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Weekend Football Review (11/29/10)

By Paul Bessire

Monday, November 29 at 8:02 PM ET
I will always recap the weekend in football each Monday afternoon. It is very important to us to be transparent and honest about our picks. While most blogs tend to be inherently positive (almost to a fault sometimes, but that's the way that every smart investor looking at a long-term view needs to be), I cannot in good conscious, make this week's blog all joyful or boastful. After a 7-1 ATS week of Paul's Picks, we currently sit at 2-5 ATS for Paul's Picks for the week. I'll get all of the positive concessions and notes out of the way before I get to the sometimes sour grapes, sometimes excuses, yet always cathartic lamenting of our losses (as is the case with anyone in this business, Monday mornings can be the best and/or worst times of the week even though nothing is happening).

The most positive portion of this week's blog: The last two days have been challenging with Paul's Picks, but the week itself has actually been OK. Picking every college and NFL game ATS and O/U, playable picks are above 50%. Not only are they above 50% combined, each of the four categories of picks - college ATS, college O/U, NFL ATS and NFL O/U - is currently above 50% for the week. Of course, we've had weeks where we were over 60% picking in all of those categories, but it's still not easy to be above .500 in all four of those categories (over exactly 100 playable picks). I start writing this blog in my head with the first kickoff of the week. The outcome and tone have definitely changed since 12:30 pm on Thanksgiving. We went undefeated in the NFL and college with our Thanksgiving picks. In fact, based on day-of lines, Dallas +5 vs. New Orleans ended up being our strongest ATS play of the entire week on gameday. The lines for all of our top picks moved in the direction of our pick as games neared. That can't be that bad of a sign. Since our last blog post, we hit our ATS Top Play of the Day on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tuesday was a "no pick" and there were no games Wednesday, meaning that we only missed yesterday's top play (by half a point). Our record on ATS Top Plays of the Day is now 49-21 (70%). I believe (after a quick look through our performance), this only marks the third week all season when the Paul's Picks will have gone .500 or worse. And lastly, while I know it is not the norm and I won't dwell on it further because those who lost will not want to hear this, using our previously described strategy of using the Play Value Calculator, Customizable Predictalator and day-of-game odds to play 60%+ ATS games, we won for the week. We didn't win Sunday (0-1). But we did win Monday (1-0), Thursday (1-0), Friday (2-0) and Saturday (3-2).

2-5 ATS. I totally get it. We can't really champion the Paul's Picks one week and then promote the fact that we were over 50% with all the picks the next week when we were 2-5 ATS. Many of you won this week, but not just by playing the Paul's Picks. One of our subscribers noted that the expectation is that we get to at least 50% EACH weekend. I think that is totally fair in context. That's obviously our expectation as well. It's now been true almost every weekend. Another subscriber made use of the same terminology by stating that his expectation was/is that the computer model will get better over time. Not only is that fair as well, I totally agree, but that should also be reflected in our confidence in the picks.

However, I'd like to make a few points about expectations. Within isolated events with determined (by the Predictalator) probabilities, expectations are not guarantees. If it were an absolute guarantee that we would win (or at least never lose) every week, every rational person in the world should put all of his/her money on our picks every week. As it stands, we believe/assume/expect we will have a winning Paul's Picks record every week. We always publish eight Paul's Picks, but at this point in the week, we have only seen the results of seven games, so we'll focus on that for now. Each pick comes with confidence. The average confidence of a Paul's Pick has been about 60.5%. To-date, Paul's Picks are 64-38 ATS on the season, or 63% ATS, which is actually slightly better than expected based on our average confidence. At 60.5% to cover, the "expectation" is that we get 4.235 of the first seven picks right. The likelihood of getting all seven right is about 3%. The likelihood of going 4-3 or better is about 70%, which means that we should expect to be at 4-3 or better ATS in 70% of the weeks (as of Monday morning). The likelihood of going 2-5 or worse is about 10%. That means that, over the course of the 13 weeks in which we will have a full slate of both NFL and college games, we should expect 1.3 weeks with a 2-5 or worse record. In other words, while we hope it never happens, the fact that it has happened just once all year so far is not out of line with full season "expectations." Our cover percentages and confidence ratings are what they are - and they are proving to be in accordance with our long-term success.

The Football Numbers (through College Week 13 and NFL Week 12):

  • ATS Locks of the Week: 1-1 (Stanford -14 won 38-0 at home over Oregon State; Green Bay +2.5 lost 20-17 at Atlanta)
  • Year-to-Date ATS Locks of the Week: 17-8 (68%)
  • All-Time ATS Locks of the Week: 66-19-3 (78%)
  • YTD Daily Top ATS Plays: 49-21 (70%)
  • Paul's Picks ATS Week: 2-5 (with one game remaining)
  • YTD Paul's Picks ATS: 64-38 (63%)
  • YTD ATS All Games: 56%
  • YTD O/U All Games: 55%
  • YTD SU (NFL and FBS vs.a FBS College): 73%

Football Musings/Gripes: Instead of working them into the toughest losses sections so they look even more like sour grapes, I'd like to discuss a few points that I've brought up to some degree before, but feel as though they warrant mentioning in their own section this week...

My garage has a sensor that cuts across the bottom of the track for the garage door. If the sensor is tripped, the door stops. I'm not James Bond. In fact, for at least the last 20 years, I've lived in a house with this technology. Spotting the ball is the most ridiculous practice in current officiating in any sport and no one talks about it. Every piece to the process is arbitrary to a degree and left open to human error. Every time the chains are brought out and extended past the ball only to see the referee lift two fingers up an inch apart, I laugh - as if he can be certain that the ball did not cross ten yards or further from the exact location of the previous set of downs. Why not grid the field and put a chip in the football to know exactly where the ball is at all times? At the very least, add a sensor to the end of the chains. In video games, this can be done without error (unless the programmers add in error to force the game to behave more like real-life). It can't be that hard to flip the script and force real-life to function more like the video game in that there is no error in spotting the ball. (Sour grapes alert: You cannot tell me definitively that Maryland moved the ball forward from the line of scrimmage on its final fourth-and-"one inch.")...

Not only does the same obviously go for the goal line, but it should with the goalpost as well. (Sour grapes alert - though it would not have changed our accuracy on the pick: I have yet to see a definitive view that shows the end-of-regulation Kyle Brotzman of Boise State field goal missing. From the angle I have seen, the ball does not cross to the other side of the goalpost until just before it hits the net. Is the net three inches behind the goalpost? I'm not saying that call or the next one were wrong, but I'd feel far more certain about it if we had a grid/sensor that illustrated where/when/how the field goal was missed.)...

On the topic of officiating, the challenge system in the NFL is indefensible. The only argument that I can see for the NFL sticking to its current system is that it does not want to acknowledge that college football got something right before the NFL did (based on my preference, I would argue that this is also the case with the overtime system, but that is not as much of a slam-dunk argument). The current NFL system is not founded in logic. Imagine someone who looks nothing like you robs a convenience store that you have never entered. The cops, on a total hunch, show up at your door to arrest you and throw you in jail with no trial. You challenge the cops by going to trial. You say that it wasn't you and that you have never visited that store. They look at the tape for the first time and realize it definitely wasn't you. You are free to go, but the cops tell you that, since you correctly challenged their ruling, you get two more challenges (provided you get them both right) and then they can do whatever they want to you. If you would not have challenged the ruling, you would have been thrown in jail anyway for something you didn't do. If you had challenged and lost, then they could have imposed further fines and penalties on you for making them look into it more even though they could have been wrong because they had not looked at the tape yet. Plus, you would be even closer to losing your right to challenge another outcome. But, just before you turn 50 and 100, you are granted a grace period where they will actually look at the tape if they think you are the one who committed a crime caught on tape. Uhhh. Not even close to fair. Who agreed to this?...

I guess I don't believe in an industry based on competition and deterministic results being settled by forced (or at least avoidable) human error. Get it right. That matters infinitely more than anything else. (Sour grapes alert: Don't blame Mike McCarthy for not challenging Tony Gonzalez's clearly dropped fourth down pass. Blame the system. It's not his fault the NFL isn't concerned with getting the call right.)...

All major rules and coaching changes in sports seem to be reactionary rather than progressive or preventative. That's an effective way to survive, but not an optimal path to growth...

College Best and Worst: Running out of time now, so the rest of the blog should be pretty quick...

Best Wins: Stanford was our Lock of the Week. Even with a 14-point line, we didn't really have to worry about that pick after the first quarter. As we had to sweat out our other top picks on Saturday, this was a welcome outcome. The Cardinal are one of the few teams in any conference capable of being consistently dominant...

Some quick hitters now: Arizona State was another double-digit Pac-10 home favorite that cruised to a huge victory to cover for one of our Paul's Picks... As of Friday, Toledo and Arizona State were the only two 60%+ picks (which led to our 2-0 record that day)... I wish Tennessee and Vanderbilt could play again this week. We've been taking advantage of them (wagering on UT and against Vanderbilt) for several weeks now... Michigan State won convincingly and still couldn't make the Rose Bowl after Ohio State and Wisconsin won with even more authority... We did well picking SMU and FIU and against Fresno State and Houston!... I told you LSU wasn't very good... Since we introduced our Upset Watch, the picks have done well against the spread, but not great straight-up. Boston College's win over Syracuse was an actual predicted upset that came through... Even though my alma mater lost by 21, the UNDER still covered (by one point)... We actually hit six of our top seven totals... I haven't run the championship game yet, but it seems like the UNDER in almost every MAC game has been the smart and successful play... The first day of games after Gordon Gee's comments about Boise State and TCU's schedule, previous Ohio State opponents went 0-2 and lost by a combined score of 99-9 against Northern Illinois and Kent State. The "Little Sisters of the Poor" would have kept it closer...

Toughest Losses: Remember when NC State was up 14-0? (Teams winning by double-digits early who failed to cover lines of a touchdown or less provided a theme for the weekend.) It should have ended as a big win by NC State too. Maryland is not that good. Torrey Smith, who had 224 yards on 14 catches may be that good, but the Terrapins are NOT 8-4 good. Everything broke against NC State after that big lead and the Wolfpack still had a chance to win this game late...

Quick hitters: ACC teams love to crash the Paul's Picks party. Georgia Tech trailed by 14 at the end of the third quarter and seemed to be done as Georgia was rolling... Auburn and Alabama couldn't score one more time?... We were saying all week that there was a 71.8% chance that one of the undefeated teams would lose on Friday. But, we also noted that Boise State would be favored in our numbers over any team. AND, Boise State was our strongest ATS pick of the undefeated teams in action Friday. The Broncos would still be favored against anyone except Oregon and Auburn... While our UT and Vanderbilt ride continued, picking Western Kentucky and against MTSU finally came to an end... What happened to Oklahoma State? It's as if they only knew how to play from behind against the Sooners in Bedlam... Whatever Cal... It shouldn't matter because the BCS lead looks safe, but Wisconsin's opponents will likely go 0-3 this weekend...

Most intriguing games of Week 14*: Northern Illinois vs. Miami (OH), SMU @ UCF, Auburn vs. South Carolina, FSU vs. Virginia Tech and UConn @ USF.

NFL Best and Worst:

Best Wins: Thanksgiving was a great day as we went 3-0 in our NFL picks (and hit our college pick). Dallas +5 was our best overall pick of the week in the NFL according to the lines that day. That was the only line that I saw that moved more than a point away from our pick (which is rare in general) and we took advantage. The Cowboys almost/should have won outright...

Quick hitters: San Diego won outright as a predicted upset over Indianapolis. That game probably took on greater significance to many of our users. I don't recommend chasing after a losing afternoon. I recommend using the Play Value Calculator to determine the appropriate amounts to put on our top plays. That being said, I'm not ignorant to the fact that many of our subscribers probably loaded up on the Chargers (and may load up tonight on the 49ers), so I get that those picks can mean more. The Chargers are at least 70% favorites straight-up in each of their remaining games... We were on Houston and Miami before those lines were even finalized. No matter what happened with the Texans and Dolphins, we didn't like the looks of the Titans and Raiders offenses... The OVER on Sunday afternoon was a great play... Our free pick, Kansas City, covered easily (many of you probably had no idea we missed all of our Paul's Picks until I told you above)... Has a Jake Delhomme led team ever been favored by double-digits and covered? Tying the last two notes together, a case can be made that the Seahawks are worse than the Panthers and playing the worst football in the league. Guess which teams play each other this week?... Oh wait, the Cincinnati Bengals... Oh wait, the Arizona Cardinals... Peyton Hillis was our top running back in fantasy. Dwayne Bowe was our top wide receiver...

Toughest Losses: We lost all three of our Paul's Picks yesterday - by a total of seven points. The three games were on TVs all next to each other at the bar where I went to follow along. At times, it looked like we were going to hit all three. Early, it looked like Green Bay and Pittsburgh were almost sure bets to cover and the Giants wouldn't come close. An hour later, it looked like the Giants would cover easily and that we would lose Green Bay and Pittsburgh. All close games. All broke against us. Debate if you wish, but even after watching the games, it would be hard to make the argument that we were on the wrong side of any of those picks (or at least it would be easier to make the argument that we were on the right side)... Atlanta is not nearly as good as its record. Green Bay is significantly better, yet consistently hurt itself. The Falcons didn't hurt themselves... Remember when Pittsburgh was up 13-0?... Jacksonville isn't a good football team. That being said, we probably won't be picking against the Jaguars with one of our top picks next week...

Quick hitters: Philadelphia was the only other truly painful loss. The Eagles couldn't get to the quarterback, allowing Jay Cutler to have an uncharacteristically strong day. The Bears big plays forced the Eagles to go deep and the Bears to soften up, which cost us our best total. It also turned Michael Vick into a much better fantasy quarterback than we expected because we didn't see those points coming from either team... Tampa Bay's late cover hurt, but more so because of the timing. It looked like we were in great shape with that game and ended up losing by the hook... Remember when Denver led 10-0?...

Most intriguing games of Week 13: HOU @ PHI (Thursday), CHI @ DET, DEN @ KC, OAK @ SD, ATL @ TB, DAL @ IND, PIT @ BAL and NYJ @ NE

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