Weekend Football Review (10/11/10)

By Paul Bessire

Monday, October 11 at 4:38 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. While the Locks and Paul's Picks did exactly the same as of this time in last week's solid effort on that front, this week was a much better week for us, bouncing back with a huge week in the NFL and still profitable ATS in college football. And actually, during the week, from the time of this posting last week to Saturday, we went 22-4 with our MNF ATS and O/U, college ATS and O/U and MLB money line and O/U picks (more on MLB below).

The Football Numbers (after College Week 6 and NFL Week 5):
Fortunately, as alluded to above, it appears as though our NFL numbers did take the big step forward that we expected after a tough Week 4. Week 3 was great with the undefeated Paul's Picks and Week 5 was even stronger as the six "normal" or better (57%+ confidence) ATS picks went 5-1. And the one game we lost, as we will note below, was one of the flukier games we have ever seen.

  • ATS Locks of the Week: 1-1 (Minnesota +22 covered by 3.5 points, San Diego -6 lost to Oakland... somehow)
  • Year-to-Date ATS Locks of the Week: 8-3
  • All-Time ATS Locks of the Week: 57-14-2
  • YTD Daily Top ATS Plays: 21-7
  • Paul's Picks ATS Week: 4-3 (with one game remaining)
  • YTD Paul's Picks ATS: 33-12
  • YTD ATS All Games: 55.2%
  • YTD O/U All Games: 54.2%
  • YTD SU (NFL and FBS vs FBS College): 74.9%

The MLB Numbers:
There were not any deep customer support conversations this week, but we do have some MLB news to share. In preparation for selling MLB picks next season (and having something available for the World Series this year), we have been tracking our MLB money line and O/U picks throughout the last month or so of the regular season and thus far in the playoffs. Admittedly, I had never really delved into MLB numbers outside of the postseason, but at the very least, I think I can tell you that the baseball Predictalator engine has been the most heavily reviewed and analyzed work that I have ever done, appearing step-by-step in multiple academic presentations and papers. When it comes to handicapping games, it definitely looks like we are on to something.

In the playoffs alone, where our game-by-game picks have appeared in various online and print publications as well as distributed to media across the country for PR purposes, the Predictalator is 10-3 with the money line play winning outright. This is obviously good in any respect, but tremendous given the value approach to wagering on those. For instance, when C.J. Wilson and the Texas Rangers, took on James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays, we had Texas winning outright just over 60% of the time. On the market, they were a a +115 play, meaning that there was amazing value there. 6-0 Rangers win. With Over/Under plays, where the action is obviously more straight-forward, we are 9-3-1. However, the "1" in that record may be the most interesting. When playing Game 3 in the Texas - Tampa Bay series against a total line of 9, neither the Over or Under covered over 50%, signifying a "No Pick" due to the high likelihood of a Push. 6-3 Rays win.

Anyway, I can quote numbers on games that many of you did not see us post all day, but the point is that we will be sharing these results going forward. Results for every remaining game in the LDS as well as all picks in the LCS will be posted on our Twitter page @predictmachine. Please tune in and follow us to check out those picks. For the World Series, while we have not exactly settles on what will be available to whom, we will have much more daily content on the site.

College Best and Worst:

Best Wins: Saturday represented the most awkward day in the history of my sports fandom. Our ATS Lock of the Week, Minnesota +22 was taking on my childhood favorite team to which I had season tickets growing up, the Wisconsin Badgers. Crazier yet, as of Saturday morning, our top overall play according to the Customizable Predictalator was the Cincinnati - Miami (OH) UNDER on 54 points. As a proud alumnus of the University of Cincinnati, I went to that game - to cheer for defense. Our top two picks had very close personal ties to me and weren't necessarily going in the favor of Paul Bessire the fan. But really, a 21 point window from winning by one to 21 points seemed reasonable to cheer for in the Wisconsin game. And a 49-0 blowout would be fine in the battle for the Victory Bell. Both covered - but it wasn't pretty. Minnesota, fueled by Wisconsin's two-point conversion attempt on the previous drive and determined to score, went for it on fourth and 11 down 41-17. A running throw, a leaping catch and a toe-tap in the endzone later, we got our cover on the Lock - our fifth consecutive College winner on the Lock. It was nuttier in the UC game. Cincinnati scored on all but one of its eight first half possessions to go up 45-3 at half. Two points below the original total and six points below the new line, I felt as though we were almost assured of losing the pick (which was actually the highest confidence percentage play of the whole weekend - day of). After sitting through a two hour half and struggling to figure out what to root for, my wife and I left the game. Tailgating by himself in the parking lot was a customer of ours. We swapped condolences on the total and joked about the Minnesota cover before my wife and I drove the 45 minutes to our next destination. By the time we got there, the game was over. Zero points were scored in the second half. First of all, I'm kind of glad we left because 1) zero point halves when the game was not in doubt have to be pretty boring - especially for wives and 2) fans around us probably would have been very confused at the timing and subject matter of my standing ovation and cheering at the end of the game... There were many other wins in college this week (especially our continued run through the weekdays), but they are not worth noting because none were as personally conflicting and gratifying to me or the Predictalator.

Toughest Losses: At said destination where we headed after the UC - Miami (OH) game - yes, a bar - our luck changed slightly. At the time, I felt as though Gene Chizik and Cam Newton of Auburn were trying to personally make up for our fortunes from those previous two wins, but that may have been the Scrimshaw (by the way, very solid work, but I like just about any unique beer) talking. Still, I'm not sure it is the right move in college football when tied and on the two yardline with just a few seconds remaining and one timeout, to knee the ball and put the onus on the kicker. I know that Wes Byrum is a senior, four-year starting kicker, who only missed one kick all of last season, but he also missed a 23-yard field goal two games ago in the fourth quarter against South Carolina. Auburn has one of the biggest and most athletic quarterbacks in the game. A sneak seems like the smartest play there by far - and not just because it cost us the cover on our inexplicably unlucky free picks... That was our toughest individual loss, but I would like to talk about a general concept that, I will admit was probably somewhat flawed and will be tweaked going forward. Given our successes in the past, it is very rare for us to make changes to the engine during a season that are not dictated by rules changes. But, we also want to provide the best possible and most profitable product for our users and are always looking for to improve our accuracy. Many of our toughest ATS losses on Saturday had the same thing in common - the teams that covered had a very poor strength of schedule. For instance, Michigan State's strength of schedule (SOS) ranked 136th in Division I football before Saturday. Utah's SOS was 139th. After further review (the ruling on the field does not stand... sorry), it appears as though teams at extremes were inappropriately adjusted. There are two logical reasons for this 1) adjustments are not linear, so extreme cases had exponentially significant adjustments, and 2) when teams play opponents that weak, there will naturally be some time in the game where the favorite eases up and no longer attempts to put up gaudy numbers. We have done our best to, as analytically as possible, modify these assumptions for the future. I feel very confident in the steps taken to create the modified approach to adjusting inputs... Oh, and South Carolina is not that good. I'm just as baffled by that outcome as I am watching two teams put up 48 points in one half and zero in the next.

Most intriguing games of Week 7: Illinois @ Michigan State, Missouri @ Texas A&M, Texas @ Nebraska, Arkansas @ Auburn, Iowa @ Michigan, Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech, Cal @ USC, Ohio State @ Wisconsin, Air Force @ San Diego State, Nevada @ Hawaii

NFL Best and Worst:

Best Wins: We've already chronicled our great success in 57%+, "normal," picks on Sunday and I'm running out of time to get this published, so I'm not going to dwell on them too much. You'll probably see these results pop up in multiple emails... It's always great to get on the right side of a predicted underdog winner straight-up, as we did with two of our Paul's Picks - Chicago @ Carolina and New York @ Houston. The Giants are making a nice run up our Power Rankings in the last two weeks... Detroit was a blast to watch. Everyone has been waiting for that all year after so many decent showings in tough losses... It's not that San Francisco is horrible; it's that Philadelphia really is not bad no matter who is playing quarterback. Our pick was very similar in the preseason to what it was going into last night. Three plus the hook was just too much... Arizona was a huge win for us. Taking a team with a rookie quarterback over the Super Bowl champions as our Free Pick of the Week took some, uh... gumption, but these definitely are not the same Saints. That being said, every break they had go their way last year seems to be going against them this year. They're better than they were yesterday, but I wouldn't expect a Super Bowl run out of New Orleans this year... Advising everyone to stay away from the KC - IND (-8) and WAS - GB (-2.5) games feels good. I got multiple calls, texts, contact tickets and questions about those games from people who really wanted to play Kansas City and Green Bay. While the books don't exactly work this way, those lines were built for the public to take the Packers and Chiefs. And yet they barely moved. There is a reason for that... I wouldn't expect any of the SOS issues described above in college to impact the NFL. It's a completely different animal to look at 32 similar teams instead of 120+ vastly differing teams. NFL numbers should stay strong as more and more info is learned... And for those of you who followed our advise and picked up Ryan Fitzpatrick over many other fantasy notables, you are welcome.

Toughest Losses: I watched the NFL Network's Replay Real-time today to come to the realization that, save for a bizarre 15-minute stretch from about 4:10 pm ET to 4:25 pm ET, we totally nailed Sunday. During that time: 1) the Cincinnati Bengals - our optimal survivor pool pick for the week and a very "weak" favorite against a 6.5 point line in a game we predicted they would win 21 - 14 - found a way to turn a 21 - 14 lead with the clock running with 2:30 left in opponent territory into a 24 - 21 loss IN REGULATION, 2) Lock of the Season thus far at 65.3% to cover (though we have seen 70%+ in past years), San Diego -6 @ Oakland, allowed two blocked punts that put them into a 12-point hole from which they would never escape, 3) the Dallas Cowboys fell asleep to begin the game and give up multiple big plays resulting in a ten point deficit and 4) my Green Bay Packers, our preseason favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl clanked a would-be game-winning field goal off the upright and then not only lost the game, but their starting quarterback in OT... If you subscribed to our NFL picks yesterday, it should have been a very profitable day, but I understand that it may not have been because the Lock was so significant that some subscribers may have only played San Diego -6. It's not that the Raiders are the better team; the Chargers found away to make their 34.7% chance of an ATS loss and 21.4% chance of a straight-up loss happen. In 50,000 simulations of the San Diego, Oakland game, Oakland only blocked two punts twice. And never in those games did San Diego also fumble the ball twice in the redzone and another time in field goal range (then all stare at it and watch the Raiders pick it up and run just to spite everyone who picked the Chargers on the road). Is it tougher to root for (have money on) the Chargers or Cowboys. Even in losses, their numbers typically look like they should have dominated the game. Seriously, Dallas averaged eight yards-per-pass and 6.1 yards-per-rush yesterday. San Diego averaged 9.9 yards-per-pass and a full 2.3 more yards-per-play than the competition (and they had more plays!).

Most intriguing games of Week 4: MIA @ GB, BAL @ NE, NO @ TB, KC @ HOU, CIN @ PIT, NYJ @ DEN, DAL @ MIN, IND @ WAS

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