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The Longest Yard in Football

By The Wall Street Journal

November 20, 2019

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The National Football League is starting to use tracking technology that can distinguish exact distances and measure the value of a single inch, which could dramatically change in-game strategy.

In 2016, the NFL started placing chips in every football to try to better measures distances on the field. One of the most important ways this new data can be applied is on fourth-and-1 plays. When the NFL's director of data and analytics, Michael Lopez, examined this new data trove, he found that when teams were just inches away from the first down in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, they converted 82% of the time. However, in "long" fourth-and-1 situations, the rate was much lower at just 55%.

Lopez is now leading the NFL's second annual Big Data Bowl, in which the league challenges quantitative analysts to hunt for insights in the league's data.

From The Wall Street Journal
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