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The shutout effect

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Do teams play better after getting shut out? There is a certain added level of embarrassment when a team fails to score in a game. If you lose 34-3, you spend the week hearing about how terribly you played. If you lose 34-0, you spend the week hear about how terribly you played and how you couldn’t even score!

This made me wonder: do teams perform better in the week after a shutout than after a similar blowout? Perhaps the added embarrassment encourages a team to go back to the drawing board and really focus on what went wrong. That was just a theory, though. So I looked at all games since 1960 where a team (a) lost by at least 20 points and (b) had scored 0 points entering the 4th quarter. There were 593 such games, and the team was shutout in 379 times.

Sixty-five of those games of those games occurred in a team’s last game of the season, so I eliminated those games. Of the remaining 528 games, how did the teams that failed to score fare the next week relative to the non-shutout teams? The table below lists the points scored and allowed by each group of teams, along with how many points they scored and allowed in their next game (and their winning percentage in that game):

Category#GmsPFPAN+1 PFN+1 PAN+1 WIN%

As you can see, there seems to be nothing to the shutout effect. Teams score and win at roughly the same rates regardless of whether they get a meaningless late score or not. So why am I making this a post? Because a “no effect” answer is often just as meaningful as any other type of answer.

  • Richie

    Would it be instructive to include the cumulative winning percentages of teams prior to game N?

    So, teams that get shutout, win 37.5% of their following games. But if those teams were, on average, winning 67% of their games before the shutout (like the Jets), that might be concerning.

    • Chase Stuart

      Yes it would. It would also help to look at the quality of the opponent in games N and N+1. With the large sample I don’t think that would be all that revealing, but part of it was also laziness.

  • BJG

    Definitely agree that a result proving no effect is just as important. Would be interested to see how these teams faired ATS in their next game to see if the public undervalued them or expected a bounce back