Weekend Football Review (12/20/11)

By Paul Bessire

Tuesday, December 20 at 10:45 PM ET
It is very important to us to be transparent and honest about our picks. I always try to recap each football weekend. With the addition of the TrendFinder database, the blog will focus more on topics beyond performance. Our performance is now as transparent as it can possibly get. We will still do our best to note areas of strength, while acknowledging areas of weakness - honing in on what this means to subscribers as it applies and touching on other, "big picture" topics in the process.

With less than 10% of the college football bowl games in the books, coming off of an extremely light "finals week" college basketball slate and with an NBA preview in the works that will launch on Thursday, this blog will focus almost exclusively on the NFL including deeper discussions in NFL Playoff Probabilities, the announcement of the Week 16 Fantasy Football FREEROLL open exclusively to PredictionMachine users on daily fantasy sports site DraftDay and a quick recap of Week 15 in the league. Also, as many of you have probably already noticed, you can now search all previous blogs using the Blog Search box in the upper-right-hand corner of this page.

As a reminder, at midnight ET each day, we make all of our previous day's subscriber content available for free for registered users. Performance is also tracked in the TrendFinder Database (updated every morning from the previous day). 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...

NFL Projections Updated:
With the loss by the Packers and win by the Colts, our weekly projection section has been split up. In addition to the usual section on team and player milestones, we will expound on the NFL Playoff Probabilities we just updated for each team, and analyze one additional scenario for each team that is still alive in its quest for the playoffs.

  • Most Likely Division Winners (AFC): New England (100%), Houston (100%), Denver (83%), Baltimore (62%)
  • Projected Playoff Seeds (AFC): 1. New England 2. Baltimore 3. New Houston 4. Denver 5. Pittsburgh 6. New York
  • Teams with greater than 10% to make playoffs: 9 (Cincinnati, 28%, Tennessee, 10%, and San Diego 10% are the other teams with a 10%+ chance)
  • Most Likely Division Winners (NFC): San Francisco (100%), Green Bay (100%), New Orleans (89%), Dallas (68%)
  • Projected Playoff Seeds (NFC): 1. Green Bay 2.San Francisco 3. New Orleans 4. Dallas 5. Atlanta 6. Detroit
  • Teams with greater than 10% to make playoffs: 8 (New York, 19%, and Philadelphia, 13%, are other teams with 10%+ shot at playoffs)
  • Chances at Top Pick/Andrew Luck: Colts (88.3%), Rams (8.0%), Vikings (3.7%)
  • Projected to Pass Dan Marino's Single-Season Passing Yards Record (5,084 yards): Drew Brees (5,411 yards) and Tom Brady (5,216 yards)... Falling just short: Aaron Rodgers (4,971 yards) and Eli Manning (4,921 yards)
  • New England Patriots - Chance Team Earns #1 Seed in AFC: 83.8%
  • New York Jets - Chance Team Loses Both Remaining Games: 16.7%
  • Denver Broncos - Chance Team Clinches AFC West in Week 16: 30.0%
  • San Diego Chargers - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 22.3%
  • Oakland Raiders - Chance Team Finishes 8-8 or Worse: 81.7%
  • Kansas City Chiefs - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 26.2%
  • Pittsburgh Steelers - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 64.4%
  • Baltimore Ravens - Chance Team Earns Bye Week in Playoffs: 51.6%
  • Cincinnati Bengals - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 24.7%
  • Houston Texans - Chance Team Earns Bye Week in Playoffs: 19.5%
  • Tennessee Titans - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 27.2%
  • Dallas Cowboys - Chance Team Clinches Playoffs in Week 16: 34.3%
  • New York Giants - Chance Team Wins Division With 8-8 Record: 2.5%
  • Philadelphia Eagles - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 39.7%
  • San Francisco 49ers - Chance Team Earns #1 Seed in NFC: 4.0%
  • Seattle Seahawks - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 20.0%
  • Arizona Cardinals - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 17.4%
  • Green Bay Packers - Chance Team Clinches #1 Seed in NFC in Week 16: 91.8%
  • Detroit Lions - Chance Team Clinches Playoffs in Week 16: 74.4%
  • Chicago Bears - Chance Team Wins Remaining Two Games: 5.8%
  • New Orleans Saints - Chance Team Earns Bye Week in Playoffs: 38.2%
  • Atlanta Falcons - Chance Team Wins NFC West: 9.3%

Out of your fantasy football league(s) this season and looking for your fantasy fix? Want to win and compete against other PredictionMachine.com visitors - and staff - for a chance to win free money? PredictionMachine.com and DraftDay have your answer for Week 16.

Daily salary cap fantasy sports leagues comprise an industry that has grown significantly over the past year. Given that our content is built around opportunities to find value in the sports market, specifically with fantasy football projections, with tomorrow's football content, we will publish a sortable dollars- per-fantasy-point category ($/FP) in the Fantasy Football projections to help users identify value. In this case, the less it costs for every fantasy point, the better the value in the salary cap fantasy league (we will be using DraftDay's Salaries). We have aspirations of greatly increasing the tools and content devoted to these types of games. Please let us know if you have any feedback, suggestions and/or notable experiences regarding this content and potential future applications to support it.

For WEEK 16, DrafDay is offering a FREEROLL fantasy salary cap contest that is open exclusively to PredictionMachine.com visitors, users and subscribers. The top 50 performers from this Week 16 contest will win cash prizes. No purchase is necessary. Only 300 spots are available and the contest closes with finalized rosters at 1:00 PM ET on Saturday, December 24 - so sign up soon. Here is what you need to do to join this free contest:

  • Signup for a free account at DraftDay
  • After you create an account, Click Here or go to the NFL Private Lobby and find the game titled "PredictionMach"
  • The password for the game is "pr3dict"
  • Draft your team for Week 16 under the salary cap and click "submit"
  • Good luck!


NFL Performance:
Week 15 in the NFL was a below .500 ATS week for the Predictalator - just the second week in the last 19 weeks that was the case. And while performance did not live up to our expectations (though one may say that 17 .500 or better weeks out of 19 is exceeding our or anyone's expectations), we did clearly warn of undervalued home underdogs that would/should ultimately become the story of the week. We just did not know to what degree they would score headlines (nor that Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos would not be included amongst them). We really liked Kansas City (+14 on Wednesday, +11.5 closing), Indianapolis (+6.5 on Wednesday and closing), St. Louis (+6.5 on Wednesday, +7 closing) and Denver (+6 on Wednesday and +7.5). Those picks went 2-2 against-the-spread, with St. Louis also pushing against the closing line (and Denver keeping it a game - more below).

More notably and importantly, those big home underdogs went 2-2 straight-up with Indianapolis and Kansas City pulling off significant upsets. In our numbers, we gave the Colts a 36.4% chance of winning and the Chiefs a 21.6% chance of winning - for a likelihood that both would win of 7.9%. That chance may not sound great, but consider that a parlay payout on $100 wager for just those two teams winning outright would have been $2,780. An 8% chance (i.e. 1 in about 13) to return 28 times the money sounds like some great value. In retrospect, it's easy to point to this example because it net significantly positive returns, but only one play like that out of every 27 needs to hit for that specific strategy to be profitable.

The general takeaway is that, while most players think that money-lines should be played for any underdog pick that is +1 to +2.5 or when the underdog is assumed to be the favorite (the latter being mostly valid if this assumption is backed up by our numbers), the value can often be greater when taking more significant underdogs, especially when the pick information we provide has a strong opinion on the home team in the NFL. In actuality, money-line odds on +1 lines (generally -105 to +100) are not going to aid the value of the pick and teams that are actually close tend to have the much high likelihood of a 1 or 2 point win by the favorite than teams that are not as close. The Customizable Predictalator is a great way to analyze money-line value, even in parlays, as long as it is understood that money-line and parlay success odds are typically less than 50%, making the strategy more conducive to the long-term approach than the short-term.

This graphic (which may make your brain explode), is all that anyone really needs to know about what was ultimately accomplished this week in the NFL. The "any given Sunday" cliche' may actually be more reality than perception. Very few circumstances exist in this league where the road team warrants being a double-digit favorite and no team has had less than about 15% chance to win straight-up at home all season. This is why no one hits 100% straight-up or against-the-spread and why 60% ATS (our accuracy over the past 19 NFL weeks) is so rare in this industry.

Not only was Week 15 subject to some fluky victories and general NFL chaos, injuries and turnovers plagued many of the teams that we specifically were counting on to perform better. For example, while Ben Roethlisberger did play, he clearly was not close to 100%. If the coaches are running him out there and he says he is ready to go, there is not much we can do to an injured player's numbers other than to generalize at what percent his playing (a slippery slope and one for which we are conservative).

Turnovers, as well as in-game injuries, game-changing special teams plays, weather shifts, power outages and defensive scores can have a far greater impact on the game that is played once than we could ever assume when the game is played 50,000 times. Fortunately, that evens out over time and our numbers win out in the long run. Unfortunately, these instances have plagued our teams in uncharacteristic fashions in the most high-profile games this season. It is what it is, but if the Denver Broncos had won a game in which the New England Patriots turned the ball over three times, yet out-gained Denver by more than a half a yard on a per-play basis, including more than eight yards-per-carry, the loss would have been more universally blamed on bad luck (or divine intervention). Instead, the opposite happens and the Patriots are applauded, while the Broncos are beaten down. Denver was the right side in that game... Just like Alabama vs. LSU (the first version) and recent others like them.

Week 16 and Week 17 often provide instances where the aforementioned concerns regarding injuries and mistakes (in this case due to apathy) grow due to the wear and tear of the season and motivation (or lack there of). For Paul's Picks in Week 16 (which will be the top three plays on SATURDAY as well as the top play from Sunday or Monday), we will clearly note any foreseeable pitfalls due to potential roster changes. And, as we did last year, for Week 17, we will highlight which games have two teams with reasons two win (considered to be the games where our confidence will be the strongest), two teams with no postseason related reasons to win and with one of each. Everyone on either side of this industry has added uncertainty in Week 17. We'll do our best to find value. Tread lightly otherwise.

NBA Picks:
As a final reminder, the NBA is coming back on Christmas (this Sunday) with an abbreviated, 66 game schedule. Similar to what we saw with college basketball, as this is also our first season covering the NBA from the beginning of the season, we will open with a three week free trial of NBA picks from December 25- January 15. Picks packages for January 15 through the end of the regular season are now available in the shop. With such little time to turn this content around this year and with rosters still very much in flux, we will not have fantasy basketball projected stats or rankings. That being said, this year's version of the Yeehaw Fantasticos (my fantasy basketball team) just completed drafting and includes the following: Russell Westbrook, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Nene, Andrew Bynum, Devin Harris, Jose Calderon, Ed Davis, Anderson Varejao, Toney Douglas, Hedo Turkoglu and Brandon Knight. Especially in a league that values free throws made and assist:turnover ratio more than most, that's a championship caliber team with mostly ultra-efficient performers. Knight is a flier/flyer that I love for his overall potential, yet may not make my opening day roster. Douglas and Davis are two of my sleeper favorites. With improved health and a new season, Gay, Bynum and Turkoglu should each have much better (shortened) seasons this year than last.

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