Welcome back to the third annual installment of my article detailing my statistical approach to playoff fantasy football projections. If you're new to how this works, stop right now and check out last year's article and/or the one before that. Before presenting this year's projections, it's worthwhile to look back at last year's with respect to both expected games played and projected points for playoff teams in 2015.
Regarding the former, it turns out that the mean absolute error (MAE) for last season's 12 playoff teams was 0.5. This is both troubling and informative. A value of 0.5 here means that playoff results last season were tantamount to random chance. So, I'm troubled because my playoff fantasy football system is based on expected games played, and I'm informed because it tells me I should be focusing on underdogs. Of course, on the other hand, this is only one season's worth of data, so I also don't want to jump to conclusions.
With respect to how last year's projections for total player points fared, here's a quick summary:
- For quarterbacks, MAE was 10.7 points.
- For running backs, MAE was 9.7 points.
- For wide receivers, MAE was 9.3 points.
- For tight ends, MAE was 6.0 points.
- For kickers, MAE was 9.7 points.
- For defenses, MAE was 11.7 points.
EXPECTED PLAYOFF GAMES PLAYED
If you didn't click either of those links above, the method for calculating expected games played relies on matchup-related probabilities from Fivethirtyeight.com, ESPN Stats & Info, Football Outsiders, Vegas lines, and Pro Football Reference's Simple Rating System (SRS). And here's the result, a table showing the expected game totals for each team in this year's playoffs:
|Team||P(1)||P(2)||P(3)||P(4)||Exp G||Adj Exp G|
In the header row, P(1), means "the probability of playing exactly one game," P(2), means "the probability of playing exactly two games," and so on. EXP G is the number of expected games, and ADJ EXP G is the number of expected games if you're playing in a contest where fantasy points accumulated in the Super Bowl counts double. So, as an example, New England is expected to play the most playoff games by far. Due to their bye, they can't play four games by definition. At the same time, given the weakness of the AFC and their guarantee of playing either Houston or Miami in the Divisional Round, the Patriots have a 60.4% probability of advancing to the Super Bowl. And if you multiply their chances of advancing through each round by the number of games those rounds represent, then you arrive at 2.45 expected games played (3.05 if the Super Bowl counts double).
From the above table, it's clear that there are two teams playing in the Wild Card round that are likely to overperform their seed, as well as two teams on bye that are likely to underperform their seed. Namely, No. 3 seeds Pittsburgh and Seattle have higher expected games played than the No. 2 seeds in their respective conferences, Kansas City and Atlanta. Even worse for Atlanta is that their standing vis-a-vis Green Bay is simply a virtue of intentional rounding.
PROJECTED PLAYOFF FANTASY POINTS
Like last year, I've used the expected game totals above to calculate expected FFPC points for both standard (EXP PTS) and "Super Bowl counts double" (ADJ EXP PTS) contests. For the vast majority of players, I've simply multiplied their scoring averages over Weeks 13-16 by the expected games total for their team. The exceptions are players for which their Week 13-16 scoring averages were either unsustainable or had been affected by injuries or playing time anomalies. In their cases, I did some sleuthing to produce better approximations of their expected points.
The "unsustainable" group included one player, LeVeon Bell, as he averaged over 30 points per game. As a result, I used his season-long average of 21.2 points. The "injury-affected" group was much larger, so it's untenable to discuss these players on a case-by-case basis. Instead, I've color-coded them in bold, red font. As always, move any of these players up or down in your own personal rankings as you wish:
|Player||Tm||Pos||Exp Pts||Adj Exp Pts|
|Odell Beckham Jr||NYG||WR||33.3||34.3|
|New England Patriots||NE||D||33.1||41.2|
|Green Bay Packers||GB||D||20.2||21.2|
|Kansas City Chiefs||KC||D||17.0||19.2|
|New York Giants||NYG||D||13.4||13.8|