Thursday, December 20, 2007

Should the Patriots Try in Week 17?

As everyone knows, the biggest story of this football season has been the New England Patriots' quest to go undefeated. Assuming the Pats win this week, should they go all-out in the final game or rest their star players for the playoffs?

Ordinarily I don't like jeopardizing team results for personal glory, but you have to ask yourself: Which is more important to the team, going 16-0 or winning the Super Bowl? After all, a Super Bowl win doesn't mean that much in the abstract; it is only because football fans lionize the Bradshaws and Montanas of the world that we think it's such a huge deal. After all, 41 teams have won a Super Bowl. None have gone 16-0 in the regular season.

If the Pats absolutely had to lose one game, they'd probably rather do so in Week 17 than in the playoffs. But that's not the case here; playing their hardest in Week 17 only has a small chance of costing them anything.

Let's say that Tom Brady getting hurt reduces the Pats' chances of winning each game by 25%. So if he sits in Week 17, the Patriots will go undefeated 60% of the time rather than 85%.

Meanwhile, there's perhaps a 2% chance that Brady will be seriously hurt in Week 17 and miss the playoffs. The market currently puts the Pats at about 56% to win the Super Bowl; if Brady goes down, that number dips to 18% using these assumptions.

With the 2% probability of a serious injury costing them 38% of their chance at a championship, the Pats are costing themselves less than 1% of a Super Bowl title in expected value by letting Brady play the whole game, while giving up 25% of their chance to go undefeated.

You can use slightly different numbers if you like, but you will reach the same conclusion: Unless winning the Super Bowl is much, much more important than going 16-0, the right move for is to go for the undefeated season.

1 comment:

Vegas Watch said...

"Which is more important to the team, going 16-0 or winning the Super Bowl?"

I think the answer is even more emphatic to "Which is more important to this team, considering the QB and Coach each already have three rings.