Weekend Football Review (12/27/11)

By Paul Bessire

Tuesday, December 27 at 9:25 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, which tracks all performance for all of our information (against published lines in every sport), 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.

This blog will touch on NFL Playoff scenarios, expectations for the NBA free trial, NFL Week 17 and Playoff picks, a recap of the DraftDay freeroll, the benefit of the Play Analyzer's consensus lines feature, a quick bowl update and ATS performance by NFL team for the season thus far. Next week, I will be traveling early in the week. That will not impact the content in any way, but it may limit (if not eliminate) my ability to publish a comprehensive blog. Much of the content in this blog will have even greater applications next 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. 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:
NFL Playoff Probabilities have been updated, which will answer most remaining questions. Below, we analyze seeding, the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes, projected final statistical leaders and some team-specific scenarios.

  • Most Likely Division Winners (AFC): New England (100%), Houston (100%), Denver (77%), Baltimore (69%)
  • Projected Playoff Seeds (AFC): 1. New England 2. Baltimore 3. Houston 4. Denver 5. Pittsburgh 6. Cincinnati
  • Teams with greater than 10% to make playoffs: 7 (New York Jets at 14% are only other team with 10%+ to make AFC playoffs)
  • Most Likely Division Winners (NFC): San Francisco (100%), Green Bay (100%), New Orleans (100%), New York (61%)
  • Projected Playoff Seeds (NFC): 1. Green Bay 2. San Francisco 3. New Orleans 4. New York 5. Detroit 6. Atlanta
  • Teams with greater than 10% to make playoffs: 7 (Dallas at 39% is the only other team with 10%+ shot at playoffs)
  • Chances at Top Pick/Andrew Luck: Colts (68.8%), Rams (31.2%)
  • Projected Final Passing Yards Leaders: 1. Drew Brees (5,400 yards, 44 TDs), 2. Tom Brady (5,203 yards, 39 TDs), 3. Eli Manning (4,894 yards, 28 TDs)
  • Projected Final Rushing Yards Leaders: 1. Maurice Jones-Drew (1,532 yards, 9 TDs), 2. LeSean McCoy (1,362 yards, 18 TDs), 3. Arian Foster (1,306 yards, 11 TDs)
  • Projected Final Receiving Yards Leaders: 1. Wes Welker (123 receptions, 1,616 yards, 10 TDs), 2. Calvin Johnson (90 receptions, 1,526 yards, 16 TDs), 3. Victor Cruz (81 receptions, 1,450 yards, 9 TDs)
  • MVP: It will and should be Aaron Rodgers. He has played the position at a consistently (save for one game) higher level than we have ever seen - averaging more than nine yards per pass attempt in nine games, completing more than two-thirds of his passes in ten of 15 games and never throwing more than one interception in a game while leading his team to a 14-1 record. Also, when reviewing the projected passing yards leaders above, note that the Packers won 13 games by a touchdown or more (meaning that the Packers rarely needed to throw the ball late) and that Rodgers has run for 66 more yards than the top three in projected passing yards combined.
  • New England Patriots - Chance Team Earns #1 Seed in AFC: 73.7%
  • Pittsburgh Steelers - Chance Team Earns #1 Seed in AFC: 9.8%
  • Baltimore Ravens - Chance Team Earns #1 Seed in AFC: 16.5%
  • Cincinnati Bengals - Chance Team Wins Wild Card if it Loses Week 17: 35.5%
  • San Francisco 49ers - Chance Team Earns #2 Seed in NFC: 81.7%
  • Detroit Lions - Chance Team Earns #5 Seed in NFC: 55.6%
  • New Orleans Saints - Chance Team Earns #2 Seed in NFC: 18.3%
  • Atlanta Falcons - Chance Team Faces New Orleans in First Round: 37.3%

DraftDay Freeroll:
Congratulations to AJx88x, who bested 117 other participants in the PM exclusive Week 16 Freeroll on DraftDay. AJx88X's team of Cam Newton, Kevin Smith, Ray Rice, Julio Jones, Denarius Moore, Jordy Nelson, Rob Gronkowski, Josh Scobee and the Carolina Panthers Defense scored 185 points to defeat all other entries by at least five points. LefDeppard (180), Clayfro (178), HPfortheTD (177) and Csabes (176) rounded out the top five. Congratulations to all money winners, which included the top 50 overall participants.

For Week 17, though most traditional leagues have concluded with championships in Week 16, we will still publish fantasy football projections. This analysis could be especially useful for Week 17 pools on DraftDay or other daily salary cap sites. 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.

Very quick fantasy vent (because I'm not "that guy" and you really don't care, but I feel like I can be in this specific instance)... While I used to be in double-digit fantasy leagues for just about any sport (it is technically part of my profession), I have scaled back to just two leagues per sport - so that I can concentrate on providing content related to exploiting the more lucrative sports market. Fortunately, I made the championship in both fantasy football leagues. Unfortunately, I lost both championships... by less than six points... and had Kahlil Bell starting for both of my teams (I had Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray previously). Had Bell gained an extra inch before fumbling the ball that was ultimately recovered by lineman Edwin Williams - and nothing else would have changed - I would have won both leagues. I also had Mike Wallace in one of those leagues...

NFL Week 17:
Week 17 often provides instances where the 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 thereof). 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. Even with that uncertainty, we are confident that we can find value in Week 17 lines and convey this to our subscribers. Tread lightly otherwise. Week 17 picks are available for purchase at the discounted rate for just one day in the NFL (rather than a full week).

NFL Playoff Picks:
NFL Playoff Picks packages are now available as well. Against-the-spread, over/under and straight-up analysis for all 11 playoff games will be included with access to the picks, Customizable Predictalator, Play Analyzer and fantasy boxscores for each game. Package purchasers will also gain access to Super Bowl Props analysis, including the breakdown of more than 50 team and individual player props as well as live content during the game (more to come on live odds soon). Super Bowl winning odds content will be available each week to all. For the first three weeks of the playoffs, content will be published at 8:00 PM ET on Wednesdays and updated as necessary after - as has typically been the case during the season. After the conference championship games, the initial Super Bowl Predictalator pick will be posted on Tuesday, January 24th. The Paul's Pick Analysis and Super Bowl Prop odds will be published the following Tuesday, February 1st (before the Super Bowl on February 5th in Indianapolis).

While we have successfully predicted the ATS outcome of all 12 NFL Playoff games since our site's launch in January, 2010 and I have accurately forecasted all eight Super Bowl winners ATS as a professional handicapper, we do not expect to remain undefeated in those games forever. There are many reasons why our technology should succeed during the NFL Playoffs and we are confident that we provide the best possible tools for optimal bankroll management during this time period. In addition to applications that we just noted above, we have the TrendFinder Database available (for all sports going forward). As part of the information in that database, we have extracted our ATS Performance by NFL team below. As you can see, of the 16 teams still in or alive for the NFL Playoffs, our analysis has been .500 or better ATS for 14 of those 16 teams (57.0% ATS for those teams on the season). For more information about our expectations for the NFL Playoffs, I recommend reading through last season's blog: 11-0 And Season Recap (2/8).

Play Analyzer
We have not discussed the Play Analyzer in several blog entries but, especially now with four available sports/products and constantly evolving markets for each (next week, the NBA will enter its second week of the season, the bowls will be going strong, conference season picks up in college and the NFL Playoffs begin - whoa bettors!), it is important to utilize the Play Analyzer to gain the most advantageous information on value for each play relative to the consensus lines and/or YOUR line.

For instance, though it was not even one of our top picks on Wednesday, San Francisco at -1 against Seattle in Week 16 of the NFL became our strongest ATS NFL play according to the Play Analyzer against the closing lines on Sunday afternoon. At San Francisco (-2.5), the 49ers were a week play, but were greater than 60% to cover at -1. Meanwhile, our top play on Wednesday, Kansas City (-1), was weak (54.8%) and our tenth strongest ATS NFL pick at the -2.5 consensus closing line. And, in Pittsburgh, where we assumed Charlie Batch would start the game when we published the pick on Wednesday, the selection shifted from liking St. Louis (+14) to liking Pittsburgh (-10). Value like this is available every day in the sports market. Utilizing the Play Analyzer when possible is extremely important to maximizing bankroll decision making.

NBA Picks:
The NBA is back 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 open this season 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. While we are just two days into the season, little can be gleaned from the results thus far. Just as everyone else will be, we will be learning about the current "shape" (quite literally in the case of players like Boris Diaw) the players and teams every day/game to the point that we anticipate providing the best possible analysis and value for our subscribers in the period beginning January 15. We understand that the performance of our trial period will aid in dictating how potential subscribers approach the product and only ask that our entire body of work be evaluated, with added weight given to the games closer to the first day of the subscription season. As we saw in the college basketball free trial, performance improved greatly from Week 1 to the completion of our final week of the trial. That may be the case again for the NBA.

Bowl Picks:
When I started this blog, we were on a five game ATS play win streak in which we went 8-1-1 ATS and O/U in the five games following a 1-4 ATS and O/U start to the bowl season on December 17th. Unfortunately, the ATS win streak just fell as the Western Michigan Broncos (+2.5) lost to the Purdue Boilermakers, 37-32. With 11 turnovers, two successful (first half!) onside kicks, a 99 kickoff return for a TD and 927 yards of total offense, the teams combined for one of unlikeliest boxscores we may see all season. It's difficult to call that a swing and a miss (I would classify the New Mexico Bowl with Wyoming +6.5 as our lone, obvious loss thus far) and we still hit the OVER (60), which was the strongest play of the day today (59.6%, while WMU +2.5 was 57.4%).

On the bowl season, with the completion of the Little Caesar's Bowl, ATS picks are now 5-4, while O/U picks are 5-2 (a combined 10-6 ATS and O/U). "Normal" or better O/U picks, for which we hit 61% (74-48) during the season (there are 15 total in the bowls) are 4-1 O/U. The first day of bowl season was obviously frustrating, but performance has more than evened out since then and it is great to see the O/U plays continue to excel as we have made it more than a quarter of the way through the bowls. For those curious, the Bowl Package will reduce in price just before games on Saturday, December 31st. Daily packages for December 31st and January 2nd, when there are five or more games, will be treated like normal regular season Saturdays from a price and availability perspective.

NFL ATS Performance by Team:
Actual, real-life ATS, O/U and SU performance by team can be found on each team's schedule page. However, as we continue to leverage the TrendFinder database to find opportunities to improve our engines, we spend a considerable amount of time looking at team-by-team ATS performance of our own picks. While this information is interesting, it important to note that a) we do our best to "fix" any areas uncovered by this analysis where we believe there may be weaknesses and b) along those lines, we would not recommend blindly picking against our information when teams are involved for which we have not had a strong record this season. In the table below, "Games" represents all games that the team has played that did not result in an ATS push (including games that were not considered "playable" by the Predictalator - that info is still of great interest). "PM ATS Wins" is the number of games involving that team that resulted in an accurate ATS win by the Predictalator this year.

Team Games PM ATS Wins PM ATS%
Houston Texans 15 12 80.0%
Denver Broncos 15 11 73.3%
Washington Redskins 15 11 73.3%
Seattle Seahawks 14 10 71.4%
Buffalo Bills 15 10 66.7%
Indianapolis Colts 15 10 66.7%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 15 10 66.7%
Carolina Panthers 14 9 64.3%
Cincinnati Bengals 14 9 64.3%
Cleveland Browns 14 9 64.3%
Jacksonville Jaguars 15 9 60.0%
New York Giants 15 9 60.0%
Philadelphia Eagles 15 9 60.0%
St. Louis Rams 15 9 60.0%
Detroit Lions 14 8 57.1%
New England Patriots 14 8 57.1%
New York Jets 14 8 57.1%
Oakland Raiders 14 8 57.1%
Atlanta Falcons 13 7 53.8%
Green Bay Packers 15 8 53.3%
Miami Dolphins 15 8 53.3%
Pittsburgh Steelers 15 8 53.3%
New Orleans Saints 14 7 50.0%
San Francisco 49ers 14 7 50.0%
Tennessee Titans 14 7 50.0%
Chicago Bears 15 7 46.7%
Arizona Cardinals 14 6 42.9%
Dallas Cowboys 14 6 42.9%
Minnesota Vikings 15 6 40.0%
Baltimore Ravens 14 5 35.7%
San Diego Chargers 15 5 33.3%
Kansas City Chiefs 15 4 26.7%

As usual, if you have any of your own comments about this article or 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.