by Ed Anthony
A little known fact is that the team losing the initial cointoss has the option of electing to receive the ball at the beginning of the second half to electing which side to defend. THis means that if the home team loses the cointoss and begin the game with a kickoff they can then elect to kickoff at the start of the second half.
Conventional wisdom is that there is an advantage to have first possession in a half. For this reason teams always elect to receive the ball at least once during the game. But the rules are clear that the game need not develop this way.
Over the years there has been much discussion whether a team should has an advantage receiving in the first half. An argument can be made that receiving to open the second half gives a team the advantage of knowing whether they are in the lead and can play accordingly. arguments have also been made that first possession puts pressure on the kicking team to "catch up."
For year's I've felt that the greater advantage is to receive the ball in the second half. To provide my point I recently ran data on five season of football and I'd expected to find that there was at least a strong trend that teams receiving the ball in the second half had an advantage.
Below is the data I'd found for the 2005 - 2009 seasons. The results were not what I'd expected. As a matter of fact I am certain the no football fan is aware of the trend I've identified. The table shows data representing the outcome of each game by half. The team receiving the ball has consistently lost the half (except in 2008.) This result is surprising in itself. The receiving team will have as many possessions if not one more than the kicking team. Yet the data clearly show that the kicking team has won more game halves than the receiving team. (Ties were counted at the end of regulation.)
I next ran the data to see how teams receiving the ball at the start of the second half succeeded. The datas show the game results of the team receiving the ball in the second half. Again the team kicking to open the second half won more games than the receiving team.
As none of this applies to overtime, the only conclusion one can arrive at is that given the choice, every team should elect to kick rather than receive. And if given the opportunity to kickoff at the start of each half a team should take that option. This finding does not agree with convention wisdom.