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As a kid I loved the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of books. In case you are in the dark, the premise was pretty simple. You read a few pages before the book presents two or three options of which direction the story should head next. Do you want to turn around? Turn to page 46. Do you want to enter the cave? Turn to page 54. Because the reader was ultimately in control of the narrative, each book had several dozen possible endings — much like an athlete's rookie season.
The paths of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have already been chosen for them by Indianapolis and Washington, respectively, and unless Peyton Manning winds up back in Indy and/or Rex Grossman magically transforms into the NFL's version of “The Natural,” the two rookies look to be starting 16 games this season.
So, following the NFL Draft, I was presented two choices:
1) Wait until the third week of the NFL preseason (late August) to watch Luck and RG3 go head-to-head for a couple of offensive series before heading to the sidelines
2) Use the WhatIfSports.com NFL simulation engine to "play" Luck's Colts versus Griffin's Redskins 1,001 times with both teams at full strength for 60 (or more) minutes right now
I chose No. 2. I chose wisely.
Luck's Colts vs. RG3's Redskins
Now, for you to completely comprehend how this simulation played out, let me pull the curtain aside for just a minute and explain how we generate the results above.
1) Each NFL player within our simulation engine possesses a variety of offensive ratings that account for average passing, rushing and receiving stats.
Luck and RG3 began as average quarterbacks within our engine (50 rating) but were awarded a few more positive ratings in areas where they excelled.
2) Each NFL defense (as a whole) possesses a variety of defensive ratings that account for their ability to stop the pass/rush, how often they pick up sacks/interceptions and how well they perform in the red zone.
3) Each team possesses a simulation offensive playbook. This was set to pass (60/40 play distribution) for the Colts and run (50/50) for the Redskins.
After 1,001 simulations the computers like the Redskins to beat the Colts 58.8 percent of the time by an average score of 24.2-21.7.
Luck's and RG3's average game stats
|Player||Avg. CMP %||Avg. Pass YDS||Avg. TD Passes|
Luck's passing numbers are better, in part, because he attempted six more on average when compared with Griffin. However, Griffin averaged nine carries a game for 63 yards (7.0 yards per carry) in the 1,001 simulations. Keep in mind, one simulation game RG3 could rush for 95 yards and the next he could muster only 34. The stats above are just averages. Each quarterback averaged better than one touchdown pass per game.
Knowing how our engine works, I assumed that with the average margin of victory roughly a field goal, it was the Redskins' defense that was ultimately the difference in the 1,001 simulations and not so much the quarterback play. In the end, Griffin and Luck are pretty even in the simulation world. We'll see how that translates in the real world this September through December.
Note: We are working hard to publish the 2012 NFL SimMatchup rosters as soon as possible. Look for them this summer.