Wrapping up NFL Week 1: Guessing in the Dark

As I say every year, picking games in week 1 is tough.  Honestly, it’s tough all year, but particularly early in the season when you have no idea what all the roster changes are going to do and little data to support any particular guesses.  But I go ahead and try anyway, because you can probably count on some carry-over from last season, right?  Here’s a quick rundown of the week 1 picks.

I’ll add my usual disclaimer: these picks in particular are not meant to be against the spread or anything special.  They only look for a winner.  But, in the interest of keeping things interesting, we can pretend that a pick for a winner is also a pick to cover, since those go hand in hand fairly often.  It also lets me start my annual rivalry with Bill Simmons, whose picks are here (along with a very programmatic, well-thought-out gambling guide with little subjectivity).  Below is a table with the game, Bill’s line, who covered, if I was right, and if Bill was right.  I used a 50% cutoff for picking my winner, which might not be optimal but just feels right.

Game Line Cover Correct? Simmons correct?
Sea-GB -6 Sea 1 1
Atl-NO 3 Atl 0 0
StL-Minn -3.5 Minn 0 1
Pitt-Cle -7 Cle 0 1
Phi-Jax -10.5 Jax 1 0
Jets-Oak -6 Oak 0 1
Bal-Cin -1 Cin 0 1
Chi-Buf -7 Buf 0 0
Hou-Was -3 Hou 1 1
KC-Tenn -3.5 Tenn 0 1
Mia-NE 4.5 Mia 1 0
TB-Car -3 Car 1 0
Dal-SF 4.5 SF 0 1
Den-Ind -8 Ind 0 0
Det-Giants -6 Det 1 0
Ari-SD -3 SD 0 1

As you can see, there’s a reason these picks aren’t meant to be used against the spread.  The model tends to slant relatively strongly towards home teams, which means it’s bad news when 6 away teams win before you even get to Monday night.  On top of that there were two overtime games already, suggesting some toss-up results.  But overall the model was 10-6 on picking winners, as it’s meant to do, and 6-10 picking against the spread.  Simmons was 9-7, so the battle is well and truly met.

Looking at the Hilton SuperContest picks I made, the same caveats as above apply: not meant for spreads, but the SuperContest runs all year.  I aimed for what I thought were the games with the biggest differences between the line and the win probabilities and ended up with home ‘dogs Dallas and Miami (1-1), road ‘dog that could have been favorite Carolina (1-0, even with the added degree of difficulty of Newton missing the game, which ended up swinging the line by a full touchdown according to SBR), and road ‘dogs but not quite that doggy Oakland and Buffalo (2-0 thanks to a garbage time Raiders TD and the overtime upset).  Overall my SuperContest record is 4-1, which I’m more than happy about.

I’ve got a couple days now to see how I need to alter my data gathering script this year and get the models up and running for week 2.  See you Thursday!

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