NFL: Regression to the Mean, Sample Size, and In-Season Projections

Posted: 12th September 2009 by Zach Fein in NFL
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What if I told you that Adrian Peterson isn’t as good as his stats say?

My reasoning is the Curse of the Leading Rusher. You’ve never heard of it before, but it’s an obvious trend. Since 1980, the NFL’s leading rusher has seen his rushing yards fall by 489 yards and his YPC by almost half a yard just one season later. Only six of the 31 leading rushers even increased their rushing yards the following season, and nine had less than 1,000 yards.

Convinced? You shouldn’t be. Their decline is nothing more than regression to the mean and a lack of sample size. Let me explain. Regression to the Mean Regression to the mean—also known as the law of averages—is the phenomenon that explains why extreme seasons far from the average ( ...

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