If Week 1 of the Hypothetical SuperContest was a dream, Week 4 was as dark a nightmare as I could imagine.
After making it through the entirety of last season without a dreaded 0-5 week picking against the spread, my dream of avoiding imperfection forever was crushed as the Cowboys walloped the Saints on Sunday Night Football. The worst had happened. The big red buttons were pressed. Although I had started the Hypothetical Supercontest with a perfect 5-0 week, I am now in the midst of three straight losing weeks and my worst picking week since starting this column.
Something drastic had to be done.
I have always been interested in the ESPN Stats and Info department. These are the brave men and women that are responsible for finding interesting statistical tidbits to be used on the BottomLine or SportsCenter later that day. These people are responsible for the oddly specific factoids that you proudly repeat back to your friends when you know they missed SportsCenter that morning.
Case in point:
I am filled with wonder about how these factoids are found. In my mind, there is a database hidden underground in Bristol, Connecticut that has every stat about every sporting event that has ever happened. Employees can go up to some sort of desktop that connects to this database and then just get über-specific. Then, while all of the employees are watching sports together (because that’s definitely what working for ESPN is like), one of the stats and info guys will say something like, “I don’t think this has happened before…” and then they will run to the desktop and type in “most steals” + “one inning” + “post season” + “live ball era,” and then ten minutes later they can send out a tweet like this:
Clearly I have no idea how this process actually goes down. But I’m pretty sure I’m correct about the existence of some sort of all-powerful search engine for sports to which ESPN has exclusive access. And I have always wanted to have that type of engine with relation to NFL gambling.
After going 0-5, I was worried about the mistakes I must be making with my picks; was there some sort of incorrect pattern of thinking that I was falling victim to without my knowledge? Was it possible that I always picked underdogs against the Lions if they were getting more than six points? Would those picks have a poor history of covering? How could I visualize all of this information in a way that I could use to my advantage and learn from?
The answer was found with legal pads and Microsoft Excel.
Legal pads may be my greatest asset. I have stacks on stacks of them filled in my room with everything from doodles to class notes to lists of girls I think are pretty to lists of movies that I still haven’t seen but want to in the next calendar year. For some reason unbeknownst to me, any piece of information makes more sense when it’s on a legal pad. So I grabbed my legal pad and started writing.
I realized that in keeping this column so far this season, I had the basics of the system I wanted to create. I have written an article for each week of the season so far, and each of those articles had within it the spreads of each game. If I could get that data on a legal pad, I could visualize in different ways and begin to shape it to my liking, then figure out a way to get it all in Excel and start messing with statistics. This was my chance to start outsmarting the house. So I wrote out every spread of every game for every team so far this season, and then I wrote out the result for each of those games. I then transferred all of that information into a spreadsheet, where I added information on my picking tendencies. In addition to five picks for the Hypothetical SuperContest each week, I also compete in an ATS league with some friends where we pick every game. I have a back record of my picks this whole season so far.
When they were all put together, I had this:
Seems like a lot of information but that’s really just the first two weeks of the NFC. Here’s Week 3/4:
And the AFC in its entirety:
And that is how I spent approximately four hours over the past two days. I hope to soon understand Excel a lot better than I currently do and proceed to make this into a much more useful tool. But for now, it is an easy source of condensed information that I usually struggle to find on the internet. I have created something useful. I realize that I am in very serious danger of overthinking my bets, but I think this is a worthwhile endeavor. If it helps me go better than 0-5 this week, I’ll be pleased.
Here are the Week 5 lines. Home teams get the asterisk. Let’s excel.
With only two teams on bye this week, we have a fairly full slate of games to work with. But after last week, I don’t trust myself to “work with” these games all willy-nilly. I wanted to figure out a way to synthesize my desire to simply follow my gut while also taking full advantage of the information I had. All of that statistical jargon listed in Excel must provide some understanding of my gambling subconscious, even if these truths were buried deep within the data. Eventually, I decided on a process that at least made sense in my head.
Step One: Pick Every Game On Gut Feeling
There is great power in the act of trusting your gut – it is a statement to the universe, “This is what I think, and I dare you to prove me wrong.” I am a big believer in energies and the power that confidence and faith can have going into any scenario, especially when it comes to gambling. But this was still a little ridiculous; I hadn’t done any more research than I normally do before making my official picks. Plus, I needed to cut this list down to five picks for the SuperContest.
Step Two: Statistical “Gut” Analysis
While everything is clearly pulling from a small sample size given we only have four weeks’ worth of data at our disposal, I wanted to investigate how good my “feel” for each team has been so far this season. I went through each team and looked at what my record was when picking for or against that said team. Let’s say I picked the Cowboys to lose ATS Week 1, but had them covering Weeks 2/3 before picking against them again last Sunday Night. I correctly predicted the Cowboys to fail to cover Week 1, and Dallas went on to cover in Weeks 2/3 before continuing its winning ways against the Saints. This leaves me with a 3-1 record while picking Cowboys games. This statistic will be known as “Cowboys-TyATS” until I think of a better name.
I went to my legal pad and figured out the TyATS of every team in the NFL so far this season. This would hopefully give me a clearer picture of which teams I knew well from a gambling perspective, and which teams were continually playing better than I thought them to be.
Then, I listed every Week 5 matchup and the combined TyATS of the two teams playing to figure out which games would be best to trust my gut for, and which games it would be best to stay away from.
I then starred the four games which had the most significant deviation from the mean TyATS of the group. I also starred the Seahawks. Of the four games that significantly differed, two were on the high end and two were on the low end. I picked the Texans (+5.5) over the Cowboys, and those two teams have a combined TyATS of 6-2 so far this season. That is a pick I am going to trust. Meanwhile, since my initial reaction was to pick the Colts (-3.5) over the Ravens, and I am a combined 2-6 so far this season when picking on these teams, I am flipping on my gut and taking the Ravens, because I clearly have no idea what’s going on with either team.
Again, I swear it makes sense in my head.
We’re already almost 1,400 words into this abomination of a picks column. These are the picks that my system ended up producing:
Saints* (-10) over Buccaneers
Texans (+5.5) over Cowboys*
Ravens (+3.5) over Colts*
Bengals (-1) over Patriots*
Seahawks (-7) over Redskins*
There is a good chance that this process fails miserably and we are left to once more start anew next week. But by then we will have one more week of data to pull from, and with it, more information at our disposal which we can use to outsmart the sharps.
My brain hurts.
Last Week: 0-5