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The Five Last Games: Projecting the Championship playoff race

Three games, six points. That’s not bad, but why does it seem like it isn’t enough?

Barnsley v Millwall - Sky Bet League One Play Off Final Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

How things stand

Fulham managed six points in their last three games. Earning two points a match from here on out should be enough to gain on the teams they are chasing, but Sheffield Wednesday managed seven points, Reading matched Fulham with six (even though they were annihilated by Norwich), and Leeds still earned three. Fulham are going to need help to catch Reading or Leeds, and if they can only keep pace with Sheffield, things might just come down to the last game of the season.

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 continue to 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. The most interesting thing is that almost everyone is within a few points of their projections, except the top three. Those teams are all overperforming what we’d expect by at least ten points. Wednesday and Fulham should be licking their chops to try to finish sixth, as no team left should be particularly scary to face in a playoff match.

Projecting the Future

Running these results forward makes the playoff race look like this.

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 75 points. They’ve improved their projected finish by one point over the last three games, but that’s not enough. No matter what projections system we run, Fulham finishes in seventh place.

The projections though just look at how Fulham teams would finish if they kept up their current pace. They don’t look at the schedules. Remember that Fulham and Wednesday face off in the final match. All of the projections have Fulham either one or two points back of Wednesday going into that game.

What do Fulham need to do?

Fulham have five games left: Norwich City (A), Aston Villa (H), Huddersfield Town (A), Brentford (H), and Sheffield Wednesday (A). If Fulham win all their home games 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 76. But given that last game is at Sheffield, a draw there probably isn’t going to be enough. Fulham are most likely going to need 77 or 78 points to make it into sixth.

The late schedule isn’t doing Fulham any favors. Their remaining opponents have a PPG of 1.68. Sheffield, Reading, and Leeds face opponents with PPG’s of 1.35, 1.21, and 1.29 respectively. Wednesday have three games at home, including the match with Fulham. Reading host Rotherham and Wigan with away trips to Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Nottingham Forest. It’s hard to see Reading not getting to eighty points or more with that run in.

Finally we have Leeds. Fulham have gained ground on Leeds, but are still five points back. Leeds have two home fixtures remaining. They host both Norwich and Wolverhampton. Their away trips include a trip to Newcastle this weekend, with other trips to Burton and Wigan. That’s not a hard run-in, but they could drop some points. A win against Wolves gets them to 75 and they’d only need 3 points in their last 3 games to most likely make the playoffs. However, Wolves are not a bad road team, earning 1.29 PPG on the road. If Leeds were to lose two matches in a row, and Fulham were somehow able to get six points from Norwich and Villa; Fulham would leapfrog them. Could they handle the pressure of being out of the playoffs with three games to play?

How many points do you think Fulham end with? Do they end on 75 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 finish with?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Less than 70
    (38 votes)
  • 6%
    71
    (17 votes)
  • 5%
    72
    (14 votes)
  • 8%
    73
    (23 votes)
  • 10%
    74
    (30 votes)
  • 13%
    75
    (37 votes)
  • 18%
    76
    (50 votes)
  • 8%
    77
    (24 votes)
  • 8%
    78
    (24 votes)
  • 2%
    79
    (8 votes)
  • 4%
    80 or more
    (12 votes)
277 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

Do Fulham make the top 6?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Yes
    (113 votes)
  • 73%
    No
    (317 votes)
430 votes total Vote Now