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Why Our Model Hates The Lakers

We start with the unusually high number of injuries this week in the NFL. While they feel more significant because so many big-name players were sidelined this week, there isn’t much in the way of conclusive data about whether the quick ramp-up to the 2020 season and lack of teamwide offseason training regimens are to blame. Some injuries, especially soft-tissue injuries to ACLs and Achilles tendons, were expected at a higher-than-normal rate this year, but that doesn’t explain why this week was so much more disastrous than the season opener. Whatever the cause, the havoc this week leaves some teams, like the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos, in pretty dire straits. But some teams were in trouble regardless. Neil and Sara didn’t so much pick winners in our Hot Takedown Survivor Pool; they’re counting on the Jets and the Vikings to lose (to the Colts and the Titans, respectively). Geoff, on the other hand, picked the Arizona Cardinals over the Detroit Lions and vowed to mercilessly tease Sara if the Vikings actually win.

Next, we pull the hood off of our NBA RAPTOR model and talk a little bit about why it hates the Los Angeles Lakers. They’re up two games in their series against the Denver Nuggets, and the partnership between LeBron James and Anthony Davis seems to be kicking into a higher gear, but our model still gives the team only a 23 percent chance of winning the NBA Finals. The reason behind that has to do with predictive RAPTOR (or PREDATOR), which tries to account for and weight variables based on luck. All three hosts think our predictions are underrating the last L.A. team standing a little bit — and none of them minds the Lakers’ seeming heel-turn into the obnoxious-foul-protesting and empty-stadium-trash-talking villains of the playoffs. It’s true that the Western Conference finals have been more uneven than the Celtics-Heat series, which continues to be wildly entertaining as well as free of Dwight Howard throwing his elbows around like one of those inflatable tube men. But the Lakers aren’t done yet.

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, we welcome FiveThirtyEight designer Emily Scherer, who takes us on a guided tour of the San Diego Padres’ six rebrands during their 14-year playoff drought. We’re thrilled that the Padres finally have an exciting young team and a fun sense of identity in “Slam Diego.” But the truly incredible number of alternate jerseys, failed gimmicks and parks within parks within parks that the franchise experimented with while they were in the wilderness are all very entertaining, too.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.

Emily Scherer was FiveThirtyEight’s senior designer.