Ian Allan on "riding the hot hand"
Posted Nov. 14 at 02:49 PM
If a player finishes with 120 yards and a touchdown, does that mean you should start him the next week? Is that a sign that he’s a good, productive player who can be counted on? Do you “ride the hot hand”?
Or are your chances better trying to latch onto a player who’s overdue?
If you’re always starting players coming off big games, you run the risk of constantly chasing after what’s happened in the past.
Check out the two charts below. They feature Atlanta’s three main receiving threats – Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. These guys have all been similar in overall value this year. They’re all catching plenty of passes and touchdowns.
The first chart (list, actually), shows what you would have gotten in the last eight games if you always started the one of these three who had the best stats. Julio Jones, for example, posted the best numbers in Week 1 at Kansas City, so he would be the guy you started in Week 2 against Denver (he caught 4 passes for 14 yards in that game). To pick the “best” receiver, I used the scoring system of 6 points for touchdowns and 1 for every 10 receiving yards.
It turns out, if you started the “hot hand” out of this trio, you would still be waiting for your first touchdown this year. The “best” receiver of these three, in those eight followup games, has caught 34 passes for 472 yards and no touchdowns.
The far more production option, it turns out, has been the receiver who’s posted the worst numbers. Those guys in their next game have caught 21 more passes for 219 more yards and 8 more touchdowns.
So maybe we should all make an effort to AVOID starting Tony Gonzalez this week. Julio Jones had a lousy game at New Orleans. He seems more likely to be the receiver who’ll post good numbers against Arizona.
No Yds TD
4 14 0 J.Jones (Den.)
5 55 0 R.White (S.D.)
5 51 0 Gonzalez (Car.)
4 68 0 R.White (Wash.)
4 42 0 Gonzalez (Oak.)
3 38 0 R.White (Phil.)
5 129 0 J.Jones (Dall.)
4 75 0 J.Jones (N.O.)
34 472 0 Total
No Yds TD
8 102 1 R.White (Den.)
5 67 1 J.Jones (S.D.)
8 169 2 R.White (Car.)
10 94 1 J.Jones (Wash.)
6 72 1 R.White (Oak.)
3 29 0 Gonzalez (Phil.)
4 36 0 Gonzalez (Dall.)
11 122 2 Gonzalez (N.O.)
55 691 8 Total
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Nov. 14 at 04:40 PM
Great piece Ian. I have always believed that it does not pay to chase last weeks stats. Earlier this season, Brian Hartline followed up his 253 yard game with 59 yards and 0 yards in the following two games. But as for the three you mention above, I'm not benching any of them ever.
Posted by BRYAN BERTSCH | Nov. 14 at 08:58 PM
Too many variables in this case, but great info nonetheless. I think, but don't have the data to back it, that players do catch fire and string multiple games together with high production. My rule of thumb is breaking the season down into 4 week stretches,s ee who's hot, and start 'em. My gut tells me if you compare these Atlanta numbers to other players, you'd find this is the exception rather than the rule. Confidence is huge in the NFL, and when a player comes off a big game (especially a fringe player) I believe they ride that hot hand.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Nov. 14 at 09:51 PM
There used to be a gambling advice guy on the radio on Friday mornings in the Seattle area. "The Dixie Dynamo", he called himself. I would listen to his show to see how he broke games down -- what he felt was important. One of his rules was that you would always try to ride a streak, because you could be right a bunch of times in a row. Here, though, there aren't really any streaks involved. We're just looking at starting a guy based on one good game.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Nov. 15 at 05:31 AM
I remember a few years back there was a stretch when Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne alternated big games. It seemed like Peyton Manning tried to keep his receivers happy by making sure the guy who had a quiet week one week would see a few more passes the next week. At the time that thought seemed reasonable to everyone; Manning was so good he could make sure nobody got ignored for too long. Maybe something like that is going on with Ryan and his receivers.
Posted by Michael Hess | Nov. 15 at 07:40 AM
Earlier in the year there was talk about how Julio's numbers were (much) better in away games than at home. Has that been debunked and if not how much does that play into this. If it is true, it would point to playing White this weekend rather than Julio. Or would you play Julio because he is "due"?
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Nov. 15 at 08:10 AM
It's a little bizarre. Jones' yardage and TDs at home: 14, 30, 63, 129 - no touchdowns. Jones' yardage and TDs on the road: 108, 67, 94, 123, 75, and all 5 of his touchdowns. So...his three worst games all season have come in the four home games. On the road, he's scored in every game but one (the last one, where he was sidelined for a portion of it) and has put up 5 of his 6 best games. That said, his last home game was his best - 129 yards. Tough to sit that down.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Nov. 15 at 08:20 AM
Jones caught 9 passes for 159 yards and 3 TDs in his last two home games last year (and he sat out the second half of one of those). I see no reason why he can't be productive in the Georgia Dome.
Posted by Russell Ditnes | Nov. 15 at 06:52 PM
Ian awesome theory, but I doubt anyone would have the stones to sit any of these guys, as alluded to above. I've backed off of trading for AJ Green sort of based on the same concept but he continues his ridiculous roll. An important question specifically regarding these 3 Atlanta WRs, and Matt Ryan: I'm having trouble finding another loss for Atlanta and owning Ryan, White and Jones, I'm starting to get worried about week 16. Sure, Chicago and SF are only a game behind them but they play on MNF so one of them gets another L, and they both have a much tougher slate leading up to week 16. It'll take a 3 game lead over the field for Mike Smith to have a reason to sit his stars, but it seems like Atlanta has a real possibility of building that lead. How do you think it shakes out?
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Nov. 16 at 04:33 AM
Russell, I think Atlanta could easily lose 2-3 more games. Not that they WILL, but they are not dominating and their remaining games look tough to me. At Tampa, home vs. the Saints and Giants...not gimmes. They could even lose at Carolina (home game very close) or Detroit.
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