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The Final Eight: Projecting the Championship playoff race

One point out of the last two games made finishing in the top six less likely. What do Fulham still need to do?

Plymouth Argyle v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League Two Play Off Final Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

How things stand

Fulham’s struggles against the bottom of the table have continued. Just one point from two home games against Blackburn and Wolverhampton is far from ideal. Fulham can still be in the top six after the weekend if they get a result and things go their way in the match between Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley. Also in Fulham’s favor are the fact that Leeds and Reading face off, though they may be too far away to catch as things stand.

Current Playoff Race

Team Position Games Played Points Points Per Game Goals For Goals Against Goal Differential Pythagorean Points Pythagorean PPG
Team Position Games Played Points Points Per Game Goals For Goals Against Goal Differential Pythagorean Points Pythagorean PPG
Huddersfield 3 40 74 1.85 50 46 4 57.68 1.44
Leeds United 5 41 72 1.76 55 39 16 68.57 1.67
Reading 4 41 73 1.78 56 57 -1 55.85 1.36
Sheffield Wednesday 6 41 69 1.68 53 41 12 65.39 1.59
Fulham 7 41 67 1.63 72 52 20 68.79 1.68
Preston North End 9 41 61 1.49 59 51 8 61.76 1.51
Norwich City 10 41 60 1.46 72 60 12 63.63 1.55
Derby County 8 41 62 1.51 48 41 7 61.62 1.50

Fulham and Leeds United lead the contending teams in Pythagorean Points. How they do it is a bit different. Fulham is a bit of a darling by the advanced stats, while Leeds seems to be compiling their goal differential by smoke and mirrors. Looking at the advanced stats makes this much clearer.

Current Playoff Race Advanced Stats

Team Position Games Played Points Points Per Game xGF xGA xGD Pythagorean Points Pythagorean PPG
Team Position Games Played Points Points Per Game xGF xGA xGD Pythagorean Points Pythagorean PPG
Huddersfield 3 40 74 1.85 53.6 44.8 8.8 61.16 1.53
Leeds United 5 41 72 1.76 50.84 50.84 0 56.24 1.37
Reading 4 41 73 1.78 50.43 65.19 -14.76 47.46 1.16
Sheffield Wednesday 6 41 69 1.68 61.91 41 20.91 71.36 1.74
Fulham 7 41 67 1.63 69.29 51.66 17.63 67.52 1.65
Preston North End 9 41 61 1.49 58.22 51.25 6.97 61.08 1.49
Norwich City 10 41 60 1.46 61.09 52.89 8.2 61.80 1.51
Derby County 8 41 62 1.51 56.99 46.33 10.66 63.85 1.56

Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday remain the class of the contenders by the advanced stats. These two teams along with Norwich are performing almost exactly how you’d expect based on their xG values. They just happen to be stuck in a race where the other teams are very much over performing what you would expect. It’s looking more and more likely that sixth place is going to be one of Fulham or Wednesday, which is going to leave one of the top four teams by advanced metrics out of consideration for promotion.

Projecting the Future

How much did the bad results hurt Fulham’s chances? Let’s run our projections again to find out.

Playoff Projections

Team Points Points Per Game Pythagorean PPG xG Pythagorean PPG Games Remaining Projected Points Pythagorean Points xG Pythagorean Points
Team Points Points Per Game Pythagorean PPG xG Pythagorean PPG Games Remaining Projected Points Pythagorean Points xG Pythagorean Points
Huddersfield 74 1.85 1.44 1.53 6 85 83 83
Leeds United 72 1.76 1.67 1.37 5 81 80 79
Reading 73 1.78 1.36 1.16 5 82 80 79
Sheffield Wednesday 69 1.68 1.59 1.74 5 77 77 78
Fulham 67 1.63 1.68 1.65 5 75 75 75
Norwich City 61 1.49 1.51 1.49 5 68 69 68
Preston North End 60 1.46 1.55 1.51 5 67 68 68
Derby County 62 1.51 1.5 1.56 5 70 70 70

It doesn’t matter how you run the projection. If you say Fulham will finish out with their current PPG, they’ll finish with their Pythagorean PPG, or they’ll finish with a PPG based on xG; we always project them to finish on 74 points.

The projections for the other teams are where things get interesting. Depending on which system you use, Fulham will finish one point to either side of Sheffield. Reading can finish with as many as 81, but as few of 77. Fulham’s superior goal differential could easily factor into things coming down the stretch.

What do Fulham need to do?

Fulham have eight games left: Rotherham (A), Derby County (A), Ipswich Town (H), Norwich City (A), Aston Villa (H), Huddersfield Town (A), Brentford (H), and Sheffield Wednesday (A). If Fulham win all their home games, and away to Rotherham, they’d finish on 73 points. I don’t see any way that 73 points is enough. Drawing in the rest of their away games would get them to 77. That might just be enough. One large thing in Fulham’s favor is that other than the last game of the season, none of Fulham’s opponents have anything to play for. Rotherham is going down. Derby and Norwich are really too far back to make the top six. Villa, Ipswich, and Brentford are totally safe. Only Fulham and Sheffield are really still playing for anything. It’s looking more and more that the final game might just be another playoff game.

How many points do you think Fulham end with? Do they end on 74 like we project? Do they have a good run and end higher? Do they collapse and end with less than 70? Let us know.

Poll

How many points do Fulham end with?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    70 or less
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    71
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    72
    (8 votes)
  • 10%
    73
    (18 votes)
  • 7%
    74
    (14 votes)
  • 16%
    75
    (29 votes)
  • 17%
    76
    (31 votes)
  • 14%
    77
    (26 votes)
  • 9%
    78
    (16 votes)
  • 3%
    79
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    80 or more
    (8 votes)
177 votes total Vote Now

Do you think Fulham finish in the top six? 77 points is enough for the top 6 in every projection we’ve run, and would require two points a game from here on out. That would require Fulham to win at home, beat Rotherham away, and not lose for the rest of the year. It’s not impossible, but it’s not exactly easy.

Poll

Does Fulham make the top 6?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Yes
    (167 votes)
  • 43%
    No
    (129 votes)
296 votes total Vote Now