Well, that was embarrassing.
After touting my skills as a gambling picker to the collective consciousness of the Internet, Sunday proved me a fool to anyone who was paying attention. By all accounts, last Sunday was the worst gambling day of my life. Beyond my 0-5 performance in the Hypothetical SuperContest, I went 3-12 against the spread in my weekly picks league, worse than any week I’ve had in the past two years. Thankfully, as a fairly reformed actual gambler, my monetary losses were kept to a minimum, save for three fairly small bets I had my sister place for me in Vegas during the preseason, (sorry about the losses Russell, I’ll get you back when I can).
Week 1 can get ugly in a lot of ways. Teams show up unprepared, coaching gaffes change the outcomes of games and even worse spreads, and Trent Dilfer and Chris Berman have to call a football game. Like many teams in the NFL, there are many things I could blame for my poor performance Week 1. The CBSSports experts went 3-0 on their unanimous games, establishing an unsettling trend: since Bill Simmons mentioned my theory on the CBSSports experts in a mailbag last year, their unanimous picks have gone 5-0. It is a reality I wanted to ignore, but apparently the Simmons jinx is real. My logic was that Simmons simply caught on to the trend at the wrong time, that the real power in the unanimous picks was the fact that they were happening in Week 1, where unified opinions on teams are the product of circular groupthink as opposed to actual evaluation of play. But nope I was wrong. Simmons is out here jinxing up my picks. Surely his bad juju is to blame for my atrocious attempts against the spread. Just look what he did right before Thursday Night Football:
So blaming Simmons clears my conscious of three awful bets, what about the other two? Well, Derek Carr left for the Raiders sideline after bruising his hand while giving PacMan Jones a stiff arm, leading to the always hilarious and never welcome Matt McGloin lining up under center for Oakland. I know the Raiders got killed but you can’t stop me from believing that Derek Carr would’ve hit Amari Cooper for 2 touchdowns and 150 yards had he gone the whole 60 minutes. You can mock my beliefs, but you can’t take them from me.
And as for my Eagles pick, well that was just lazy homerism. I’m just a lowly Eagles fan betting like a square taking the team that everyone else is taking because it’s easier to zig with the crowd than zag against it. In that moment, I went against one of my most treasured of gambling principles: Always Zag.
But in reality I don’t blame anyone but myself for my garbage picks. Full disclosure, I did not work nearly as hard as I should’ve during the preseason or while writing my Week 1 column. I allowed three of my picks to be dictated by an outside force, and left the other two to be decided by the crazy fan voices in my head, which intermittently and alternatively scream “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!” and “AMARI YOU SO COOL” respectively. These are not the parts of your mind that act on logic, and definitely not the parts you want to have control of your hypothetical gambling wallet.
And so this week I have attempted to rededicate myself to the act of writing this gambling column. I have been out of the writing game for a bit, but this has always been my favorite thing to write: if there is any act of writing I want to commit myself fully to, it better be the Hypothetical SuperContest. With that in mind, let’s now watch as my picks once again take off with promise and see if this dingus embarrasses himself again. Here’s your Week 2 lines. Home team gets the asterisk.
Looks like a brutal week, which is usually a good sign for picks. Most often, the more you think you know the less you actually do. But to be fair after last week it probably makes sense that I wouldn’t know anything. Whatever. Let’s pick five football games.
Buccaneers (+10) over Saints*
So, after a reckless week of letting my fan out, this week we are getting back to the rules of Vegas. A professional bettor, known in common gambling parlance as a “sharp,” uses these rules to his or her advantage every week. Here at the Hypothetical SuperContest, we strive to be sharps. And one thing you’ll learn rather quickly if you read enough about sharps is that they will hardly ever lay ten points, no matter the circumstances. This is the NFL, these are all professional football players, and if a line hits double-digits, the numbers favor the underdog. If not betting the dog, a sharp will most likely stay away.
Here, despite how brutal the Bucs looked Week 1, we’re backing them. This is much more a bet on ten points than it is on Tampa Bay. Regardless of what eventually happens, ten is an inflated number, a preemptive reaction from Vegas to the overreaction they are sure will consume any bettor that watched football last Sunday. This is illustrated when viewing the Cantor Gaming lines that were released during the preseason. For the past few years Cantor has taken on the arduous task of listing every game of the regular season before it starts. Before seeing either team play Week 1, Cantor had the Bucs as 6.5-point underdogs to the Saints. You can learn a lot about a team in one week, but very rarely can you learn 3.5 points worth of information. What I’m getting at is that the Cantor lines can be wrong, but they usually aren’t that wrong.
Teams that lose as bad as the Bucs did have a tendency to cover the next week as the market over-adjusts. So this week we say “thank you very much” and take the points. Now, you may have noticed that in this whole description I never once mentioned Jameis Winston, for better or for worse. That’s because this is very much a “shut your eyes and bet” play. Take the points and don’t watch any of the game. Just trust that the Bucs will cover, even if it’s ugly. And, oh boy, can it get ugly.
Steelers* (-5.5) over Niners
A couple more classics from the gambling rulebook are in play here. One that’s very well advertised is the “West Coast team coming East” rule, which should explain itself. Jet lag, weird body clocks, an awful selection of in-flight movies; all of these things can get to a team that has to travel three hours into the future to play a football game. The Steelers also have had a few extra days to prepare, given that they played last Thursday night in the opening game of the season. Conversely, the Niners were the last team to record a victory in Week 1, participating in the second half of a Monday Night Football double-header. Even though it’s only Week 2, I’m a big believer that rest is an undervalued asset in professional football.
Our final tip towards the Steelers is that the line has since moved from 5.5 to 7. This indicates that a substantial amount of money has been wagered on Pittsburgh, so much so that Vegas had to move the line with hopes of people buying back on the Niners. You might be thinking to yourself, “But Tyler! Isn’t this a perfect example of that rule you explained earlier? If everyone is betting on the Steelers, shouldn’t you zag to San Fran?” While your reasoning would be sound to say that, it is a simply a difference in value that dictates this pick. Based on where the number has settled, I am presumably getting an extra 1.5 points in value. Always take extra value.
Patriots (-1) over Bills*
I almost overthought this one. Divisional game! Bills are home! Rex Ryan always plays the Patriots hard! He has a game plan to stifle Brady! Those are a lot of pro-Bills thoughts rattling around my brain. But when I shut the noise off everything became a lot simpler.
It’s Tom Brady and Gronk.
The freaking Buffalo Bills are going to stop Tom Brady and Gronk? I don’t think so. Tyrod Taylor is going to keep pace as a guy who only had two incompletions through three quarters last week? Unlikely. The Patriots are only one point favorites. Christmas comes but once a year. Don’t miss it because you were too busy circling the wagons.
Eagles* (-5.5) over Cowboys
Colts* (-7) over Jets
Am I being a homer again? Is this a flooring example of my own hypocrisy existing within one article? I don’t really think so. I grouped these games because there are similar stakes: Both the Birds and the Colts were expected to be good this year and stumbled out of the starting gate in Week 1. This week, they both come home 0-1 with something to prove. Their opponents are both what I would consider questionable at best. The Cowboys almost dropped a game at home on national television and totally would have had the Giants not made like eight straight mistakes including literally telling their running back not to score. The Jets looked impressive last week… against the Browns… as lead by Johnny Football. Also, as Bill Barnwell noted in his picks column, the Jets went 5/5 on recovered fumbles last week, a trend unlikely to continue.
If the Eagles are a real team, they take care of business at home against the Cowboys. Maybe when they play in Dallas it’ll be close but there are a lot of weird ways to cover 5.5 points and I think Philly figures one of them out. The same basic logic applies to the Colts.
Chance the Gambler: Week 2
Oh yeah! Chance the Gambler is back! While my picks put up a goose egg, Chance went a very respectable 3-2 on picks based on random numbers posted by Facebook friends of mine. Trust the process, I guess. This week, I decided to make my picks a little more Chance centric.
First, I made a playlist of 32 songs by Chance the Rapper, which included 10 Day and Acid Rap in their entirety as well as the songs he was most heavily featured on off of Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiement’s recent release Surf.
I then went to Facebook and made a simple request:
Although I cut us off at five, I want to report that this post eventually got to 11 different songs referenced as someone’s top Chance track without a repeat, which I feel is rather impressive.
Anyway, I then took note of those five songs and set my playlist to shuffle. Seeing as there are 32 songs on the playlist, each song will correspond to a pick in the contest depending on that song’s place on the shuffled playlist. I’d like to note that I had to go through the playlist a second time in order to find a pick for “Lost” after four songs hit shuffle in a row: 18, 19, 20, 21, with 20 being the only number unplayable. If that doesn’t make sense, no worries: just know I put effort into the logic of my Chance. These are the results:
Saints* (-10) over Buccaneers – U Got Me Fucked Up
Chargers (+3) over Bengals* – Pusha Man
Rams (-3.5) over Redskins* – Favorite Song
Giants* (-2.5) over Falcons – Juice
Raiders* (+5.5) over Ravens – Lost
And there we have it. Week 2 picks. Let’s hope things go better than last week. They surely can’t get any worse.
My Picks Last Week: 0-5 /// My Picks Overall: 0-5
Chance Picks Last Week: 3-2 /// Chance Picks Overall: 3-2