Weekend Football Review (10/18/10)

By Paul Bessire

Monday, October 18 at 5:28 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. It was an odd week for us. I'm generally happy with our performance - ecstatic, even, with the college picks - but it's a little bittersweet because I know that, while the majority of our subscribers made money, it may not have been profitable for some of our subscribers. To a degree, I understand that that uncertainty comes with this profession, but it is so important to me to try to help everyone make money. No matter what anyone may think, that is my main objective. I'm definitely not in this business just to help myself (more on that in a future blog entry, but I also recommend checking out my Giving the Edge blog entry from the launch of our current site, which describes how I feel this site and I fit into the industry).

After last week's great NFL performance, we heavily marketed our "normal" or better plays. With one more "normal" or better pick to go tonight, those picks have all finished .500 or better ATS and O/U in college and NFL. Collectively "normal" or better picks hit 62% of the time, which is fantastic. We have also leaned on our tremendous year-to-date performance in Locks of the Week, Paul's Picks and Daily Top Plays. Last week, our Locks of the Week went 1-0-1 and our Daily Top ATS plays went 5-0-1 (going back to Monday - we actually only got one O/U wrong during the week as well. I don't have a great explanation for it, but our weekday record on all ATS and O/U college and NFL picks is now 47-13, or 78.3%). Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately though, for the first time all season, our collective Paul's Picks fell below .500. We had actually never even finished at .500 with the Paul's Picks for any week. So, while 62% is great for our "normal" picks and 100% is even better for our Locks and Daily Top ATS Plays, I understand that the Paul's Picks did not perform up to their 70%+ season expectations. In total though, the Paul's Picks (what appears on the Paul's Picks pages as breakdowns of the top three ATS games Saturday and Sunday as well as the top weekday college play and the Monday Night game) are still holding strong at 69.8% ATS with one solid opinion tonight.

The Football Numbers (after College Week 7 and NFL Week 6):
To sum up what I said above, had Denver covered (instead of allowing a critical, late pass interference, followed by an easy LaDainian Tomlinson touchdown and Kyle Orton fumble on the ensuing drive to run their chances of winning), it would have been a HUGE week for us. Given that that did not happen, it was still pretty strong.

  • ATS Locks of the Week: 1-0-1 (sixth week in a row the college lock hit with Toledo -2.5 covered by winning 34-21, Baltimore +3 pushed with an OT field goal by New England )
  • Year-to-Date ATS Locks of the Week: 9-3-1 (75%)
  • All-Time ATS Locks of the Week: 58-14-3 (81%)
  • YTD Daily Top ATS Plays: 26-7 (78.8%)
  • Paul's Picks ATS Week: 2-4-1 (with one game remaining)
  • YTD Paul's Picks ATS: 37-16-1 (69.8%)
  • YTD ATS All Games: 56.4%
  • YTD O/U All Games: 54.2%
  • YTD SU (NFL and FBS vs FBS College): 74.3%

The MLB Numbers:
Those of you following us on Twitter @predictmachine have seen the daily LCS baseball playoff predictions. There have only been four LCS games and two of the totals have pushed, but our performance with these series and overall is still strong. We are 14-5 on the money line and 10-5-4 O/U. Also check out our LCS Preview.

Support Suggestions:
There were not any of the deep customer support conversations that we have seen in week's past, so I do not have much to get into this week. That being said, we have started to receive several strong suggestions for the future. Some of them we are even going to implement very soon, including the ability to access the Predictalator from the Game Picks page and the inclusion of game start times and rotation numbers on those pages as well. For the long-term, we are working on several new features. Not only will we have the Predictalator available for NBA, MLB and college basketball when we launch those products (likely January for NBA and March for college basketball and MLB), we will be updating the Play Value and Parlay Value Calculators to function for any odds (the calculation assumes -110 odds with the bet recommendation viewed as the "to win" amount) and better in conjunction with each other (like the ability to handle teasers within our pages). It is important to us to improve the amount of information available for each game as well. Other applications in the works include a live Predictalator for football, basketball and baseball (it blows my mind), the TrendFinder database and a place to track your own action (relative to our recommendations). I cannot make any guarantees on timing of any of these things, but we are very excited about sharing each of these tools with you.

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.

Odd Coaching Decision of the Week:
In most weekend recap blogs, I have discussed some odd coaching decisions that were less than optimal and that had a big impact on a team's chances of winning. I'm not sure that I'll have something every week. But, since I just touted our live simulator that can play the game 50,000 times from any point through the end in less than a second, I figured I would point out a game decision that was odd to me. In all honesty, with as poorly as most football coaches manage downs and time, I'm sure this was not the worst decision of the weekend; it just struck me as a bad decision right away and I have not heard anyone talk about it yet.

Trailing by just three points 27-24 with 1:53 to play and facing a 3rd and 10 from their own 38 with the clock running, the Washington Redskins elected to call their first of three timeouts. An incomplete pass later, and still with two timeouts, the Redskins decided to go for it on fourth and ten. Commentator Al Michaels brushed it off as "obvious four-down territory." Why? Three Indianapolis Colts running plays, two of the Redskins timeouts and a 42 yard Colts punt later, the Redskins had the ball at their own 20 with 32 seconds remaining. The timeout and down usage here is confusing. With 1:53 left and just about 30 yards to gain to get into field position, the timeouts are only important for the Redskins to use if Indianapolis gets the ball back or if Washington runs several short plays over the middle to extend the drive. Here, the downs were far more of an issue than the time. If the Redskins had gone back to the line and run the same play they ran within 10-15 seconds, they would have been looking at a 4th and ten from their own 38 with more than 1:30 on the clock and three timeouts. With the way that opposing teams treat this situation, the only logical strategy would have been to punt the ball. Three plays and three timeouts later, they punt it back to you with more than a minute on the clock and in the same field position (assuming the punt plays cancel out). That gives Donovan McNabb and the Redskins' offense a new set of downs and more than a minute to go 30 yards. Instead, he ended up with about 30 seconds left and 50 yards to go.

At 1:53 remaining, the Washington Redskins had a 32.3% chance of at least tying the game in regulation - if the optimal strategy was followed. Calling the timeout alone put so much pressure on that current drive that it lowered the chance of at least a tie to 25.7%. Then, going for it on fourth down was so unlikely to succeed (as would be the ensuing drive that the Redskins would get much deeper in their own territory and will little time on the clock) than the Redskins then had a 12.4% chance of tying once they decided not to punt. Never was it more likely than not that the Redskins would tie or better, but that's a huge chunk to take out of your chances.

College Best and Worst:

Best Wins: The best win for me by far was my alma mater, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, not only winning and covering, but coming within one-point for each team of our predicted score. The Predictalator saw the Battle for the Keg of Nails as a 36-28 game and the final score was 35-27. That capped off a Monday-Friday week of 9-1 ATS and O/U picks for us. And not only was that the Top ATS Play of the Day and one of Paul's Picks ATS, it was our seventh best total (OVER 58) on the week... Toledo's win was a bigger win in that it extended our Lock of the Week streak to 6-1 ATS on the college football season. That game had its own share of drama as well as Kent State took an early 14-0 lead and was up 21-7 at halftime. Behind starting quarterback Austin Dantin, who was a game-time decision after a concussion the previous week, Toledo won the second half 27-0 to easily cover by 10.5 points... The best O/U play on the board was Miami/Duke UNDER 58.5 points that covered by 17 points. The best O/U the day of the game (according to the Predictalator) was Texas A&M/Missouri UNDER 57 points. That covered by 18... The best ATS play of the day actually ended up with Mississippi State +9. We had had it as a "normal" play at +7, but it jumped way up into 3X range with the the extra two points. The Bulldogs won outright... Illinois is not very good. After Michigan State's performances, one would expect them to get more credit at home... You are welcome everyone for that Hawaii win. I don't think it had anything to do with the fact that Nevada had not won at Hawaii since 1948 (it's not like they played there every year or even every other year). Hawaii had the good enough to team to be expected to win straight-up at home despite being a seven point underdog... Let's just say that we had more than a few doubters on our Thursday plays, taking favorites West Virginia -10.5 and Kansas State -2.5 as well as the UNDER 43 in the Mountaineers game and the OVER 58 in the Kansas rivalry. 4-0, easily felt great... In addition to Hawaii, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, Pitt and Kentucky all looked like straight-up winners, yet were getting points. Upsets are fun - I think we'll do more to feature them in future weeks.

Toughest Losses: There are some games that I see on the schedule, where I am positive I know which team we will be taking against-the-spread, even before I see the lines. Usually, we get those games right - like with Hawaii/Nevada - because we know something about one or both of the teams that contradicts public perception. But... Where did that USC team come from? I know that calling for upsets by Hawaii and Cal did not quite pass the connect-the-dots test because the four teams involved had all played each other, but the numbers still made Cal look like the better team. I guess all that talent at USC can still bring it together and dominate when needed. But happened to Cal's defense? There was nothing in these numbers to suggest that USC would be up 42 at halftime... Nebraska was the only other really frustrating game of the day ATS. Like with USC, we had seen strong numbers for Texas coming out of last season, yet the Longhorns had not come close to living up to those expectations to-date. Facing a team that averaged 8.8 yards-per-carry coming in did not seem like the most likely opportunity for the Longhorns' defense to get right... NC State, Idaho and Texas A&M are better than that. That being said, Missouri's defense and Louisiana Tech and East Carolina's offenses are better than we thought... Boise State and TCU shutouts are incredibly frustrating. We know those teams are going to put up big numbers, but it is extremely difficult (statistically improbable) to shut teams out. We're not going to predict that. TCU gave up three points this week, but that's still less than we would expect out of the worst team against the best team in the country. The Horned Frogs have allowed 3 points in their last three games - COMBINED. Boise State has only allowed 14 points in that span. They both give me headaches... It's rare to get both the side and the total wrong in the ULL - Troy game. Usually, when we have strong opinions in games between teams that no one knows about, we do really well. Troy just came out flat... Similarly, I feel like we can't get Arkansas State totals correct. Their lines are typically huge because they play good opponents and have a bad defense, but the more extreme the situation, the less likely it is that we are going to go more extreme... Unless it is the Hawaii-Nevada game, where we expected a million points to be scored.

Most intriguing games of Week 8: South Florida @ Cincinnati (Friday), Notre Dame vs. Navy, LSU @ Auburn, Wisconsin @ Iowa, Nebraska @ Oklahoma State, Kansas State @ Baylor, Arizona State @ Cal, Georgia @ Kentucky, Oklahoma @ Missouri and Air Force @ TCU

NFL Best and Worst:

Best Wins: Not only did Miami cover +3.5 pretty easily, the UNDER on 44.5 points was actually our strongest NFL play on gameday. Unlike in college, it was not that painful to root against my hometown team (the Packers). I am always going to root for our picks no matter what. In the NFL losses mean less. And in this game, I was very confident that Miami and the UNDER were great plays. I can't be upset with getting that right. The Packers are so banged up that the NFC North is completely open. As of right now, we have Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota all finishing with between 8-9 wins on the season. Which team deals with injuries best (or eludes them from now on) will win that division. And as strong as that division has looked, only the NFC West has a projected winner with fewer wins (Seattle with 7.8). If the NFC East and AFC West switched conferences, the AFC would have the four definitively best conferences and the NFC the four worst... That being said, we got the most anticipated game of the day right too, with Minnesota knocking off the Dallas Cowboys in a battle of beleaguered teams that ended up looking a lot like what we thought (we had 26-21, it was 24-21)... Your welcome on another Free Pick winner. In one of the most exciting games of the day, Houston edged Kansas City, but by just four points (we had KC +4.5). Kansas City is far more likely to make the playoffs from here out. The Texans have a brutal schedule, are projected to win just 7.8 games and are only favored in three more games (both Jacksonville and vs. Tennessee). Kansas City has an easy schedule, is projected to win 8.9 games in an easier division and is favored in eight more games this year... I wish we would have caught the Eagles' line when it was either a PK or -1. The Eagles are for real no matter the QB, especially at home... We hit four of our top five totals this week (Number six is tonight)... It was not great consolation for the ATS losses, but the O/U in the Paul's Picks went 3-0. Two of them were strong opinions of 59%+... It's fun and a bit relaxing to have a Sunday or Monday night game with no pick ATS and a strong opinion on the OVER (like with IND - WAS last night). Rooting for points can be entertaining.

Toughest Losses: Apparently, we are good for at least one brutal, "How in the hell did that happen?" loss of the week. In all honesty, that's probably what makes wagering on the NFL so addicting. Just about every pick is in doubt until the end. Last week it was the crazy San Diego/Oakland game. This week, it looked like Denver had just won straight-up against the Jets (as we predicted), when a pass interference call bailed the Jets out. Then a fumbled snap sealed it. We hope to be on the good side of those at least as often as we are not in the NFL. Unfortunately, so far, that has not been the case. I can't complain about the call - he grabbed the Santonio Holmes' facemask - or even say that the Broncos are clearly the better team than the Jets, but they put together a game that should have won. It was just one game, but had that happened, we would have had what may have may have been our strongest overall week to-date and I would be able to rest easy knowing that all of our subscribers were up this week. I still believe the majority are - and hope that increases tonight - but we aim to do even better than that... I thought Chicago's offensive line was getting healthier. What happened there? No sugar-coating or excuses there. We missed it... Raise your hand if you knew Chris Ivory would cure all ills for the Saints' offense, on the road, against a solid defense... Calvin Johnson is fun to watch, but I would have enjoyed watching him even more without his 87-yard meaningless (ultimately) touchdown connection with Drew Stanton. That gave us our only real O/U blemish and killed a decent ATS play on the Giants. For what it's worth, we did not think Johnson would play until we heard for sure on Sunday. And then, we figured he was too banged up to make that much difference - and it was too late to change everything... I know that I just stated that I never root against our picks. That is definitely, 100% true. However, there was some part of me that took some joy in seeing the Chargers lose to the Rams on the road - especially after what the Chargers did to us last week.

Most intriguing games of Week 7: PIT @ MIA, PHI @ TEN, NE @ SD, CIN @ ATL, CHI @ WAS, JAC @ KC

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