Every week, I’ll pick NFL games against the spread. I tried to be a tough guy and bet every game under the sun, and even that one game played inside the sun (or maybe it was London?) at the beginning, even though I knew this was dumb. I lost many dollars. Week 5, I decided to stop doing that. I’ve won money three weeks in a row. It’s been fun. There’s still a long way to go ’til actual money is made.
Here are my Week 8 NFL picks and bets. I won 284 hypothetical dollars last week. I’m going to put it in a hypothetical hyperprofitable mutual fund.
Realize: betting NFL is really hard. These picks are meant to hopefully help you out a bit, but mainly to entertain you. They AREN’T meant to be followed blindly. Listen, and hopefully be entertained by my childish jokes. Or at least say something mean about me so I can get a good cry in.
I will make a pick for every game. But if I don’t specifically recommend a bet, I’m just throwing darts. Don’t listen to my advice. The pick is there so I can have a record for picking every game, one that will undoubtedly suck. And then you can make fun of me. I’m a man of the people. As always, I hope you argue with me on Twitter.
For the actual bets, I will keep track of my record and profits/losses. Unlike my NHL/NBA “how not to lose your money gamblin’ “ series, a normal bet will be to win $100, for tracking purposes, because I’m a hypothetical high-roller, and you are too. There will be occasional double, triple, quadruple, and probably even quintuple bets.
Last week, I discussed the time I bet RED in roulette and lost twelve times in a row, using this experience to teach a valuable lesson on the “gambler’s fallacy.” This week, I’d like to discuss nachos.
Last Saturday, I watched my Michigan Wolverines beat the Indiana Hoosiers, 86-73 on a 4TD performance by Trey Burke, or maybe it was 63-47, and I meant to say Devin Gardner. The game was wild. I went to “the NYC Michigan bar,” Professor Thom’s, which boasts “NYC’s best nachos.” Naturally, I navigated downstairs to order them as halftime approached. Inebriated, I waited a full 30 minutes, eyeing the game, stuffed between three people sitting on two barstools. Thirty minutes constituted approximately seven touchdowns and all of halftime. Still inebriated, I received the nachos as halftime ended. 28-17 Michigan was the (real) score.
I got the double order, which should be called the Andy Reid Stuffer.
“Good luck with that, bro.” shouted the Michigan bro to my right. I dropped all of the nachos.
I stood there for a while. People laughed. I did nothing. I tried to act unaffected. My devastation likely bled through.
Two full minutes later:
“Just pick them up, bro.” said the Michigan bro to my left.
“Genius,” I thought.
Most were still on the sheet of paper that used to lie atop the metal tray. I grabbed it and shifted it back on top. I retained about 65-70% of the nachos. I walked upstairs and through a crowd of 50 Michigan fans, squeezing to the back near my friends, somehow not dropping them again.
Michigan got outscored 23-14 in the third.
“Our defense is so fucking bad.” I heard this from at least seven people.
“These nachos are the greatest fucking things ever.” I heard this in my own head, as well as from my fellow inebriated friends.
Michigan outscored Indiana 21-7 in the fourth. We won. The real score was 63-47.
“Our defense fucking sucks.” I heard this from many other people.
The funny thing is, a few weeks earlier, I was in the same place, and all I heard was “our defense is fucking amazing. Our offense sucks dick/vagina/horse’s rumpus/etc., etc.)
You get the point. Humans have a tendency to “weigh recent events more than earlier events.” To freak out about what just happened. Those weren’t the “best fucking nachos ever,” despite their marketing. Dropping them wasn’t the “worst moment of my life.” Michigan doesn’t have the “worst fucking defense ever.”
When we’re talking about eating good nachos and cheering for your alma mater, this is not a problem. But if you’re trying to win money betting on sports, this is a huge problem.
The Colts are not the best team in the NFL. Just like the Broncos weren’t a lock to cover the spread against the Cowboys a few weeks ago. Just like the Chiefs are not going to stay undefeated. One season isn’t a big enough sample size to judge NFL teams. Seven games isn’t even close. One game is close to useless. You know how often teams play their second matchup completely differently than their first? The first game had no predictive power for the second.
People are probably better betting NFL games on weeks where they’re watching their first game in a couple of weeks. Recency bias is a serious problem. If you put any weight on an overtime period, you need serious help. Recency bias-itis kills more bettors than idiocy.
Home teams are starred.
Carolina Panthers (-6.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
We missed the boat on this one. People were like, “Shit, you know Mike Glennon is just a taller, less experienced, less-ginger Brandon Weeden? and this line climbed from 3 to 5.5. Then… 6.5.
There’s no reason to take a road team, with the worst coach in the world that often struggles on offense, giving over a field goal, on a Thursday night game, against a good defense.
But, these are two good defenses. I’m genuinely confused why this total is as high as 40.5. I have my Napolean Dynamite face on. 40.5 is not high by itself, but it’s high for this game. Carolina’s defensive DVOA rank is third. Tampa’s is ninth. Carolina’s offense is 14th. Tampa’s is 31st. And they just lost Doug Martin. I’m seriously confused.
But if you’re wondering why I’m not picking Carolina, it’s pretty simple, if you check out the Bucs’ schedule.
They’re capable of keeping this close. They kept the Saints close. No value here.
Bet: UNDER 40.5 (-105), $105 to win $100
Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) over Detroit Lions*
I’m a little confused, again? Haven’t the Cowboys unequivocally been the better team? I mean, they’re not way better, but haven’t they been better? Can you find a single area where the Lions have a significant edge? Can I stop talking in questions?
If you look at the stats, these teams are close to identical, except that the Lions’ run defense is bad (5.1 ypc allowed), and the Cowboys’ isn’t (4.3). In DVOA, Dallas’s in 9th and Detroit’s 18th.
And if you want another piece of nerdiness to convince you, Dallas is No. 10 in the NFL at defending No. 1 receivers. I don’t think this stat means very much and I don’t think they can stop Calvin Johnson, but I’m just trying to make you feel better about my pick, which was made independently of this statistic.
Weekly Reminder: I picked the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl.
Bet: Cowboys +3.5 (-120), $100 to win $83.33 AND ML (+150) $20 to win $30
Cleveland Browns (+7.5) over Kansas City Chiefs*
I’m going to do that blind resume thing they do before the March Madness bracket is revealed. Go with it.
Team A: 4.6 yards per play on offense, 4.5 ypp allowed on defense, 3.9 yards per carry on offense
Team B: 4.9 yards per play on offense, 4.8 ypp allowed on defense, 4.2 yards per carry on offense
Team C: 5.3 yards per play on offense, 5.1 ypp allowed on defense, 3.2 yards per carry on offense
Do you have any idea who’s who? Probably not. Sure, I’m cherrypicking stats, and sure, I left out records and points scored and allowed per game, but the point is, you probably wouldn’t have guessed the teams, in order, are: Browns, Chiefs and… Giants.
The main takeaway here is: A good team is typically not as good as the average fan thinks (KC), a mediocre team is typically not that far off from a good team (Cleveland), and even teams that seem like complete laughingstocks often do have a pulse hidden, somewhere (NYG).
I think this line is a bit too high, because everyone thinks the Chiefs are so damn good, when they’re just pretty damn good. But Arrowhead Stadium is nutty right now, and while Jason Campbell is an upgrade, I can’t back Jason Campbell in Arrowhead. The Chiefs sack opponents on 12.59% of dropbacks. That’s first in the NFL by almost three percentage points. Racist people might assume that Jason Campbell will have no problem avoiding the rush, but they would just be dumb racists who don’t know Jason Campbell. He’s fucked.
KC defense is #1 in NFL in sack % at 12.5%. Campbell last yr w Bears was sacked on 10.5% of drop backs. Weeden 9.7% this yr. Get ready
— TA (@ClevTA) October 23, 2013
But I still don’t understand why games like this don’t have totals of something like 36.5 or lower. 38.5 is very low, but why isn’t this lower? The total points scored in Chiefs home games this year are: 33, 38, 31, 33. The Browns have scored 10, 6, 27 (against the awful Vikings, with Brian Hoyer, who doesn’t suck) and 13 points on the road this year.
The Browns score very few points on the road. The Chiefs give up very few points at home. You know what this means, people. Browns team total under!
(But because the Browns TT will be so low (probably like 15.5), and because I think the Chiefs’ offense is overrated, I’m going to split the bet, 50-50 between the regular under and the Browns TT under, to minimize risk.)
I could also throw in Kansas City’s ridiculous defensive performance on third downs and in the red zone, but I think you get the point…
UNDER 40 (-115), $57.50 to win $50 AND probably Browns TT UNDER to win $50
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5) over Oakland Raiders*
This total should be lower. I sound like a broken record. I don’t get it.
Pittsburgh is going to play low-scoring games all year. Their games have topped 40 points just twice (vs. awful Minnesota, and vs. Chicago). Oakland’s games have topped 40 twice, too. Once was against the Broncos. So, duh.
Both defenses are solid (Pittsburgh’s more so, but still). Oakland’s pass-D is beatable, but they get to the QB a lot, and Big Ben gets gotten-to a lot. Both teams stop the run. It’s a bad matchup for both. Points will likely not abound.
And I maintain that people will start to realize that Terrelle Pryor does indeed suck.
UNDER 41 (-115), $115 to win $100
New York Jets (+6.5) over Cincinnati Bengals*
Holy shit. I like another under. Now I’m scared.
If you look at the stats, it’s clear that the Jets are a bit superior on defense (4th in DVOA vs. 7th), and worse on offense (30th vs. 15th). But the point is: Both teams match up poorly on offense. The Jets, because they’re just not that good, and are playing a good defense on the road, and the Bengals, because you can’t run on the Jets, and that means it’s all on Andy Dalton.
Ginger vs. Jets. As always, the Ginger will lose.
(Well, he might not lose the game. But he’ll lose the battle of scoring lots of points.)
I’m considering taking the Jets, too, but they struggle when teams stop the run (like the Bengals will!), and the Bengals can stop the run.
UNDER 41.5 (-110), $110 to win $100
Washington Potato Skins (+13) over Denver Broncos
THIS IS TOO DAMN EASY. Yes, I like the over for once. Yes, it’s the obvious play. But it makes sense because oddsmakers are afraid to make this even higher, and that’s dumb.
Broncos games this year have totaled: 76, 64, 58, 72, 99, 54, 72. This number is a fucking joke. Unless RG3 completely fucks things up by being awful, this should go over, quite easily.
OVER 58 (-110), $220 to win $200
Philadelphia Eagles* (-5.5) over New York Giants
Michael Vick is probably playing, this game is probably awful, and you probably shouldn’t watch another Giants game this year.
New England Patriots* (-7) over Miami Dolphins
Both teams are far worse than perceived. I want no part of this shitfest.
San Francisco 49ers (-16) over Jacksonville Jaguars*
Lots of points, overmatched Jags, London, nothing to see here…
New Orleans Saints* (-11) over Buffalo Bills
If you look at DVOA stats, you could make an argument that the Bills have a shot. Somehow, the Bills are SIXTH in defensive DVOA. FOURTH against the pass. Drew Brees likes to pass. The Saints are solid at sixteenth in defense, but while their sixth in pass defense, their 30th in rush defense. If C.J. Spiller likes advanced stats, he’ll salivate.
I think those stats overrate the Bills by a lot, and, excuse me, Saints at home, Drew Brees, Thad Lewis, etc.
This is enough to scare me off the Saints at a huge number, but that’s about it. I still might take them in my survivor pool.
I’m probably going to take them in my survivor pool. Which means I think they’re going to win. When they win at home, ’tis often by over a touchdown. Which means I’ll throw them in a teaser with the Packers.
Bet: 6-point TEASER: Saints -5.5/Packers -2.5 (-110)… $220 to win $200
Atlanta Falcons (+2.5) over Arizona Cardinals*
STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS UGLY GAME.
Green Bay Packers (-10) over Minnesota Vikings*
I am not in the business of taking 10-point road favorites or expecting the Packers’ defense to stop even the worst of passing offenses. Nor will I back the Vikings.
I am in the teasing business, though.
Seattle Seahawks (-11) over St. Louis Rams*
I remember when I wanted Kellen Clemens to start over Mark Sanchez. I remember when that was considered an incredibly dumb thing to think.
Good luck, friends. Please hit me up on the Twitters to argue, call me names, ask a question, or say anything else that comes to mind.
Last Week’s Betting Record: 5-2 (.714) (+$284)
Since Limiting My Crazy, Overextended Self: 14-6 (.692) (+1,062.43)
Overall Betting Record 34-30 (.531) (-$905.91)
Dart-throwing record: 56-49 (.533)