Results filed under: “nfl”

@ February 8, 2013


This season, I made weekly predictions of Super Bowl, conference, and division odds for all 32 teams. Now that the season is over, I can evaluate how these predictions performed.

pred vs act occurrence.JPG

The predictions did reasonably well, but in general I tended to be overconfident in my predictions - that is, events were less likely to occur at the high end, and more likely to occur at the low end. There is no single bad-luck event I can point to. Baltimore winning the Super Bowl (and the AFC, for that matter), Washington winning the NFC East, and Denver winning the AFC West were all events which I viewed as highly unlikely either on (and other than Denver, I kept on viewing it skeptically right up until it happened). A further analysis points to exactly where the pain was.

pred vs error.JPG

Almost all of my error was concentrated in events which I predicted would occur between 0-5% of the time. Some of these I was quick to correct (preseason I predicted Atlanta would win the NFC South only 4.8% of the time, but that was up to 92% by week 4). Others it took me awhile to correct (my preseason odds for Washington winning the NFC East were 2.2%, but this was still as low as 3.8% after Week 12). Others I never corrected (in my final simulation after Wild Card weekend, out of 500 runs, Baltimore won the Super Bowl exactly zero times - my computer really hated Baltimore). Despite this late season error, I did get more accurate as the year wore on.

season quarter vs error.JPG

This data will be useful for calibrating my model. It also means that, next season, I should be more accurate. Or maybe next year a mediocre 3-6 team won't suddenly finish the season 7-0 and take the NFC East. (Sorry, still bitter.) (Go Giants.)



@ October 17, 2012

After 6 weeks of SuperContest picks, making 5 picks a week, I have picked 30 underdogs.This was not a conscious, purposeful decision. I just kept liking underdogs (this week is no different, by the way). Last week was an underdog pickers dream: dogs when 11-2 against the spread. 11-2!!! Unbelievable. So, my record last week must have been 5-0, right? At the very least 4-1?

Nope. 3-2. Only 2 underdogs failed to cover last week, and I picked both of them.

Last week: 3-2 (60%), Overall: 18-11-1 (62.1%), Fake rank: 58 (out of 745)

This week's picks:

BAL +6.5
SEA +7
AZ +6.5
NYJ +10.5
CLE +3

sb week 7.jpg
This was a topsy-turvy weekend by any account, including mine. Of the 5 teams I forecast as the top 5 super bowl contenders, 4 of them lost. Only Baltimore avoided making it a clean sweep, and even then it was a gift from the Cowboys. So why, you may be wondering, did New England's super bowl odds shoot up, from 25% last week to nearly 35% this week?
Well... BECAUSE it was such a topsy-turvy weekend. Right now, the NFC appears to be the superior conference to the AFC. But it is for precisely this reason that New England is the Super Bowl favorite - they have an easier path there than any of the NFC contenders. There are currently only 2 teams in the AFC with a winning record: Houston (5-1) and Baltimore (5-1). In the NFC, we have New York (4-2), Atlanta (6-0), Chicago (4-1), Minnesota (4-2), Arizona (4-2), Seattle (4-2), and San Francisco (4-2) - that's 7 teams.
However, only one of them can make the Super Bowl. Collectively, their odds of winning it are 39%. But 3 of them are in the same division! Only 6 of them can even make the playoffs, and with 11 weeks to go, there is lots of time for things to change.
Now, let's consider New England. In their 3 wins, they have won by margins of 22, 24, and 10 points. In their 3 losses, they have lost by margins of 2, 1, and 1 point. Yes, a win is a win and a loss is a loss, but looking forward, the Patriots look significantly better than their 3-3 record. Baltimore counts among their 5 wins margins of 1 point (over the Patriots), 3 points, and 2 points. Who do you think is going to be the better team going forward?
In fact, it seems to be that New England and Houston are likely the class of the AFC (I think my forecast model is being too bearish on Houston at this point). Baltimore is a paper tiger with injuries that will start catching up to them, and soon. Probably this Sunday against Houston.

@ October 4, 2012


First things first: I'm actually doing pretty good with these fake LVH contest picks so far.

Last week: 4-1, overall: 12-7-1, Fake rank: 67 (out of 744), top 9%

This week's card:

SEA +3

BUF +9.5

IND +7

JAX +6

NYJ +8

Here is the updated Super Bowl odds graph, including some new faces to the top 5. However, NE and SD have firmly planted themselves as the favorites. I join the rest of the world by welcoming the Houston Texans into my top 5. My computer finally thinks Arizona is for real (probably just in time for them to crash back to earth). And Philly is one of 5 teams that has at least a 75% chance of winning their division after skating by the Giants on Sunday night (the other 4: SD, HOU, NE, and ATL).

week 4.JPGNow that a quarter of the season is done, I'm going to evaluate some of my preseason over-under win total bets. As a reminder, here are those bets.

Atlanta OVER 9 wins
KC UNDER 9 wins
SF OVER 10 wins
Indy UNDER 5.5 wins
NYG UNDER 9.5 wins
STL UNDER 6 wins
Miami OVER 7.5 wins
NO OVER 10 wins
TB UNDER 6 wins
Denver UNDER 9.5 wins

NO over 10 wins: for some reason (namely that it is retarded), my computer still has the Saints winning an average of 8.4 games this year. However, out of 100 simulations, they hit 11 or more wins only 8 times (they hit 10 for a push another 20 times). That means that my computer, which LOVED the saints, says I lose this 72% of the time. In other words: it is over.

ATL over 9 wins: my computer has them at an average of 11.5 victories. They clear the 9 win hurdle 90% of the time, and push another 8%.

KC under 9 wins: this may be the easiest money I ever make gambling. KC fails to get to 9 wins 91% of the time, and pushes another 7%.

TB under 6 wins: or maybe this is the easiest money I ever make? TB comes short of 6 wins 95% of the time, and pushes another 5%. Or, in other words: out of 100 simulations, TB cleared the 6 win hurdle zero times.

DEN, at 2-2, projects for 6.4 wins, but the model may still be underestimating Manning's influence. IND has only played 3 games, so the 6.4 win projection is not as strong as some of the others. NYG, SF, and MIA are all currently project to be within a half-game of their totals (although MIA, frustratingly, is a couple of missed field goals away from 3-1 right now, and probably won't make it, if I am being honest with myself). 


@ September 27, 2012


This week's fake SuperContest picks:

NO +7.5

TEN +12

CLE +12

WAS +3

MIN +6.5

Last week: 3-2, Overall: 8-6-1, Fake rank: 120 (out of 745), top 17%


First, an updated Super Bowl odds graph.

week 3.JPG

For starters, Philly and New Orleans have fallen out of the top 5, to be replaced by Baltimore and San Diego. Second, this is a good opportunity to revisit some pre-season bets..

Before the season, I proposed some futures bets for super bowl, conference, and division winners. As the season progresses, books will update some of these lines. This gives us the opportunity to revisit these lines and perhaps take advantage of some additional value.

In our original strategy, it was not enough for a line by itself to have positive outcome value, because these bets are all mutually exclusive - since only one team can win the super bowl, a winning bet on Pittsburgh also implies losing bets on San Francisco, New Orleans, et al. (Also implying a losing bet on New Orleans? Betting on New Orleans, apparently.) That is still true. This means that any new bets we make must meet that same standard - a winning bet must have a positive expected value even after all other bets are losers. With that said, here's some additional super bowl plays after Week 3.

Original bets: PIT 14/1 (4.06 BU), MIA 75/1 (0.54 BU), SF 9/1 (1.64 BU), NO 18/1 (1.12 BU), 7.36 BU total.

San Diego Chargers (25/1): 2.7 BU
Pittsburgh Steelers (20/1): 2.8 BU
Seattle Seahawks (30/1): 1.8 BU

Before we made these bets, a total of 7.36 BU had been wagered on the Super Bowl. This brings the total to 14.66 BU. The consequences of these additions is that some of our pre-season bets have become less valuable. Specifically, if SF and NO were to win, they are still positive, but just barely. The threshold for adding additional teams from this point forward will be that much higher as a result, i.e. it will need to make up for the fact that some pre-season bets become losers even if they win. You will also notice that we are putting additional money on Pittsburgh at 20/1. This is because additional Pittsburgh money does not cancel out our original Pittsburgh bet, so its easier to have a positive outcome. The second reason is that the odds have gotten longer, so even with the Steelers at 1-2 right now this looks like a chance to grab some more value.

We can run the same exercise on our conference wagers (new division lines have not been posted).

Original conference bets: SF 9/2 (3.74 BU), NO 9/1 (2.04 BU), MIA 30/1 (1.32 BU), PIT 6/1 (6.56 BU)

Additional conference bets:
SEA (14/1): 4.1 BU
SD (10/1): 3.6 BU
PIT (9/1): 3.8 BU
CAR (40/1): 0.7 BU

This will be the last time I add any NFC Conference teams, because I have essentially soaked all the value from my original SF bet - any more money on the NFC and it becomes negative even if it wins. There is still some headroom in the AFC for additional plays if they become attractive.  

@ September 20, 2012


Here is who I am on for this week's fake SuperContest entry:


STL +7.5

MIN +7

AZ +4

JAX +3

CLE +3


In my last post, I mentioned Nate Silver, the statistical whiz behind FiveThirtyEight. In an election season, one of the features of FiveThirtyEight is its ongoing predictions. Nate not only calculates his predicted odds at any given moment, but keeps a historical record of where the race stood earlier in the year so that you can visually see how the race has progressed.

I plan to do something similar. I had hoped to unveil this after Week 1, but my ongoing predictive model had a bug that I've only now sorted out. In this space I will be keeping track of changes in projected Super Bowl odds, division odds, and win totals.


#1: NEW ENGLAND (last week: 1, preaseason: 2)
#2: SAN DIEGO (last week: <5, preseason: <5)
#3: PIT (last week: 3, preseason: 1)
#4: NO (last week: 2, preseason: 3)
#5: PHI (last week: 5, preseason: <5)

falling off the list: SEA (was 4, <5 preseason), GB (was preseason 4), SF (was preseason 5)

  week 2.JPGLast week: 3-1-1 (7 pts)

Overall: 5-3-1 (11 pts)

@ September 12, 2012


Lacking the guts and necessary bankroll to actually participate in the $1000 buy-in LVH SuperContest, aka the World Series of Sports Betting, all I can do is play along at home. Here are this weeks picks.

AZ +13.5 over NE

CLE +7 over CIN

SEA +3 over DAL

MIA +2.5 over OAK

JAX +7 over HOU


Nate Silver, the statistical genius behind FiveThirtyEight, has a new book coming out called The Signal and the Noise. In an excerpt posted in the New York Times over the last weekend, he talks about how computer modeling has not necessarily made us better forecasters of the future, with one notable exception: weather forecasters. That is because weather forecasters have mastered the art of knowing when to listen to their computer models and understanding their shortcomings.

This is an art that I have yet to master with my sports prediction algorithms (or, as I call it, Gamblor). Gamblor is capable of producing some great insights, and I am confident that I will continue to find success with Gamblor moving forward. However, if I am to truly become great at this sports prediction business, I must begin intrinsically recognizing the shortcomings of my program.

All this is to say that I should have thrown myself in front of my MIA and PIT selections last week. Sometimes teams undergo too much change over an off-season for the computer to properly understand, and in those cases, sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

And yet here is MIA back in my Top 5 picks. I am tempted to throw it out and replace it with my next selection, CHI +6 over GB. But unlike last week MIA isn't playing a good team. And they are at home. Let it ride, Gamblor.

Last week: 2-3

Overall: 2-3 (4 pts) 



@ September 4, 2012


Future bet is a stupid name, isn't it? If you know anybody who is allowing bets on games that happened in the past, let me know. In the betting world, a future bet refers to season-long bets, like betting on who will win the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl before the season starts.

NFL futures, for the purpose of this article, will be restricted to Super Bowl Champs, conference champs, and division champs, and the odds thereof. All the possible combinations of bets (will/won't make the playoffs, will/won't win a playoff game, etc. etc.) are outside of the scope of this analysis.

This analysis was conducted by extrapolating my weekly NFL model out for an entire season, including the playoffs. The season was run 500 times, and the odds of a given future bet from Vegas is compared against the odds that they won during that 500-run sample.

Potential Divisional Plays

Miami to win the AFC East +1500

Okay, I have to face it: between this and my over/under analysis, my model likes Miami WAY more than Vegas, or anybody else, does. I'm not sure why. I personally hate Miami. My model's love for Miami has done more to undermine my confidence in it than any losing streak does. I feel betrayed right now. Out of 500 runs, Miami won the AFC East 166 times, or 1 out of 3. That means that my model would put the odds at +300 instead of +1500.

San Diego to win the AFC West +240

This feels much more defensible. They won my virtual season 278 times out of 500, or more than half - I have them as the favorite to win the AFC West.

Pittsburgh to win the AFC North +110

My model ALSO likes Pittsburgh much more than Vegas, at all stages of the playoffs. It has them winning the division over 80% of the time!

Other bets I like: New Orleans to win the NFC South +130 (won nearly 70% of simulated season); Dallas to win the NFC East +260 (won 42% of simulations); and Jacksonville to win the AFC South +2000 (won 6.6% of simulations, which, while not alot, is better than the 5% that +2000 implies)

Overpriced: out of 500 simulations, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland all won zero; New England at -400 is definitely the favorite, but not by that much (probably because my model thinks Miami wins it too many times. Dammit.)

Divisional histogram:

nfl futures figure 1.JPG 

Potential Conference Plays

In addition to still loving Miami, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans, the San Francisco 49ers at 11/2 become attractive here (this is another way of saying that they are +550). I have them winning the league 156 times out of 500, which is nearly 1/3.

Potential Super Bowl Plays

Pittsburgh at 14/1 is my top play. They won 25% of simulated super bowls, far more than any other team. Still "love" Miami at 75/1 as well. Also think there is value in New Orleans at 18/1 and San Francisco at 9/1. That's it: every other team is overpriced.

Super Bowl histogram:


nfl futures figure 2.JPG

Betting Procedure

When playing the futures market, we start running into the problem of mutually exclusive outcomes. That means that, even though Pittsburgh and New Orleans might both be positive expected value outcomes, they can't both be winners. We need to select our bet sizes and our teams to give us the best overall expected outcome - we need our winnings to not only cover our losses for that bet, but for all the other bets we made that are now losers. Let's look at the Super Bowl to sort this out. There are a total of 6 teams that I calculate are positive expected value teams.

Team EV of $100 bet
PIT $284
MIA $204
NO $101
SF $74
GB $3.6
HOU $1.4


To select a bet size I use the Kelly criterion (*see note at the bottom). My bet sizes are as follows:

Team EV of $100 bet Kelly Bet (assuming $100 available)
PIT $284 $20.30
MIA $204 $2.70
NO $101 $5.60
SF $74 $8.20
GB $3.6 $0.60
HOU $1.4 $0.10


Now we look at the TOTAL outcome if I make all of these plays, and one of them wins.

Team EV of $100 bet Kelly Bet Outcome if winner
PIT $284 $20.30 $266
MIA $204 $2.70 $169
NO $101 $5.60 $69
SF $74 $8.20 $44
GB $3.6 $0.60 -$33
HOU $1.4 $0.10 -$36


The outcome will always be less than the total value because I have to cover the losses of my other bets. For this reason, Green Bay and Houston become bad plays, and I drop them. This also makes the other 4 bets slightly more attractive (only slightly because the amount being risked on those outcomes were small).

Team EV of $100 bet Kelly Bet Outcome if winner
PIT $284 $20.30 $267
MIA $204 $2.70 $170
NO $101 $5.60 $70
SF $74 $8.20 $45


We can go through the same procedure at the league level as well. When I do so I come out with the following plays:

Team EV of $100 bet Kelly Bet Outcome if winner
MIA $198 $6.60 $163
PIT $197 $32.80 $188.8
SF $103 $18.70 $93
NO $92 $10.20 $73


For the divisions, this only applies if more than 1 team in any division looks like a good play. As it happens, I am only picking one team per division to bet on.

Team EV of $100 bet Kelly Bet
MIA $431 $28.70
SD $89 $37.10
PIT $69 $62.60
NO $60 $46.20
DAL $52 $20.00
HOU $18 $40.20
GB $14 $31.80
SF $14 $34.90


Because this is an untested system, I am not actually making any of these bets yet. This season will be the first test. At the end of the year I will revisit this and see if I would have made money. I will revisit during the year if for no other reason than to see how dumb my Miami plays were.

@ September 28, 2011

Last week was horribly predictable. All the favorites came through. Of course, if you listened to me, you didn't need to burn Pittsburgh or San Diego yet, and are still sitting on a cache of great teams to work through the season. The question is, do we need to use one this week? Let's take a look at the matchups.

Teams used: Arizona, Detroit, Tennessee (Record: 3-0)

Chicago over Carolina: Chicago is a team with playoff aspirations, coming off of a bruising loss to division rival Green Bay. Carolina is still Carolina. Serious consideration - but are we worried about a bounce back game from Cam Newton, after last week's 150-yard fizzle in the slop?

Kansas City over Minnesota: Both of these teams are 0-3. Minnesota has blown three straight double digit leads. Kansas City hasn't even sniffed a lead yet. It's tempting after watching KC play San Diego close on the road last week, but I prefer my suicide picks to actually have wins before I pick them. Call me crazy.

Tampa Bay over Indianapolis: It can't be good for Peyton's neck for him to be repeatedly smashing his head against the wall watching Curtis Painter play.

Green Bay over Denver: The game everybody will be betting on this week.


Philadelphia over San Fransisco - SF actually has a better record.

Buffalo over Cincinnati - the very definition of a trap game.

Houston over Pittsburgh - the Texans mid-September swoon is already in full swing.

The safe picks feel like Green Bay and Chicago. But after watching the Sunday night game last week, there really is only one play to make here.

The pick: Tampa Bay over Indianapolis

@ September 21, 2011

I didn't do it. I didn't have the guys to follow my own advice and pick Buffalo last week. Sure, it would have made for a gut-wrenching three hours, but now I'd be sitting pretty with a win and Detroit, who looks like they are going to breeze to a 10-6 record this year, still in the bank for a later date. I guess this proves it: the system works. Of course, last week was pretty easily navigated, as all the big picks (Pittsburgh, NY Jets, and Green Bay) also came through.

As for this week, there are only two matchups that sift through our fine mesh of teams playing at home against a non-divisional opponent with an equal or worse record.

Teams Used: Cardinals, Detroit Lions

Tennessee over Denver: The Titans in week one looked like a team that had suffered from a lack of training camp. They had a new quarterback, a new coach, and a star player (Chris Johnson) coming off of a holdout. Last week, they dominated Baltimore and look to have their house in order. Plus, as you may remember, I have a habit of believing in Tennessee.

Cleveland over Miami: This is a Browns team that has already disappointed alot of suicide pool players with a surprising week one loss against Cincinnati. Of course, you should have avoided that game because they were playing a divisional opponent. The red flag here? Miami was 6-2 on the road last year, with their only losses coming at the Patriots and the Ravens. I'd steer clear of this one.

Bengals over 49ers: Many thought the Bengals would be one of the worst teams in the league, but this team has been one of the genuine surprises of the young season, taking care of business in Cleveland and then nearly picking off the Broncos last week. The 49ers, meanwhile, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Tony Romo and his easily punctured lungs.


Panthers over Jaguars: The Jaguars looked like a hot melted mess against the Jets last week. They cut their starting quarterback 5 days before the season started to save cash, and are now starting a rookie quarterback named Blaine. Which would be great, except we're talking about the Carolina Panthers, who are 2-16 since the start of last season. Cam Newton has been lovingly slurped by the sports media for two weeks because of his prodigious amount of passing yardage, but that skips over the fact that he is 0-2 with 3 TDs, 4 INTs, and a propensity to panic and run for it when in a tight spot. None of that for me, please.

San Diego over KC: Yeah, San Diego will probably win. Which is why, like with Pittsburgh last week, everybody and their momma is picking them. No upside. Stay away.

Pittsburgh over Indy: Sorry Pittsburgh, but the stench from that egg you laid against Baltimore still hasn't gone away. I'm not taking them on the road, especially against a team that everybody seems all to eager to bury. This is the week that all the "Can Indy bounce back?" stories begin. Write it down.

The pick: Tennessee over Denver

@ September 10, 2011

There comes a time when we have to admit that there are things we are good at, and there are things we suck at. When it comes to the NFL, I suck at making picks. I accept that. No, I embrace it. But there is one thing I am good at: making exactly one pick correct per week, week after week.

In a suicide pool, you pick one game per week, and if you win, you stay in. If you lose, you are OUT. You don't pick against the spread, you just need to pick a winner. Oh, and the last wrinkle is that you can only pick one team each time during the season. And this is what I am good at: if gambling were legal, I would have come in second in my two-strike pool two years ago, and third last year (two strikes means you can be wrong once and stay in the game).

In narrowing down the teams each week, I ask three questions. First, I only want home teams. This week, that eliminates road favorites like Philadelphia and New England.

Second, I want to avoid competitive divisional matchups. Out goes possibilities like San Fransisco (against Seattle) and Denver (against Oakland).

Finally, I want to pick a team that has the better record. Since this is week one, we'll use last years records. That takes out Green Bay (who won their game on Thursday - oh well!), Chicago, and St. Louis.

Who are we left with? Let's take a look.

Kansas City over Buffalo: KC was the surprise team of last year, excelling through a combination of weak scheduling and over-achieving. They are also one of the top candidates to regress this year, with the departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and a much tougher schedule. However, Buffalo is not one of the teams contributing to that tough schedule.

Tampa Bay over Detroit: The other surprise team of last year, and the other top candidate for regression. They are going against Detroit, which is turning into the new Houston: the sexy pre-season bandwagon pick that will inevitably fail to live up to everybody's expectations.

San Diego over Minnesota: San Diego has a bad habit of starting out slowly. Plus, I got screwed by them last year. Stay away.

Arizona over Carolina: Another matchup of terrible teams (there were several of these this week, which made picking more difficult than usual). Both teams have new quarterbacks. Arizona gets Kevin Kolb, the Eagles backup who earned himself a multi-million dollar contract with maybe 3 good games over two years. The Panthers get rookie Cam Newton, who just won the BCS championship game but looked unconvincing in the off-season. In Arizona's favor: when are you going to get a chance to pick the Cardinals again this year? Not in Arizona's favor: they are the Cardinals.

NY Jets over Dallas: The Jets will have the emotional 9/11 boost against a Dallas club getting Tony Romo back from injury and starting their first full season under new head coach (and Wade Philips saboteur) Jason Garrett. This also feels like a stay away.

Also getting consideration in my suicide pool this week are the Texans, who play a divisional game at home against a Manning-less Colts team that everybody can't write off fast enough; New England, who play a divisional game at Miami where they are 3-2 the last five years; and Cleveland and San Fransisco, two terrible teams that host terrible divisional opponents.

Since I am in a two strike pool, and this is, in my opinion, a tough week, I am taking Arizona. If I was in a one-strike pool... I'd probably still take Arizona. Week one is very tough this year.

My pick: Arizona


Blog directory

Powered by Movable Type 4.1