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The Problem with Small Sample Sizes and the Rush to Conclusions

Taking everything with a grain of salt...

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

We live in an NFL world filled with articles on snap judgements, hot takes and burning questions.

They're fun to read, easy to consume and often wind up sparking debate - which is the goal of most media.  Find a polarizing topic, pick one side and wind up with a boatload of page hits and comments as those on the most opposite sides of the spectrum go at it.

This season is two games underway and this dynamic can permeate into fans' discussion too.  We want to make final statements, judgements proclaiming players that are set for stardom and those doomed to the waste bin.

This becomes a near-impossible task when working with small sample sizes.  After Week 1 the Titans looked great.  Locker was a star on the rise and the defense was nothing short of amazing.  Naturally this lead to quick conclusions that all these trends would continue.  Week 2 brought rain to the party and now those feelings have reversed.

Often times the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  The problem with a small sample is that you can pick any argument and use it to justify your side.  Nowhere is this seen more than in analyzing Jake Locker's two games of the season.

In my personal opinion, the key to evaluating a young season is to realize that any grade is going to be a challenging extrapolation and likely an exercise in futility.  This isn't to say we should stop trying to evaluate the two games.  If we did that MCM would be terribly quiet.  And make no mistake, each game adds to the sample size and gives us a clearer picture.

For now, we can analyze what we see but realize that we don't yet know whether the picture is going to be beautiful or ugly.