The first week of NFL predictions is in the books, so now we get to see how the models did. Sprinkled throughout will be a few observations about some of the games.
I traditionally start with the total point picks to get the worst news out of the way early. Luigi was 5-10-1 against the over/under, with San Fran and Detroit hitting 46 right on the head. Yoshi 1 was 8-7-1, and Yoshi 2 was 5-10-1. Yoshi 2 looks like he’s going to be a slightly regressed-to-the-mean Luigi, so we’ll see if he ever produces anything substantively different. At least this week, lots of regressing (a la Yoshi 1) was the better play.
Speaking of the Lions, they looked very passive on Sunday night. Granted they were playing the 49ers, who look pretty good, but they have Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson; last year they had the most lopsided pass-run ratio of any NFL team at 2 to 1. On Sunday they ran 34 passes (32 attempts and 2 sacks) against 26 runs, or a 1.3:1 ratio. I appreciate that they wanted to run the ball to keep the 49ers defense honest, and it probably helped to keep the final score in check since they had the ball longer than they usually would have, but I figured they would start airing it out in the second half and it never really happened. Some more aggressive play calling might have made for a more interesting game, which was mostly close on the scoreboard but never felt that way.
Next we have the winners. As it turned out, the home team won every game except for two this past weekend: Jacksonville and New England (possibly the last time we use those two teams in the same sentence this year). Luigi only picked 5 correct winners this week while Yoshi 2 picked 7 and Yoshi 1 picked 9. A slightly more interesting view is to pick winners against the moneyline; taking some underdogs is worthwhile when they come through, and you don’t pick some games at all. Luigi had an opinion on 15 games but only got 3 correct (Miami, Carolina, and San Diego). Yoshi 2 also picked 15 games and got Miami and Carolina but also had the Rams and the Cardinals. Hitting the Cardinals alone was enough to counter five wrong picks. Yoshi 1 picked every game and went 6-10 to actually come out ahead. He hit Seattle, St. Louis, Carolina, Arizona, Miami, and Indianapolis. This is what Luigi did in the past when things went the right way; when an underdog comes through you get a good return. When San Diego came through, you get $35 for risking $100.
The Cardinals beating the Patriots was probably the most surprising game of the weekend. The Pats were two touchdown favorites and -800 on the moneyline, suggesting they should win nearly 90% of the time. And they probably should have won on Sunday, playing it safe and then shanking a late game-winning field goal. But they didn’t, and either way the Cardinals hung tough. Having now beaten the Seahawks (who clobbered Dallas) and the Patriots, Arizona might have something going. We’ll get more info when they play the Eagles next week.
Also speaking of the Eagles, TMQ mentioned a play of theirs in terms of a replacement official mistake. In the original play, Vick was ruled to have fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Ravens. After a review, the play was changed to an incomplete pass. TMQ contends though that the play should have drawn an intentional grounding penalty since no one was in the vicinity of the pass and Vick was both in the pocket and in the process of being tackled. However, as far as I know, this simply can’t happen. There are two reasons: number 1, the play was called a fumble and so no grounding was called originally; combine this with the idea that referees can’t call penalties based on a review except for things like too many men on the field, illegal touching of a pass, or illegal passes due to the line of scrimmage or change of possession. Number 2, intentional grounding is a judgment call (was the QB out of the tackle box? Was a receiver “in the area”?), and so can’t be affected by a review. (Here‘s the NFL rulebook). Intentional grounding is a judgment call, so it shouldn’t be subject to review, and penalties can’t be created from a review unless they’re the subject of the review (like challenging because the defense had 12 men on the field). The Eagles can challenge that a pass was thrown, but that doesn’t give the referees the option to say anything else about the pass per se.
Ok, back to the picks. Now we’re on to the spread. There were two pushes over the weekend; Cleveland kept it at 7 against the Bengals (they kicked a field goal from the 8 with 20 seconds left instead of going for the smarter and line-covering touchdown) and the Eagles managed to beat the Ravens by 1 after being behind for most of the game. Luigi was thus 6-8-2 in all games, but would have advised you to stay away from the Rams game that it ended up being right about. So in ‘pickable’ games, Luigi was 5-8-2. Yoshi 2 was also 6-8-2 overall but 5-7-2 in pickable games (skipping the Rams and Patriots), and Yoshi 1 was 8-6-2 overall and 8-5-1 in pickable games (he would have skipped the Eagles and Chargers, where he leaned towards SD not covering). Things are definitely looking up for Yoshi 1 so far.
Speaking of the Chargers, Luigi has them ranked as the best team in the league in my extremely early power rankings. Could that be because they’ve played Oakland and Tennessee so far? Yes. Thus we wait a little bit for things to settle down before going to the power rankings.
On to my continuing death match with Bill Simmons. It was actually an uninteresting week as far as that goes because his picks agreed with the models so much. Against Bill’s lines Luigi was 6-8-2, the same record as before although with a couple slightly different picks. Yoshi 2 was the same, as he made all the same picks as Luigi. Yoshi 1 went 8-6-2. And Bill also went 8-6-2, going the right way on the 49ers and Seahawks, the only games where he disagreed with Luigi. So we’ll say that Bill takes this round, but obviously it’s early. If memory serves, he likes to fall apart at the end of the season.
Finally we have the SuperContest. Luigi and Yoshi 2 took the Bears, Jets, Browns, Bucs, and Ravens for a record of 2-2-1 (the Hilton lines gave the Bucs +7.5 and the Ravens +2.5). Yoshi 1 took the Jags, Panthers, Dolphins, Chiefs, and Cardinals for a record of 3-2. Not great starts, which is a shame because you really need to get 4 correct most weeks to make it to the money. Assuming that I went with Luigi and my week 1 model picks, I’d have a record of 5-4-1 now for 5.5 points (I think I had a typo in a previous post; it’s 1 point for winners and .5 points for pushes). Considering that of course some people went 5-0 last week, I have a lot of ground to make up.