Saturday, November 20, 2004

Football Picks -- Week 11: Squeaking in just under the wire. As with the last couple of weeks, these picks are based on the analysis done by Football Outsiders who try to make quantitative evaluations of NFL teams. This evaluation is distilled into a number called DVOA (background). DVOA ratings through last week are listed here. This week they also did a set of DVOAs which were more heavily weight towards the later games. It makes sense to place more emphasis on the later games, so those are the figures I'm using. The point lines are from, as of about 11PM Friday. I take the most beneficial odds available under the assumption that it is what I could get in Vegas. Your mileage may vary.

Kind of slim pickings this week. Just one obvious choice.

I've been trying to develop a rule of thumb which states that when a team is 40 or more DVOA percentage points superior and is giving a touchdown or less, take the favorite, give the points. There is only one such situation this week. San Diego is 52.7 percentage points superior to Oakland, but is giving only 4 points. So there's an obvious pick right there: Chargers -4.

The other three situations where a team is at least 40 percentage points superior in DVOA are Baltimore over Dallas, Tampa Bay over San Francisco, Philly over Washington. In the case of Baltimore and Tampa Bay, they are giving 7.5 points as the favorite. A couple of things make these appealing. First, the favorite is at home, which is usually good for three points. Second, in both these cases, the favorite DVOA is trending up and the underdog is trending down. On the other hand, after my big week last week, I promised myself not to do anything stupid. Oh well, stupid is as stupid does. I'll take both Baltimore and Tampa Bay and give 7.5 points. Philly is giving 10.5 points to Washington and that is too generous for me.

The next set of games to examine are those where the team with superior DVOA is the underdog. Here's the list:
  • Buffalo is 7.5 points superior in DVOA and is getting 1.5 points from St. Louis.

  • The New York Jets are 23.4 points superior in DVOA and are getting a single point from Cleveland.

  • The New York Giants are a whopping .3 superior in DVOA and are getting a field goal from Atlanta.

  • Houston is 4.5 points superior in DVOA and are getting a field goal from Green Bay.

It seems like the Jets would be an obvious pick, but remember the recent injury to their QB Chad Pennington. Quincy Carter is the replacement and I'm just not comfortable with him. I'll pass on the Jets until we get a better idea of how they are functioning with Carter. The Giants and Atlanta are just too close in DVOA to make a call on this basis. Buffalo and Houston are both tempting and both are at home, so let's pull the trigger on those -- pick Buffalo +1.5 and Houston +3.

The last category we'll look at is games where the point spread is greater than a touchdown but the DVOAs are less than, say, 30. In this case there are two: Seattle is 29.6 points superior in DVOA and is giving a whopping 10 points to Miami. In a lot of cases this would be tempting, but Seattle is at home and Miami has packed it in for the season, so I'm going to pass on it. Remarkable how my tune has changed on Miami over the course of the season. The other one is Minnesota being 3.6 points superior in DVOA to Detroit and giving 7.5. It is in Minnesota, but I'm going take the risk on this one since I think the Lions can stay within a touchdown and Randy Moss' situation is still iffy.

To recap:
  • San Diego -4 over Oakland

  • Baltimore -7.5 over Dallas

  • Tampa Bay -7.5 over San Francisco

  • Buffalo +1.5 over St. Louis

  • Houston +3 over Green Bay

  • Detroit +7.5 over Minnesota

I shall now hold my breath.