Mathematics of NFL overtime

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Thurlow, Will
Lorch, John
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Thesis (B.?)
Honors College
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The National Football League (NFL) has a set of overtime rules that the organization believes to be fair for both teams. The rules should be fair after 60 minutes of hard-fought football resulting in a tie. Sports statisticians and analysts have voiced their concerns about the fairness of the NFL overtime rules over the years. The goal of this paper is to test the current NFL overtime rules to see which team, if any, has an advantage. NFL data and Markov chain models are utilized to test the fairness of overtime rules and how they impact a team’s chances of winning. Our initial model (proposed by Jones [1]) found the current overtime rules give the receiving team a distinct advantage. Additional models tested the fairness of alternative overtime rules with the attempt of negating the advantage of the receiving team.