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The NFL’s Analytics Revolution Has Arrived

The football analytics revolution may not be obvious, but it is happening in front of you all the time. There is an NFL team that plans to run more offensive plays to the side of the field farthest from its opponent’s bench. It has figured out, using player-tracking data, that a defensive lineman will sometimes run more throughout the course of a game by shuffling from the bench to the field during a substitution than he will during actual gameplay. Thus, running plays to the far side of the field can help tire out rotating defensive linemen.

This strategy is unique but the logic behind it is not. Stories like this are common around the league: A team stumbles upon some shred of data and builds a play, a playbook, a personnel decision, or an entire scheme around it. It changes how a team drafts, calls plays, and evaluates opponents. All of these trends point to one thing: Football’s analytics moment has arrived.

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