Monday, July 9, 2012

2011 was an interesting year for the NFL.  Rule changes played a significant role in outcomes and there was a lot of scrambling by the books and the sharps.  Thankfully, I was able to roll with the punches and come out on top with another profitable season.

Sides

NFL Picks Season Review 1
Picking against the spread on sides continues to be my strongest area.  I finished with a 54.9% ATS record, although I wasn't very good in the playoffs.  The good news is my early season approach paid off after having a woeful start to 2010.  It was a little difficult navigating the new trends though.

I had to make some adjustments given the impact of the new rules. Passing levels were off the charts and I'm sure I wasn't the only one sweating out some picks in the last five minutes of the 4th quarter. Heading into 2012, this is an area I'm going to be paying extra attention to because when there is more scoring there is more variance. In fact, three of the top four teams at the end of the regular season were NO, NE, and GB.  Potent offenses and shaky defenses cruised to the top, but fell considerably short in the post-season.

Totals

NFL Picks Season Review 2
After going 13-19 on totals in 2010 I completely dropped these picks in 2011 during the regular season.  The simple fact is that traditional old capping methods have become utterly irrelevant in today's NFL.  I did go 2-0 in the NFLX, but the preseason is an entirely different animal.

The most interesting aspect of totals in 2011 was the opening week.  Most sharps were convinced that scoring would be down due to a couple of reasons.  1) defenses were supposed to have a considerable edge early on thanks to condensed offseason  2) the new kickoff rule was supposed to suppress scoring as more teams had longer fields to drive.  In reply, sportsbooks dropped the totals for week 1 as money continued to pour in on the unders.

When all was said and done, the exact opposite happened.  Overs hit at an unprecedented rate and it never slowed down!  It took the books weeks to fully adjust.  The average total had risen over four points by October.

In review, the extraordinary emphasis on passing combined with the new rules limiting defenses...to play defense...resulted in scoring galore.  Leads were never safe and backdoor covers were commonplace.

Teasers

Teasers was an area that I wasn't nearly as successful with as years past.  The simple answer is my picks just weren't good enough.  Despite sticking to the classic "Wong" strategies, the results didn't come. There isn't as much value on 2 team 6 point teasers as there was previously when we could get them for EVEN money.  I still maintain these are a profitable play though, so we'll see how things go in 2012.

Props

NFL Picks Season Review 3
I absolutely love prop bets--and more specifically player props.  As a big fantasy player I always try to scan through the board and find a handful of picks each week for the extra "action".

Last year I added the 50 best season long props to the site and smashed them out of the park.  The majority of losses came from passing projections for a handful of QBs. 

My approach to the season props is simple - fade players who had monster seasons the year before as well as aging players facing reduced roles and a higher rate of injury.

In fact, injuries account for a large percentage of wins in this category.  The books have no choice but to put up what is essentially projected fantasy numbers.  If they factor in the injury potential too much we'll have value on the over.

When it comes to taking the over, I stick to younger players who have a great chance at an increased role and/or stability at QB/offensive line positions.  Players on the uptick of their development are also prime targets for an "over" play. 

Division Winners

Big swing and a miss on this category.  GB took care of business, but I expected a lot more from PHI, ATL, and STL.   I can't say that I would have changed any of these picks in hindsight either.  The "dream team" fell way short of expectations, ATL's big offseason additions never paid off, and STL was never going to catch SF.

The AFC was a different story.  NE was no surprise and I got great value on HOU at +200 before Manning was shut down for the year, but PIT and SD were on the short end of the tie-breakers.  Who knew Tebow would lead DEN to a division crown?  What's worse is SD's putrid 8 wins on the year.  They were pathetically bad.

Season Win Totals

NFL Picks Season Review 4
In the NFC I cashed on NYG, CHI, MIN, DET, and TB.  Missed on the entire NFC West and PHI.  ATL got the push.

I can't say I would change much with this group either - especially since the NFC West has been the most underachieving division in the last decade.  ARI's defense performed much better than expected, but I was bang on about Kolb's ineffectiveness.  I give SEA credit for performing as well as they did considering how much roster turnover they had.  

The AFC was more of a head-scratcher.  I hit on MIA, HOU, and PIT, but missed on DEN, TEN, OAK, CIN, SD, and BUF.  Ouch!

I have no words for what Tebow accomplished.  OAK lost key players in FA, hired a new staff, and sold the farm for Palmer and still managed 8 wins!  Put those two in the 'WTF' category.

I expected a much steeper transition in TEN with Hasselbeck/rookie playing behind a suspect O-line along with a new coach post-lockout.  The same applied for a CIN team that the ENTIRE sharp community faded heading into the season. No one could believe that Vegas opened them up at O/U 7.5!  Dalton picked up the WCO much better than I thought without a proper training camp and Green was a flat-out stud.  Fitzpatrick not only led BUF to more wins, but also secured a nice beefy contract in the process. Great for him and the Bills, but on paper I saw no way how they would manage the wins--especially after losing Posluszny.  Kudos to all 3 of these teams for taking big steps in the right direction.

SD was the PHI of the AFC.  All the talent in the world without a clue what to do with it.  I actually thought I got a great number with the over 9.5.   Go figure.

Conclusion

The Giants threw a wrench in my playoff picks, but these things happen in today's NFL.  In fact, I'm not entirely thrilled with the direction of the league from a fan level.  Scoring is great for entertainment purposes, but I'm also a big fan of defense.

I think the league is headed for trying times because the concussion issue isn't going away anytime soon.  There is simply no way to win that PR battle and I'm sure more and more parents are going to pull their kids out of organized football.  Heck, even Kurt Warner said on the record that he wouldn't want his kids in the NFL.

The truth of the matter is the league is a big fat cash cow and the players are willingly going to sacrifice their health for the long-term security. 

What does this have to do with picking games?


A lot.

The new emphasis on head shots and a "safer" game for the players is changing the NFL as we know it. More and more drives are being kept alive by phantom personal fouls and defensive players are playing less instinctively in fear of penalties, fines, and suspensions.  2012 will be an interesting year as the game continues to evolve in a new direction.

Overall it was a fun and profitable 2011 season.

A big thanks again for all the emails and donations throughout the season.  Don't hesitate to hit me up on Twitter about anything under the sun.  If you need more than 140 characters use the contact form.  I've added a bunch of new tools and links to the site so if you have any questions be sure to let me know. 


I'll have my take on the offseason line moves soon as well as some early picks and predictions. Training camp is just a few weeks away and it won't be long until we have some preseason games to bet on!