Which teams have given us the most exciting stretches of football?

By NATE WELLER

Excitement Index (EI) was originally conceptualized by Brian Burke on his website Advanced Football Analytics, and more recently adopted by FiveThirtyEight for use in college basketball as well as plenty of other people and groups in the sports analytics community.

The basic idea is to calculate the total change in win probability throughout the course of the game, and use that as a proxy for excitement, meaning games that are tightly contested or feature large comebacks and swings in win probability will be the most “exciting.”

For a slightly different look at things, EI can also be aggregated at the team level or turned into rolling averages. In this case, we will use the SIS win probability model to calculate eight-week rolling average EI. This way, we will see which teams have put together the most exciting stretches of football in recent memory, and not just the most exciting game.

The 2017 Seattle Seahawks

This could just as easily read “Seattle in General.” Since the beginning of the 2016 season Seattle’s games have had an average EI of 4.2, putting them comfortably in the top spot. Seattle has also participated in the two most exciting games within the SIS database by our index. All of this has earned them a reputation for “literally never playing in a normal game.”

But even by their own lofty standards, 2017 was wild. 

Their run from Week 3 to Week 11 was the most exciting eight-game stretch within SIS’s database with an average EI of 5.5. Beyond that, four other eight-game iterations from that same season rounded out the top five.

The Seahawks Week 8 win over the Texans was the most exciting game of the stretch, and also is the most exciting game since 2016 with an EI of 8.3. The Seahawks were down to about a 20% chance to win in the fourth quarter before taking the lead with 21 seconds left on an 18-yard Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham. The game featured more than 400 passing yards from both Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson and more than 200 yards receiving from DeAndre Hopkins.

The 2019 Detroit Lions (Yes, Really)

A record of 3-4-1 isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of exciting football, but the 2019 Lions were truly one of the most exciting average football teams we have seen. Their average EI of 5.2 from Weeks 1-9 trails only the aforementioned 2017 Seahawks for the most exciting stretch of football we’ve seen over the last four seasons. 

The “excitement” in this case though is mostly driven by two gut-wrenching losses in back-to-back games against the Chiefs and Packers. In each game the Lions eclipsed a 90% chance to win, and in both cases were north of 75% in the fourth quarter before losing late. 

Honorable Mention: The 2017/2018 Philadelphia Eagles

After a thoroughly unexciting stretch of football at the end of 2016 that spilled into 2017, the Eagles put together one of the most exciting stretches of football  in the back half of their 2017 season. Even excluding the Nick Foles’ playoff run and Super Bowl victory, the Eagles had an average EI of 5.1 from Week 14 of 2017 to Week 4 of 2018.

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