Weekend Football Review (12/13/10)

By Paul Bessire

Monday, December 13 at 6:12 PM ET
I will always recap the weekend in football each Monday afternoon. It is very important to us to be transparent and to honest about our picks. This blog will be all about our UNDEFEATED college football week!!!! I'm just kidding. With a Navy victory, 31- a 17, over Army, our 31-21 prediction covered the spread (Navy -7.5) and the total (UNDER 55) pretty easily. And while it's great to carry that momentum into bowl season and it technically makes us undefeated in Paul's Picks on three of the last four Saturday's, save its inclusion in "The Football Numbers" section, this will be my last mention of that game in this blog.

*&^@! Aaron Rodgers! (I have no idea on the proper way to use SHIFT + [Number] to appropriately substitute words that some may find offensive, but I think you get my point. Actually, it's not the word itself, I think that perfectly sums up the face I make when I think about that game yesterday.) We'll get into it down the page, but, despite going 6-2 ATS (75%) on our "normal" or better sides yesterday, Aaron Rodgers' injury does not have me in the best mood for my Monday afternoon blog. In all honesty, the Packers' offense was not playing well before he got hurt. I understand that. Yet, I'm a Packer fan (note: Not that it really should matter who/what I root for, but I ALWAYS root for our playable picks over any personal preferences). Just when the team was definitively looking like one of the best couple of teams in the NFC - likely to make the playoffs and capable of a deep playoff run, it loses its starting quarterback and a game to the DETROIT LIONS. Plus, this is the second time in three weeks that the Packers have been our Lock of the Week and the second time they have lost the game outright.

In actuality, it was a bit of a chaotic NFL betting week with unlikely/unnecessary/unique covers in the IND/TEN, TB/WAS, OAK/JAC and PHI/DAL games. We were definitely fortunate to split those. I'm sure someone out there had IND -3.5, TB -2, OAK +5.5 and PHI -3.5 to get burned by all of those outcomes. Ouch... The only other games that were even in doubt straight-up in the fourth quarter were MIA/NYJ and CLE/BUF and we split those as well. Green Bay @ Detroit was altogether different for us given how our technology works because we obviously don't injure quarterbacks in any of the simulations. Even though it was ugly when Rodgers was in, Drew Stanton vs. Matt Flynn was not what we had in mind.

Anyway, since the last blog, picking every game, we are 9-6 ATS (60%) and 7-5 O/U (58%). Our 60%+ picks (as posted), are 4-2 ATS and O/U (67%). Our "Normal" or better (57%+ to cover) sides have gone 7-3 ATS (70%) and our "normal" or better totals are 4-3 O/U (57%). Here are our full season numbers.

The Football Numbers (though College Week 15 and NFL Week 14):

  • ATS Locks of the Week: 1-1 (Navy -7 won 31-17 and Green Bay -6.5 lost 7-3)
  • Year-to-Date ATS Locks of the Week: 20-9 (69%)
  • All-Time ATS Locks of the Week: 69-20-3 (78%)
  • YTD Daily Top ATS Plays: 56-23 (71%)
  • Paul's Picks ATS Week: 2-2 (with original MNF game remaining)
  • YTD Paul's Picks ATS: 72-43 (63%)
  • YTD ATS All Games: 56%
  • YTD O/U All Games: 55%
  • YTD SU (NFL and FBS vs FBS College): 73%

Bowl Picks Now Available:
Capitalizing off of a solid full season performance in college football, the Predictalator has played each of the 35 bowl games 50,000 times to provide projected scores and ATS, O/U and SU picks for every game. Of the 35 games, seven upsets are predicted and 16 picks cover the spread 60%+, including one team that covers the spread 65.2% . Picks will be updated as depth chart changes, weather or other information warrants. The Customizable Predictalator has also been updated for each game is accessible to anyone who purchases the full bowl package. Each "normal" pick or better will be broken down by Paul Bessire a few days before the game. The BCS National Championship analysis is free to all.

Bowl Money Management:
I got a great question about money management strategy during bowl season. There really is not a right or wrong answer to this - it all depends on your availability and comfort levels...

Question: When I place bets for college football, I take the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday games and consider it one day. This makes the Thursday and Friday games the same betting level as the Saturday games. If I played it by the book, I would play the Thursday game with zero other games that day, making it a large bet. With bowl season coming up, do you suggest I play every day with only that days data? Meaning, a bowl on December 24th will have 0 other games (meaning a big bet), but new years may have 5 other games (meaning smaller bets). Or how are you going to use the formula to make sure bankroll management is used?

Answer: While your strategy is perfectly acceptable if that is what you are comfortable with (especially if you don't want to micromanage your action), the reason for that check in the Play Value Calculator is a little different than you mention.

We include that so that no subscriber has "too much" of his/her bankroll in play at any given time. Technically, the dropdown menu should allow users to set plays for a single timeslot, or more like desired plays that require action before the first is complete. A bankroll is a fluid entity, one for which optimality is directly related to how much is in the bankroll.

The percentage of your bankroll that you are comfortable using as your "normal" bet should never really change. As your bankroll changes, however, the specific value of your normal bet changes. When you have a lot of action in play at one time, the possibility to lose all of them exists (no matter how minuscule that chance is), so it is wise/"optimal" to put less on each game to guard against a crushing day. In a sense, you are diversifying for that time period rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket.

When you have the opportunity to place a wager on a game when you have no other wagers in play, then you can alter your bankroll expectations accordingly. Essentially what you are doing is to assume that you are getting the best lines before Thursday and that you cannot place action (or get comparable lines) before the week is over. That's totally fine and may even be 100% true for your situation.

For the bowls, you would be making the same assumption over a longer period of time. It's harder to justify that assumption, but it is still OK. My concern would be if information changes so that lines and our picks change. Instead of viewing the whole bowl season that way, I would recommend either viewing each day or even each "week" (however you want to define that) separately or to decrease the percentage of your bankroll that you are comfortable allocating to your "normal" play. The latter will make you a little more conservative in general. The former is more consistent with your previous approach.

As usual, if you have any of your own suggestions about how to improve the site, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. We respond to every support contact as quickly as we can (usually within a few hours) and are very amenable to suggestions. I firmly believe that open communication with our customers and user feedback is the best way for us to grow and provide the types of products that will maximize the experience for all. Thank you in advance for your suggestions, comments and questions.

College Football Playoffs: Starting today, I am unveiling Twitter feed @predictmachine the results of our college football playoff. To me, the most logical approach to a college football Division IA playoff includes 16 teams. This ensures that the 11 conference champions each make the playoffs. It also allows for four weeks of playoff football - which happens to be the exact duration of the bowls. We'll use our power rankings to seed teams (bracket below). I wanted to use the actual BCS rankings, but that would leave our #3 team, Boise State out of the bracket, which is ridiculous. I will "play" out the second round Tuesday; semifinals Wednesday and championship on Thursday (followed by an article for Friday). Each matchup will be played in two different ways: 1) Results of 50,000 simulations of the game and 2) Results of one simulation of the game. I will advance teams based on the latter in order to illustrate what one playoff possibility could look like (and to differentiate the results from our power rankings or actual bowl results).

Here is what happened in the first round:
1) Oregon Ducks 63
16) FIU Golden Panthers 3

8) Arkansas Razorbacks 19
9) Alabama Crimson Tide 28

5) Stanford Cardinal 41
12) Nevada Wolf Pack 24

4) TCU Horned Frogs 17
13) UCF Golden Knights 21

6) Wisconsin Badgers 27
11) Virginia Tech Hokies 23

3) Boise State Broncos 31
14) UConn Huskies 9

7) Ohio State Buckeyes 21
10) Oklahoma Sooners 31

2) Auburn Tigers 52
15) Miami (OH) 17

Round 2 Matchups (results on Twitter tomorrow):
1) Oregon Ducks
9) Alabama Crimson Tide

5) Stanford Cardinal
13) UCF Golden Knights

6) Wisconsin Badgers
3) Boise State Broncos

10) Oklahoma Sooners
2) Auburn Tigers

NFL Playoff Odds:
Also check in with Twitter tomorrow afternoon to see our updated projected playoff teams and teams' odds of winning the division, earning a wild card and winning the Super Bowl. If you want to know the chances of anything happening that we do not publish, reply on Twitter or contact us directly.

College Best and Worst:

Best Wins: Navy 31 - Army 17...

Most intriguing bowl games: Ohio vs. Troy (12/18), Utah vs. Boise State (12/22), Navy vs. San Diego State (12/23), West Virginia vs. NC State (12/27), Missouri Vs. Iowa (12/28), Illinois vs. Baylor (12/29), Oklahoma State vs. Arizona (12/29), UNC vs. Tennessee (12/30), Nebraska vs. Washington (12/30), Georgia vs. UCF (12/31), South Carolina vs. Florida State (12/31), Alabama vs. Michigan State (1/1), Wisconsin vs. TCU (1/1), Stanford vs. Virginia Tech (1/1), Arkansas vs. Ohio State (1/1) and Oregon vs. Auburn (1/10).

NFL Best and Worst:

Best Wins: While I stubbornly accept it as a win because of the way it happened and because it was not a very strong pick (56.5%), very little from this entire season could top Tennessee +3.5 covering. As has become tradition on Thursday nights, after I finished up my last radio interview, my wife and I went out to dinner at a local sports bar where we could also watch the game (it's usually been "games" on Thursday night - the fact that this was the only one on just made it even better). A little over an hour, two orders of fajitas and five or six drinks later, it was 21-0 Colts and we decided to head home where it would be easier to hid from the embarrassment from the game Tennessee was playing (that was the reason or it was because we were done eating and my wife had to get up early the next morning - either way, it looked like a loss). Only having one less than exhilarating football game on we both started to drift asleep in the second half. With just a little over two minutes left to go in the game, I woke up enough to see that the score was 30-21 and Tennessee had the ball. I fought the sleep to stay up to cheer for a Titans' TD and cover. At the time, my mind was too foggy to comprehend that Jeff Fisher and the Titans would essentially eschew in any chance of winning if they went for the touchdown on that drive. They were still two possessions behind, so the quickest possible score was needed. Ignorant to the actual game mechanics, I fell back asleep clinging to hope that we could win that game - a game that took on greater importance throughout the day because just about everyone I talked to on-air or off liked the Colts -3.5. We did win that game. The Titans scored a completely meaningless TD (that I will probably never watch because ESPN and NFL Network don't make highlight packages according to the spread - though they probably could/should) as time expired...

As a bit of an aside, I have the extrapolation of Bill Simmons' point on Jeff Fisher's lack of an attempt to win. Fisher, as so many NFL coaches would, rather than attempting to win the game, ultimately went for the strategy that would make the loss look the least painful, while also resulting in the fewest questions. NFL coaches make decisions that will give them the least debatable points to defend to the media. That's how they keep their jobs. The problem is that that strategy flies in the face of optimal decision making. We've outlined that to a good degree in this blog. My contention relative to Simmons' point about Madden players is that, someday, almost all coaches will have grown up playing football for countless hours on video games. I call this the "PlayStation Generation" and equate its future impact on the game to that of internet poker players on that game. Internet poker players have mastered the science of the game and learned its intricacies because they can play so many hands so quickly. As someone who has played Madden and NCAA Football for thousands of hours, I have naturally been exposed to more football and forced to make more in-game football decisions than Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and John Madden himself combined. Plus, with word of mouth and online play, winning strategies traveled quickly and are widely known. While some of these strategies definitely did have to do with technical glitches, many are valid. Clips of EA developers, in collaboration with John Madden and others have illustrated that the game has intentionally tried to force more punts on fourth down and play more like conventional football. It should and will someday be the other way around. Football strategy should adapt to what we have all learned about how to do well in the game - how to make optimal decisions rather than choosing the most (currently) defensible path in an effort to keep a job...

Quick hitters: I'm not a Bengals' fan, but my wife is, which has historically meant that I am one of the Bengals' fans there is. So when the Bengals get back to their consistently futile ways, it's great (for the whole family) to be able to take something positive from it... With our fourth best pick, we took advantage of Carolina at home - again. The Panthers have played seven home games. We are 6-0-1 in those games, picking against them six of those seven times. Carolina is not good under any circumstance... The New York Jets are not as bad as some of their fans and media will lead you to believe; they just shouldn't be favored by six points against a team that is built just like them... Behind Carolina, Seattle may be the worst team in the NFL right now. Sure, they are banged up at wide receiver and offensive line, but this is still mostly the team that the Seahawks expected to have going into the season and it's just not very talented... Given that it was the only game on the schedule between two teams with no 2010 playoff aspirations, the Arizona - Denver game generated a lot of attention on-air this week due to Josh McDaniels' firing. The reason that Dallas and Minnesota have been able to win (or at least cover) after letting go coaches mid- season is because those teams are talented, playoff-caliber rosters. New coaches come in, some of the mental mistakes go away and the team wins. Denver does not possess anything near that level of talent... The Predictalator also like John Skelton better than Max Hall (or Derek Anderson)... Lastly with the Denver - Arizona game, our power went out from about 6:30 - 9:00 pm ET on Sunday (weather related, but I'm guessing someone slid into a converter box around us because it was basically just our street and we lost power and internet separately. Anyway, when we lost power, Arizona was up 22-6 in the fourth quarter. The OVER (42) was our only 60%+ NFL total of the day. After a virtually impossible game of Funglish by candlelight, I checked my phone to see that Arizona covered that line on its own, winning 43-13. That made the cold, provolone sandwich I ate for dinner (we don't keep much food around the house) taste much better... The NFC South is that much better than the NFC West (and New Orleans is a very sneaky - and recently dominant - 10-3). On Sunday, even though it was not even a 60%+ pick on Wednesday, the top overall play was New Orleans -8... Bettors are often in a position where a missed extra point is the best scenario - particularly when taking a two or three point underdog who comes within the extra point of tying the game late in the fourth quarter. We didn't have the strongest opinion on it, but it still feels good to be on the right side of it when that happens. Thanks Washington!... Despite the brutal up-and-down ATS loss in the Oakland - Jacksonville game, at least we hit the OVER (43)...

Toughest Losses: *&^@! Aaron Rodgers!... That being said, one of my comments on this game looked definitively invalid and may speak more about the Packers and their overall offensive woes that have plagued them for multiple seasons. The expectation was that Detroit's defensive line would not be dominant after the loss of Kyle Vanden Bosch. It looks like any defensive line could look dominant against the Packers' offensive line right now - especially one with Ndamukong Suh... And I don't mean to sound like I am blaming Rodgers - either for getting injured or for sitting out. I love that he runs so effectively and attempts to gain as many yards as possible. And I appreciate that he needs to do what is best for his long-term health... We just may have to figure out a way not to make the Packers a Lock of the Week in the future. It already hurts exponentially more when they lose...

Quick hitters: Oh yes, Jake Delhomme IS significantly less effective than Colt McCoy... We regained power in plenty of time to witness Dallas' backdoor cover against Philadelphia. Awesome... I feel like we were way out ahead of the weather issues for this week, so it should be considered a win that that was the first thing I always mentioned when people asked about the New England - Chicago game. How does New England play so well in the snow. It's not just Tom Brady. EVERYTHING seems to go the Patriots' way in those conditions. I'm not suggesting foul play; they deserve credit. I just can't figure out how one team can so obviously defy the odds. For every other team, snow and wind have an impact.... And somehow (on a meaningless touchdown by the Bears, that's how!), we lost the UNDER (41) pick even though I correctly predicted that we would go from liking the UNDER on Wednesday to liking the OVER on Sunday because of the public's late reaction to the weather. Even with a four-point line movement that straddled our projected total, the OVER was never playable... It was our least playable of the playable picks, yet it was still frustrating to see an almost guaranteed cover with OAK +4.5 lose when Maurice Jones-Drew burst through the line to score a 30-yard touchdown in a tie game with 1:34 remaining. Have we learned nothing from Brian Westbrook? (Or at least Brandon Stokely?) Kneeling on the one yard line and running clock before a field goal could have prevented the Raiders from having a chance to tie the game coming back. Oakland only had one timeout and Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee has hit 98% of his extra points and field goals inside 30 yards. I'd rather take my chances with a 98% field goal for the win over giving the ball back to an opponent that has a great kick returner and some of the most explosive offensive weapons in the league with 90 seconds left. For what it's worth in that game, it did take an amazing Darren McFadden 36-yard touchdown run just to get within range where a cover looked likely. Jacksonville has now covered the spread in six straight games (every game since Todd Bouman played quarterback in Kansas City)...

Both picks tonight are free to all. See what we have to say about New York facing Minnesota in Detroit and Baltimore @ Houston. Most intriguing games of Week 15: SF @ SD, JAC @ IND, KC @ STL, NO @ BAL, PHI @ NYG, NYJ @ PIT and GB @ NE.

As usual, if you have any of your own suggestions about how to improve the site, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. We respond to every support contact as quickly as we can (usually within a few hours) and are very amenable to suggestions. I firmly believe that open communication with our customers and user feedback is the best way for us to grow and provide the types of products that will maximize the experience for all. Thank you in advance for your suggestions, comments and questions.