Weekend Football Review (10/17/11)

By Paul Bessire

Monday, October 17 at 11:45 PM ET
It is very important to us to be transparent and honest about our picks. I always try to recap each football weekend. At this point, through Monday, Paul's Picks, which include the top three ATS plays Saturday and Sunday as well as the top weekday college against- the-spread (ATS) plays and the Monday Night play, are 31-20 ATS (61%) to start the season. The ATS Top Plays of the Day, the strongest opinion ATS each day overall in football are 19-12 ATS (61%) and the "Locks of the Week" are 7-5 ATS (58%). Including last season, this brings our all-time record during football to 129-85 ATS (60%) for Paul's Picks, 92-48 ATS (66%) in ATS Top Plays of the Day and 35-17 ATS (67%) for Locks of the week.

As a reminder, at midnight ET each day, we make all of our previous day's subscriber content available for free for registered users. We're never going to hide anything. So even though we have to swap out articles in the archive to focus on new ones, articles never go away. Just make sure to use the correct week and date in the URL - or ask us for the link...

It was a fairly non-descript week for the Predictalator - profitable in just about every respect, but not off the charts. For those who have followed (and used) our college football picks, this is great news as the performance bounced back with a decent week (even with a crippling beat in one of the Paul's Picks). The numbers were similar in the NFL (where crippling took on a whole new meaning with our Lock of the Week) as they were to college, which should mean profits, but not at quite the same strong levels as the previous week (in essence, we "middled" ourselves). As always, please use the Play Analyzer to get the picks at your lines. Even though BYU, our college Lock of the Week, lost some momentum with the updated Play Analyzer, we saw great value in its place from Kansas State. Meanwhile, NFL line movement weakened our stance on all three of our Paul's Picks, making Cincinnati (-5), the strongest play at noon ET on Sunday. Not all lines that we use at 8 pm ET on Wednesdays are going to be available at that time, let alone throughout the rest of the week, so it is vitally important to use the Play Analyzer (or Customizable Predictalator) to make the most out of our information. I am/we are in the process of building, testing, tracking the NHL daily picks product (launching in February), preparing college basketball teams for the start of the regular season (November 7 - daily picks will begin with a three-week trial), finalizing and recording the tutorial video for the TrendFinder database (should be available next week), publishing and promoting the World Series Preview and keeping up with the normal football grind. So, without further ado, LET's Go To THE Games. (Yes, that's a Vinnie Verno reference. If you have not seen his videos, you have to check them out - not at all for the pick information, but for the comedy. Week 1 is still one of the funniest things I have ever seen.)

The Football Numbers:
Below are our win/loss stats from Week 7 in College Football and NFL Week 6 using playable picks (53%+ to cover) from our published articles (YET AGAIN, Play Analyzer results from the day of the games highlighted even better opportunity for value that was more successful on the closing lines than picks at Wednesday's lines).

  • All Playable Games ATS: 55% (21-17)
  • All Playable Games O/U: 54% (21-18)
  • Paul's Picks ATS: 63% (5-3)
  • Lock of the Week: 50% (1-1)
  • ATS Top Plays of the Day: 80% (4-1)

And here are the combined numbers for the season thus far:

  • All Playable Games ATS: 52% (147-136)
  • All Playable Games O/U: 52% (136-126)
  • Paul's Picks ATS: 61% (31-20)
  • Lock of the Week: 58% (7-5)
  • ATS Top Plays of the Day: 61% (19-12)

NFL Performance:
With an overwhelmingly greater number of games in college as opposed to the NFL - and with the strong performance of the NFL to-date - here are NFL-specific ATS numbers:

  • All Playable Games ATS: 65% (50-27)
  • Paul's Picks ATS: 79% (19-5)
  • Lock of the Week: 50% (3-3)
  • ATS Top Plays of the Day: 77% (10-3)

College Best and Worst:

Best Wins: Even though our Lock of the Week, BYU (+1.5) @ Oregon State, was weakened with Thursday's announcement that Oregon State freshman running back Malcolm Agnew, who had been discussed as a redshirt candidate as late as Wednesdays, would play, the Cougars were still our pick to win that game straight-up and, at +3, were still likely to win. With Agnew, James Rodgers and Joe Halahuni healthy and freshman quarterback Sean Mannion improving every game, that is the healthiest/best that the Oregon State offense has been all season. However, with Riley Nelson at quarterback, Saturday was also the best that BYU has been on offense all year. The Cougars outgained the Beavers by 134 yards to win 38-28 in Corvallis (it was 38-21 with 23 seconds left). BYU was originally predicted by us as a top-30 FBS team likely to get to at least eight wins. Fumbles plagued the Cougars in a tough early schedule. Playing well now and with a much easier schedule ahead of it, BYU could very easily get to eight wins...

Elsewhere... At the same time that we updated the Play Analyzer/Customizable Predictalator information with the news regarding Malcolm Agnew of the Beavers, Kansas State (+3.5) @ Texas Tech rose to the top of our picks for Saturday. The Wildcats entered Lubbock undefeated and with consecutive wins over good teams (@ Miami, vs. Baylor and vs. Missouri), yet were still underdogs against a Texas Tech team that still does not have a win over a team with a winning record and cannot stop the run (and will likely finish the season 5-7). The game was not pretty (no Kansas State game has been thus far), but the ball bounced the right way for the Wildcats, who moved to 6-0 with the 41-34 win... San Diego State (+6) @ Air Force and San Jose State (+6) vs. Hawaii were not very strong plays when we posted the picks on Wednesday. Between the time we posted the picks and kickoff, though, the lines had moved to a touchdown in both games, giving our picks extra value (putting both just above the "normal" threshold of 57%). Considering we had lost simultaneous Paul's Picks with those teams on the previous Saturday and that we have heavily promoted our ATS Top Plays of the Day, getting outright/"easy" (it wasn't that "easy" in San Jose until a blocked extra point returned for a two- point conversion by a gimpy Spartan in the fourth quarter kept the score within five) wins on Thursday and Friday, part of a five-day streak of consecutive ATS Top Play of the Day wins, was huge... It was another strong Saturday for the top over/under plays in college football, hitting five of our top six published picks. For the most part, we have been taking advantage of O/U lines that are not extreme enough. Linesmakers and bettors get nervous with total lines in the 70s and 40s. We don't (we even won an UNDER on a 39.5 point line when Miami OH beat Kent State 9-3). According to TrendFinder data (coming very soon!), in playable O/U picks when the college total line is less than 45 or greater 70, we are 22-11... With Auburn's win (along with BYU and Kansas State) over Florida, all three of the predicted upsets from the week in college won outright... What has happened to USF and how lucky was the Bulls' win over Notre Dame?... The top eight teams in the first BCS Standings are a combined 41-9-1 ATS. Fortunately, we have been winning right along with most of them including Alabama and LSU this week. It's almost impossible to know if that trend will continue because the market should continue to shift the lines for those games. However, as we have discussed with respect to the PAC-12 coaches from elite teams that tend to cover at all costs (LaMichael James), style points matter for every non-SEC team that wants a chance at a BCS title or any legitimate national love. Earning style points starts with covering the spread...

Toughest Losses: Walking out of Paul Brown Stadium with the throngs (I say that a bit tongue in cheek because the stadium was not even two-thirds full, but I did end up stuck in people traffic getting out of the game... which may or may not have led me to a downtown bar and an encounter with Emilio "the knucklepuck would never work" Estevez) of fans on Saturday afternoon after Cincinnati's 25-16 "homecoming" (the school that once had its homecoming week sponsored by GoArmy.com the week that it played Army just held its homecoming game off campus and about a mile from Kentucky) win over Louisville (a good win for the Predictalator on the UNDER and a win for my Bearcats to get to 5-1), I high-fived my wife when Blackberry scoreboard refreshing noted a South Carolina TD and subsequent interception of Mississippi State to "seal" the -2.5 cover of the Paul's Pick with a 14-10 Gamecocks' victory. "I hope we win with BYU, but it's great to get on the board so early.". Wait. When I looked at the down, distance, score and time and realized that the Gamecocks taking a Delay of Game penalty, I stopped dead in my tracks (people were literally slamming into me - sorry to anyone reading this who was among that group). Before it even happened, I just stopped moving. I knew what was going to happen next. Connor Shaw took the snap, stepped through the back of the endzone (with one second left on the clock - no one is talking about this because they just let the clock run out) and we lost the cover. Sportsbooks are reportedly $30 million richer because of it (was/is Shaw auditioning for a job on the strip?). He didn't even let the clock run out. He just walked to the back of the endzone. Had he taken the snap run right and launched the ball as far as he could, the clock would/should have run out and the game would have ended with no points... Obviously, we get lucky sometimes (it should even out, though "bad beats" theoretically should go against us more than for us because our teams should be covering late more often than the other way around) and it will always feel like we are more unlucky than lucky, but, of the worst beats of the 2011 college football this season, I cannot think of one that has worked in our favor. Utah @ USC, Toledo @ Syracuse, Miami @ Maryland, Western Michigan @ Michigan (lightning), West Virginia @ Marshall (lightning). Am I missing any brutal beats? Any that worked for us? I'd love to see these even out for the year, but I'll take just even from now on (or, better yet, no more "bad beats"). When will Nelson Cruz start playing college football (me acknowledging the bad beat Nelson Cruz/we laid on others when ALCS Game 2's 11th inning grand slam covered the over by half a run and still gave us money and run-line wins as well)?...

Elsewhere... Purdue is so bad. There is no reason the Boilermakers scored 18 on Penn State... National attention in this category may be on Texas A&M, Florida State, Missouri or Miami (FL), but has any team been more enigmatic than Ohio University? And how is Ball State above .500. The Cardinals have lost by a combined score of 141-13 in their three losses... The Georgia @ Vanderbilt game was close as expected, but not in the defensive battle we projected. Speaking of which, Jim Schwartz vs. Jim Harbaugh should be the undercard to James Franklin vs. Todd Grantham (and not the other way around). Georgia is still good. Vanderbilt is better than you think... We had a Sam McGuffie sighting in Huntington, WV... These Longhorns are going to be good - in like two years, right?... After the seasons by Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, throw the entire MAC into the category of "enigmatic"... Cal is a team that the Predictalator almost always seems to like more than it should (especially offensively). That is not a compliment Jeff Tedford... They may have scored a few too many points for us this week, but SMU is a team to watch. No team returned more combined starts from last year in FBS and June Jones can really coach... On a somewhat related note, while I could write several blogs on sports broadcasts (with a wall of TVs to catch the games, I see Michael Torpey more often than my wife), I can't be the only one that mutes the broadcast during games or changes the channel during segments when Craig James is involved. Dude makes my skin crawl... Nucklepuck? Yes or no?

Week 8's Most Interesting Games (and don't forget that we have a game on Tuesday for subscribers to the Week 7 package): Oklahoma @ Missouri, UNC @ Clemson, Cincinnati @ USF, Georgia Tech @ Miami (FL), Maryland @ Florida State, Penn State @ Northwestern, Utah @ Cal, USC @ Notre Dame and Wisconsin @ Michigan State

NFL Best and Worst:

Best Wins: While we went 2-1 ATS with our Paul's Picks as published, for many on Sunday, due to line movement, those three games went 0-1-2. We'll get into those three games later, but I would like to lead with our strongest NFL play from the Play Analyzer on Sunday, which was Cincinnati (-5). The top overall NFL play according to the Play Analyzer on Sunday at noon ET is now 6-0. Six picks have been "green" 2X picks according to our records against the consensus lines as of Sunday. Those picks are 5 -1. Our original pick had Cincinnati (-7) as just a 55.3% play, but it jumped up to over 61% at -5.While not a true "bad beat" the way I defined it above (for those who lost with the pick), we did get lucky with this play, notably when Carlos Dunlap (with whom my wife and I once shared an elevator the day after he was drafted - one of the biggest, most imposing players I've ever seen and he showed up to his hotel before his press post-draft press conference to check in and stay by himself) forced and then picked up a Pierre Garcon fumble and returned it 35 yards in impressive fashion for a Bengals' touchdown to seal the Bengals' victory and cover 27-17. Having the Bengals' defense started in both (I'm so busy projecting fantasy football stats that I only have time for a couple leagues) of my fantasy football leagues and witnessing the choppy fumble return on a computer screen propped up in front of the wall of TVs (blacked out here) while my Bengals fan wife cheered, was just icing...

As alluded to, Paul's Picks Oakland (-6.5) and Buffalo (+3.5) were close wins that lost strength when the lines moved to magic numbers (-7 and +3). In both games, the team we were picking had a great chance to put the game and the cover away (I love going for it on fourth down, but Hue Jackson needs to kick that field goal... And I have strong negative feelings towards Corey Webster for multiple reasons). They also almost both gave the covers away (onside kick recovered by the Cleveland Browns and Ahmad Bradshaw stopped at the half yard-line). After all of that, we have two wins and a lot of our subscribers get two pushes. A few observers noted this and asked about buying points to get back the crucial half-points that were lost. It may not be what everyone wants to hear, but the answer is pretty straight-forward. The Customizable Predictalator and Play Analyzer have tools to evaluate games at any lines and at any odds. If the opportunity presents itself to buy points in a situation like this, those tools in conjunction with the Play Value Calculator provide the best way to evaluate the options... Similar to what we saw out of the Bengals above, the Packers move from -15 to -14 made Green Bay a "normal" play over the Rams. That backdoor was open for the entire second half, but "my" Packers prevailed. I am often asked if I root for our picks or my teams. The honest answer is our picks then our teams. It doesn't hurt that, with the Packers, Badgers and Bearcats succeeding recently straight-up and against-the-spread, we have often been picking in favor of "my teams." That's fun... Two over/unders became "normal" plays on the Sunday consensus lines. We won with Minnesota @ Chicago OVER (41) by eight points (we lost by 1.5 points in the other - below)... For the first times all season and one of the few times since we launched in 2010, we picked Jacksonville to cover. We are now 6-0 ATS in Jaguars' games in 2011 (7-0 if you like to count chickens and feel strongly about the Jaguars UNDER 6.5 wins)... Dallas should win the NFC East. The Cowboys' defense is the best in the NFC... Poor Houston. That was a terrible time to get Baltimore. With the injuries to the Texans and the Titans coming off of a bye, it is difficult to understate the importance of this week's Houston @ Tennessee game to the AFC South race... It happened a week ago and is built into the numbers in this blog, but I want to quickly recap the Bears @ Lions game by thanking Ndamukong "Mike Jones" Suh for engulfing Sam Hurd for the Lock saving tackle in last week's Monday Night Football. Of course it was you...

Toughest Losses: Jimmy Graham: hero and goat. It's not his fault that he ran into Sean Payton and broke his coach's leg (and it's not Sean Payton's injury's fault that the Saints lost that game). It's not Jimmy Graham's fault that he had such a great day to the point where Drew Brees could only trust Graham in the red zone late in the game, totally missing a wide open Robert Meachem (who was jumping up and down in the endzone with no one around, yet had also cost Brees an interception with an earlier dropped pass). Over 85% of the money was on the Saints (-4.5... though the line moved to -6 on Sunday) and our numbers agreed (it doesn't usually - that's often how we do so well in the NFL). This game reminds me of Baltimore @ Tennessee in Week 2. The cover looked unlikely very early in the game and there is little to explain how both teams played so differently than they usually do. We need to be sure not to over or underreact (much easier to do after Week 6 than after Week 2) and move on. Obviously, it hurts (pun slightly intended), but I don't think there is enough there to dwell upon...

Elsewhere... We were an inch or two from getting out of Detroit (-4) salvaging a push. The 49ers won the body language battle and that translated into a huge rushing advantage and a comeback victory. The Lions are better than that. And the 49ers are not quite that good. In the NFC West, though, San Francisco may have just clinched the division (and can start preparing to win this rematch). I wish I could explain why our NFL Free Pick struggles. The next best pick after the Paul's Pick is usually the free pick if it is at all nationally relevant. There is no reason for it to be below .500 historically... I love to watch Cam Newton play. The numbers love his future. Had either of his three fourth quarter interceptions been touchdowns yesterday, the numbers and I would love him even more. We originally liked Carolina (+4), but not as much at +3.5 on Sunday. We originally liked the OVER (51), but really liked the OVER (49.5) on Sunday... I am so glad that I am not a Minnesota Vikings fan. Or Adrian Peterson...

Week 7's Most Interesting Games: San Diego @ NYJ, Chicago vs. Tampa Bay, Houston @ Tennessee, Atlanta @ Detroit, Washington @ Carolina

The Baseball Numbers:
The MLB Playoffs have been doing well. Over/under picks are slightly out-performing money-line and run-line plays, but performance across the board has been better with stronger picks. As seen previously with other postseason tournaments (outside of the NBA as noted above), there is something to be said for clear motivation, a full season of data and trustworthy lineup and pitching staff information. Below are win/loss stats from MLB Playoff picks using the published Play Value Calculator recommendations for a $50 bettor. And check out the World Series Preview.

  • All Playable Games: +$543 (38-25, 60%)
  • Normal+ Plays: +$430 (10-2, 83%)
  • "Half-Bet" Plays (when PVC recommendation is greater than $25): +$552 (23-14, 62%)

For those who may have missed out on purchasing the MLB Playoff Package, the World Series Package is still available in the Shop.

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