.
FOR MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL, DOES THE HOME TEAM HAVE A SIGNIFICANT
Last year’s numbers heavily favor the home team. I'm not sure if
that's always the case, but the final results are interesting.
When you only consider Monday Night Football, the home team won 75% of
all games. Said another way, the home team won 3 out of every 4 games
played. Even when you include the point spread, the home team still
won 62% of all the Monday night games.
Twice last season, the addition of the point spread reversed the
winner of Monday Night Football. On both occasions the home team won
the game, but the away team won when you included the spread.
Monday Night Football has become a real media event. Just look at its
acceptance by the public and watch the enthusiasm of the home town
fans. Apparently this does have a significant impact because the home
team is winning more often. In any case, it's a number worth watching
in the '82 season.
WHO WINS MORE OFTEN, FAVORITES OR UNDERDOGS?
The correct answer is both and neither. I'll explain myself after we
define these new terms.
We mentioned before, the point spread is some number of points given
to one team, before the game begins, in an attempt to make the final
outcome more even. The team which receives the points is called the
underdog. The other team is called the favorite.
Don't draw the conclusion that the underdog is the poorer team just
because it received points. It's intuitive to feel that way, but it's
wrong. Many factors are involved in establishing which team will
receive points, and which will not. Items like player injuries, home
field weather conditions, and the won/lost record between the teams in
previous meetings, all play a significant part in establishing the
line for a given game.
Getting back to the main question, the answer comes in two parts.
Through week 14 of the season (196 games), the underdog won 51% of all
games, favorites won 43%, and the remainder were ties or "even" games
with no line. Again, the last two weeks of the season were omitted
because some team pairings were not given a line. These teams had no
hope for a playoff possibility.
These statistics would seem to indicate that neither favorites nor
underdogs have a real advantage. True, last year more underdogs won,
but it's so close that it could change from year-to-year.
On the other hand, when you look at the season week-by-week, a
different story begins to emerge. This story says both favorites and
underdogs win during different parts of the season. I think this
theory has credibility.
Basically, we know from looking at Monday Night Football performance,
the home team appears to have a real advantage. It looks like the
home team, and fans, play the same part during the beginning of the
After the first three weeks of last season, favorites had won 54% of
the games; underdogs 38%. Clearly favorites seem to dominate the
early part of the season. The next nine weeks (week 4 thru 12) saw
the favorites only win 39$ of all games played. The underdogs won
more games for the rest of the season. It looks like the old saying,
"Take the points and go with the underdog", might have some merit.
Especially after week three.
DO HOME-TEAM-FAVORITES WIN WITH A HIGH PERCENTAGE?
If you consider all of last season, they were a little less than even;
46% for the year. However home team favorites were dynamite at the
beginning of the season. For the first three weeks of last year they
won a excellent 60% of all games played. Even the few away-favorites
did well during the early weeks, winning 75% of the time. However,
away favorites finished with only an overall 42% win percentage.
HON DO YOU CALCULATE THE RELATIVE POWER OF A TEAM?
If you're going to try to predict future game winners, you must have a
way to give each team a power factor. One thing we learned from last
season is don't get carried away with complicated analytical
expressions. We tried different approaches, in parallel, using more
than one 80C and the simple techniques seemed to work best. The
equation we're using now takes into account each team's wins, total
points scored, and the total points allowed.
USING YOUR APPROACH, NHICH TEAMS HAVE THE MOST POWER IN THE NFL?
There's no big surprise here. Our model confirmed reality. The big
power teams today are:
San Francisco +20
WHICH TEAMS HAVE THE LEAST POWER?
Just as our model confirmed the most powerful teams, it also did a
good job at the other end of the scale.
New England -1
New Orleans -7
WHEN YOU INCLUDE THE SPREAD, WHICH TEAMS WERE THE BIG WINNERS AND
LOSERS LAST YEAR?
Here are the top three and bottom three teams when you consider the
Cincinnati 12- 4
Miami 12- 4
San Francisco 12- 4
New Orleans 6-10
New England 3-13
By now you can see there are many ways to look at last year's NFL data
for analysis. We could go on for quite awhile but that's not the
entire purpose of this article.
If you think collecting information like this would be fun, and it
would make every game in the NFL more interesting, then it's time to
get your 80C into the NFL with our first program.
On April 8th the NFL released the 1982 National Football League
schedule. I was under the impression these games were scheduled years
in advance. They're not. In fact we had to work hard to get the
schedule in this issue. Here it is! Only three weeks old, and
already in RAINBON.
If you load the listed program it will produce the schedule of games
for any week you choose. The program is configured for an Epson MX-80
printer. However, it can be easily modified for most popular
printers. Change line 110 for your Baud rate. You must also have at
least 16K and Extended Basic to use this listing.
Run the program and it will ask "which week's" schedule you desire.
Enter your week of interest and the program will tell you to
when the printer is ready. After that it will print the desired
IMPORTANT NOTE! At the pause... "hit when the printer is
ready", if you enter the code "77 " the program will produce
weekly schedules starting -from the week you entered, to the end of
the season. Therefore, if you want to see the entire '82 weekly
schedule... enter "1" for the week of interest and the code "77" to
finish the year.
The schedules which are generated clearly show the home and away teams
for that week. On either side of the teams you'll see a capital "G"
and "S". This stands for Game and Spread. If you want to try and
guess winners for that week, just circle the appropriate "G" and "E"
for the teams you think will win the Game and Spread.
The numbers at the top of the schedule indicate the number of games
played to that week. There is a space to the left of each number for
you to keep track of how many you've guessed correct. There are also
numbers at the bottom of the schedule for you to total you're results
for that week.
We'll talk more about the main program, The NFL Report, in the next
issue (you'll need 32K to run it). It's the program that produced the
team summary you see in this issue. Data that you collect on these
schedule sheets will be used by the Report program so get this one
running by next issue.
NOTES: The baud rate is set in line 110. If you have i standard
printer with a set baud rate, you should change this line to REM.
Lines 420, 440 and 490 use CHR$(14) to go to the double-wide
characters. If you do not have an MX-80, your code may be different
to go to doublewide. You may also have to turn off the doubletide
characters in those lines, using your own printer controls. The MX-80
turns the doublewide characters off automatically with a linefeed.)
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