Avoid the Dreaded Twos, Fives and Nines!

Wednesday January 28th, 2015

By Keith Goldner

numberFire.com

Some watch for the commercials. Others want to see the halftime show. A few even tune in for the football. You may have heard: the Super Bowl is being played this Sunday. And that means millions will be paying attention to television’s most popular event to see who is winning their Super Bowl squares competitions.

If you’re unfamiliar—unlikely, considering you’re at a pro football website—here’s how it works. Each person signs up for a square in a 10-by-10 grid. After all the squares are taken, the numbers 0-9 are randomly assigned as headers to each column and to each row. The columns represent one team, and the rows the other. For example, if your numbers were three for the NFC and eight for the AFC during last year’s Super Bowl, you would have won following the Seahawks’ 43-8 domination over the Broncos. Similarly, many competitions have smaller winners for getting the score at the end of each quarter or half.

• SUPER BOWL SQUARES: Click here to print out SI’s Patriots-Seahawks template

But how likely are you to win? It all comes down to what numbers you are randomly assigned. We rejoice when it we get the numbers seven and zero and cry when we’re given twos, fives or nines. People will do math during the game. Well, if they kick a field goal and get a safety, and the other team scores a touchdown and goes for two, I’ll win!!!

The dreaded two is the least likely digit to come up in the final score at just 3.51%. But last year the game immediately opened with a safety, putting the Seahawks up 2-0. They held a 22-0 lead at halftime, giving my father the halftime win. What were the odds?

We at numberFire.com can tell you the likelihood of every final score—and the score at the end of any quarter—based on the two teams playing. To do this, we model the probability of going from any one score to another score and combine that with a distribution for how many scoring events there could be. Follow along during the Super Bowl as we update the odds in real time.

Historically Speaking

Looking at every Super Bowl since it’s inception, the most likely final score has been four for the AFC and seven for the NFC (11.36%). This is not surprising, but just looking at Super Bowls gives us a pretty small sample size, because so many potential final scores have never occurred.

 1AFC vs. NFC Final Digit in All Super Bowls

 

What about all games between the AFC and NFC since 2000? It’s a tie between AFC seven, NFC zero and AFC four, NFC seven (4.09%). Six final digit combinations actually never occurred over that period, all of which are combinations of twos, fives, eights and nines.

 2

AFC vs. NFC Final Digit in All Games Since 2000

Historically, your best chance to win is to own the coveted 0-0 and take home the first quarter prize. In Super Bowls, 0-0 has won at the end of the first quarter 21.43% of the time since 2000. In all games between AFC and NFC, we see a similar 18.59%. Our projections show that there is actually a 24.68% chance this occurs, essentially one-in-four.

The Grid

The two teams involved in the game can have a huge impact on the squares probabilities. With two stellar defenses, we would expect far fewer scoring events than with two powerhouse offenses. With one team heavily favored, that would shift the distribution dramatically as well.

Here is our projection for a Super Bowl between two well-matched teams, expected to score the average amount of total points (for Sunday’s game, that is right around 47 total points):

 3

Projected AFC vs. NFC Final Digit for Super Bowl

Hope for sevens, zeros and fours; spurn the twos, fives and nines!

So, what were the odds my dad would win at halftime last year? Just 0.25% to start the game. But after the initial safety, that probability rocketed to 6.65%—the most likely scenario.


Keith Goldner is the chief analyst at numberFire.com. Follow him @keithgoldner.


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