The MSM, Statistics, and Logic

Few things in life annoy me more than logical fallacies, and I heard one of them on the Mike and Mike show this morning - a logical fallacy based on a statistic.

Of course we've all heard the various statistics about how important the first game or two it to the season, and the Mikes had a list of 4 teams that were headed into "must win games" next week because they had lost their opener and didn't want to start the season 0-2. Greenberg brought out the statistic that, out of the 160 playoff teams since the current playoff format began; only 22 had started 0-2, or about 14%. Then he made the fallacious statement that "if these teams lose their next games, they'll only have a 14% chance to get to the playoffs", which just about made me mad enough to drive my car off the side of I-25. What the MSM has to understand here is that while there's a correlation between the starting record of a team and it's playoff expectations, there's not necessarily a causative relationship between them, at least not more so than any other 2 games in the season. The reason why more teams who start well make the playoffs than those who start poorly is that those are the good teams to begin with! Or, put another way, it's not that teams who win their first two games tend to make the playoffs, but rather that teams who make the playoffs tend to win their first two games (and they tend to win all the other games just as equally, because they're better teams).

Now, as to this 14% thing. I grant you that losing your first two games makes it harder to reach the playoffs (just as losing, games 3 and 11 make it harder, for example. If it probably takes a 10-6 (or .625) record to make the playoffs, then these teams would now have to win 10 of their next 14 games (or .714) to have a 10-6 record. There's really no way to equate that to a percentage, but it varies greatly from team to team. Two examples that were given were Tennessee and Chicago. Assuming  that they both lose next week, What would you say the chances are for Tennessee and Chicago to go .714 for their next 14 games? based on how well they played on Thursday night against a formidable opponent, I'd give Tennessee much better chances than 14%. it might now be probably, but not so improbably that i'd call it 14%. For Chicago,  I might say that 14% is accurate, but not because that's what's happened in the past to other teams - I'd say that based on Jay Cutler's play and the loss of Brian Urlacher.

So in the final analysis, the first few games of the season don't predict how the playoffs will turn out just based on their records, they just give us our first glimpse of the way that the teams actually play in real games.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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