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How important is "momentum"?


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Hypothetical situation: Team A is playing Team B. Team A races out to a huge 28 point lead, marching the ball up and down the field at will against Team B's defense. Suddenly, Team B seems to flip a switch, and scores 21 unanswered to get right back into it. The score currently stands at 28-21 in favor of Team A, although Team B has all of the momentum.

In this hypothetical situation, which team would you rather be? The one with the lead, or the one with the momentum? Or would it depend on who currently had the football?

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Hypothetical situation: Team A is playing Team B. Team A races out to a huge 28 point lead, marching the ball up and down the field at will against Team B's defense. Suddenly, Team B seems to flip a switch, and scores 21 unanswered to get right back into it. The score currently stands at 28-21 in favor of Team A, although Team B has all of the momentum.In this hypothetical situation, which team would you rather be? The one with the lead, or the one with the momentum? Or would it depend on who currently had the football?

It would depend how much time is left in the game.
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How much time is left? Who are the quarterbacks? Team A is about to get the ball? Neither team is more worn out then the other?

With the right quarterback... I will always take the 7 point lead.

The quarterbacks are Peyton Manning for Team A, and Peyton Manning's Clone for Team B. Both teams have run exactly 60 plays (35 passes, 25 runs each), and the time of possession is 20 minutes for Team A and 20 minutes for Team B. Both teams have exactly the same injuries to exactly the same players. Both teams have exactly the same number of yards per pass and yards per rush. Both teams have exactly the same number of turnovers. Both teams have equally clutch, battle-tested kickers. Both teams are composed of a mixture of veterans and rookies, with 6 pro bowlers each, all of whom happen to play at exactly the same positions. The game is at a neutral site. Both teams have a head coach who has been tenured for 8 years, and who has an exactly 60% career winning percentage. In other words, "assume all other variables to be equal".

I intentionally did not specify which team is about to get the ball, because that would invalidate the third option. If you'd rather be Team A, regardless of who had the ball, vote for the first option. If you'd rather be Team B, regardless of who had the ball, vote for the second option. If you'd rather be whichever team had the football at the moment, vote for the third option.

Id still rather have the lead. momentum can change again in the blink of an eye with an 80yd quick slant. Give me the ball, the lead, and Ill take my chances to get momentum back.

FWIW, this was my vote, too, I was just curious to see how everyone else felt.
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Id still rather have the lead. momentum can change again in the blink of an eye with an 80yd quick slant. Give me the ball, the lead, and Ill take my chances to get momentum back.

FWIW, this was my vote, too, I was just curious to see how everyone else felt.
But, that's not an option. Having the lead and knowing you have the ball.
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How much time is left? Who are the quarterbacks? Team A is about to get the ball? Neither team is more worn out then the other?

With the right quarterback... I will always take the 7 point lead.

The quarterbacks are Peyton Manning for Team A, and Peyton Manning's Clone for Team B. Both teams have run exactly 60 plays (35 passes, 25 runs each), and the time of possession is 20 minutes for Team A and 20 minutes for Team B. Both teams have exactly the same injuries to exactly the same players. Both teams have exactly the same number of yards per pass and yards per rush. Both teams have exactly the same number of turnovers. Both teams have equally clutch, battle-tested kickers. Both teams are composed of a mixture of veterans and rookies, with 6 pro bowlers each, all of whom happen to play at exactly the same positions. The game is at a neutral site. Both teams have a head coach who has been tenured for 8 years, and who has an exactly 60% career winning percentage. In other words, "assume all other variables to be equal".

I intentionally did not specify which team is about to get the ball, because that would invalidate the third option. If you'd rather be Team A, regardless of who had the ball, vote for the first option. If you'd rather be Team B, regardless of who had the ball, vote for the second option. If you'd rather be whichever team had the football at the moment, vote for the third option.

Id still rather have the lead. momentum can change again in the blink of an eye with an 80yd quick slant. Give me the ball, the lead, and Ill take my chances to get momentum back.

FWIW, this was my vote, too, I was just curious to see how everyone else felt.
If every person is equal down to the players on the field then I'd take the lead. It's in the middle of the 2nd half and you're up a TD with possibly the ball, why would I take the other option?
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Id still rather have the lead. momentum can change again in the blink of an eye with an 80yd quick slant. Give me the ball, the lead, and Ill take my chances to get momentum back.

FWIW, this was my vote, too, I was just curious to see how everyone else felt.
But, that's not an option. Having the lead and knowing you have the ball.
No, but it's a possibility just like taking the team with momentum isn't gauranteed the ball either.
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Id still rather have the lead. momentum can change again in the blink of an eye with an 80yd quick slant. Give me the ball, the lead, and Ill take my chances to get momentum back.

FWIW, this was my vote, too, I was just curious to see how everyone else felt.
But, that's not an option. Having the lead and knowing you have the ball.
Yes it is- it's the third option. If you'd only take Team A if you knew they had the ball, then that implies that if they didn't have the ball, you'd take B. That's textbook Option #3. If you'd take Team A regardless of whether they had the ball or not (like I would), then that's option #1. If you wouldn't take Team A under any circumstances, that's Option #2.
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I'd favor team B... not b/c of any "psychological advantage," though that is probably a factor. I'd favor team B, b/c if they have been scoring, that likely means Team A's defense has spent a decent amount of time on defense, and potentially getting tired. That said, I am not basing this on any empirical data. And I bet if you were to look up the stats, I'd be wrong. But, this is my guess, nonetheless.

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Momentum is the term we use to describe what's already happened. It has no bearing on what is about to happen. Team A every time.

I'm not sure I'd put it that strongly, but I definitely agree with the sentiment.

Doing an official study has been on my to-do list forever, but I've never gotten around to it. I'll bet that, in games where one team overcomes a double-digit lead to tie the score in the 4th quarter, that team loses more often than not. I could be wrong, but that's what I'd guess. It just seems that way to me, particularly in basketball but also in football.

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Hypothetical situation: Team A is playing Team B. Team A races out to a huge 28 point lead, marching the ball up and down the field at will against Team B's defense. Suddenly, Team B seems to flip a switch, and scores 21 unanswered to get right back into it. The score currently stands at 28-21 in favor of Team A, although Team B has all of the momentum.In this hypothetical situation, which team would you rather be? The one with the lead, or the one with the momentum? Or would it depend on who currently had the football?

I'd be looking at if Team B has a QB that is a good leader as Team B would be primed to do something dopey here as arrogance comes in. If so I'd go with Team B."Stopping the bleeding" is very hard to do
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Momentum is the term we use to describe what's already happened. It has no bearing on what is about to happen. Team A every time.

I'm not sure I'd put it that strongly, but I definitely agree with the sentiment.

Doing an official study has been on my to-do list forever, but I've never gotten around to it. I'll bet that, in games where one team overcomes a double-digit lead to tie the score in the 4th quarter, that team loses more often than not. I could be wrong, but that's what I'd guess. It just seems that way to me, particularly in basketball but also in football.

BTW, Very interesting article on Ds by the quarter of the year in ESPN mag, Doug. Well done
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