Our picks last week went 2-4 overall. Both of our “Big Plays” lost, while we split the “Other Plays”. Despite the outcomes being unprofitable, I think we “won” with the process.
The short-run driver of results in this business is luck; in the long-run, skill shines through. In the short-run, a better predictor of future success (than simply W/L) is line movement. In general, betting markets get more efficient throughout the week; the closing line is a much better predictor of game outcome than the opening line. This is, in part, because limits are much lower early in the week, so it’s not worth it for the big money to bet early. In fact, big syndicates have been known to try to manipulate the market early in the week placing dummy bets with the intention of moving the point spread the wrong way and then betting big on the other side later in the week. Last week the lines moved very strongly in our favor. Depending on which closing lines you’re looking at, the market closed, on average, between 1.15 and 1.45 points closer to our number for the six games we released. Carolina moved from -1.5 to -3, Tennessee moved off the +3 to +2.5 or +2, Houston moved from +6.5 to +4.5 and +4, New England went from a 1.5-point underdog to a 2-point favorite. (Green Bay, which we liked at -6.5, moved all the way to -10, but that was partially due to Calvin Johnson’s injury) The only games where we didn’t get favorable line movement, incidentally, were the ones we won (Dallas and NY Jets).
So while we are all about process over outcome in handicapping the games, we also think looking at process, and not just outcome, is important in evaluating our picks.
One last note: Our Massey-Peabody lines do not consider score distribution (i.e. 3 point favorites win by exactly 3 almost 10% of the time). Our model predicts score differential linearly. The difference between a M-P line of -1.5 and -2.5 is the same as the difference between -2.5 and -3.5. In reality, though, a market move from 1.5 to 2.5 is only a 2% move, while a move from 2.5 to 3.5 is about a 9.5% move. Not all numbers carry the same weight. In the past, we’ve used specific thresholds for bets–generally, our minimum edge was 2 points. In the past year, we’ve gravitated toward an approach that considers the value of points and fits our model to a score distribution. For example, if the M-P line for a game is -1.5, we actually would expect the team to cover -1.5 52.5% of the time. Why? Because there is very little difference between 0 and 2.5 in terms of actual score distributions, yet our linearly-based predictions do not account for this. So when we make a line -1.5 the true median is around -2.5. And if we make a line -2.5, a fair price would be -3 +104 (or -2.5 -116). So while we’ll continue to report our M-P lines, remember that they are linearly-based, so it’s possible that a game with a 2 points difference between M-P and the market could have a bigger edge than one with a 3.5 point difference. This is especially true on games with spreads of less than a FG.
Without further ado, here are this week’s picks. Lots of underdogs again…yet no action of the biggest underdog in quite some time (JAC +26.5 @ DEN). Lines are widely available as of 1:15pm EDT. As usual, we do not consider injuries or matchup factors; the lines are based purely on our ratings, plus home-field advantage, and an adjustment for teams coming off of byes and Thursday games.
For those of you who want more action, we’re also going to start including picks for all games that are break-even or better (against a standard -110 line), meaning that the pick should win at least 52.38% of the time. We don’t expect these to return much of any profit, but we do think they’re better than flipping a coin.
Big Plays (3-3-1 YTD)
- Arizona +11 at San Francisco [MP= +7.1]
- Buffalo +7 vs. Cincinnati [MP= +3.6]
Other Plays (13-11 YTD)
- Oakland +9 at Kansas City [MP= +6.2]
- New York Giants +8 at Chicago [MP= +6]
Break-Even or Better
- Tampa Bay +1.5 vs. Philadelphia [MP= -1.9]
- Cleveland +2.5 vs. Detroit [MP= -0.8]
- Tennessee +13.5 at Seattle [MP= +11.4]
- San Diego +1.5 vs. Indianapolis [MP= -1.7]
- Dallas -5.5 vs. Washington [MP= -7.0]