Saturday, December 04, 2004

Football -- Week 13: So last week, as I mentioned, I was 3-2. I should have been 3-1. My picks were Houston, Buffalo, Miami, Jacksonville and Baltimore. The first three covered or beat the spread, the last two didn’t. The real bad decision was Baltimore to beat the touchdown spread against New England. This was the one bet I made that violated the principles I have been following been following since I started doing my Football Outsiders based picks a few weeks ago. It didn’t really make the cut. It was close, but not clear. Unfortunately, I had read a couple of convincing articles by sportswriters who seemed to know what they were talking about that suggested that NE winning by a touchdown was unlikely. Plus, I was betting "on tilt" as they say in poker. My judgment was scrambled by some egregious blackjack losses, so I was groping for a reason to make up for them. Stupid. But it's all spilt milk now.

This week, in contrast there seem to be tons of picks. Also for this week I have summarized the key information on this page to give a better feel for how I make my decisions. (I'll clean up the HTML eventually, but that gets us back to the above mentioned time issue.)

Our first rule of thumb is to play the favorite when a team is 40+ percentage points better in DVOA but is favored by a touchdown or less. This week there are four of those.
  • Buffalo -3.5 over Miami

  • Kansas City even over Oakland

  • Philly -6.5 over Green Bay

  • Pittsburgh -3 over Jacksonville

The only one I'm even slightly hesitant about is Philly because they are a lock for the NFC title and Green Bay is still fighting tooth and nail and because Brett Farve is who he is.

There are two match-ups where the favorite is more than 50 DVOA percentage points up on the underdog, NE over CLE and IND over TEN, but the spreads are in excess of 10 points and that scares me. NFL teams play to win, not to beat the spread, so it's really easy for me to see one of these teams up by say 17 points and the opponent gets the ball in garbage time at the end of the game and easily marches down for a meaningless touchdown that just happens to beat the spread. Still, Indy is tempting; I do believe it is their goal to score a hundred points in a game.

OK, possibly playing "on tilt" again, but I am going to swap out Philly/GB for Indy -11.5 over Tennessee.

Converse of the above rule of thumb is to look for teams favored by at least a touchdown but with a DVOA difference less than 40, then decide if there is a compelling reason to pick the underdog. There are five such match-ups.
  • STL -11 over SF

  • NYJ -7 over HOU

  • BAL -8 over CIN

  • MIN -8 over CHI

  • SEA -7 over DAL

Picking SF seems like a no brainer, but they are soooo bad. Houston can put it together but the Jets have their starting QB back and they are at home. Seattle has been on a brutal downward trend since the start of the season but they are at home and the Cowboys are a mess. Chicago can play well and they may want to at home against Minnesota. Baltimore is another favorite at home.

Chicago is tempting, but I'm going to take SF and the 11 points and hope the 49ers can make good use of the above mentioned garbage time. I'll back off of the rest.

Next up we look for teams that have superior DVOA but are the underdogs per the Vegas bookies. There are two of those this week. ATL is superior to TB but TB is giving 1.5. NYG is superior to WAS but WAS is giving 2.5. Neither of these are egregious enough to pick on.

Finally, a special situation. Arizona is starting a brand spanking new rookie QB, John Navarre. Navarre was a great QB for my alma mater (Michigan), but when you pile on the fact that it's his first ever snap in the NFL, his starting RB is out, he's got the added pressure of coming back to Michigan, and Joey Harrington and the Lions once again find themselves with something to prove -- at home, I just think the deck is too stacked against him. This is going to be a personnel issue based pick but I'll take the Lions and hope they can keep at least a touchdown advantage.

So here's the recap for week 13:
  • Buffalo -3.5 over Miami

  • Kansas City even over Oakland

  • Pittsburgh -3 over Jacksonville

  • Indianapolis -11.5 over Tennessee

  • San Francisco +11.5 over St. Louis

  • Detroit -6 over Arizona