Patriots Talk: Are analytics becoming too influential in the NFL?


Trailing by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, Bill Belichick sent out Nick Folk for a 25-yard field goal attempt for the New England Patriots on fourth and goal from the 7.

The chip shot kick was good, bringing the Patriots within 10 at 20-10 and 8:57 to go in regulation. But would they have been better off going for the touchdown in that situation?

On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry are joined by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders and Frank Frigo of Champion Gaming and EdjSports to discuss just that, as well as the state of analytics as a whole in the NFL.

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"I think the most important consideration for Bill Belichick is, there's 9 minutes left; how many more times am I going to get the football?" Curran said, noting that the Colts had missed a field goal and turned the ball over on their previous two drives.

Frigo it's plausible that going for the touchdown rather than the field goal in that situation is going to win about 4% more games on average.

In EdjSports' systems, which simulate games "hundreds of thousands of times," Frigo said, the currency which matters most is win probability rather than expected points or expected yardage on a drive.


"One team is going to hold all of the win probability at the end, one team is going to hold zero," Frigo said. "It trades during the course of the game. If you can measure it accurately, you can really look deep at these kinds of decisions."

Among other notable coaching decisions the guys discuss from the NFL season include Folk's 56-yard field goal attempt in the driving rain near the end of the Patriots' game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as several calls by Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh on fourth down.

In regards to Folk's 56-yard attempt in a game the Patriots would lose, 19-17, Schatz didn't mince words.

"This was the worst decision Bill Belichick has made this year by the numbers," he said. 

Frigo said that the decision to kick cost New England 16% in win probability. Schatz also made note that even if the kick was good, Brady and the Buccaneers would have had the ball back, down by one, with 59 seconds left.

Also discussed in the episode: Curran shares some final thoughts on Patriots-Colts and discusses where the team stands headed into their game against the Buffalo Bills. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy joins to discuss the disappointing loss to the Colts, getting ready for the Bills and balancing family time with football obligations during the holiday season.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast or watch on YouTube below.