Monday, February 7, 2011

This was the first season I have publicly documented my picks and I am already looking forward to doing it against next season.  There were some ups and downs like most people, but overall I came out of it pretty well considering some of the unusual trends that took place this season.

Sides

This is where I make my bread and butter.  The system I use is tailored and designed for beating the spread and for the fourth season in a row that's exactly what it did.  The first four weeks were rough, but I wasn't alone as most of the marketplace took heavy losses as people navigated their way through the new season.  After 4-5 weeks of the season, enough stats were in the books for my system and I never looked back.  Over the final 16 weeks of the season (including playoffs)  I was 43-21-7 against the spread.  That is good enough for a 67% success rate.  Considering that most professional handicappers average between 50-55% ATS, it's safe to say that my strategy for picking games won't be changing next year.  Having said that, I will be reviewing how I tackle the first few weeks of the season and I'll probably be taking a more cautious approach until enough stats are compiled. 

Totals

If there was a black mark on my record this season it definitely came from totals.  It really took a bite into my profit margin because traditional methods and strategies jumped the shark.  Unders have been the smart play for many many years, but the NFL began to change a bit as scoring went up across the board.  In fact, after the helmet-to-helmet emphasis went into effect around the week 3-4 mark, Overs hit at a 58% clip.  That is unprecedented because that streak continued even in the face of bad weather and the playoffs.  This simply doesn't happen people.  After struggling with totals in the first half of the year I cut my losses and drastically reduced my plays in this area.  During the playoffs I didn't make a single totals pick.  I'll be running some more stats through some analysis in the offseason and unofficially test an adjusted system next season.

Teasers

You will hear many people tell you that teasers are a sucker bet.  Feel free to ignore this nonsense because they are a great way to supplement picks against the spread.  In 2010 I was 31-23 in this area - good enough for a 57% hit rate.  When you consider that the public average 44% against the spread, nobody should be passing up the opportunity that teasers offer.  If done right, it is difficult to imagine losing with teasers over the course of a season.  Teasing up underdogs in the +1.5 to +2.5 range and teasing down favorites from -7.5 to -8.5 is the best way to utilize them because they cross the critical numbers of 3 and 7.  This produces the best winning percentage and value.

Props

This is a category I include every week, but like I have been saying they are more intended for fun.  There is far too much variance with player production from week to week to reliably put our regular units into.  It would be very difficult to study them in-depth and finding a tried and true system to consistently win would be even harder.  I play a lot of fantasy football with great success, so after evaluating all the matchups and reviewing the fantasy news each week, I put out what should be the best favorable plays.  Never bet more than a half a unit on these and depending on your bankroll - maybe even less than that.  However, I will continue to include them because I know that some people like the extra "action".

Division Winners

Along with totals, this was an area that didn't do so well this season.  I hit with PHI and IND, but missed on the rest.  However, looking back at my picks there isn't much I would have changed.   In the AFC I took SD to win the West.  Anybody out there think that KC would have overtaken that division?  In the East I went with the NYJ because I thought they could overtake NE this year.  I was wrong about the division, but they did ultimately top them in the playoffs.  The bad pick in that conference was my love for CIN.  I really liked the offensive additions they made in the off-season and their defense was still intact, but they crashed and burned.

In the NFC, I picked GB to win the North.  Given that they won the Super Bowl, I have no regrets with that pick.  CHI played a staggering amount of backup quarterbacks in the 2010 and played 2 road games at other locations (BUF in Toronto, MIN outdoors in the elements).  I have no illusions about who was the best team in that division.   I missed with NO because ATL played lights out football during the regular season.  It would have been hard to justify going with the birds given the fact that they lost 6 out of 8 tough games the year before, and NO had one of the easiest schedules in the league as defending champs.   Lastly, the 49ers proved to be one of the biggest flops in the NFL in 2010.  At the time it would have been next to impossible to sanely take any other team in that horrible division, but looking back on it the SF implosion shouldn't be a total surprise.  Alex Smith has never been a reliable starting QB and Singletary is more suited for the college game.  Yet their defense and running game should have been enough to win 8-9 games.  However, this is life in the Not For Long league.

Season Win Totals

I did pretty good with the season win totals this year.  This is a very important category to consider because at the beginning of the year these numbers are the most reliable power rankings available to the public.  You can go ahead and ignore the power rankings seen on other sites and please discard the strength of schedules put out by ESPN.  They do not take any of the variance into consideration when they compiled those rankings.   Many factors need to be looked at before you can come up with an accurate and representative strength of schedule.  Once this is done and you consider personnel moves and a couple other things, then you can go ahead and make your season win totals predictions.  If you can come out on top in this area then you know you are doing something right with your analysis.

In the AFC I had my struggles.   I missed with IND, JAX, SD,  BAL, PIT, and CIN.    Out of those I would have taken back the BAL and PIT picks.  I'm still not a believer in Flacco, but they are a well-coached team and have enough pieces to win games.  I over-estimated the impact that the Big Ben suspension would have, but given how good their defense and running game is, it's not a total surprise that they won over 8.5 games.   This was the first time in 7 seasons that IND didn't win 12+ games and SD lost too many games due to special teams.  Neither of those could have been anticipated.   On the bright side, I hit with MIA, TEN, NYJ, BUF, and DEN.

In the NFC things were a bit better.   I hit on ATL, CAR, PHI, ARI, and GB.   NO pushed.   I missed on NYG and SF.   I wouldn't change much on this side because SF played in a putrid division.

Unofficially I also gave a bunch of picks to skip over because of uncertainty.   I picked PHI to win the NFC East because I wasn't sold on DAL.  Expecting them to win over 10 games was a lot to ask given their history of choking and tough schedule.  Shanahan and Mcnabb brought too much of an unknown to take a side with WSH, but is anyone surprised that they self-destructed?   TB exceeded everyone's expectations and I'm glad I stayed away from them.  Many people thought they might be the worst team in the league this year.   SEA and DET were difficult to figure out because of their schedules and roster turnover.  In fact, DET was the best team against the spread this year even though they didn't win a lot of games.  Chalk that up to a very difficult schedule.  STL overachieved too, but it was hard to predict what they would do with a RC QB.   I liked what CHI did by picking up Peppers and Martz in the offseason, but over/under 8 wins?  I thought that was the perfect number by Vegas.   Lastly, we have MIN.  Looking back I am wondering why I didn't go ahead and take under 9.5 wins.  I knew that Favre would not have the same success as he did a year ago, but they still had AP and what should have been a great defense.

In the AFC, I skipped HOU, OAK, KC, and CLE.   The KC kids proved to be a nice surprise, but the other 3 hovered around their respective Vegas over/under totals.  All of them are far too inconsistent and questionable to reliably guess one way or another.

Conclusion

As you can see there were some ups and downs this year, but no one is going to come out on top in every area.   At the beginning of the year I had IND and GB in the Super Bowl.   By year's end I only had half of the equation right, but I successfully predicted GB to win and cover against PIT.  I give GB extra credit because they overcame a lot of significant injuries during the season and in the final game.  The best team definitely won the grand prize and hopefully you cashed in on that too. 

Due to this blog I am now sharing my picks and write-ups for SBRforum.  It is a great resource free information and analysis.  They have many great handicapping tools that range from odds-converters to free bet-tracking spreadsheets.  I will continue to publish all my picks on my blog, but I am currently looking to improve the site for the 2011 season.

The website reconstruction should offer more options and features to go along with a much better look and feel.  I am open to ideas and input from any of you if you think there is something specific that you would like to see added.  My picks will remain free and open to all who stumble upon them and I'll periodically post updates during the off-season.  Thanks again for all the emails and you can contact me at anytime over the coming months.  Overall it was a great NFL season and I'm already looking forward to next year.  Let's just hope that greed doesn't prevail at the CBA bargaining table....