American football

If you watched every American professional football team play every snap, analysed its success, compared it to all other plays in that situation, and then weighed it according to the defence it faced, you would reach an important conclusion: the Denver Broncos have the best chance of winning the Super Bowl on February 3.

That is according to FootballOutsiders.com, whose popular DVOA rating puts the Broncos as a slight leader (24.3 per cent) over second-favourite New England Patriots (23.6 per cent).

Founded by Aaron Schatz, an ESPN columnist, the site provides an in-depth analysis of every single play of the NFL season along with various ratings based on that analysis.

“For me, personally, I started this because I wanted to make better commentary,” says Mr Schatz. “The bigger gap that needed to be closed was between reality and the nonsense of colour commentators.”

Baseball’s “sabermetrics” movement – popularised by Moneyball (both the book and movie) – led the way increasing the sophistication of the statistics used in sport. It was primarily developed by people outside the baseball establishment to help teams properly value individual players.

In contrast, Football Outsiders does provide some predictive qualities, but the data analysis offers a different utility from the of baseball: to educate and inform football fans about a complicated and sometimes misunderstood sport. Read more