Is It Time to Shake up National Football League Rankings?

Niven Winchester

Using a prediction model for National Football League (NFL) regular season games, we find that awarding bonuses for certain outcomes improves the ability of league standings to capture differences in team strength. Our preferred specification awards six points for a win, four points for a tie, two bonus points for losing by seven or fewer points, and one bonus point for scoring four or more touchdowns. Testing the out of-sample performance of rankings based on this system, we find that teams advantaged by bonuses won 75% of their playoff matches, despite playing nearly all of these games on the road, and disadvantaged teams won 41% of their playoff matches. We conclude that there is significant scope for bonus points to improve the accuracy of NFL standings.