Friday, September 25, 2009

NFL Week 3 Picks: Is This Season Beyond Rationality?

After an awful perfomance from Football Outsiders (FO) in week 1, they failed to rebound in week 2. The FO system is a chance to see if a rational gambling system works, but my retirement plan is undergoing some changes after 2 weeks. FO has been successful in the past, but in order to rebound from this start, they will have to pick at about 63% the rest of the way to make it back to 55% of the season, which is the threshold for making money from picking game. I don't see it happening....

How will FO respond? After getting beat-up for 2 weeks, a lot of what they thought in the preseason is wrong, so the system now will have trouble determining the good teams from the bad ones. This will cause the system to view the teams as generally equal, which will lead to it taking the points. In layman's terms, the system is in doubt, and when in doubt, take the points. This is exemplified by this week's FO picks featuring only 4 favorites, after selecting only 5 last week. Another interesting point from this week is that FO has no 'high arbitrage' picks, which are basically their locks of the week. Their 'locks of the week' have been 0-2 so far, while their 'reasonable' picks are 3-6 and their 'stay away' picks are 9-12.

Sports Guy's success to date tells me that he is either incredibly irrational, kinda like that friend who you don't want to play poker with because he doesn't care and will bluff or go all-in because he feels like it, or maybe so sane that he just blew our minds?

I also believe FO removes preseason projections after week 3, so I think they could improve at that point. I will also put together a spreadsheet in the near future to go more in-depth on the strengths and weaknesses of FO picks.

The standings:

  1. Sports Guy: 13-3 last week, 24-8 overall (75.0%)
  2. DCLS: 6-10 last week, 17-15 overall (53.1%)
  3. Random monkey throwing shit at a dartboard: 16-16 (50.0%)
  4. Football Outsiders: 7-9 last week, 12-20 overall (37.5%)

As usual, the FO picks are listed in order of confidence, and I have bolded a team wherever I differ (home teams in CAPS).

  1. BUFFALO +6 over New Orleans - Yeah, the Bills have made me look bad, but I'm sticking with NO until I see a real chink in the armor. This is odd, because FO has the Saints as the #1 team so far, and did not have a bad preseason projection for them.
  2. OAKLAND +1.5 Denver - Maybe the NFL can just black this one out for the sake of the fans. FO has the Raiders as their 3rd best pick straight-up, nope, not a typo.

  3. Indianapolis +2.5 over ARIZONA - I think this is a pretty obvious pick despite Arizona having a big game last week.

  4. Cleveland +13.5 over BALTIMORE - The Ravens have been impressive, and although this spread is high, can't you see them giving up under 10. FO only has the Ravens as their 6th best straight-up pick, which is insane given this spread.

  5. MINNESOTA -7 over San Francisco - Tough pick, but still not sold on SF, and neither is FO, as this is their straight-up lock of the week.

  6. ST. LOUIS +7 over Green Bay - I was tempted to take the points, just to have some excuse for saying 'maybe the Skins aren't that bad...'

  7. Jacksonville +4 over HOUSTON - Jags could be falling off a cliff.
  8. Carolina +9 over DALLAS - This line is too high.

  9. NEW ENGLAND -4 over Atlanta - A tough pick, Falcons look like a legit 10+ win team, but I still think the Pats could be elite.

  10. Tennessee +3 over NEW YORK JETS - A tough pick, but I think this will be close, and Sanchez will struggle against the best D he's faced.

  11. Kansas City +9.5 over PHILADELPHIA - The D is great in Philly, and take out a couple first-game turnovers, and Philly played NO very tight.

  12. DETROIT +6 over Washington - I think everyone is picking against us this week, which I kind of like. This is gonna hurt though....FO has us as their 4th worst straight-up pick, despite Detroit being the worst team this season thusfar.

  13. CINCINNATI +4.5 over Pittsburgh - The Bengals, come on!

  14. Chicago -2.5 over SEATTLE - Hasselbeck is out, this one seems pretty obvious. I am surprised this was not much higher up the FO list, but then I remembered that they love the Seahawks.

  15. SAN DIEGO -6 over Miami - I think Miami had a fluky good game and that San Diego is starting to get it together, so I like them, unless Norv Turner screws it all up.

  16. TAMPA BAY +7 over New York Giants - This one could get ugly, the only reason I would say it's even close is that the Giants don't totally destroy teams because of their offense.

Skins are apparently not a lock to win by the metrics or by thine eyes, but should we survive, it is not crazy to think we will be sole-possession of 2nd place in possibly the best division in football.

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