Not a bad week, but not great either. I said last week that I’d be happy to just break even in Week 9 (which doesn’t make sense as there were 13 games, but anyway); as it is, I went 7-6, which is fine. I was concerned about taking so many favorites this weekend (9), especially when some of the spreads were pretty big – 6 were over a touchdown, 3 were over 9 points. Interestingly, 6 of my 7 correct picks were the favorites; my lone underdog win was Houston +5.5 against Seattle. But there is a bright spot for this otherwise mediocre week: I hit all three of my Super Hot picks as Atlanta, New England and Houston all covered.
Quick discussion about fumbles: studies have shown that forcing and recovering fumbles seem to be random events that aren’t very predictive . I find this pretty significant when projecting a team’s future performance, and it shapes the way I view games. For example, this week, I won two games in which the team I picked recovered two fumbles: the Vikings recovered two in their game against Cleveland and won 33-16; Buffalo recovered two, and lost one, in their game against Oakland, winning the game 34-14. Assuming as I am that those fumbles are random events (and yes, of course, we could say nearly everything that happens in the game is random), it’s quite possible that I could have lost those games. And further, due to that randomness and the loss of points that generally happen as a result, I don’t view the losses by Oakland and Cleveland to be quite as severe as the score suggests. On the flip side, I think I lost a few games that I really felt good about due to fumbles that could have gone either way: New Orleans and Cincinnati each lost two fumbles and recovered none in their games against Chicago and Indianapolis, and Washington and Denver each lost two fumbles and recovered one in their games against Dallas and Kansas City.
So, no, you don’t win bets by what you think “should have” happened, but for me it’s a kind of “moral victory” – I believe I have a better chance of hitting those picks if the fumbles go the other way. Notice, incidentally, that I don’t have the same opinion about interceptions. Although those can also be random – tipped passes, etc. – they are also caused by poor decisions by the QB, and other factors, that most of us would consider somewhat predictive.
Alright, enough of that. Here’s where I’m at:
All Picks: 66-52, 55.9%
ESPN Leaderboard Rank: 5303, 97%
Super Hot Sizzling Picks: 12-9 (57.1%)
Bankroll: $1,088 (+$88 total)
Feeling pretty good to be at 56%, as I’m ahead of a few other popular handicappers/predictions systems (and of course, I’m behind a number of others, but right now I want to focus on the positive):
(this info comes from ThePredictionTracker.com)
OK, hooray for me, whatever. I could lose all 13 games this week, so let’s check it out.
The few times I say I’m feeling good about the current week’s picks, I end up not feeling good after the games have been played. Well, to heck with it, I feel good about these picks. I think there’s a lot of value in a few of them (see my Super Hot picks below), and I like that I’m taking a lot of dogs – nine – including the bigger spreads. Apart from my Super Hot picks, I really like Baltimore at Tennessee and Denver at Philadelphia. I think the Ravens are in about the same tier as the Titans, not sure why they’d be more than a field goal underdog; I know Philadelphia is “flying high now!” but I’m thinking the Broncos aren’t going to lose two fumbles (and possibly recover one as they’ve only recovered 2 fumbles all year) and recently promoted QB Brock Osweiler isn’t going to throw 3 picks (OK Brock, I’ve set the bar…you can throw 2, but not 3 picks).
SUPER HOT SIZZLING PICKS OF THE WEEK
Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants, Rams by 3.5
My ATS pick: New York
Bryan’s Composite Power Ratings – basically, the average of a bunch of popular NFL team rankings – has the Rams at #10 and the Giants at #25, so I can see how the Rams would be a road favorite:
But me and The Machine are still not buying the Rams, and so for the 7th straight week, I’m fading my hometown team. Here’s why: while my rankings also have the Giants at #25, I’ve got the Rams at #16 – an average team that probably shouldn’t be favored on a cross-country road trip. They’re averaging 4.3 special teams/defensive points per game while having given up zero. I don’t think that can continue, and on top of that, I think the Giants defense is formidable and should do well at home. Don’t get me wrong, the Rams are the better team, but I’m thinking the Giants either cover in a close one, or win outright: Rams 18, Giants 17.
Washington at Seattle, Seahawks by 7.5
My ATS pick: Washington
The Rams are the team I’ve faded every week, Washington is the team that I’ve picked every week, and the results haven’t been good: I’m 2-5. So, I should probably stop picking them. Nope. The Machine is again telling me that Washington is much better than Vegas thinks and here’s why: the Redskins are at a -12 special teams/defense point differential which is 25th in the league, and they’ve also lost a league-worst 9 fumbles this year. Those are bad things right? Yes, but The Machine thinks they aren’t predictive and thinks that if those things turn around – meaning, they get a special teams TD or maybe recover a few more fumbles (instead of losing them) – they can win games and cover spreads. In any event, I’ve got these two teams as being about the same (the Composite Power Rankings disagree), so I’m taking Washington to cover: Seahawks 23, Redskins 19.
Atlanta at Carolina, Panthers by -2.5
My ATS pick: Atlanta
This is my pick of the week. I can see how the bookmakers came to this spread: OK, we’ve got two teams that the public probably thinks are about equals, it’s a division game, let’s give the home team a few points and see what happens. I’m on board with that except for one thing: I think the Falcons are a better team than the Panthers. Yeah, under OC Steve Sarkisian the Atlanta offense isn’t what it was last year, but they’re still at least “good” and I don’t think the defense is quite as bad as their #28 DVOA defense suggests…they’ve only given up about 20 points per game on defense, which is about average. The Panthers are somewhat of a mirror image of the Falcons: pretty good on defense (16 Pts/G allowed on defense) and below average on offense (19 Pts/G). It will be close, but I like Atlanta: Falcons 21, Panthers 19.
My Rankings After Week 8
If you’re interested in where I get the numbers for my spreads, below are my team ratings through Week 8. They’re in the same style as ESPN’s FPI ratings, Pro Football Reference’s SRS ratings, Sagarin ratings and many others: the number represents how many points we would expect that team to win or lose by if playing against the average NFL team at a neutral site. I’ve also grouped teams into Tiers based on standard deviations above or below average (Z-Score). Two standard deviations or more above average is a Tier 1 team, between 1 and 1.5 standard deviations is Tier 2, and so on.
Thanks all, have a great week.
11/2/17: I wrote the above piece before the Deshaun Watson injury (total drag, he’s a great player and seems like a great guy off the field as well); this doesn’t change my pick as I was taking Indianapolis anyway. The score might be a bit tighter, but I’m still thinking Houston wins.
11/3/17: I noted that I’m taking nine underdogs; I’m actually taking ten!