Monday, November 11, 2013

Football Magic Numbers

When we talk about magic numbers in sports, we're usually talking about how close a baseball team is to clinching their division.  But of course, the idea is easily translatable to other sports too.  The process is easy.  You start with the number of games in the regular season and add 1.  Then you compare that number to the number of wins a team has and the number of losses for the next closest team.  You can just reverse the wins and losses to figure out the elimination number.  Sadly, that's more important for this year's Viking team.
There are 16 games in the NFL regular season.  Add 1 and you get the starting number of 17.  Right now the Vikings are 2-7 and the lead team in the division is the Lions at 6-3.  So we add the Viking losses (7) and the Lion wins (6).  That gives us 13.  17-13=4.  That means that any combination of four Viking losses or Lion wins and the Vikings cannot win the division.  Since that number can only move two spots in a week, that means the Vikings could be eliminated in just two weeks.  And yeah, that sucks.
How close are other divisional winners to clinching?

AFC East - Patriots magic number is 6
AFC North - Bengals 6
AFC South - Colts 6
AFC West - Chiefs 7
NFC East - Cowboys/Eagles 7
NFC North - Lions 7
NFC South - Saints 7
NFC West - Seahawks 5

It's interesting that no team is all that close to clinching yet.  The Seahawks are the closest and it would take three weeks of everything going their way to do it.  Meanwhile, no team has been eliminated yet either.  Three teams could theoretically be knocked out next week (Raiders, Buccaneers and Rams).  But, mathematically at least, each team in the NFL could still qualify for the Playoffs.

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