Weekend Football Review (10/25/10)

By Paul Bessire

Monday, October 25 at 7:02 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. There is so much that I want to get to this week, but I've been swamped with football, the NBA preview and the World Series. After the opening couple of paragraphs, I'll essentially be writing this backwards (from the bottom up) to make sure I get the recap info in before I shift focus to basketball and other ramblings as I near the start of my fantasy basketball draft - it's an intense league with the developers of one of the largest online fantasy basketball products... I've got the fourth pick and I'm not sure I'm feeling Dirk Nowitzki. He's the right pick if Durant, Paul and LeBron are the first three, but it's not the most glamorous spot, especially in a snake draft.

This week looks pretty similar overall to last week where we have very solid numbers picking every game across the board. Fortunately for this week though, with 3-0 Paul's Picks ATS in the NFL. I know that, while our college Paul's Picks were not as strong as usual, we are making people money back above .500 in the Paul's Picks for the week. While tonight's outcome could go against us and alter this comments slightly, Paul's Picks have only been .500 or worse in one week (last week) of the eight under our belt in football season. Very strong Monday Nights have helped us keep that true so I hope that remains that way after tonight. Many people often comment (good and bad) on my positive tone in these blogs. First of all, if you've read this blog every week, you'll note that some are more negative than positive and some more positive than negative, but all have some semblance (balance even) of both. There are three main reasons, however, that I stay positive: 1) I have confidence in what I am doing, especially over the long-term, because it has worked well for me before, 2) I have to stay positive and remain confident without ever getting too high (or too low) to remain grounded, patient and sound with investment strategies (that's one of the things that separates this approach from the typical sports gambler and his/her erratic betting behaviors) and 3) our top picks on the aggregate are doing really well. I want all of our picks to win. Every game is important to me. I love winning and I hate losing (at least as much if not more than I love winning) in the moment. Yet when I look back over our record in Locks of the Week (10-4, 71.4%), Paul's Picks (42-19, 68.9%) and ATS Top Plays of the Day (29-9, 76.3%), I know that those numbers are very strong and illustrative of the power of this approach.

The Football Numbers (after College Week 8 and NFL Week 7):

  • ATS Locks of the Week: 1-1 (SMU -7.5 lost straight-up to Houston at home; Seattle -5.5 beat Arizona by 12)
  • Year-to-Date ATS Locks of the Week: 10-4-1 (71.4%)
  • All-Time ATS Locks of the Week: 59-15-3 (79.7%)
  • YTD Daily Top ATS Plays: 29-9 (76.3%)
  • Paul's Picks ATS Week: 4-3 (with one game remaining)
  • YTD Paul's Picks ATS: 42-19 (68.9%)
  • YTD ATS All Games: 56.0%
  • YTD O/U All Games: 54.8%
  • YTD SU (NFL and FBS vs FBS College): 74.8%

The MLB Numbers:
Those of you following us on Twitter @predictmachine have seen the daily LCS baseball playoff predictions. Through the LCS, we went 5-1 in series (6-0 on value plays relative to our win percentages, as SF was the value play over Philadelphia), 18-9 straight-up and 14-9-4 O/U. Check out our World Series Preview, which includes Game 1 picks for our full season NFL subscribers.

Basketball Love/Don't Love:
If you read the top, then skipped to the bottom, then came back here, or just looked at the scroll-bar, you can probably tell that I did not finish this blog in time for my draft. The draft went well. I went off my rankings except with Anthony Randolph because I got center eligibility there and that added value and with the late flier on Tiago Splitter. It's the least exciting team that I think that I have ever seen, but it also looks like a winning team. (You probably don't care, but) Here are the 2010-11 Yeehaw Fantasticos (12-team snake draft, standard head-to-head scoring plus FTM): Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (4), Josh Smith, SF, ATL (21), Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN (28), Rudy Gay SF, MEM (45), Mo Williams, PG, CLE (52), Jason Richardson, SG, PHO (69), Anthony Randolph, C, NYK (76), Marcus Thornton, SG, NOR (93), Andrei Kirilenko, SF, UTH (100), Terrence Williams, SG, NJN (117), Robin Lopez, C, PHO (124), Tiago Splitter, PH, SAS (141)

Since we are about to start the NBA season and college basketball is not too far off, here is list of things that I love (more than most):

  • Guys named Kevin: Durant, Love, Harlan, Jones (West Virginia), Anderson (Richmond), Stallings
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Serge Ibaka
  • Big 12 basketball: Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Texas
  • Kansas State as a national championship threat
  • Point plank'n
  • Jimmer Fredette
  • New Orleans Hornets
  • Marcus Thornton
  • Durrell Summers
  • Georgia Bulldogs
  • Fred Hoiberg
  • Ball movement
  • NC State
  • The First Four
  • New Jersey Nets starting five
  • Linas Kleiza
  • The A-10
  • Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings in three years
  • JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche
  • Fab Melo and Kris Joseph
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Nicolas Batum
  • Ty Lawson
  • Josh Selby
  • Florida Gators
  • Billy Donovan's hair
  • Dallas Mavericks second five
  • Randy Culpepper
  • On-ball Defense
  • Blake Griffin highlights
  • The Curry Brothers
  • NBA 2K11
  • Arizona Wildcats
  • Derrick Williams
  • Steve Kerr
  • The Mountain West
  • Brad Brownell
  • Illinois Illini (specifically their "Mikes")
  • Jon Leuer
  • Michael Beasley
  • Jared Sullinger


Things that I don't love (as much as most)

  • New York Knicks
  • Amare Stoudemire
  • Boston Celtics
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • The ACC
  • The Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs in three years
  • Carrying the ball
  • Steve Lavin's hair
  • Kentucky
  • John Calipari
  • Darren Collison
  • Flip Saunders
  • John Wall highlights
  • Al Jefferson - back at center with Paul Millsap
  • The Plan in Toronto
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Baron Davis
  • The Missouri Valley Conference
  • Preseason records
  • Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis in 2010 and beyond
  • The 2011 NBA Draft Class
  • Vinny Del Negro
  • Purdue and Pitt as national championship threats
  • The Big East
  • Avery Johnson
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Butler in 2010
  • Elias Harris
  • Dick Vitale
  • Renardo Sidney
  • Doug Collins
  • Danny Granger
  • Andy Kennedy
  • Monta Ellis
  • Jamal Crawford
  • The Pac 10


Odd Coaching Decision of the Week (Again):
There were actually several situations that jumped out at me, including Lovie Smith getting scared and afraid to use a challenge (the challenge system in the NFL is almost as ridiculous as the way game-changing defensive pass interference penalties are called - in both circumstances, if the play was called incorrectly, fix it), the New Orleans Saints' special teams (all punt return calls in the NFL right now are inherently flawed), just about any play call by either team in the final two minutes of the San Francisco - Carolina game and Josh McDaniels showing up with the Highlands Ranch Mountain Lions Pop Warner football team instead of the Denver Broncos. But, since we are short on time, I wanted to point out that there was another situation late in the Sunday Night game where the trailing team had all three timeouts remaining late in the game, yet wasted them all by putting all of their faith in one possession. Brett Favre holds about every record in the NFL. That list has to include most, least optimal decisions late in games. It's almost comical to watch. I'll never forget being in the stands against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005 when, down seven points on a critical play, Favre ran several yards down field and decided to give up and throw the ball forward rather than get hit. Last night, as Brad Childress can point out better than anyone, he hurt his team more than he helped (of course, Childress did not help much with his late-game play-calling either).

Favre's biggest gaffe last night came on 4th and 5 from the Green Bay 48 when he called a timeout with the clocked STOPPED at 1:51 to prevent a delay of game. At that point, the fourth down attempt is a luxury. With all three timeouts, the Vikings could almost guarantee that they would get the ball back in that game if, after the delay of game penalty, they punted it to Green Bay or even went for it on fourth and ten. Instead, while Favre thought he was saving the team five yards, he essentially cost it an entire possession by wasting the timeout and putting all the pressure on the team to connect on fourth and five. The Vikings did convert, but not having the timeout still meant that they had to score a touchdown on that drive rather than have two possible possessions to work with.

College Best and Worst:

Best Wins: Hawaii came through for us again this week. I wish I could have forced that to be our Lock of the Week, but it fell just a couple tenths of a percent short of that. At just -3 against a clearly inferior team, Hawaii, a legitimate top 25 squad destroyed Utah State, 45-7. I'm not sure what we can do about it, but I think we learned something about consistency with college teams this week. On the aggregate, we do really well. We hit 11 or 17 "normal" or better ATS picks, including going 8-3 in our top 11. Those three losses were all in our Paul's Picks. And in all honesty, the teams in those games, USF, Cincinnati, SMU, Houston, Miami (OH) and Ohio University could all make a claim at being the least consistent in the country, not to mention that they are all teams out of the upper echelon in the game. The inconsistency is bound to happen when looking at 120 teams comprised of 18-22 year old guys. It's in the numbers somewhere, but it confounds the situation to when two such teams play each other. I'll see what if I can note these situations going forward, but I think just about everyone had to be more comfortable putting faith in teams like Hawaii, Auburn, Michigan State and Georgia (since A.J. Green's return) to do well... The line in the Louisville game shifted towards our pick when Cody Endres was suspended (which we noted on the Paul's Picks), but it was still a good play and a great win for the Free Pick... Even after getting them right as one of our better picks, ECU is better than you think... Speaking of Michigan State, I will acknowledge that it probably would have been a smarter decision for Edwin Baker to have taken a knee after gaining the Spartans last first down rather than scoring the touchdown, but we'll still accept the cover. Along those lines, I would love to see a coach go for two points sometime when a last-minute(ish) touchdown puts his team up seven. Let's say that both teams are equally likely to convert a two-point conversion and that extra points are 100% certain. If the winning team makes the two-point conversion, it wins the game by going up by multiple scores. If the winning team fails at the two-point conversion or if it kicks the extra point to go up eight points, the losing team still has to score a touchdown to tie. When comparing the examples then, the chance that the losing team scores a TD falls out and we are left with a decision for the winning team as to whether it would rather try to win the game outright or try to set up an equally likely scenario that ends in a tie. This only works when you can almost guarantee that the next possession by the opposition will be its last in regulation no matter what, but I think it has to be the right move to go for two. I've never even heard this discussed. Does anyone know of any team that has tried this?... Auburn - LSU was pretty much dead on... Syracuse is better than you thought before Saturday, but my guess is that you think they are better than they are now. We loved them against West Virginia, but West Virginia is definitely a flawed team... Georgia is one of the top 25 best teams in college football right now - the best in the SEC East - by far... For all the times that we have been on Bowling Green and against Kent State, I love that, when they played each other, we were on Kent State and against Bowling Green and it worked... Notre Dame is not that bad. Navy is that good... Where was this Cal team against USC?... For the one game that we posted without the "market influence" that all other picks incorporate when their lines put actual pressure on the the games (it's not heavily weighted, just enough to factor in the general consensus on a game), Arkansas - Ole Miss ended up being one of our closest picks of the day... Matt Scott vs. Nick Foles at Arizona was not nearly as big of a deal as the line made it seem. Jake Locker anyone? I have never understood the hype. I would rather have Terrelle Pryor... College totals have been very strong recently. We hit 12 of our top 16 this week and over 61.3% picking every game... And Wisconsin over Iowa was a fun game to watch seeing as we covered the OVER easily and had a no pick on the side, so I got to root for the Badgers for the first time in three weeks.

Toughest Losses: I just lamented our picks of inconsistent teams above. It's not that I've never thought this through or that no one who does what we do for a living (or even casually) does not get frustrated with games between those types of teams, but I think I may be able to find an analytical approach to dampening our confidence in games along those lines. That, or I am just overreacting. The cool thing about doing everything by the numbers is that, instead of flying off the handle at a couple tough losses (SMU -7.5, Cincinnati -7.5 and Miami (OH) +3), I can dive into research on this topic and determine if any legitimate changes can be made. For what it's worth, I'm guessing that the level of frustration and anecdotal evidence will far outweigh scientific analysis into this phenomenon and that any change that I do make will have very little impact on the weekly results. But, we want to be as comprehensive as possible, so when our toughest losses have a similar theme (two wildly inconsistent teams where the road team won in a rout), it probably warrants some looking into... Really Toledo? After being so good to us as last week's Lock of the Week, did you have to let Ball State score a meaningless TD with 12 seconds to go?... Definitely not something to lock into here, but it is very odd that we went 0-5 on games where we had between 56%-57% and liked the home team to cover. Outside of those picks, we hit two-thirds of our picks! Never mind. We're not like that... Even with Michael Box starting for UConn, we did not think that would change the total score too much. It's not like Louisville became 21 point favorites and the total line dropped to 28. It was reasonable to assume that Louisville would win/cover the updated lines and UConn would still score in the process... That O/U loss and the Oklahoma State/Nebraska UNDER loss were tough because it was pretty obvious which way those games were headed right off the bat... I/we loved Case Keenum and Houston over the last couple of seasons, but the Cougars may now have my least favorite team after putting up huge numbers when we expected them to fizzle at SMU... Even though we were right on the Arkansas/Ole Miss score, we did get it wrong O/U. It was an up and down day for the bettors and the books with totals as far more than usual in college football came down to the wire - and many flipped sides on the last possession.

Most intriguing games of Week 9*: Florida State @ NC State (Thursday), Oklahoma State @ Kansas State, Michigan State @ Iowa, Missouri @ Nebraska, Florida vs. Georgia, Cal @ Oregon State, SMU @ Tulane, Baylor @ Texas, Idaho @ Hawaii... *We are not publishing Louisiana Tech @ Boise State because it's not worth it to play a 38-point line (unless you think the underdog is much better than that, and we don't). Next Tuesday's Middle Tennessee State @ Arkansas State game will be a part of the Week 9 package.

NFL Best and Worst:

Best Wins: Our Lock of the Week, Seattle -5.5 was a great win over Arizona because it happened almost exactly as we expected. Our predicted score was Seattle 23-15. The final was 22-10. We thought Max Hall would be running for his life from the Seahawks' pass-rush and that Larry Fitzgerald was a "must-avoid" in fantasy. Hall was knocked-out (literally) and Fitzgerald totaled just 30 yards on three catches... For our Paul's Picks, in a week when there were so many three point spreads, we found value in deflated lines where the public got scared of all the underdogs winning (Seattle -5.5 and KC -4.5 - more on that in a second) and a home underdog that we thought would win straight-up... To my knowledge, the Carolina - San Francisco game, a game in which we had the Panthers winning out-right (as they did), is our first Paul's Pick winner that looked like it was going to go the other way with a few minutes left. As expected (by any NFL fan, not just us), this was a war of attrition where neither team looked good. Carolina came out on the right side of it, so we are happy... We went 3-0 in the Paul's Picks, but I understand that very few of our subscribers could get Kansas City -4.5. That line was posted in three different outlets that I use to get a consensus and not published anywhere else so I had to go with it. It would be impossible to stay on top of every line at every book, especially for one of the Paul's Picks. That's why we have the Customizable Predictalator. The KC game clearly broke in our favor with the lines in this circumstance, but, over the course of the season, this should even out... Taking credit for that game as one of our top picks is all we really can do. The fact that our top pick in many books after we published the picks Cleveland +14.5, which was covering 65%+, hit easily, makes me feel a little better about KC. Has there ever been another game involving the Browns that you have enjoyed seeing highlights of (period - let alone more than this game)? The Ryan brothers are fun to watch. At this point, there are seven teams in the NFC that we project to finish above .500. Three of those teams finish with 8.1 wins, which means we could easily have just four teams with better than .500 records in the NFC. New Orleans is not one of those seven. We currently have the Saints projected to win 7.3 games. Hopefully, in the next month or so, we will be publishing our weekly season and Playoff Projections. It's all in the works and I breakdown the records and most likely playoff participants every week on Twitter: @predictmachine... We liked Miami to win by a score of about 20-19. It's a win ATS. It looked to me like a win SU as well... How about the fact that we only had one "normal" or better O/U pick, DEN/OAK OVER 42 and the Oakland Raiders covered that line themselves midway through the third quarter? I can't say that's exactly what we thought was coming, but wow... I continue to stand by the comment that there is no team in the against which the Washington Redskins should be more than a 3.5 point favorite or underdog. They are the epitome of this NFL season... My wife is doing her wedding line dance mixtape workout in the basement. "Reverse, Reverse. Reverse, Reverse." Whatever works. (You're going to be singing that all night - like I am.) Sorry, that last comment about the Redskins was too insightful. I needed balance.

Toughest Losses: Two-point conversions hurt us in a couple games. Cincinnati missed two two-point conversions and failed to cover by three points. Tampa Bay, our free pick, would have at least pushed (it was -2.5 in some places) had it made a two-point conversion at the end... Hey Macarena!... I definitely thought that the Eagles should be favored to win against Tennessee. I continued to think that into the fourth quarter of that game. They just fell apart - and fell asleep on Kenny Britt... Denver fell apart altogether. I wish I could blame that loss on the fact that we were running that game without Darren McFadden and Jason Campbell, but Denver threw that game away. The Raiders did not win because of those two guys. Plus, I don't ever want blame a loss on pregame injuries. We have to try to get those right too. That's part of what we are predicting. I can't do anything about in-game injuries, but we want to be as accurate as possible with our active rosters and depth charts - not just what those rosters and depth charts will/would/should do against the competition... Brett Favre is an idiot (see above). I cannot root for him in general. I just wish I did not have to root for his team to find a way - kick a meaningless field goal, punt then force Green Bay to punt and snap it through the back of the endzone for a safety, score a TD, give up a field goal and lose while Brett Favre gets sacked in the endzone in OT - to close the gap by at least two points late in a four-point game.

Most intriguing games of Week 8: MIA @ CIN, WAS @ DET (test the Redskins hypothesis), GB @ NYJ, TEN @ SD, MIN @ NE, HOU @ IND

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