Comment: The problem with official statistics

Comment: The problem with official statistics statistics, nevin manimala
Comment: The problem with official statistics statistics, nevin manimala

What value do statistics really have when it comes to describing events in a country? For most people, statistics are a means to an end, a way to validate their point of view. I’ve heard many politicians, commentators, consultants say: “Give me the statistics that prove my argument.”

But if statistics can be twisted and turned to establish almost anything, all the more reason to make sure people know what they mean. Governments and bodies who create official statistics need to minimise the risks of them being abused by making them as clear as possible in the first place.

This is currently one of the subjects of the annual conference of the International Association of Official Statistics in Paris, themed “Better Statistics for Better Lives”. As we shall see, there are numerous common problems with official statistics that should give the delegates food for thought.

Mind the margin

One of the most politicised official statistics are employment/unemployment rates. When compiling the figures, the government obviously doesn’t go around asking every person are you employed or unemployed. It asks a small subset of the population and then generalises their unemployment rate. This means the level of unemployment at any given time is a guess – a good guess, but still a guess.

That’s statistics in a nutshell. Nothing is certain, but we throw numbers around like they are absolutely certain. To echo an argument that the statistician David Spiegelhalter has made, for example, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) recently reported that the number of unemployed people fell 55,000 between May and July of this year. However, the error around that guess was plus or minus 75,000. In other words, there could have been a decrease in unemployed people of 130,000 or an increase of 20,000.

So while we think unemployment went down, we don’t know for sure. But you wouldn’t have known that from how it was reported in the media, with the sort of certainty that nearly always accompanies news about official statistics. News headlines don’t like ambiguity, nor do the first few paragraphs of the stories below them.

But before we lay all the blame with journalists, there is an underlying issue with the statistical presentation. The ONS announcement didn’t even mention the uncertainty in the figures until several sections below the headline numbers, and you’d have to do quite a bit more digging than that to find out the +/- 75,000 margin of error.

It’s not just the ONS that routinely glosses over such uncertainties, of course. For the UN official climate change statistics, I spent 22 minutes trying to find the variability tables … I gave up. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published a report that began: “Total non-farm payroll employment increased by 201,000 in August, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.9%.” The bureau waited until 4,200 words and nine pages later to add a dense paragraph trying to explain the margin of error.

The bureau also includes many different measures of unemployment: U-3 for the total unemployed as a proportion of civilian labour force, for example; and U-6 for the “total unemployed plus all persons marginally attached to the labour force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labour force plus all persons marginally attached to the labour force”.

I am a statistician and even I have to read this stuff over and over before I understand it. Again, this is a very common phenomenon. Complex statistics have their place, but if there is no clear explanation, they are not helpful to the public and potentially quite damaging.

Best practice

So how do the bodies who produce these figures win? First, they need to do a better job at reporting these uncertainties. In the UK, the Royal Statistical Society and the ONS are working together on how to do this right now (yes, US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the 13 other bodies that produce official statistics for the US, that is a hint). Clarity is key. I mean, this may sound like a crazy approach, but has anyone ever considering saying that unemployment is down 55,000, plus or minus 75,000?

We also need, and I know this can sound like a cliche, a better education programme for statistics in schools. Since statistics are being used to drive enormous decisions, our children need to know how to question these numbers.

A recent paper found that in the US, for example, while there is a new standard that requires a stronger emphasis on statistics in schools, maths teachers are not well prepared to teach the subject. As for the UK, most people in the stats community will tell you that statistics is poorly taught in schools – crammed into core mathematics, or (in my opinion) even worse, spread out in thin bits to geography and biology.

Lastly, politicians needs to stay out of the bodies that produce national statistics. When politicians recently didn’t like the statistics coming out of the independent statistics agency in Puerto Rico, for instance, they dismantled it. In Greece, the chief statistician is being criminally charged for releasing what seems like the truth. The UK has not been immune to this in the past, either: Labour’s decision in the early 2000s to switch the Bank of England’s inflation target from retail price inflation to consumer price inflation is arguably the most obvious example, since it removed house prices from the equation at a time when they were rising rampantly.

A great statistician, George Box, once said: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” In short, there is error any time we model something – or in other words, make a prediction. What statisticians need to be better at explaining, and what the public need to be better at understanding, is that none of these numbers are exact. We also need to make statistics clearer so that anyone can understand them. In an era of fake news, where verifiable facts can seem a rare commodity, statisticians are too often doing us all a disservice.

Liberty Vittert, Lecturer, Statistics, University of Glasgow

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The problem with official statistics – and three ways to make them better

The problem with official statistics – and three ways to make them better statistics, nevin manimala

What value do statistics really have when it comes to describing events in a country? For most people, statistics are a means to an end, a way to validate their point of view. I’ve heard many politicians, commentators, consultants say: “Give me the statistics that prove my argument.”

But if statistics can be twisted and turned to establish almost anything, all the more reason to make sure people know what they mean. Governments and bodies who create official statistics need to minimise the risks of them being abused by making them as clear as possible in the first place.

This is currently one of the subjects of the annual conference of the International Association of Official Statistics in Paris, themed “Better Statistics for Better Lives”. As we shall see, there are numerous common problems with official statistics that should give the delegates food for thought.

Mind the margin

One of the most politicised official statistics are employment/unemployment rates. When compiling the figures, the government obviously doesn’t go around asking every person are you employed or unemployed. It asks a small subset of the population and then generalises their unemployment rate. This means the level of unemployment at any given time is a guess – a good guess, but still a guess.

That’s statistics in a nutshell. Nothing is certain, but we throw numbers around like they are absolutely certain. To echo an argument that the statistician David Spiegelhalter has made, for example, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) recently reported that the number of unemployed people fell 55,000 between May and July of this year. However, the error around that guess was plus or minus 75,000. In other words, there could have been a decrease in unemployed people of 130,000 or an increase of 20,000.

The problem with official statistics – and three ways to make them better statistics, nevin manimala Gainfully employed. M. Unal Ozmen

So while we think unemployment went down, we don’t know for sure. But you wouldn’t have known that from how it was reported in the media, with the sort of certainty that nearly always accompanies news about official statistics. News headlines don’t like ambiguity, nor do the first few paragraphs of the stories below them.

But before we lay all the blame with journalists, there is an underlying issue with the statistical presentation. The ONS announcement didn’t even mention the uncertainty in the figures until several sections below the headline numbers, and you’d have to do quite a bit more digging than that to find out the +/- 75,000 margin of error.

It’s not just the ONS that routinely glosses over such uncertainties, of course. For the UN official climate change statistics, I spent 22 minutes trying to find the variability tables … I gave up. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published a report that began: “Total non-farm payroll employment increased by 201,000 in August, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.9%.” The bureau waited until 4,200 words and nine pages later to add a dense paragraph trying to explain the margin of error.

The problem with official statistics – and three ways to make them better statistics, nevin manimala Who’s counting? studiostoks

The bureau also includes many different measures of unemployment: U-3 for the total unemployed as a proportion of civilian labour force, for example; and U-6 for the “total unemployed plus all persons marginally attached to the labour force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labour force plus all persons marginally attached to the labour force”.

I am a statistician and even I have to read this stuff over and over before I understand it. Again, this is a very common phenomenon. Complex statistics have their place, but if there is no clear explanation, they are not helpful to the public and potentially quite damaging.

Best practice

So how do the bodies who produce these figures win? First, they need to do a better job at reporting these uncertainties. In the UK, the Royal Statistical Society and the ONS are working together on how to do this right now (yes, US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the 13 other bodies that produce official statistics for the US, that is a hint). Clarity is key. I mean, this may sound like a crazy approach, but has anyone ever considering saying that unemployment is down 55,000, plus or minus 75,000?

We also need, and I know this can sound like a cliche, a better education programme for statistics in schools. Since statistics are being used to drive enormous decisions, our children need to know how to question these numbers.

A recent paper found that in the US, for example, while there is a new standard that requires a stronger emphasis on statistics in schools, maths teachers are not well prepared to teach the subject. As for the UK, most people in the stats community will tell you that statistics is poorly taught in schools – crammed into core mathematics, or (in my opinion) even worse, spread out in thin bits to geography and biology.

Lastly, politicians needs to stay out of the bodies that produce national statistics. When politicians recently didn’t like the statistics coming out of the independent statistics agency in Puerto Rico, for instance, they dismantled it. In Greece, the chief statistician is being criminally charged for releasing what seems like the truth. The UK has not been immune to this in the past, either: Labour’s decision in the early 2000s to switch the Bank of England’s inflation target from retail price inflation to consumer price inflation is arguably the most obvious example, since it removed house prices from the equation at a time when they were rising rampantly.

The problem with official statistics – and three ways to make them better statistics, nevin manimala George Box. Wikimedia

A great statistician, George Box, once said: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” In short, there is error any time we model something – or in other words, make a prediction. What statisticians need to be better at explaining, and what the public need to be better at understanding, is that none of these numbers are exact. We also need to make statistics clearer so that anyone can understand them. In an era of fake news, where verifiable facts can seem a rare commodity, statisticians are too often doing us all a disservice.

Shea Patterson’s clean pocket and throwing on run statistics through Week 3

Shea Patterson's clean pocket and throwing on run statistics through Week 3 statistics, nevin manimala
Shea Patterson's clean pocket and throwing on run statistics through Week 3 statistics, nevin manimala

The data is piling up and the sample size is getting bigger.

I’ve been tracking Shea Patterson’s throws on the run and throws made with a clean pocket each week this season, and Patterson had yet another solid showing in both facets of the passing game during Michigan’s victory over SMU.

Click Here for the Week 1 recap and methodology, Click Here for Week 2.

Clean Pocket

Michigan’s offensive line got off to a slow start but ended up performing admirably against SMU, allowing Patterson time to throw more often than not.

On the day, Patterson was 8-of-10 for 154 yards, with 3 TD and 1 INT. Four of these were over 25 yards, plays which needed time to develop.

Through three games, Patterson is now 24-of-30 (80%) for 365 yards, along with 5 TD’s and 1 INT. Three of these incompletions have been drops by Zach Gentry, who’s had a strong start to the season otherwise.

The interception occurred in the first quarter against SMU, where Patterson forced a pass into the end-zone, and the corner jumped the route. After the game, Patterson acknowledged he can’t make throws like that.

Patterson has shown exceptional accuracy down the field, it isn’t easy throwing balls on the money that travel more than 15+ yards down the field (ask Sam Bradford), and Patterson is doing it with relative ease when he has a clean pocket.

Throws on the run

There wasn’t a lot of new data that trickled in on this end during the SMU game. The offensive game-plan was tailored to limit the amount of running Patterson had to do on passing plays, and it worked out.

Patterson only threw 4 passes on the run versus the Mustangs, going 3-of-4 for 42 yards.

SMU had a couple long drives that took away multiple possessions Patterson may have been able to throw the rock around, so the stats are a bit skewed (14-of-18) when also factoring in the run-heavy approach Michigan favored for most of the afternoon.

Through three games, Patterson is 15-of-17 (88%) for 187 yds when throwing on the run.

Check back in next week, as I’ll be updating these numbers after every game.

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Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks: Prediction, preview, statistics to know for ‘Monday Night Football’

Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks: Prediction, preview, statistics to know for 'Monday Night Football' statistics, nevin manimala
Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks: Prediction, preview, statistics to know for 'Monday Night Football' statistics, nevin manimala

On this week’s edition of “Monday Night Football,” we’ve got two teams looking to avoid an 0-2 start that would drop them far behind the leaders of their respective divisions. The Chicago Bears lost a heartbreaker to — who else — Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 1, while the Seattle Seahawks dropped a road game to the Broncos in Denver that saw many familiar issues crop up. 

The Bears are a team thought to be on the rise, but that has not shown us all that much to indicate the rise is imminent just yet. The Seahawks, by contrast, are a team many think is due for a decline but that has so much institutional memory that it’s hard to believe that fall will come fast. One of these teams is going to get knocked backward in a way we didn’t necessarily anticipate at the start of the season, while the other can right the ship and potentially make a run toward the playoffs. 

How will it all go down? Read on to find out. 

When the Seahawks have the ball

Much like they did last year, the Seahawks will likely have to lean on Russell Wilson throughout this season to generate much of their offense. Hopefully, for their sake, they will not have to lean on him to quite the extent they did a year ago. Wilson accounted for over 86 percent of Seattle’s total yards in 2017, and for 37 of the Seahawks’ 38 offensive touchdowns as well. (He even led the team in rushing with more than twice as many yards as the next-closest player — and that guy was Mike Davis, who played in only six games.)

Seattle again invested some more resources into the offensive line in hopes of keeping Wilson upright. He is the most-pressured quarterback in the league since he became the team’s starter in 2012. D.J. Fluker was brought in to play guard. Ethan Pocic is now starting there as well. And last year’s trade acquisition, Duane Brown, was given a long-term deal. This is still not exactly a stalwart offensive line that will give Wilson a ton of time in the pocket and prevent him from having to run for his life all the time (just watch the tape of last week’s six-sack debacle against the Broncos), but at least they continue to try in that area. 

For their part, the Bears got after the quarterback about as well as a team possibly can in the first half of last week’s game. Khalil Mack pretty much single-handedly destroyed the Green Bay offense prior to halftime, and by the end of the night, the Bears had racked up four sacks, 10 hurries, nine hits, and three knockdowns. Sure, Aaron Rodgers ripped their hearts out, but that was at least a good sign for them going forward. Once Mack and rookie linebacker Roquan Smith get fully up to speed on the defense and in better condition, this team should be incredibly tough to score on. 

If the Seahawks want to take the pressure off their franchise QB this week, they’ll have to get more out of running back duo Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Carson, the former seventh-round pick, has looked like the more talented player throughout camp and preseason, and in Week 1 as well. Both runners played 25 offensive snaps in Week 1. Both were given seven carries and targeted five times in the passing game. But Carson gained 79 yards to Penny’s 43. It’s clear the team has plans for Penny after drafting him in the first round but it may be wise to ease him in as Carson handles more of the work, since it’s pretty clear he is the more effective player at this point. 

They may need both to play more sizable roles than last week, however, because the Seahawks will be without Wilson’s top passing-game target. Doug Baldwin has already been ruled out for the contest, which leaves Tyler Lockett, Brandon Marshall, Jaron Brown, and tight end Will Dissly as his options on the outside. Considering the relative lack of success Wilson has had throwing to non-Baldwin options in his career, he could be in for a long night against a Bears defense that can both rush the passer and contain the perimeter with strong defensive backs. 

Receiver Rec % Yds/Rec TD%
Baldwin 69.2% 9.07 6.8%
Not Baldwin 62.6% 7.54 5.5%

Wilson spread the ball around last week, targeting Lockett, Dissly, Penny, Carson, and Marshall at least four times apiece. Look for him to spread the wealth again, as the Seahawks will have to go to a pass-catcher-by-committee system without Wilson’s go-to guy on the field. It doesn’t necessarily help that so many of these pieces are new to Seattle, so if he does lock in on someone, it figures to be Lockett, who at least has been with the team for a while and was signed to a long-term deal this offseason that leads one to believe they intend him to be a significant part of the offense not just this year, but over the next few. 

When the Bears have the ball

It’s on this side of the ball where the two teams have undergone the most changes. 

Chicago is running a completely revamped offensive system under new head coach Matt Nagy — if you see a bunch of motion and trickeration and jet sweeps and mismatches and get reminded of the 2017 Chiefs, well, that’s because Nagy was their offensive coordinator, and he’s spent his entire professional coaching career working for Andy Reid. Most of the infrastructure surrounding second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, like the system, is brand new as well: the Bears signed Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton for a combined $100 million this offseason, and then they drafted Anthony Miller in the second round. 

All that change worked out well for the Bears at the beginning of last week’s season-opening loss to the division rival Packers, but after a while they struggled to sustain a rhythm offensively. Trubisky eschewed the aggressiveness with which he opened the game, pulling the ball down to run far too often and refusing to take any chances down the field whatsoever. He checked down often to Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. He failed to connect with Burton, who had been pumped up as a key acquisition. (More on him later.) By the end of the night, he averaged 1.46 air yards per attempt when unpressured, 35th out of the 36 quarterbacks that threw at least five passes in their team’s opener. The only player behind him was Nathan Peterman.

That was the continuation of a career-long trend for Trubisky, who was near the bottom of pretty much every yardage ranking among quarterbacks during his rookie season. He averages just 6.5 yards per attempt for his career, with eight games above 7.0 per attempt and five below that mark — one of which involved him throwing only seven passes. It’s somewhat surprising the Chicago passing game could not get more going given the success Jordan Howard had running the ball (15 carries, 82 yards; 3.9 yards after contact per carry), but as Nagy said during the week, it’s important to remember that both he and Trubisky are really doing this for the first time. 

There was a lot of “this year’s Rams” buzz around the Bears this offseason because of the similarities between them and the 2017 version of LA (second-year quarterback who struggled as a rookie, rookie head coach known for his work with QBs replacing one of the NFL‘s least creative coaches, a heavy influx of pass-catching talent to complement a stud running back), but not every team can hit the ground running with a 46-point opener like Sean McVay’s crew did last year. 

Of course, the Rams’ shocking run last year was so shocking in the first place because it resulted in the Seahawks being knocked off their perch as NFC West champions. Seattle had won the division every season since 2012 and become a staple in the later rounds of the playoffs, as Wilson and the defense kept them in every game — literally — for years. In 2017 that defense finally fell off a bit, and now, it looks much different than it ever has before. 

The Seahawks lost players this offseason who accounted for 39.3 percent of their defensive snaps a year ago, but that number under-sells just how much turnover there has really been because so many longtime stalwarts missed time last year and then left the team. Richard Sherman tore his Achilles, and signed with the 49ers. Kam Chancellor suffered a neck injury, then was forced to retire. The same is true of Cliff Avril. But they’re not the only players who are gone. Michael Bennett was traded to the Eagles. Sheldon Richardson signed with the Vikings. Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell were released. 

Even some of the holdovers that give this unit what little continuity it has will not actually be on the field for this particular game. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright have been ruled out, and that leaves a big hole in the middle of the Seattle defense — particularly against the pass. Wagner and Wright are two of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL, and without them players like Burton and Tarik Cohen could have opportunities to get into open space. Burton caught just one of his six targets last week and Cohen gained only 16 yards on his three grabs. Working against backup linebackers could be just what they need to find a rhythm with Trubisky. 

Pick: Bears 20, Seahawks 17

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants: Score, live updates, results, highlights, statistics for ‘Sunday Night Football’

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants: Score, live updates, results, highlights, statistics for 'Sunday Night Football' statistics, nevin manimala
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants: Score, live updates, results, highlights, statistics for 'Sunday Night Football' statistics, nevin manimala

The Giants and Cowboys enter Sunday night’s matchup tied for last place in the NFC East after losses last week. But by the end of the evening, one of these teams will be in a three-way tie for first place with the Redskins and Eagles

New York spent the offseason upgrading the offensive line, though you wouldn’t have known it after watching Eli Manning run for his life against the Jaguars in Week 1, but there are reasons for optimism; the O-line should improve — and Manning will too — Odell Beckham Jr. is completely healthy, Evan Engram has a chance to be one of the league’s best young tight ends, and the team used its second-overall pick on running back Saquon Barkley, adding much-needed balance to an offense that was among the NFL‘s worst a season ago.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, remain an enigma. The offensive line has been beset with injuries and the front office did little to find Dak Prescott help at wide receiver after parting ways with Dez Bryant. The defense should be better than it was last year but that won’t matter if Dallas can’t regularly find the end zone. Last week in Carolina, the Cowboys were down 16-0 before finally getting on the board late in the 4th quarter.

Stay here for all the updates in this Week 2 divisional showdown.

Thank you for joining us.

Jaguars vs. Patriots: Prediction, preview, time, channel, statistics to know for AFC title game rematch

Jaguars vs. Patriots: Prediction, preview, time, channel, statistics to know for AFC title game rematch statistics, nevin manimala
Jaguars vs. Patriots: Prediction, preview, time, channel, statistics to know for AFC title game rematch statistics, nevin manimala

Not all that long ago, the surprising Jacksonville Jaguars held a double-digit second half lead over the then-defending champion New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Blake Bortles and company looked like they were on their way to the Super Bowl, and then the Patriots did what they always do. They stormed back into the game by out-executing their opponents, and taking advantage of every single mistake the other team made. 

One such mistake the Jags made was not being aggressive enough offensively, while another was letting Brady sit relatively unhurried in the pocket and pick out receivers to whom he could throw the ball. Eventually, he made just enough plays to win, and the Pats got to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. 

Eight months later, New England is again the heavy favorite to play into February. The Jaguars are in that mix as well, and largely for the same reason they wound up there last year: their defense is just that good. Bortles is throwing to a depleted crop of receivers this year compared to last, and while the offensive line is improved, there’s no real expectation that the Jags will field an above-average offense. Instead, it’s all about ball control, grinding the clock, and punishing the opposing offense. 

That’s the typical strategy against a Patriots machine that has shown it can out-gun even the best defenses, though, so New England will be well-prepared to handle whatever the Jaguars throw at them in the rematch (4:25 p.m., CBS). This is one of the marquee games of Week 2’s Sunday slate, and it should be exciting to see how it all shakes out. 

When the Jaguars have the ball 

First things first: we do not yet know if Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette will suit up for this game. Fournette suffered a hamstring injury during the Jaguars’ Week 1 win over the Giants and has practiced on only a limited basis so far this week. He referred to himself Thursday as a game-time decision. 

He’s had hamstring issues before and the Jags obviously don’t want this one to linger, so it’s possible they sit him down and wait for Week 3 against the division rival Titans before getting him back onto the field. It’s of course possible they’ll prioritize winning this particular game given its importance in the AFC playoff race, but Fournette has too much long-term import to the Jaguars to rush things. If he’s ready, they should let him suit up; but if he’s not, they shouldn’t force it just because this week’s opponent is the favorite to come out of the AFC. 

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While it may seem like a major issue for the Jags to be without Fournette, that is not necessarily the case. T.J. Yeldon is not the same kind of power-speed-athleticism force as Jacksonville’s starter, but he is 6-foot-1, 223 pounds and he’s smooth enough catching the ball out of the backfield. He carried 14 times for just 51 yards against the Giants last week, but he’s up at four yards per carry for his career and he’s caught at least 30 passes during each of his three NFL seasons. He’s not Fournette, obviously, but he’s capable. 

Whether Fournette is out or not, something that seems likely is an extra dose of pass-catching back Corey Grant. Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett mentioned earlier this week that he wants Grant to be more heavily involved in the offense, and considering Jacksonville’s relative lack of playmakers on the perimeter, that makes a ton of sense. Grant was a big factor in the building the Jags’ early lead in the AFC title game, catching three passes for 59 yards in the first half, including two that extended drives that later ended in touchdowns. He’s not an every-down back but he’s shifty in open space, and when you consider that New England’s defense ranked 22nd in DVOA on passes to running backs last season, you begin to think there’s some merit to mixing him in more often this week in particular. 

If Fournette does sit, much of the pass-catching infrastructure that helped the Jaguars build their early lead in last year’s AFC title game will be missing in action for the rematch. Allen Hurns (six catches, 80 yards) is in Dallas. Marqise Lee (six catches, 41 yards) is out for the year with a torn ACL. Marcedes Lewis is on the Packers. Holdovers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, now two of Blake Bortles’ top three receivers, caught only three passes for 66 yards combined in the previous game. 

Given the way the Pats used their corners in Week 1 (and the way Bill Belichick has preferred to use his corners in the past), we seem likely to see a shadow coverage situation on Sunday, with No. 1 corner Stephon Gilmore tracking Cole from side to side and Eric Rowe playing opposite and covering whichever of Westbrook and Donte Moncrief lines up out wide. Patrick Chung would then handle the slot, which he did for 78 percent of passes against the Pats in Week 1. That means he’ll likely see Westbrook most often, since he’s been the primary slot man for Jacksonville so far. 

The battle in the trenches will likely go a long way toward determining whether or not Bortles can get himself in a rhythm, as he has struggled with pressure throughout his career. The Pats sacked him thrice and hit him eight more times during the AFC title game and while he was still able to do some damage before halftime, his played slow in the second half. Trey Flowers, in particular, was a monster on that day, racking up four of New England’s eight hits on Bortles. He picked up right where he left off in Week 1, with 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and three hits of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson

When the Patriots have the ball 

Just like the Jaguars, the Patriots have some question marks surrounding who, exactly, will be healthy in their backfield for Sunday. Jeremy Hill tore his ACL last week and is out for the season. First-round pick Sony Michel is still working his way back from a knee injury and has been limited in practice all week. Rex Burkhead apparently suffered a concussion at some point and was held out of Wednesday’s practice, though he did return on a limited basis on Thursday. That leaves just James White as a fully-healthy back for New England, and he has primarily operated as a pass-catcher for most of his career. 

Considering the strength of the Jaguars’ defensive front, and their pass defense in particular, it’s not a great sign that the Pats’ backfield is so banged up. It’s even less of a good sign when you consider just how many of the pass-catchers Tom Brady utilized during that AFC title game victory are no longer with the team. 

If Burkhead doesn’t play, then 25 of Brady’s 38 targets from last season’s title matchup are gone, as are 196 of his 290 passing yards. The only targets remaining would be White, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett. Gronk, as you might notice there, had just one catch for 21 yards in that contest. He spent much of the game being covered by Jalen Ramsey, and it would not be a surprise to see the Jaguars try that strategy again, even though they ranked fifth in pass defense DVOA against tight ends last season and that was primarily due to the work of players like Myles Jack, Telvin Smith, Barry Church, and Tashaun Gipson

Brady and Gronk have beaten elite defenses like this before, and Gronk is open even when it looks like he’s not, but it’s never really wise to throw at Ramsey and Gronk being limited here is not out of the realm of possibility. The question, then, is where else does Brady look? Week 1 breakout Dorsett (7-66-1 last week) seems likely to see a whole lot of A.J. Bouye, given that he primarily operates as an outside receiver. That leaves Hogan in the slot against D.J. Hayden, and that seems like the matchup the Patriots will target most often — especially if Burkhead can’t play and White has to handle the backfield role by himself and thus may not see quite as many targets because they have to save his body to ensure he can run the ball. 

This also might be a game where we see what Josh McDaniels and company have in mind for Cordarrelle Patterson, because the Pats might need both another ball-carrier and someone who can create yards out of nothing on smoke routes that neutralize Jacksonville’s devastating pass rush and take advantage of the fact that Ramsey is aligned with Gronk and not in his usual post on the perimeter. Patterson is not a complete player by any means, but there are ways to use his skill set so that he is put in position to succeed, and there is probably no coordinator-quarterback infrastructure more well-equipped to do that than the one in New England. 

Having to resort to a player like Patterson as a real part of the offense is not a good position to be in, but it’s one that might be New England’s reality due to the injuries, suspensions (Julian Edelman), and matchups presented in this game. It would be another story if they could count on their offensive line to keep Brady upright all afternoon but that seems unlikely with Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, Malik Jackson and company going up against a group that lost its starting left tackle and swing tackle from last season and saw first-round pick Isaiah Wynn go down with a knee injury during the preseason. All that said, if there is any team that can take a matchup that looks bad on paper and swing it to its advantage, it’s these guys. 

Pick: Patriots 23, Jaguars 14

Hope students win national statistics competition

Hope students win national statistics competition statistics, nevin manimala
Hope students win national statistics competition statistics, nevin manimala

Statistics research projects conducted by two teams of Hope College students earned first and third place in the 2017-18 Undergraduate Statistics Project Competition, hosted by the the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education and the American Statistical Association.

Senior Alyssa Goodwin of Farmington Hills, senior Samuel Heilman of Grosse Ile and junior Leah Krudy of Midland won first place for “Effects of Color on Heart Rate,” which involved 27 students writing similar paragraphs on both white paper and red paper, and found that the change in heart rate after the activity was significantly higher with red paper.

Senior Maya Smith of Southfield and sophomore Lauren Cutler of East Lansing won third place for “Tuition to Test Scores: A Statistical Analysis,” which surveyed 33 students to determine if there was a relationship between the amount of tuition they paid themselves and their grade point average.

Both teams pursued the projects during the spring 2018 accelerated introductory statistics class, Statistical Methods, taught by Dr. Yew-Meng Koh, assistant professor of mathematics.

The winning projects are featured on the CAUSE website and will be announced in the monthly Amstat News Journal published by the ASA. As first-place winners, Goodwin, Heilman and Krudy may also be invited to give a virtual plenary talk during the 2018 Electronic Undergraduate Statistics Research Conference on Friday, Nov. 2.

US college students are swapping Shakespeare for statistics

US college students are swapping Shakespeare for statistics statistics, nevin manimala
US college students are swapping Shakespeare for statistics statistics, nevin manimala

Follow the money. At least that’s what America’s college students are doing when it comes to choosing majors.

The share of bachelor’s degree holders in the U.S. age 25 and over who majored in computers, math or statistics rose to 4.7 percent last year from 4.2 percent in 2009 — an increase of nearly 1 million students over the period, and 224,000 alone in 2017, according to Census Bureau data released Thursday.

The proportion who concentrated in literature and languages meanwhile dropped from 4.6 to 4.2 percent, while the number who studied liberal arts and history was down 0.7 percentage point as a share of the total.

The changes may help the U.S. labor market amid a shortage of science, technology, engineering and math talent. The government projects faster-than-average employment growth in such so-called STEM fields.

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The shifts may also reflect a growing awareness among students in the years after the 2007-09 recession of the value of a college degree and its relevance in the workforce. The average published price of tuition and fees alone at public and private nonprofit four-year colleges rose to $9,970 and $34,740, respectively, in the 2017-18 academic year, figures from the College Board show.

Majoring in math and technology-related subjects leads to the biggest salaries, while the value of arts and humanities degrees is less clear, according to a report from Bankrate.com released Monday.

Among other findings, the census data show that business remains the most popular field of study, consistently attracting a fifth of undergrads. The share of students who pursued education meanwhile took a sharp fall over the period, dropping from 13.7 to 12.2 percent of the total.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots: Prediction, preview, statistics to know for AFC title game rematch

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots: Prediction, preview, statistics to know for AFC title game rematch statistics, nevin manimala
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots: Prediction, preview, statistics to know for AFC title game rematch statistics, nevin manimala

Not all that long ago, the surprising Jacksonville Jaguars held a double-digit second half lead over the then-defending champion New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Blake Bortles and company looked like they were on their way to the Super Bowl, and then the Patriots did what they always do. They stormed back into the game by out-executing their opponents, and taking advantage of every single mistake the other team made. 

One such mistake the Jags made was not being aggressive enough offensively, while another was letting Brady sit relatively unhurried in the pocket and pick out receivers to whom he could throw the ball. Eventually, he made just enough plays to win, and the Pats got to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. 

Eight months later, New England is again the heavy favorite to play into February. The Jaguars are in that mix as well, and largely for the same reason they wound up there last year: their defense is just that good. Bortles is throwing to a depleted crop of receivers this year compared to last, and while the offensive line is improved, there’s no real expectation that the Jags will field an above-average offense. Instead, it’s all about ball control, grinding the clock, and punishing the opposing offense. 

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That’s the typical strategy against a Patriots machine that has shown it can out-gun even the best defenses, though, so New England will be well-prepared to handle whatever the Jaguars throw at them in the rematch. This is one of the marquee games of Week 2’s Sunday slate, and it should be exciting to see how it all shakes out. 

When the Jaguars have the ball 

First things first: we do not yet know if Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette will suit up for this game. Fournette suffered a hamstring injury during the Jaguars’ Week 1 win over the Giants and has practiced on only a limited basis so far this week. He referred to himself Thursday as a game-time decision. 

He’s had hamstring issues before and the Jags obviously don’t want this one to linger, so it’s possible they sit him down and wait for Week 3 against the division rival Titans before getting him back onto the field. It’s of course possible they’ll prioritize winning this particular game given its importance in the AFC playoff race, but Fournette has too much long-term import to the Jaguars to rush things. If he’s ready, they should let him suit up; but if he’s not, they shouldn’t force it just because this week’s opponent is the favorite to come out of the AFC. 

While it may seem like a major issue for the Jags to be without Fournette, that is not necessarily the case. T.J. Yeldon is not the same kind of power-speed-athleticism force as Jacksonville’s starter, but he is 6-foot-1, 223 pounds and he’s smooth enough catching the ball out of the backfield. He carried 14 times for just 51 yards against the Giants last week, but he’s up at four yards per carry for his career and he’s caught at least 30 passes during each of his three NFL seasons. He’s not Fournette, obviously, but he’s capable. 

Whether Fournette is out or not, something that seems likely is an extra dose of pass-catching back Corey Grant. Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett mentioned earlier this week that he wants Grant to be more heavily involved in the offense, and considering Jacksonville’s relative lack of playmakers on the perimeter, that makes a ton of sense. Grant was a big factor in the building the Jags’ early lead in the AFC title game, catching three passes for 59 yards in the first half, including two that extended drives that later ended in touchdowns. He’s not an every-down back but he’s shifty in open space, and when you consider that New England’s defense ranked 22nd in DVOA on passes to running backs last season, you begin to think there’s some merit to mixing him in more often this week in particular. 

If Fournette does sit, much of the pass-catching infrastructure that helped the Jaguars build their early lead in last year’s AFC title game will be missing in action for the rematch. Allen Hurns (six catches, 80 yards) is in Dallas. Marqise Lee (six catches, 41 yards) is out for the year with a torn ACL. Marcedes Lewis is on the Packers. Holdovers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, now two of Blake Bortles’ top three receivers, caught only three passes for 66 yards combined in the previous game. 

Given the way the Pats used their corners in Week 1 (and the way Bill Belichick has preferred to use his corners in the past), we seem likely to see a shadow coverage situation on Sunday, with No. 1 corner Stephon Gilmore tracking Cole from side to side and Eric Rowe playing opposite and covering whichever of Westbrook and Donte Moncrief lines up out wide. Patrick Chung would then handle the slot, which he did for 78 percent of passes against the Pats in Week 1. That means he’ll likely see Westbrook most often, since he’s been the primary slot man for Jacksonville so far. 

The battle in the trenches will likely go a long way toward determining whether or not Bortles can get himself in a rhythm, as he has struggled with pressure throughout his career. The Pats sacked him thrice and hit him eight more times during the AFC title game and while he was still able to do some damage before halftime, his played slow in the second half. Trey Flowers, in particular, was a monster on that day, racking up four of New England’s eight hits on Bortles. He picked up right where he left off in Week 1, with 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and three hits of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson

When the Patriots have the ball 

Just like the Jaguars, the Patriots have some question marks surrounding who, exactly, will be healthy in their backfield for Sunday. Jeremy Hill tore his ACL last week and is out for the season. First-round pick Sony Michel is still working his way back from a knee injury and has been limited in practice all week. Rex Burkhead apparently suffered a concussion at some point and was held out of Wednesday’s practice, though he did return on a limited basis on Thursday. That leaves just James White as a fully-healthy back for New England, and he has primarily operated as a pass-catcher for most of his career. 

Considering the strength of the Jaguars’ defensive front, and their pass defense in particular, it’s not a great sign that the Pats’ backfield is so banged up. It’s even less of a good sign when you consider just how many of the pass-catchers Tom Brady utilized during that AFC title game victory are no longer with the team. 

If Burkhead doesn’t play, then 25 of Brady’s 38 targets from last season’s title matchup are gone, as are 196 of his 290 passing yards. The only targets remaining would be White, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett. Gronk, as you might notice there, had just one catch for 21 yards in that contest. He spent much of the game being covered by Jalen Ramsey, and it would not be a surprise to see the Jaguars try that strategy again, even though they ranked fifth in pass defense DVOA against tight ends last season and that was primarily due to the work of players like Myles Jack, Telvin Smith, Barry Church, and Tashaun Gipson

Brady and Gronk have beaten elite defenses like this before, and Gronk is open even when it looks like he’s not, but it’s never really wise to throw at Ramsey and Gronk being limited here is not out of the realm of possibility. The question, then, is where else does Brady look? Week 1 breakout Dorsett (7-66-1 last week) seems likely to see a whole lot of A.J. Bouye, given that he primarily operates as an outside receiver. That leaves Hogan in the slot against D.J. Hayden, and that seems like the matchup the Patriots will target most often — especially if Burkhead can’t play and White has to handle the backfield role by himself and thus may not see quite as many targets because they have to save his body to ensure he can run the ball. 

This also might be a game where we see what Josh McDaniels and company have in mind for Cordarrelle Patterson, because the Pats might need both another ball-carrier and someone who can create yards out of nothing on smoke routes that neutralize Jacksonville’s devastating pass rush and take advantage of the fact that Ramsey is aligned with Gronk and not in his usual post on the perimeter. Patterson is not a complete player by any means, but there are ways to use his skill set so that he is put in position to succeed, and there is probably no coordinator-quarterback infrastructure more well-equipped to do that than the one in New England. 

Having to resort to a player like Patterson as a real part of the offense is not a good position to be in, but it’s one that might be New England’s reality due to the injuries, suspensions (Julian Edelman), and matchups presented in this game. It would be another story if they could count on their offensive line to keep Brady upright all afternoon but that seems unlikely with Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, Malik Jackson and company going up against a group that lost its starting left tackle and swing tackle from last season and saw first-round pick Isaiah Wynn go down with a knee injury during the preseason. All that said, if there is any team that can take a matchup that looks bad on paper and swing it to its advantage, it’s these guys. 

Pick: Patriots 23, Jaguars 14