Can Losing Mean Winning in the NFL? Quantifying the Influence of Deviations in Past NFL Standings on the Present
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CitationMacPhee, William. 2020. Can Losing Mean Winning in the NFL? Quantifying the Influence of Deviations in Past NFL Standings on the Present. Bachelor's thesis, Harvard College.
AbstractAlthough plenty of research has studied competitiveness and re-distribution in professional sports leagues from a correlational perspective, the literature fails to provide evidence arguing causal mecha- nisms. This thesis aims to isolate these causal mechanisms within the National Football League (NFL) for four treatments in past seasons: win total, playoff level reached, playoff seed attained, and endowment obtained for the upcoming player selection draft. Causal inference is made possible due to employment of instrumental variables relating to random components of wins (both in the regular season and in the postseason) and the differential impact of tiebreaking metrics on teams in certain ties and teams not in such ties. Results support intuition that increasing the perceived value of draft endowment (that is, acquiring picks nearer the beginning of the draft) positively affects future success. However, results fail to support intuition that worsening a team’s win total, playoff seed, or playoff level reached has nega- tive consequences in the long run through the channel of draft endowment. Specifically, in the case of playoff seed, there even seems to be a positive momentum effect from season to season, whereby teams with higher seeds last season are nudged towards higher seeds this season. These results help one to understand competitiveness and re-distribution in the NFL.
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- FAS Theses and Dissertations