Is the ELF getting more unbalanced?

Is the ELF getting more unbalanced?

31 July 2023

Two new records in most scored points by a team in a game, another shutout and two more five-score games. So everyone is talking about: The league is too unbalanced!

Now I will not argue against this statement, I will compare the point differences in the current season to the previous ELF seasons. I will look at the 40 regular season games in 2021, the 72 regular season games in 2022, and the 65 games up to week 9 in the 2023 season.

First lets have a look at the median point difference. In all three seasons, the median point difference is 17. So 50 % of the games have a difference of 17 or less. The mean point differences however have increased: from 18.0 in 2021 to 19.7 in 2022 and 20.2 in 2023.

This can be easily explained: the games with high point differences have even higher differences in 2023. The 90 % quantile of point differences in 2023 is 45. This means, 10 % of the games in 2023 have 45 point difference or more. In comparison, 5.6 % of the games in 2022 and 5.0 % of the games in 2021 had 45 or more point difference.

The following graphic shows the distribution of games per score difference (up to 8 point difference is one score, up to 16 is two scores and so on):

As we can see, the distribution of games per score has barely changed. There were 30 % one-score games in 2021, 33.3 % in 2022 and 29.2 % in 2023. If you look at one- and two-score games, all season are nearly identical: 50 % of games in 2021 were one or two scores, 48.6 % in 2022 and 47.7 % in 2023.

However, looking at the extremes, we see the difference again: There was no game with six or more scores in 2021, and 7.5 % had five scores. Although every 8th game was five scores in 2022, only 9.7 % had six or more. In 2023 however, 6.2 % were five scores, 12.3 % of the games had six or more scores difference.

Bottom line: Overall, the league is not getting more unbalanced. However, the extreme point differences are increasing. Probable reason: point difference is an important tie breaker for the wild card spots.