League 2 permutations: 26 Dec 2016
Here are the highest and lowest possible positions that each club can occupy after the forthcoming round of fixtures. I’ve drawn lines under the automatic promotion and play-off spots, mid-table and the last spot above the relegation zone on both “axes” for ease of reference.
These graphics are explained here, but in a nutshell I crunch through every possible combination of results to work out how far it’s mathematically possible for each club to rise and fall.
The top three can only shuffle amongst themselves thanks to Portsmouth having seven points fewer than Doncaster. Wycombe’s four-point advantage over Blackpool means that only the lowest play-off spot is assailable from outside the top seven: anyone down to 11th-placed Crawley can claim it.
While Newport are guaranteed to remain in bottom spot, any one of the six sides immediately above them could be keeping them company in the relegation zone.
The above shows what’s mathematically possible but doesn’t make any allowances for what’s likely to happen, so I’ve come up with a second graphic that uses my E Ratings prediction model (used to simulate the forthcoming round of games thousands of times) to assign some probabilities to all these potential changes.
It’s structured very similarly to the one above: the clubs are still listed in the same order as the current league table down the side and the dividing lines are all in the same place, but now across each row is the percentage chance of them moving to other positions in the table. As above, green indicates a rise, red a drop and grey staying put. The darker the red or green, the higher the probability. If there’s no number in a square, it means that the club didn’t fill that position in any of the thousands of simulations I ran and is therefore very unlikely.
As Doncaster’s trip to struggling Notts County looks more winnable than Carlisle’s trip to Crewe, the Cumbrians are likelier to fall than rise, although it’s still roughly 50:50 whether Rovers can overtake them.
With Mansfield at home to even-more-struggling Morecambe, coupled with tougher fixtures for the teams immediately above them, the Stags are fancied to make an upward jump.
Cheltenham have a roughly two-in-three chance of moving out of the bottom two (which they’re only in on goal difference) thanks to playing at home, with travelling Accrington likeliest to replace them.