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Digital Debunking: Can Analytics Predict the Winner of the 2024 Big Game?

The biggest game on the gridiron – you know the one, the _uper _owl, featuring certain teams from San Francisco and Kansas City – is fast approaching. As reported by Forbes Betting, Sunday’s contest (like we did last year, we’ll call it the Big Game) is projected to draw the attention of roughly one-third of the U.S population. Last year’s Big Game set a record for viewership in its own right, drawing in 115.1 million American viewers. That’s a lot of eyeballs! 

It’s wild to think how far American football has evolved over the years. No longer are players wearing leather helmets and sweaters for jerseys. These athletes have equipment engineered by some of the most advanced technology companies in the world. Their helmets are safer than ever before, and some players (especially quarterbacks) even have built-in headsets so they can get play calls directly from coaches. 

Not only has the technology within football evolved, but so has the data surrounding the sport. In today’s game, everything is tracked. From advanced player statistics to play call sequences and probabilities, data within football is more important than ever. That’s why we decided to see if Altair’s data analytics software can predict the winner of the Big Game again this year. We accurately predicted the winner of last year’s matchup – will we get it right for the second consecutive year?

 

Analyzing Quarterback Rating

Good data means better decision-making. Therefore, to investigate, we used Altair® Monarch®, Altair’s market-leading, desktop-based self-service data preparation solution. Monarch connects to multiple data sources – including structured and unstructured data, cloud-based data, and big data – to turn difficult data into smart data, creating actionable insights that solve complex problems. The beauty of Monarch is that it empowers users across disciplines and skill sets to quickly prepare accurate, trusted data sets without compromising on accuracy or quality. In this case, predicting the winner of Sunday’s Big Game.

To generate an accurate prediction, we used Monarch to perform descriptive analytics that profile the performances of prior winning quarterbacks (QBs) during the first 18 weeks of the season, which we then used to predict which of the remaining two QBs will lead their team to victory. Typically, a team’s QB performance is a reliable way to determine how well the team is playing during the season. Therefore, we decided to study a statistical metric called QB rating (QBR).

A player’s QBR is data that attempts to provide a measurable value of a quarterback’s impact on a given game. The five variables being examined for QBR include pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and interceptions. This data is often calculated with complex formulas (far too detailed to discuss here) and generates a player rating between 0-158.3. A higher number indicates a better performance; the league average QBR is around 93.6.

 

Monarch Data Preparation Solution

This year, we imported the data for quarterbacks on either team, Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) and Brock Purdy (San Francisco), comparing the five variables within QBR for both regular season and post-season. 

Statistics for both players were pulled from two sources: 

NFL.com (for regular season)

StatMuse (for postseason)

The result is a table that focuses on select data from prior winning quarterbacks and how the final two compare. 

Monarch data table displaying quarterback performance statistics

Although Altair’s data analytics solutions don’t consider intangible assets such as a player's heart, determination, character, leadership, or probability of being a good teammate, the solution does weigh QBR performance and history. QBR generally gives us an idea of what to expect from these QBs during the Big Game. Ultimately, Patrick Mahomes has the upper hand, giving Kansas City an advantage. Therefore, the data suggests that Patrick Mahomes will deliver a more productive performance, providing a favorable edge to Kansas City. Now, we’ll patiently be waiting to see if our predictions pay off Sunday during the final showdown in Las Vegas.

Disclaimer: This article does not represent Altair’s official organizational prediction, of which there's none. The company’s official policy is not to take sides. Altair as an organization will be thrilled no matter if the winning team represents Kansas City or San Francisco. We’re just here for the entertainment. Viva Las Vegas!