Football is back. Can you believe it? Last night, sitting in my favorite bar with two of my favorite people, I got to yell “WIDE LEFT” drunkenly at a muted television screen just before Graham Gano made contact with the football and turned my words into reality and an 0-1 start to the season for the Carolina Panthers.
I felt alive.
And now that football is back, so is the Hypothetical SuperContest. It’s our fourth year here! We’ve had our ups, our downs and probably a few to many references to Jon Gruden. For those that have been here from the jump (Hi Rory! Hi Dad!): thanks so much for supporting my degenerate dreams. For those new to this space, welcome to my gambling nightmare.
Well, it’s not necessarily a nightmare. Not every week at least.
If you’re new here, a few years back I put together a little Q&A session with myself explaining what exactly gambling is and what we’re doing here. If you already know the deal, you can skip ahead to the picks, but if you need a refresher, here ya go:
What is the SuperContest?
What a great question to start with! Every year, the LVH Hotel and Casino hosts the SuperContest, advertising it as “The World’s Ultimate Pro Football Handicapping Contest.” The LVH publishes spreads for each week’s football games. Contestants then pick their best five bets each week. Those who post the best records in their picks against the spread over the course of the season win a share of the prize pool (last year the winner took home $736,575).
What makes this particular SuperContest “hypothetical”?
In order to enter the actual SuperContest, you have to pay $1,500, which is approximately $2,000 more than I have to spare at this particular juncture of my life. So instead of actually entering the SuperContest, I write a blog about it, in which I pretend to be a part of the competition and track the results of my picks.
So this is all pretend? You can’t make any money. Why do you do this?
Because I love to gamble, and I love to think about gambling. Because I don’t have American currency to gamble with, I must risk something much more valuable: my credibility. Any idiot can pick five games against the spread and go 0-5, losing a ton of money while hiding his shameful decision making skills from everyone he knows. But it takes a special kind of idiot to tell the entirety of the Internet, “THESE ARE MY PICKS, AND I THINK THEY ARE GOOD.”
I am that special kind of idiot.
Why should I trust your opinion on gambling on football?
Totally valid question. Last year I finished a disappointing 40-45 ATS, but in 2013 I picked my way to a record of 46-37-2, which is pretty good. So I have proven in the past that I am not completely awful at this. Just saying.
With that said, you can totally not trust my opinion on football. I get it. I hardly trust myself half the time. And I rely a lot on .gifs to select my teams.
Fair enough. Do you have any specific goals for this project?
Sort of. The dream is to pick so well that I would have been in the money of the actual SuperContest, where the top 30 get paid. But the main goal is to make pretty good picks and entertain you. I try to go at least 3-2 every week, maybe have some 5-0 magic sprinkled in there, and pray to the gambling gods that I avoid the 0-5 week.
But this is really just about fun and giving me an excuse to keep track of my picks.
Cool idea, man. I am really going to enjoy reading your Hypothetical SuperContest column this year.
Thanks, man! I like to think that you will too.
And that’s that! Simple enough! Five picks a week, try and do better than other people. Pray that you never go 0-5 and maybe go 5-0. With that out of the way, let’s get to this week’s card. FOOTBALL BACK BABY.
So this is a list of the “spreads” of each game this week, as set by the LVH SuperContest. For the uninitiated, the spread is a nifty tool invented by God so that degenerates like me could gamble on every football game under the sun. We can use last night’s Panthers-Broncos game as an explanatory tool.
Common thinking going into the game last night was that the Panthers were looking for revenge after a brutal Super Bowl loss and that the Broncos were starting some guy named Simon or something against Superman himself, Cam Freakin’ Newton.
With this knowledge, if I were to bet on who would win this game, I would want to bet on the Panthers. Unfortunately, I would have a hard time finding someone that wanted to bet on the Broncos to win. Thus, the spread was invented. Last night, the Panthers were listed as favorites at -3. This means that a bet on the Panthers only cashes if they won by more than 3 points. Conversely, a bet on Denver would cash if they won outright but would also hit if they lost by less points three points. If you are a fan of either team, last night you were sweating out Graham Gano’s aforementioned miss to decide the game. But Bronco bettors (like me!) who were getting three points were sitting pretty knowing that they would cash their bet either way.
Get it? Got it? Good.
On to the picks!
Patriots (+6) over Cardinals*
This one feels like a no-brainer if you cut through all the noise and ask yourself one simple question: How often do you get to bet on Bill Belichick as a six-point underdog? Sure, they’re against a Cardinals team that went 13-3 last year and earned a reputation as one of the toughest teams to take on their turf in recent years. And yeah, Tom Brady is out. But, like, six points! Garoppolo is just as handsome as Brady, and he can probably throw the ball pretty good too. My only concern about this game is that Belichick will stop caring about it midway through the third and save his team’s energy for games that matter a bit more. But I don’t see that happening. Belichick has vengeance in his heart; he’s not going to roll over to some dude in a 1920 newsies hat.
Titans* (+1.5) over Vikings
The Vikings are in “season from hell” mode. They were a hot pick in Vegas preseason, getting slammed on their season win total over as well as some futures. Without Touchdown Teddy under center, I just think this season doesn’t get going for them. Plus I like the Titans! And more than anything, I love home dogs.
Packers (-5.5) over Jaguars*
This is a sucker bet, but it’s Week 1, and I’m allowed to be a sucker. The Jaguars are home dogs, improved in the off-season, and are up against one of the most popular public teams in the country. Everyone and their mother is going to be putting money on the Packers this week thinking it’s an easy win — betting against the Jaguars has been a favorite pastime of casual bettors for years now. Gambling wise, I am on the side of the idiots, and I don’t enjoy that.
But I will be watching the early games with a friend at a Packer bar this week, and I will be damned if I roll into a bar and aren’t actively supporting the home team. I believe in smart betting, zigging where others zag, taking the contrarian play, sure, but more importantly I believe in energy and the Gods of gambling. I want to be a part of Packer energy, and I am putting my trust in the fates that I will be rewarded for this action.
Raiders (+1.5) over Saints
If you’ve been reading this column for a while (this is our fourth year hypothetically gambling!) you know that in my time writing this column, I have loved the Seattle Seahawks and of course, the one and only RUSSELL HUSTLE BUSTLE WILSON. They brought me light in the darkness of unfathomably brutal weeks, and it was their walloping of the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl that gave me the greatest gambling night of my life. All of this makes what’s to come ever harder to say…
Baby, *leans in close* baby… it’s over. I found a new love.
His name is Derek Carr.
I’ve loved Derek Carr and the Raiders since he was drafted; it was the natural progression from my love of David Carr and little brother narratives (little brother always better because he’s been trying to beat his older brother for his entire life). Add in Khalil Mack being the most exciting defensive player in the league (oh yeah, I guess I’m breaking up with JJ Watt too here) as well as Amari Cooper, and, well, look at me, I bought a Raiders hat.
Eagles* (-4) over Browns
I’m a homer. The Eagles are my team, and Carson Wentz is the future of the franchise. Do you know how perfect he is? Have you seen his Twitter account? When he was in college he was just a kid tweeting about his dog and getting ice cream with his Pops. When he was in high school, he and his boys were making “Haters Will Say It Was Fake” videos. Look at this face:
Now, with all that said, I was very much in the camp of letting Wentz sit his first year, but the opportunity came to trade Sam Bradford for wayyyyyyyyyyy more than the Birds had any business asking for and well this is the reality we exist in now. I want Wentz to succeed. I want him to be my quarterback for the next decade. I want this to be the start of something. And it’s going to be hard to believe that the Wentz era will bode well for the Eagles if it starts off as a home loss to the Browns.
My war with FiveThirtyEight
Last year I would make five random picks through different methods every week so I could compare my pick performance to that of random chance. It was…an okay time. We ended up basically tied I think, let’s not talk about it.
ANYWAY, this year I’ve set my sites on a new enemy: FiveThirtyEight. Those smug number-crunching bores have had it too easy for too long. You want MATH to make your picks for you? No thanks, I’ll take grit and gumption over geometry any day. What’s that? You say, “It’s not geometry, it’s more of an algorithm”? Well, Fuck You: that’s what I say.
In order to pit myself against these cheeky dorks, I will be looking at their ELO Point Spreads every week. Basically, FiveThirtyEight uses “math” to make up what they think the line should be for each game. Following that thinking, the bigger the difference between FiveThirtyEight’s line and the line set by Vegas, the better they’d like the bet. If FiveThirtyEight has the Giants as seven point favorites and Vegas has them at -2, that’s a solid bet.
So, with that explanation, here are their dumb smartypants picks for Week 1:
Denver (+3) over Panthers — (538 had Denver -2.5, making a 5.5 difference, SEE I CAN DO MATH TOO, you get the idea)
Jets* (+2.5) over Bengals
Vikings (-1.5) over Titans*
Chiefs* (-6.5) over Chargers
Niners* (+2.5) over Rams
That’s the bit! That’s the thing! That, my friends, is the Hypothetical SuperContest. It feels good to be back.