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NFL Picks of a Thoughtful Fool – Week 8

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Welcome back to NFL Picks of a Thoughtful Fool, where we provide the most well thought out, if not the most accurate, NFL picks the world has ever seen. If you are new to this column, that sentence makes no sense to you. It will in a few minutes when we get into the meat and potatoes. But we should talk about the season so far.

The centerpiece of this season has been Terrell Owens. Sorry, I know it hurts, but in the interest of journalistic integrity I had to say it. Not only has he met every challenge to his primacy but he has absolutely crushed the competition into oblivion.

Consider the following travesties:

• The Lions defensive line coach gets busted for taking Joe Pesci’s comment about getting f***ed at the drive-thru a bit too literally.

• The Cincinnati Bengals have installed a bar, a fleet of Escalades, an off-duty cop, and a holding cell at their practice facility just for efficiency’s sake.

• Koren Robinson violates his probation and, like the high school star QB who gets suspended for beating up the smart kid, his sentence is delayed until after the season.

• Ricky Manning allegedly assaults a customer at Denny’s assuming him to be a “F***ing Jew” and a “Faggot,” because we all know that Denny’s is both kosher and stylish.

• Albert Haynesworth does a Riverdance on the head of an offensive lineman to the tune of about thirty stitches.

• Matt Millen and Joe Theismann are still employed.

And even in the face of this incessant, often lurid, drama, it’s still T.O.’s world. We debated his hamstring. We snickered at his dropped passes. We chattered about his “suicide” attempt. We pointed and laughed at his “publicist.” We sneered at his lost text messages. We joined him in pondering in the existential question “Why the f*** am I here?” We watched endless replays of him yelling at his coaches. He should send all of us a one word text message: Owned.

We even kid ourselves that we are sick of hearing about him. Why oh why can’t he stop his charades so we can just follow football like real fans do?

Why ask why? He will continue his antics and we will continue to hate him, even though we can’t look away. I’m sure whenever he hears how everyone is so sick of him he responds just like the Buffalo Bills did when they were on their way to losing their fourth straight Super Bowl: “We’re back, America. Deal with it.”

And we will. Scan the above list of travesties and you’ll see it is loaded with violence and sickness. We can hold those people in righteous contempt and with rancor in our hearts because what they have done is truly harmful. But that’s hard on us. Nobody wants their heart filled with rancor, and besides, which of us is without sin that we should be so indignant.

I have never stomped on anyone’s head, but I can certainly remember a couple of times in my youth when I was damned lucky not to have been pulled over on my way home. And there have been plenty of moments of irrationality where I have not looked on my fellow man in anything remotely resembling the spirit of universal brotherhood. Not only do I not want to have rancor in my heart, I’m probably not qualified.

T.O. is different. Whatever his problems, he is not a criminal (as far as we know). He does not beat on anybody; there have been no drug violations. He is childish, obnoxious, annoying and he flaunts it. We do not hate T.O. with rancor, we hate him with joy. We hate him casually, just for the fun of it, because it gives us something in common with other fans, and simply because it is entertaining to do so. It’s rhetorical hate not emotional hate.

So T.O., here’s to ya, buddy. You have found a way to give us guiltless hate. We will never admit to being grateful, but we will keep watching.

My ace correspondent, Tinkerbell, has some thoughts about the season too. You probably recall Tinkerbell from the remarkable commentary that she forwarded in Week 16 last year.

Specifically, Tinkerbell wants to know:

“Is the NFL going to the girls?”

Witness:

1. Long hair. If you play in the NFL, get tackled and pulled down by your hair, CUT IT OFF. It’s too long. If your hair is longer than mine, it’s too long. Even in field hockey, GIRLS don’t get pulled down by their hair (yes, field hockey is a contact sport).

2. Earrings. Ditto. I take mine off to play sports and work out. NFL players take note: SO CAN YOU. It’s just not right to see your diamond studs glisten beneath your helmet.

3. Man-boobs. MY EYES! MY EYES!! At Victoria’s Secret, you can get properly fitted for the proper support garments. Clearly compression shorts are not enough for the vast majority of NFL coaches.

It’s always good to hear from Tinkerbell, but she has just ruined the Victoria’s Secret catalog for me. I’m devastated.

In the meantime, actual football was actually being played. We’ll get to revisit what I wrote in my season previews (NFC, AFC) to determine the extremity of my cranial density for next week’s column. For the moment let’s get on with some housekeeping.

(Note: One of my goals this year is to write shorter columns. I have it from a good source that Blogctritics sports editor Matt Sussman keeps a portable defibrillator nearby in anticipation of my submitting a novella length column. This housekeeping is one time only, so feel free to skip ahead a bit if you know what’s going on here. )

Here at Thoughtful Fool Orbiting Headquarters we don’t just make picks based on how we feel or what we’ve seen. We try to make reasoned picks — rational choices that have a philosophical basis. I could go on for pages about how we make picks, and I have: there is an extended description document called the Fools Errand which I encourage you to read if you really want to know the nitty gritty of what’s going on. I have positive reports on it from folks who have printed it out and read it on the can. For the rest of you who are just mildly curious, here’s the short version.

The overriding philosophy at work here is that we want to find games where reality and perception don’t match. We want to know about the heralded teams that really suck. We want to know about the talented losers who just have had a bit of bad luck. We’ll bet on the undervalued and against the overvalued. Buy low, sell high. Finding a way to consistently outsmart the public is the windmill at which we tilt.

We can easily determine public perception by looking at point spreads and money lines. But how do we find the “reality” to compare that to? For that we turn to Football Outsiders, a wacky pack of football statheads who have been spearheading the Moneyball for the NFL movement for the past few years. These folks have come up with a single number that amounts to a cold, heartless evaluation of the relative efficiencies of all NFL teams; it’s called DVOA — Defense Adjusted Value Over Average. This number is generated by evaluating every individual play of the season with respect to the average of all plays in a similar situation. You can read the detailed description on the FO explanations page.

Conceptually, that makes our job simple. We looks and the point spreads and money lines, compare them to the DVOA of the competing teams, adjust for a couple of other factors like injuries and such, and place bets based on whatever disconnects we see.

For you, dear reader, the process is simple. I’ll provide a spreadsheet with all the games and the points spread, money lines, and DVOAs. From that I’ll determine the best picks for the week. Of course you don’t even need to look at any of this nonsense if you’re not inclined, you can just point and laugh at my picks then tell me what an idiot I am in the discussion.

How have these picks worked out in the past? Well here’s the exact quote from the round-up of last season:

[For point spread picks] the year ends with a record of 31-23-2 or for a layout of $6160 we retrieved $6730, for a profit of $570…

Line picks…worked out pretty well. The won-loss was an unimpressive 23-21, but because of how we managed the risk/reward ratios we had a total of $5021.71 returned for a layout of $4400. A much better ROI than the spread picks.

All of which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, or getting a helmet swung at you by a University of Miami player. Past years (pre-Blogcritics) have been anywhere from better than that to break even, but I am pleased to say I have not yet had a down year.

Finally we head into Week 8. We always wait until mid-season before making picks because if you are using a statistical base, you need a good sample size. At this point there is enough of a statistical sample to make informed judgments.

So it’s time to get back to it. Click on the section heading to see the relevant spreadsheet.

==Point Spread==

DVOA superior teams that are getting points

After the home adjustment, there is only one: Minnesota is DVOA superior to New England. Not sure what to make of the Pats this year. They appear to be struggling compared to the glory years. Or are they just adapting to personnel upheaval like last year? The D has been strong and they are, after all, 5-1.

But the Vikes are strong against the run and looked better beating the Seahawks last week, than the Pats did beating the Bills. Plus, they have just signed the legendary ex-Wolverine Drew Henson for their practice squad. That oughtta rattle Tom Brady. We’ll go with the Vikings +2.5 in the ‘Dome.

Before the home adjustment there are five:

Baltimore getting 2.5 in New Orleans — I am convinced New Orleans is a paper tiger, but I have to believe that their home advantage is so big this year they may run the table in the Crescent City. Baltimore is having their usual catty drama. Pass.

Houston getting 2.5 in Tennessee — Houston is not a good team, but the Titans are the worst. Even worse than Oakland. We’ll take the Texans +2.5.

New York Jets getting 1.5 in Cleveland — That line seems exactly right to me. Pass.

Indianapolis getting 2.5 in Denver — It seems clear the Colts can’t stop the run, and Denver can always run. Jake Plummer can at least hand off properly can’t he? Pass. But let me ask you this. Do you think the Colts are sandbagging us? Are they playing just well enough to win unimpressively, then come playoff time, Peyton will whip off his fake pornstar mustache and kick it up? I don’t trust ‘em.

Dallas getting 5.5 at Carolina — Well, let’s see. T.O. can’t seem to hold on to ball with any regularity. Both quarterbacks get confused about what color jersey to throw to. And the Tuna seems to be on the verge of a smothering Jerry Jones in his ample cleavage. On the other hand, even after the home adjustment, Carolina is only marginally superior, and it’s not hard to see Dallas regrouping enough to stay within 5.5 points. We’ll take the Cowboys +5.5.

Games with large DVOA deltas but comparatively small point spreads

The only one that stands out here is Philly giving 6 to Jacksonville at the Linc. Okay, the Eagles didn’t play particularly well last week, but it still took a last-minute, 62-yard field goal to beat them. Meanwhile the Jags lost to Houston. Besides, Donovan can always surround himself with a ring of puke to buy more passing time. We’ll take Eagles -6.

Games with small DVOA deltas but relatively large point spreads

None. Zilch. I see nothing here. Slim pickings all around this week.

Special Situations

KC is favored by 6 at home over Seattle. Even without the Hasselbeck injury KC was performing better than the Seahawks. We’ll take the Chiefs -6.

==Money Line==

Using our highly-refined formula we only have one game to pick when the home adjustment is figured in: Minnesota over New England. Like I said, not much in the way of scintillating gambling opportunities this week.

Turning to the unadjusted numbers we see five more:

Dallas over Carolina
Indy over Denver
New York Jets over Cleveland
Houston over Tennessee
Baltimore over New Orleans

Every one of those is as shakey as Jake Plummer on third and long, but we allow no judgment adjustments in the money line picks. We simply do as we are told. They are what they are.

RECAP

Point Spread Picks
Vikings +2.5
Texans +2.5
Cowboys +5.5
Eagles -6
Chiefs -6

Money Line Picks
Vikings, $115
Cowboys, $200
Colts, $125
Jets, $115
Texans, $130
Ravens, $120

And we’re off and running for another season. Windmills are quivering in terror. I’m back, America. Deal with it.

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About David Mazzotta

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Welcome back! :)

  • http://www.bangthebook.com/forum BangTheBook

    Well written. Have to disagree with your Texans pick. Titans have played as hard as any team this year plus they do have some talent on the offensive side. I dont see them losing this one at home.

    I would also pass on the cowboys till you see how Romo plays

    GL this weekend
    BTB

  • david mazzotta

    BTB, you do have good reason for beleiving that about the Titans. They beat the Redskins, which as it turns out is not such an accomplishment, but the played Indy close which is.

    However, based on the DVOA that I follow they are the lowest rated team in the league. That statistic comapares a team’s result in every play of the year so far against the average for the league in similar situations. According to that The Titans come out on the bottom (although not by much, and they are much better than the worst team in most years).

    Interestly by that measure both defenses (Titans and Texans) are atrocious. Titans also have a horrible offense while the Houston O is a hair better than average.

    Of course, all this depends on future performance mirroring past performance. If the Titans have turned it around in the last couple of weeks, it could have just not shown up in the numbers yet.

    Yes, the Dallas call is the one I have the least confidence in. As far as Romo goes, I think he’ll be OK. He was in a tough situation last week — thrown into a volatile situation where he desperately needed to make something happen. He should do beter this week, unless he finds himself in a volatile situation where he needs to desperately make something happen.

  • david mazzotta

    Well, three quarters are over and it’s pretty clear the Vikings aren’t going to get within a field goal of the Pats. Bloody hell.

    So that means I’m 2-3 on the spread. I’m 3-3 on the line, but I’ll be up in dollars becasue of the underdog payouts.

    The only silver lining to tonight is that I am certain to get a future column out of how abysmal the ESPN Monday Night productions are. They should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    What line did you put down on the giant inflatable head races?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    I love Tony Kornheiser on PTI, but the guy is just plain obnoxious and annoying on MNF…even though he spends most of his time busting Joe Theismann’s balls, which is understandable…

  • david mazzotta

    Kornheiser is the Lawrence Taylor of the MNF booth.

    MNF on ESPN is just a disaster, from Monday Night Countdown on. They all need to be JACKED UP!

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