I have a gift for you. This week I am going to get through my picks without writing something on the order of two thousand words for a change. Considering I have a silent following of millions, I fully expect this to have a measurably positive impact on this quarter’s GNP.
Actually, the fact is that I am on the road for Thanksgiving and all my templates and other crutches are on my flash drive that was The One Thing I Forgot When I Left. Better that than my underwear, I suppose. Rest assured I will be back in full force for the upcoming weeks. In fact, I will likely be more wordy than ever. But for now, the world has one more thing to be thankful for come Thursday.
Last week I was 2-3 in my spread picks, my first losing week ever. That makes me 12-10 for the year, meaning I have shelled out a hypothetical $2420 and been returned $2520 for an shamefully lucrative profit of $100. Who’s a high roller, eh?
My money line bets fared a bit better, although that was mostly be cause both my long shots (Arizona and Tampa Bay) came through. For an $800 layout I was returned roughly $1140. You can’t spit on $300 plus, but the fact that I was so heavily dependent on two long shots is very disturbing.
All and all, a troubling week. Still, I was cheered up when someone sent me a link to this video (work surfer warning: there is music – and it is the Backstreet Boys). I am glad to say that no matter what pathetic things I have done in my life, there is always someone who has outdone me. It also reinforces my deeply held belief that God created the world in order to keep me entertained.
I am very tempted to rag on the Indianapolis Colts defense. I want to go on about how they are completely porous; how they are clearly that team’s Achilles heel; how they are going to end up betraying the Colts in the end. But here’s the thing: I have done extensive and intricate research over the past few days and I have discovered that in an extraordinarily high percentage of NFL games, the team with the most points wins. Since the Colts seem to be able to score pretty much at will, as long as they get the ball last, it really doesn’t matter what the defense does.
One last thing about the Indy-Cincy game is that it was a pretty good example of how the different goals of the team and the gambler can be at odds. Down by 11 with a 1:30 to play in the game, The Bengals faced 4th down inside the Colts’ 20. The team’s goal is to win the game and since they know they need at least two scores to do so, they go for the sure thing field goal, pulling them within 8 and risk a do or die onside kick knowing they need the ball back. The gambler doesn’t care about the field goal. The gambler needs them to get within 6 to make any money. The gambler needs them to get a touchdown. The gambler needs them to take the shot at the first down NOW, while they are already deep in Indy territory. The gambler is me. The gambler is hosed.
Other comments about last week:
Seattle barely won, despite being a 12.5 point favorite, meaning I lost on the spread. I begged them not to start their annual swoon until next week, but they just ignored me. I’m sure Holmgren told them after the game, “Men, that was about perfect — not only did we get the ‘W’ but we screwed Mazzotta in the process. Game balls for everyone!”
I did make the right call, though, about foregoing picks on Miami in Cleveland and Tommy Maddox anywhere in the known universe. So I managed not to lose any money on those two. As an ex-girlfriend of mine would have said, “Cool, let’s go shopping.”
On to this week’s picks. As always, the point spreads come from Vegas.com, the DVOA ratings are from Football Outsiders. I promise to have a document written up about the methodology I use as soon as I can; sadly, I have x number of hands, where x=2. For now I’ll have to refer you back to Week 8 for an explanation. All this data is summarized in this week’s spreadsheet.
Starting with games where the team that is superior in DVOA is the underdog. We have three:
Chicago, 26.9 points superior in DVOA to Tampa Bay, but getting 3 points. Cannot turn down Chicago plus points, even in TB. The Bears have been underrated all year and still appear to be. Pick: Chicago +3
Cleveland, 1.9 points superior in DVOA to Minnesota but getting 4.5 points. I’m tempted to pass on this one primarily because, DVOA aside, I just don’t know what to make of the Vikings. I actually think Brad Johnson is good for them, although I have no semblence of data to back it up. Maybe it’s just the Ewing theory in action. It’s too close to call — I’m skipping it, in spite of not having a terribly good reason.
New York Giants, 11.8 points superior in DVOA to Seattle, but getting 4.5 points. A similar situation to Cleveland/Minnesota: tiny DVOA advantage for a 4.5 point road dog. This one is actually more tempting to me after Seattle’s performance against SF last week. Call me arbitrary, but this one I’m taking. Pick: New York Giants +4.5.
Next we look for games where the DVOA differential is large, but the point spread is small. Only one game really jumps out and that is Jacksonville, with a 46.3 DVOA differential over Arizona, yet giving only a field goal. I’ll take that, and count on last week’s performance by Kurt Warner to be a fluke. Pick: Jacksonville -3
The other temptation in this category is Denver, +22.8 in DVOA, giving only 1.5 points. I’m going to take that one too. Weighted DVOA places Denver as the top team in the league and I agree. Dallas is tough, but they don’t have to win by much. Pick: Denver -1.5
Lastly let’s at games where the DVOA difference is small, but the point spread large. The only one the jumps out at me is Indianapolis giving seven points to Pittsburgh, despite being only 10.4 up in DVOA. Only one casino has had the guts to put a line on this one as I am writing this, obviously because they all want to know the status of Ben Rothlisbergermeister. My choice would be to take Pittsburgh, if he plays. Otherwise, I would be tempted to take Indy. Indy can score at will; Tommy Maddox couldn’t score with a $2 hooker. No way can I make a pick. It would be a pure gut level bet on whether Big Ben plays, and that is not what I am shooting for here.
Next we move on to Money Line bets. This will be the second week ever for money line bets, so you can find a better explanation of the process in last week’s column. Money line pick info is in the lower table of this week’s spreadsheet. (Note there was no line set on Indy/Pittsburgh yet, as of this writing, so I’m giving it a miss.) With money line picks we allow no judgment whatsoever. All bets normalized to $100. Eventually it will be programmed into the spreadsheet, but I’m still waiting on those extra hands.
Since we have three DVOA superior dogs, we take all three:
Chicago, return $130
Cleveland, return $179
New York Giants, return $178
Next we look for favorites where the money line is not more than 10 times the DVOA. And this time, we are adding a rule that the payoff must be at least $50, or else it’s not worth our while. That gives us:
Denver, return $72.99
Kansas City, return $69.93
Carolina, return $55.56
San Diego, return $61.73
Jacksonville, return 60.24
Lastly we look for games where the underdog line is at least 30 times the DVOA difference. These are dogs we are willing to take the risk on. We have one:
Detroit (Noooooo!), return $143.00
Clearly I have to rethink some of the money line rules, but for now we’ll live it.
New York Giants +4.5
New York Giants $178
Kansas City 69.93
San Diego $61.73
And the curtain rises on another week. Wasn’t this supposed to be a short column?
I really wanted to avoid Thursday’s Lions game because, inevitably, Joey Harrington is going to make me spew turkey out of my mouth. Oh well, maybe I’ll video tape it to cheer somebody up.