NFL Week 13 Advanced Analysis: The Math of OT

The current NFL OT rules may seem chaotic, but according to Chief Analyst Keith Goldner, we can predict what will happen. Chief Analyst Keith Goldner occasionally takes a look at some of the big NFL decisions of the week and the advanced numbers behind them. After yesterday's two OT thrillers, he decided to take a look at the current NFL OT rules and how we can accurately predict what will happen.

Last week, Brian Burke offered analysis on the new overtime format, particularly on fourth down decisions. The new OT format is inherently state based, as he mentions, and therefore can be modeled adequately by a Markov chain (thanks to some of the commenters for the idea). The Markov property, which essentially states that we only need the most recent event to predict future events, holds true. If we are in a sudden death state, we don't need to know whether both teams kicked field goals or who even received the opening kick in order to make a prediction about who will win the game.

The Set Up

In Brian's post, he discusses three distinct states: Opening of Overtime, The "Matching Field Goal" Drive (where teams get a chance to match or beat after a field goal), and Sudden Death. These will be referred to as Opening, Mid OT, and Sudden Death (SD) respectively from here on. In this Markov model, there will be 10 total states.

Want to know how Keith models the NFL OT pattern? Check out Keith's full analysis at