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NFL teams use 'Moneyball'-like data crunching to gain competitive advantages

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EA Sports football monopoly lawsuit
EA Sports football monopoly lawsuit

More NFL teams are using statisticians and data crunching services to gain a competitive advantage on the gridiron, reports The New York Times. A statistical approach to running a sports team gained notoriety after the 2011 movie Moneyball (itself based on a 2003 book), which profiled the 2002 Oakland A's baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. Beane used statistics and data to build a competitive team, also known as sabermetrics, instead of relying on traditional scouting methods.

In the NFL, a number of teams are adopting a statistical approach to coaching their teams, and a number of third-party services have popped up to help them do just that. Football Outsiders, Advanced NFL Stats, Stats L.L.C., and even ESPN all provide analytic services to help teams and fans make sense of the mountain of data that comes from each and every football game. It's not clear how much the teams are relying on this data — many want to protect that information so as not to give away any competitive advantages — but it's safe to say that they are using it to some degree. The Times notes that by using this data, teams are able to react and change their playing strategies in real time.

But football is a very different game than baseball, and it can be much harder to predict the various scenarios and outcomes of a play or game using data alone. It can also be difficult to evaluate a player's performance using stats, since there isn't a standard metric, such as on-base percentage in baseball, to go by. Still, statistical analysis is likely to become more and more important in football as it has become in baseball, as teams figure out more ways to use it to their advantage. Of course, getting the old guard of coaches and scouts to change their ways will likely be easier said than done, but once the proof is on the playing field, it will likely be hard to ignore the value of statistical analysis.