Monday, November 1, 2010

Market Watch
Season overall records to date:
Public Consensus Picks: 44-66-6 (39.6%)
Hilton Contest Consensus Picks: 16-20-3 (44.4%)
Back-to-back Hilton Champion Steve Fezzik: 17-20-2 (45.9%)

If you are familiar with introductory statistics you will have heard of things like the mode, medium, and mean.  These are central tendency numbers that make more sense out of overall numbers.  In football handicapping, the magic overall number is 52.4%.  Achieve this at the end of the year and you will have broken even.  This is the minimum number that is the most important once the Super Bowl is handed out in February.  However, at mid-season the overall number is not as meaningful and when you take a look at the following numbers you'll see what I mean.

So far this season has been a tale of two halves for me.  As mentioned in my profile I have a system for making picks like most people out there, but a lot of it relies on statistics. During the first four weeks the stats are very skewed due to high variance, outliers, and small sample size, but after that enough has been accumulated to start drawing some firmer conclusions about teams strengths and weaknesses.  So like most people I usually navigate the early part of the year on the same information that everyone else has.  Last season I had 3 bad weeks out of 17 and 2 of them came in the first month of the season.

This year was not only a repeat of last year, but a little worse.  I had a losing record in sides, totals, teasers, and props after 4 weeks.  (This is a good reason to not shy away from the preseason.  The preseason is a good way to build up some extra bankroll so when you have some down weeks in the regular season you have something to cushion the fall)   The good news is that I have identified why I had trouble early this year. There have been some unusual trends that we haven't seen in years past.  Both sharps and squares were also struggling at the quarter-way mark.  Underdogs and overs were winning at an unprecedented rate.  Now that we are at the half-way spot I can look back and see what I'm been doing wrong and what I'm doing right.  Let's take a closer look at the trends to this point.
 
SIDES

After 4 weeks of the season I was 9-14-1 on sides.  Not a great start to say the least.  However, the system I use really becomes beneficial around this point and since that time I am 14-5-2.   I might not keep up this 73% rate the rest of the way, but there is little chance that I will drop back down to where I was in the beginning of the season.  This is a good example of how the overall record is misleading.  In fact, going back to the preseason, I have only had 2 losing weeks out of 12 when it comes to sides.

At the same time, 23-19-3 overall is a pretty respectable record on sides this season when you compare it to how the pros and public have done.  To date the public consensus picks are 44-66-6 (39.6%) on sides.   The top 5 consensus picks from the infamous Hilton contest are 16-20-3.  Back-to-back defending Hilton champ Steve Fezzik is 17-20-2.   As you can see the pros begin to seperate themselves from the public as the year goes one while the public continue to struggle.  The public have yet to have a winning week in 2010 and continue to win at a 40% rate.

TOTALS

This is an area that is killing my profit this season.  In the first quarter I was 3-5 and I thought that things will work themselves out once I can make more sense of the stats.  Yet the second quarter was even worse going 3-8.  I looked into this a little further after week 7 because the numbers weren't making any sense.  The under is usually a good bet for sharps because more things need to fall in place for a total to go over than vice versa.  There are many indicators to suggest which way to go that are unique to totals, but they kept on losing even when I had a clear edge. Going back through the first 7 weeks I found that overs were cashing at a whopping 57-42 rate.  This is unheard of.  Week 7 itself was the highest scoring week in 20 years of NFL football.  At the midway point last year there were 7 shutouts.  This year?  Only one.

Clearly this year was shaping up to be different than other years so I picked out two games in week 8 that pointed to a good over bet.  What happens?  Both don't even come close.   The under game that I liked but didn't bet was TB/ARI.  That game sky-rocketed over the total.   When you consider that both TB and ARI don't average over 7 points a game from long drives, one has to wonder what is going on when both teams almost double their YEARLY long-drive totals in ONE game.   I will continue to make predictions on totals the rest of the way, but I won't be doing 3 and 4 a week like I was in the first half of the year.  The results are defying all logic. When I post these picks, keep the aforementioned trends in mind.

Teasers

This is a category that doesn't have an appealing overall record, but I'm very confident in picking them.  I went back to see what was going wrong and it was fairly obvious.  I banked heavy on one team in multiple teasers in the same week.  When I just stick to regular teasers my record on the year is 9-5.   When I use one team in multiple teasers my record is 1-7.  The Saints and Colts are solely responsible for 6 of my 12 losses.  Both times I included one of them in 3 teasers from the same week.  No one saw the Browns beating the Saints outright and the same can be said for the Jaguars vs the Colts. These things do happen which is why it's risky to use one team in multiple teasers.   I took that risk and lost.  However a very high percentage of teams I include in teasers cover so I'll continue with those the rest of the way.

Player Props

This is a category that I include more for fun as I make clear when I post them every week.  I know there are a lot of people who play fantasy football and like extra action on a game so I include them for those purposes.  I do very well in fantasy football and consistently place in the top 1-5% of entrants (sometimes over 100,000 people) every year.  Like everything else I came out of the gate pretty weak in the first quarter.  Since then I have gone 23-14.  I expect to have many more good weeks than bad in this area in the second half.

Division Winners

This area is a mixed bag so far.  I took some chances on some underdogs and went with favorites in what appeared to be obvious cases.   In the AFC, I really expected more out of CIN.  Palmer is not playing as well as I thought he would with his new receiving options, but it is their defense that has really let me down.  Last season Zimmer had them playing at a very high level and with a lot of the same faces returning I thought they would stay in the top third of the league in that category.   I still like IND and NY to win their divisions, but it will be a dog fight the rest of the way.  SD might be able to climb back into it, but it will be much more difficult than anyone imagined.  It's hard to account for special teams coming into a season and that has undermined how good they are offensively/defensively.

In the NFC PHI is still there with a chance to take it.  I never bought into the DAL hype like most people because I don't like Romo or their head coach.  They aren't people I would turn to when I need a clutch performance.  GB was my pick to go to the Superbowl, but they have been decimated with injuries.  I still like their chances to take the North because CHI is so overrated.  I skipped Favre and company because I knew he would come back to earth this season.  The South is still completely up for grabs and NO will have a tough time overcoming ATL, but when they get healthier they could make a second half run.  They have a fairly easy schedule and one game remaining with ATL.

Season Win Totals

Even at the halfway mark it's too early to know how these will shake out in the end.  About a third are locks to cash, a handful are locks to lose, and the rest are somewhere in the middle.  The real NFL season is about to begin so any team that is not completely out of it can go any way.  The AFC is much tougher than the NFC this year and many of those middle of the pack teams could wind up on the short end of the stick.  Things are much more wide open in the NFC.  It will be a fun finish to see how things play out, but I'm guessing there will be a ton of people screaming at their TV after some favorites bench their starters.

Conclusion

At this point of the season I feel pretty good about things.  It's reassuring to know that even in a turbulent season that has caused problems for mostly everyone, my system is still holding up well.  In the first half of this season the early demolition of underdogs and high scoring games threw a lot of people for a loop.  However, if you pick your spots you'll know how to navigate these trends.  Totals and high-risk teasers have hurt my profit margin so far, but with 9 weeks of the regular season and playoffs remaining, I expect to have a fifth straight profitable season.  Best of luck to all!