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Football Momentum: A Myth Or Reality?

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 29, 2011 – 7:01 pm

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In a recent edition of NFL.com’s “Football Freakonomics,” the experts looked into the issue of whether momentum was a myth in the NFL.  If a team is flying high, should we expect them to stay high?  If a team is low, will they stay low?

I broke down some of the stats provided in the video and asked my own panel of experts how they felt about momentum in the context of the game.

Fact: Since 2001, after a team enjoys a long kick return (40-plus yards) or punt return (30-plus yards), that team is approximately four-times as likely to score on the next play than they are to score on any other play from scrimmage.  

Special teams practitioner Graham Gano responds:

“I mean, if you don’t believe in momentum, then you’re crazy,” he said matter-of factly.  “You can feel it in the game, you can see it on the sidelines.  When you have a big return, like Banks returning one, you can look at the other sidelines and see everyone sulking around.”

For Gano, momentum is a precarious balance, waiting to shift on a given play.  At times, it can shift within a play itself.

“It can happen on one play,” he said.  “You can have a big return like that, and have a fumble or interception on the next play–I think it shifts.  I think that’s a big part of the game, and the appeal of the game.” Read more »


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