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Power BI Reports Held to the Highest Standard of Usability:  NFL Football Analytics

Nothing Cures the Old Writer’s Block Quite Like Advanced NFL Stats and Power BI
(Artist’s Rendition – But the Real Thing is Soon to Be Revealed)

Yeah yeah yeah…

So it’s been awhile since we’ve posted an article around here.  Funny thing – I myself am no longer out in the trenches every day, and so I’m not generating new fodder for articles at nearly the same pace as yesteryear.  And our consultants, who ARE in the trenches…  well, it seems a shame to pull them away from Power BI client work to write articles.

Well, we found a solution.  We pulled some strings and got the NFL to start their season tonight, Thursday September 5th, in order to give us some compelling use cases.  (Thanks, Roger – we owe you one).

No Checkdowns:  A Philosophy to Live By, in Sport and in Business

“A checkdown is the path of least resistance.  It minimizes the chances of you LOOKING bad, but if you lean on it as your go-to move, you’ll never SUCCEED.  Your competition WANTS you to take the checkdown, so BOOM!  Don’t do it.”

-John Madden, NFL Hall of Fame Coach and Analyst
(OK fine, he never said that.  But he COULD have, and that’s what matters!)

It doesn’t matter if you don’t care about NFL football.  We’re not going to be making excuses around here, because we’re a No Checkdowns kind of crew.  So we’re going to keep the relevance high, whether you’re into football or not.

All of the articles in this series are going to be packed with general Power BI and Business relevance.  Everything from technical Power BI techniques to org-wide cultural practices.  Football is going to be a lens, as opposed to being the subject.

“But Rob, what if I DO care about football?”

Some of you ARE interested in football, but just as importantly…  what about those football fans who have not yet discovered Power BI?  We need to HELP those people, too!  But you really can’t have it both ways – the “tech talk” around here would scare off the uninitated, and on the flip side, a deep dive into football as primary subject matter would bore a lot of our good friends in the Power BI field.

You can’t be two things at once… unless you actually ARE two things!  And that’s what we’re going to do.  For this NFL season, the football world is going to “know” us as No Checkdowns – a completely separate brand and website.

So we’ll talk Power BI “shop” here on this site, and we’ll be “all football” on the NoCheckdowns site.  There’s also something very unforgiving about projecting to a non-technical, “never heard of Power BI” crowd.  The standards of usability are super, super high when you’re preaching to the uninitiated, and I suspect we’ll all learn a thing or two from that experience.

PreSnapReads is the Drink.  We are the Straw.Professional Modeling and Viz by P3.  Professional Analysis and Stats by PreSnapReads.

We’re pros at Power BI, but we’re amateurs at football analysis.  So we’re partnering with PreSnapReads, one of the absolute smartest entities in the space.

There are a lot of reasons why we chose PSR to partner with, but it doesn’t make sense to bury those reasons at the bottom of this post.  We’re gonna circle back and devote a specific article to why we’ve long been fond of PSR, and why we’re thrilled to be teaming up for the 2019 season.

Rough Schedule of Events

  1. Thursday Night Game Tonight, Bears vs Packers
  2. Friday:  we ingest Thursday’s game data from PSR and produce new dashboards
  3. Friday or Saturday:  initial insights from the Sunday night game will go out on the @NoCheckdowns twitter feed (go throw it a follow if you’re interested!)
  4. Sunday and Monday:  the remaining 15 NFL games of opening weekend
  5. Monday:  more stats ingestion, some tweets
  6. Tuesday:  Another blog post here on
  7. Mid-To-Late Next Week: site goes live!

“OK, Rob…  for real, what’s a checkdown?”

In football terminology, a checkdown is when the quarterback takes the short, easy throw.  There’s typically a “safety valve” player who stays close to the QB, and said player isn’t normally surrounded by defenders who can knock the ball away.  If the QB throws to the safety valve, it’s called a checkdown.

In theory, the checkdown is the last resort, and the QB only falls back to it if all of the other receivers are “covered” (surrounded by defenders).

But inexperienced (or otherwise subpar) QB’s often take the checkdown when the higher-reward plays ARE still available.  The checkdown is better than nothing, but it is NOT better than an accurate pass to a player farther downfield.  And a lot of QB’s (even some veterans) DO take the checkdown when they shouldn’t – but those QB’s seldom win championships.

So, “No Checkdowns” is a little bit tongue in cheek.  In football or in business, you DO sometimes need to take the checkdown.  Just not as a “go-to” option.

“No Checkdowns” just has a better football ring to it than “Limited Checkdowns” or “Are You Sure You Aren’t Missing Something Better” or “Careful of Your Opportunity Cost.”

See you soon folks.

Rob Collie

Rob Collie

One of the original engineering leaders behind Power BI and Power Pivot during his 14-year career at Microsoft, Rob Collie founded a consulting company in 2013 that is 100% devoted to “the new way forward” made possible by Power BI and its related technologies. Since 2013, PowerPivotPro has rapidly grown to become the leading firm in the industry, pioneering an agile, results-first methodology never before seen in the Business Intelligence space. A sought-after public speaker and author of the #1-selling Power BI book, Rob and his team would like to help you revolutionize your business and your career.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Super-excited for this, Rob. Your old school fantasy football article is how I found P3 in the first place. I’ve tried dashboarding some Fantasy Football stuff in the past, but it always proves to be so multi-variant that I lose momentum and resort to less statistically-informed models in order to aid assessment. Bring that Targaryen Fire to my game, brother!

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