Bryan O’Leary, described as a Dallas-based financial strategist who grew up a Steelers fan, has written a book claiming that statistics show the Patriots continue to cheat. According to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post, O’Leary has spent over $30,000 of his own money to self-publish the book.
Sources? We don’t need no stinking sources!
The entirety of the claim appears to be as follows:
- The Patriots win a lot of games at home, way more than the average NFL team over the last decade. He’s even got an economics professor to say so, because it takes a special kind of economics degree to understand standard deviations and not know how to properly apply them.
- The Patriots have covered the spread in a lot of games over the last decade.
So let’s break that down, shall we, because it seems like this “theory” is driven by some unsubstantiated belief that the nefarious actions are occurring at home in Foxboro. Apparently, the Patriots cheat in the regular season but then have forgotten to do so at home in the last few years in the playoffs, losing to the Ravens, Jets, and needing a missed field goal to beat Baltimore again.
New England has won the most regular season home games since 2001. They’ve also won the most regular season road games. If we want to look at a claim of home field advantage through nefarious means, and our claim is that they are cheating at home, we need to compare the difference between the two.
When you calculate home field advantage, you need to account for the difference between home and road. When we do that, New England comes in squarely in the middle of the league. The teams with the largest discrepancy between their home and road records since 2001: Baltimore (+0.341), Seattle (+0.273), Minnesota (+0.273), Arizona (+0.250), San Francisco (+0.239), Detroit (+0.216).
So while their home winning percentage may be “three standard deviations from the rest of the league” where the average team wins 4.5 games, they are not out of whack with a team that we know wins 5.5 games per year on the road. It would be asinine to compare that team to the average. I suppose we can conclude that the Browns and Lions have been doing the opposite of cheating, though, because nobody should ever be multiple standard deviations away from the norm at home.
The other cited reason is the point spread record. Why is the entire decade cited? New England went 24-5-3 against the spread combined in 2003-2004 when they won Super Bowl titles. Those can’t be used as evidence of cheating now.
From 2008 to 2011 (the year after Spygate developed to last year), the Patriots are 35-26-3 against the spread. Conspiracy? No.
News flash. Teams with good records generally cover the spread. We don’t know ahead of time with certainty who is going to end up with the best records, but those that win a lot of games end up covering more than they don’t. Don’t believe me? New England has the most wins from 2008 to 2011. The next three in terms of regular season wins are the Ravens, Saints, and Steelers. Here are their against the spread records over that span:
- Baltimore: 36-26-2
- New Orleans: 37-26-1
- Pittsburgh: 31-32-1
Well, Baltimore and New Orleans have a better against the spread record than the Patriots. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is a public team that has plenty of fans backing them with their money. Others, though, just spend that money writing crazy theories that make absolutely no sense.
[photo via US Presswire]