I’ll preface this by saying I’m not really breaking new ground here.
Other day Louis was talking to me about the idea of creating a gambling program where someone could be exposed to an extrememly high number of past games with spread knowledge in a short amount of time to make them a better sport gambler. Something akin to the idea that you become a better poker player by playing lots of hands, so internet people have an advantage because they play so many in so rapid an amount of time.
I think there is a little bit of merit in this, but limited. First of all we will throw out the idea for the moment that such a program could be created in the foreseeable future. You would need some Matrix-like thing going on where the person uploads game data into their brains at a rapid rate. But if such a program existed, the question arises, would it have the results Lou thinks it would. And to an extent I think the answer is yes.
The main problem is that Vegas essentially already has something like Lou’s hypothetical idea with those simulations they run in computers. That, after all, is often how the spread is figured, they are running advanced machines to find out what the difference in a game is likely to be. I cannot decide if Louis’ idea should be described as being (A) different from or (B) being more finely tuned than these simulations. The idea is different from the simulations in that he wants to figure out future score totals in relation to the spread instead of creating a spread itself, but at the same time, is that not just saying that he wants an outrageously accurate score indicator? In either case, the task is tough.
But Lou does have one obvious advantage, and that is that Vegas has a set of handcuffs on it, namely, the betting public. If the public thinks one way strong enough, Vegas is going to often yield to that in making a line. This is evident in setting the line itself, and in subsequent adjustments. Teams like the Lakers and Cowboys will routinely get more respect in regards to the line simply because the bookies know where the action is going to go. I was on a site the other day that noted that the Lakers over the last 10 years weren’t even close to breaking even against the spread, even though, they’ve obviously been very successful. As mentioned, the public’s influence will also transfer to line adjustments. A recent example of this was the Packers/Cards Wild Card game this year where the line opened at Cards -2.5. By kickoff of that game 80% of the betting public (Allen “three Benjamins” Gowin) was on the Packers, and the line had to be moved to Packers -2.5.
And it is here where Louis’ slim hopes lie at getting rich off his Matrix program. If Vegas strictly set spreads without the betting public in mind, Louis’ plan could not work for him, as they would be using the most in-tuned sports minds and up-to-the-minute programs and data to set the spreads. It is in Vegas’ act of covering its own ass that salvation lies for the merit in Louis’ idea, when the sports public forces Vegas to at times make a road team a favorite against a defending conference champion.
As a brief note at the end, this could encourage a group to take a game, throw a ton of money on one side to pop the line in a certain direction, and then once the line moves a decent amount, throw an absolute shit ton of money on the other side.
So let’s all relive a recent situation I found myself in. In my big pay league, there is a 100 dollar entry fee. The prize breakdown is 400 given to the team that finishes first during the regular season, 100 given to the team that finishes second in the playoffs, and a cool half grand given to the first place playoff team.
Going into the final week, me and another kid were the only ones who could win the regular season. By the end of the night Sunday, things were pretty close, but did not look good for me. I was leading the kid I was playing by a bit but he had Rodgers and Driver going Monday night and I only had McGahee. In the other match-up, it was a similar story, as the kid I needed to lose was only down by a few points and had Ray Rice, Flacco going. The kid he was playing had the Packer D.
At that point, Lou reviewed my predicament and said something along the lines of, “you know, I bet he would still take a chop at this point if you offered it.” I thought it over Sunday night and Monday morning decided to test the waters. I sent him a message telling him to contact me if he was interested in “some sort of chop.” At this exact moment, I now have CHOP KARMA in my favor. I know that this kid is going to get the message, and if he either ignores it, or refuses, chop karma swings dramatically in my favor. This is especially the case given the fact that he was odds-on to take the title down.
Our villain, though, is a crafty one. Apparently realizing the full implications of such a decision, he almost immediately contacts me noting his desire to work out a chop. I proposed two primary chops. 250-150 or 300-100, the winner of the reg season getting more money. I personally preferred the 300-100, but he pushed for the 250-150. Now, if I had been a prick and insisted on 300-100, chop karma would have swung 180 degrees away from the direction it had been a short while ago and slammed directly in my opponent’s favor, with him easily winning the title. Knowing this, I of course had to accept the 250-150 proposal or I would have lost in a crushing defeat. Accepting the 250-150 chop was the only chance I had that the football players I had never met on my team would score more points than the football players I had never met on my opponent’s team.
And so it came to pass. Flacco threw three interceptions (obviously all to the Packer D), and I wound up winning the regular season by four points. I hated to do this to Flacco, but I’m pretty poor at the moment and needed some money.
Arizona @ San Fran (under 44.5)
When it comes to over/unders I am a proponent of looking at what type of game style the home team likes to get involved in, and while the 49ers can get frisky with the Smith-Davis combo, I think in his heart, Singletary is a low-scoring, defensive minded type of guy.
Buffalo @ Kansas City (over 37.5)
Two weak defenses and a couple of offenses with a ton of guys who have something to prove. I definitely like the over here.
Green Bay (-3) @ Chicago
The problem with this line is that the Pack are like -125 or something. Felt obliged to throw a third pick in, let’s see if I can come across something better in the next couple days.
1-2 last week, would have been 2-2 or better had I listened to myself and those around me on New England and Detroit. That, friends is progress. First some news & notes around the league:
In the good coaching column:
Jim Schwartz – Detroit Lions
We’ve got to get to the point where a Week 3 win isn’t celebrated like a playoff win. We’re a 1-2 football team. Nothing more. We need to get this win behind us and get ready to play a great game every week. We need to expect to win every week, not just hope to win. Hope is not a good strategy.
Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers
“I don’t have a doghouse,” Tomlin said. “A doghouse is something you have when you let things stew and don’t take action. He lacked a little detail in preparation last week … Young guys have to earn their opportunities. They have to make coaches confident with their ability to execute details of their assignments. He didn’t do that to my satisfaction last week and didn’t get any playing time on offense as a result. I took action, but I don’t take any baggage into this week.”
Jeff Fisher – Tennessee Titans
Fisher’s steady demeanor serves the Titans well and he’s probably as well equipped to hold an 0-3 team together as anyone. But he’s a big piece of why the team is there.
A hands-on special teams coach who was a punt returner himself, his plan for the return games after the Titans lost Chris Carr in free agency have proved completely insufficient. Kick returns are down from first to 29th, punt returns from 14th to 26th.
And the bad…
Jim Mora – Seattle Seahawks
Easterbrook makes a great point. When you’re throwing your kicker under the bus in week 3, chances are you’re not having a good season.
Chicago leading 25-19, Seattle reached third-and 2 on the Bears’ 29 with 33 seconds remaining, out of timeouts. The Green Men Group threw super short on third down and then super short on fourth down, both incomplete, game over. Both calls were super-short routes intended to pick up a first down. But look at the scoreboard clock. What about the end zone? To top it off, a busted defensive assignment on the third-and-2 left tailback Julius Jones split wide covered only by linebacker Lance Briggs, no safety in sight — a perfect opportunity for a go route by Jones. But Seattle quarterback Seneca Wallace never even look Jones’ way; and maybe Briggs was out on Jones because Chicago correctly guessed a super-short attempt was coming and crowded the middle. After coaches called ultraconservative passes when a deep strike was needed, coach Mora the Younger had the temerity to blame the loss on kicker Olindo Mare, who missed two field goal attempts, while hitting four. Since NFL place-kickers average about 85 percent success, Mare would have been expected to make five of six, which still would have left the Seahawks trailing when the double-whistle sounded.
Eric Mangini – Cleveland Browns
Benching a quarterback — like Mangini did Sunday with Brady Quinn — sends a message to the entire team that Quinn isn’t the right option. He has shown that he can’t put points on the scoreboard in this offense, and his failure to generate big plays down the field in the passing game were enough for Mangini to give him the hook.
But as a coach, the locker room expects you to stick with your decision because once you start playing musical chairs with the quarterbacks, the season is gone from the players’ perspective. Mangini must show this team that the decision he made was done for the right reasons, and by giving Quinn the rest of the day off on Sunday, he was telling his players that a lack of production will send you to the bench. Even though Derek Anderson wasn’t productive when he came into the ballgame, Mangini has to show confidence in him by providing an entire week of practice with the first unit and allow this team to rally around him — because you just can’t go back to Quinn after sitting him down.
Over/Under 16 games as head coach for Mangini???
Lastly, I want to focus on this:
Yesterday in the NFL, there was a clear gap between teams — the Bucs, Rams, Chiefs and Browns have no chance to win at all — and what’s disconcerting is that those teams are a long way from being competitive. Is the NFL becoming like baseball? To me, there are 10 good teams, 10 average teams, eight bad teams and four teams with no chance.
For the record, Carolina’s been as bad as the four teams listed so far this season as well. I’ve been doing a lot of betting on the teams listed above on the idea that the talent difference between two pro teams is usually not vast enough to justify double digit spreads, especially for a home team. Clearly, that’s not the case and it’s time to start treating these more like college games.
Baltimore @ New England -2
New York Giants -9 @ Kansas City
Cincinnati -4.5 @ Cleveland
San Diego +6 @ Pittsburgh
Already bet Cincinnati as their line has already moved all the way to 5.5 or 6.
Some relevant Sunday reading from Malcolm Gladwell.
Most people are inclined to use moral terms to describe overconfidence—terms like “arrogance” or “hubris.” But psychologists tend to regard overconfidence as a state as much as a trait. The British at Gallipoli were victims of a situation that promoted overconfidence. Langer didn’t say that it was only arrogant gamblers who upped their bets in the presence of the schnook. She argues that this is what competition does to all of us; because ability makes a difference in competitions of skill, we make the mistake of thinking that it must also make a difference in competitions of pure chance. Other studies have reached similar conclusions. As novices, we don’t trust our judgment. Then we have some success, and begin to feel a little surer of ourselves. Finally, we get to the top of our game and succumb to the trap of thinking that there’s nothing we can’t master. As we get older and more experienced, we overestimate the accuracy of our judgments, especially when the task before us is difficult and when we’re involved with something of great personal importance.