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Title intentionally left blank

It's a shame I have standards, because "Splits Happen" would be a perfect title for it.

LaMont Jordan was almost 10 points per game better at home than on the road last year. Peyton Manning was a lot better on the road. Rudi Johnson dominated in the second half of the year while Willis McGahee was much stronger early in the year. Hines Ward was essentially owned by his division foes in 2004, but he had huge numbers against them in 2005.

Do these facts mean anything? Maybe. But the point is: maybe not. This article is just a quick reminder that random variation is capable of making splits appear for no reason at all. Therefore, when you see that a player or team shows a striking split, you don't have to find an explanation for it. There may not be one.

Let me prove it.

Steve Smith 2005 vs. teams whose name ends with a consonant

WK  Opponent             Fant Pts
=================================
 1  New Orleans            19.8
 2  New England             3.4
 4  Green Bay               1.2
 6  Detroit                18.3
 9  Tampa Bay              16.6
10  New York                3.4
14  Tampa Bay              10.3
15  New Orleans            22.5
16  Dallas                  1.8
=================================
    AVERAGE                10.8
Steve Smith 2005 vs. vowel-ending teams
WK  Opponent             Fant Pts
=================================
 3  Miami                  34.8
 5  Arizona                23.9
 8  Minnesota              26.1
11  Chicago                16.9
12  Buffalo                 5.5
13  Atlanta                12.5
17  Atlanta                19.8
=================================
    AVERAGE                19.9

Smith was about 10 points per game better against the vowel-ending squads. You could argue that the vowel-enders just happened to be bad defenses last year, but they really weren't. And anyway, there were plenty of receivers who did better last season against the consonant teams.

Here's another one.

Cadillac Williams 2005 vs. teams whose names have 9 or fewer letters

WK  Opponent             Fant Pts
=================================
 1  Minnesota              20.8
 2  Buffalo                18.8
 3  Green Bay              15.8
 4  Detroit                 1.9
 9  Carolina                5.4
11  Atlanta                18.9
12  Chicago                 9.1
14  Carolina               23.6
16  Atlanta                22.0
=================================
    AVERAGE                15.1

Cadillac Williams 2005 vs. long-name teams

WK  Opponent             Fant Pts
=================================
 8  San Francisco           2.5
10  Washington              2.0
13  New Orleans            10.3
15  New England             2.7
17  New Orleans             8.1
=================================
    AVERAGE                 5.1

I'm sure you've got the point by now, but this is kind of fun. One more.

LaDainian Tomlinson 2005 vs. teams A--M

WK  Opponent             Fant Pts
=================================
 1  Dallas                 13.2
 2  Denver                 17.2
 8  Kansas City            14.0
11  Buffalo                14.9
14  Miami                   7.5
15  Indianapolis            8.5
16  Kansas City             6.5
17  Denver                 15.6
=================================
    AVERAGE                15.3

LaDainian Tomlinson 2005 vs. teams N--Z

WK  Opponent             Fant Pts
=================================
 3  New York               45.3
 4  New England            28.8
 5  Pittsburgh             19.0
 6  Oakland                34.1
 7  Philadelphia            3.3
 9  New York               39.3
12  Washington             39.3
13  Oakland                11.0
=================================
    AVERAGE                27.5

I am not trying to convince you to ignore splits altogether --- in some situations they are meaningful. For instance, Larry Johnson's 2005 early season / late season split was indicative of a role change and is certainly relevant. I am just reminding you that you need not force-fit some theory to explain the splits you see. There may simply be no explanation.



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