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The Wolfram|Alpha Team

Wolfram|Alpha Fantasy Football

September 24, 2013 —
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The NFL season is in full swing, and along with rooting for one’s favorite team come the highs and lows of fantasy football. For those uninitiated in the fantasy football society, it’s a fairly easy concept: draft a team of NFL players that you think will produce the best statistics each week.

The top player in this season’s draft was Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson. The all-pro back returned from an ACL injury last season to record over 2,000 rushing yards. Peterson led the second-leading rusher by almost 500 yards, or as Wolfram|Alpha can show, over one and a half lengths of the Titanic.

(adrian peterson - alfred morris 2012 rushing yards) / (length of titanic)

This season, eight of us at Wolfram created a league and held a cordial, yet fairly intense and competitive draft. The goal is to become the best fantasy football manager at Wolfram, and thus, earn bragging rights that will last until your team inevitably gets demolished by vengeful opponents next season.

Teams are comprised of 17 players—two quarterbacks, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one defense, one kicker, and one flex position (a running back, tight end, or wide receiver) and six backups. With the draft lasting 17 rounds and eight teams drafting, there were a handful of different strategies employed in choosing teams. Wolfram|Alpha is a valuable tool in comparing both future opponents and individual players’ past performances.

For example, in the first weekend of the season, Dinosaur Jr. Seau took on Hogan’s Heroes in a game with a pretty compelling matchup of quarterbacks. Using Wolfram|Alpha, you can see how each quarterback performed by calculating their quarterback ratings. Peyton Manning was far and away the top performer among the four QBs in week one.

2013 QB rating for Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Andy Dalton

Speaking of quarterbacks, each team in the Wolfram league is required to play two quarterbacks each week. Because of that, it seemed highly likely that some of the teams would draft a top wide receiver from the same NFL team as one of their quarterbacks. That would, hypothetically, give those teams a better chance of a higher score if both the quarterback and receiver have a good game. It’s also risky, though, if both players do not perform well. Interestingly enough, only one team in the league (the very peculiarly named Astonishing Return of Jim Brown) has both the starting quarterback and top wide receiver from the same NFL team, nabbing Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson. It’s interesting to note that while both Vick and Jackson had down years in 2012 compared to their previous campaigns, both players rely on each other quite heavily for success. Jackson was responsible for over 50% of all of Vick’s passing yards in week one.

(desean jackson receiving yards) / (michael vick passing yards)

Defense is also a necessary component to fielding a winning fantasy football team each season. Each manager must have a team defense in his or her lineup each week in order to score defensive points. Points are earned through creating turnovers (fumbles and interceptions), sacks, safeties, and points against. Injuries and suspensions to team defenses can be detrimental, as highlighted by star linebacker Von Miller’s absence for 7 weeks from the Denver Broncos. Miller had a phenomenal year last year, recording 18.5 sacks. As you can see in the graphic, Miller singlehandedly had over 35% of his team’s sacks.


It will be interesting to see how the Broncos fare without his presence on the field. It should also be noted that the author haphazardly (read: unintelligently) drafted this team defense in the 14th round.

This season, NFL stats will be updated on Wolfram|Alpha after every game day. You’ll have the opportunity to check out how your players are doing this year, while comparing their stats to past performances in different and more interesting ways than looking at lines of numbers on your favorite NFL stats sites.

Good luck and have fun this year!