Predicting Events in American Football Games

Hadean and Axis Games have been working together to demonstrate a decision support system for post-event analysis in the context of sports games Have you ever been convinced that your favourite sports team made a bad decision during a game, but you don’t know how to prove it? Have you ever wondered if they would’ve […]

Chris Arthurs November 11, 2021

Hadean and Axis Games have been working together to demonstrate a decision support system for post-event analysis in the context of sports games

Have you ever been convinced that your favourite sports team made a bad decision during a game, but you don’t know how to prove it? Have you ever wondered if they would’ve won if only they’d gone for it instead of punting? Or perhaps you’ve even been that coach, and wondered whether technology could help your team to plan.

We all like to speculate, and it’s easy to be an armchair coach or Monday morning quarterback, but there are so many little things that could’ve changed the course of the game, that there’s no way we could possibly explore them all to put some evidence behind our intuitions.

Or could we?

We set ourselves the challenge of trying to bring evidence from simulation into the sports arena. The Innovation Team at Hadean Supercomputing are collaborating with Axis Games to prove that we can bring science to sports. Leveraging the Axis Football Pro simulation engine, together with Hadean’s distributed cloud computing platform, we are able to explore tens of thousands of possible outcomes from a particular play, and gather the evidence from each of these possible worlds to discover the plays that would have been or would be successful most often.

We quickly discovered that the decision support system works well on historical data, correctly predicting the outcome of the vast majority of games which took place during the 2020 NFL season, and we’re very excited about the possibilities which this enables.

decision support tool

The image above shows the Axis Football Pro simulator performing Monte Carlo simulations of a particular play. Hadean’s cloud computing platform can ensure that the results of an unlimited number of these simulations are delivered in a short space of time so that analysis can be performed, and available wherever you have an Internet connection.

Advanced stats can be generated on the team’s performance across all the simulations, providing additional metrics on performance, success, and areas for improvement. And because everything is based on predicted odds of success, we don’t just predict one best play. We can predict the top three, or the top ten.

The image below shows the overall success rate for the team regardless of the strategy, as well as the top three most successful plays. We see that the success rate is 73.4% overall, but by picking the “Power I Right”, that success rate can be increased to 82.4%.

Imagine being a matchday pundit, and having a real-time simulation feed telling you the odds of a play working out, as it’s happening on the field. Imagine pundits in post-match analysis shows, debating plays based on evidence from Hadean and Axis (see the image below). Imagine sports journalists, writing pieces about how a team always makes the wrong choice, and about how it costs them games. Imagine the power this would bring to the backroom and coaching staff. Imagine wargaming plays against the opposition.

Thanks to the Hadean Platform, these answers can be brought to you, anywhere in the world, on demand.