100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 28: Mistaking Noise for a Signal
From my newest book Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Cash in on the Future of the Game:
Human beings are predisposed to finding patterns in nature, even when no such pattern actually exists. If you think about it, that makes sense; from an evolutionary standpoint, the downside to identifying a pattern or trend that doesn’t exist isn’t nearly as costly as overlooking a pattern that actually exists.
As it relates to the NFL, people are constantly searching for patterns in data, but in almost all cases, it’s just “noise”, i.e. random. When a mid-tier running back puts together two top 10 performances, all of a sudden he’s labeled as “hot” and forced into lineups around the country. But there are lots of reasons that a running back might have strung together two quality games, the most likely of which is simply that he had two favorable matchups.
When you’re formulating your projections and creating lineups, you have to be aware of your innate tendency to recognize trends, even if they have no basis in reality.