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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 6, 2009 2:35 PM. The previous post in this blog was Venn Diagram of the Week. The next post in this blog is He's seen enough. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Last call for decent 'dogs

I struck out last weekend in the pro football underdog pool in which I play. Not seeing any game that looked particularly good, I went with Minnesota over Philadelphia, which was a grave mistake. The Vikings, badly outmatched talent-wise and coached without a hint of any imagination, thought they could win their game by jumping up and down and gesticulating wildly before and after every play. Their special teams couldn't stop a decent college return squad. They bombed, even though the Eagles didn't look so hot, either.

I wasn't optimistic when Sunday rolled around, because both underdogs had won the day before. When both playoff 'dogs win on Saturday, the two favorites will prevail on Sunday.

And so it's on to the second week of the playoffs, where the winners of the wild card games are the 'dogs, and they're all on the road. This is pretty much where the season-long pool is going to be decided, and so I need your help. Which of these underdogs (in caps) can win its game outright, without the help of the point spreads?

9.5 ARIZONA at Carolina
6 SAN DIEGO at Pittsburgh
4.5 PHILADELPHIA at NY Giants
3 BALTIMORE at Tennesssee

If I pick a correct dog, I win the number of points next to that game.

I am currently in third place, 4 points out of second place and 5½ out of first. The nearest guy behind me is 9½ behind, and so we're still battling. Next week, the last week of the pool, there will be only two games, probably not so great a point spread on either, and a good chance of tying with one's competitors, and so this week is really crucial. Which 'dog can do it? Offhand, I'm thinking the Ravens or the Chargers, but I'm open to suggestion. The Ravens are my safest pick, but I'm probably conceding first and second place by doing so. One of the first two picks could conceivably win me the top prize.

Help me out with some sage advice in the comments below. And take the poll:

Which pro football underdog is most likely to win its playoff game outright this weekend?
Arizona over Carolina
San Diego over Pittsburgh
Philadelphia over New York
Baltimore over Tennessee
  
pollcode.com free polls

Comments (20)

I'm about 60-40 on taking San Diego over Baltimore. San Diego is just playing good ball right now. I actually think it's a GOOD thing that LT is out, as his production has really declined, and Sproules is just damn tough to tackle these days. I've never been a big fan of the Steelers offense, and I think the Chargers can handle them. Baltimore is playing really tough these days, and I think will probably beat Tennessee. Ravens are the safe pick, Chargers the aggressive pick that might get you more points.

I'd say gamble on the old arena football QB who went from stocking grocery shelves to the MVP of the NFL. Take Phoenix over Carolina. I know you hate the Ducks so at least it's a chance to root against J. Stewart.
Oh, and the Eagles "didn't look so hot"? They shut out the Vikings in the second half while holding Adrian Peterson to 17 yards. I thought the Eagles looked epic late in that game, and I'd recommend them too.
Yes, the Giants are going to be rested and ready to run, but their deep threat came down with a bad case of lead poisoning and I like the Eagles to get to Manning.
The numbers for teams winning after the week off in the playoffs are substantial, partly because they're rested and partly because they earned the spot by being better. You're facing some long odds here.
One question about the Eagles coach Andy Reid: Has anyone ever done a better Chris Farley impression?

Bill, bet with your head, not with your heart. The Viking D blew, and its punt return defense was laughable. It's going to be a little different outdoors in Jimmy Hoffa Memorial Park.

The Cards stopped Turner, and without him having a good day, Atlanta couldn't get over the hump. If they stop the run again, Arizona has a shot, but they haven't had two good weeks in a row in a lo-o-o-o-ong time.

BTW, our readers picked the Cards as the most likely winner last week. I should have listened.

You're right but remember, I was the one who recommended taking the Oakland Raiders to beat Tampa at home the last week of the regular season, and that was definitely from the heart.
The Eagles should lose in a rational light, but they are playing some heroic football. Ask Dallas.
My main concern is that Andy Reid is one Philly steak sandwich away from a heart attack.

I hadn't gotten a good look at the Eagles coach until Sunday. He looked like a red-meat-eating a*s-kicker who knew football. In contrast, the Minnesota coach looked like Mr. Whipple squeezing the Charmin. I knew right then I was screwed.

Andy Reid is bigger than life - a true football character devoted to the game to the detriment of his health and family. Not only is he a walking heart attack who gets winded in the post-game interview, but he currently has 2 sons in prison.
Still, he's a great coach and the year turned around after he showed Donovan McNabb that nobody is too big to be benched. We need more of that.
He's actually old friends with Mr. Whipple of the Vikings going back to carpooling in their first obscure college coaching jobs.
I'd still take the Vikings coach over Ohio State's. It's not easy to look tough when your coach is Orville Redenbacher.

I was going to say almost exactly what Dave J did, so -- what he said.

Chargers. They always play Pitt tough, just as they always play Indy tough.

Baltimore will likely win as well, but that only gives you 3 points.

I'm having my nephew place a couple bets for me in Reno on the Eagles and the Ravens this weekend. Philly looked awesome against the Vikings; and the Ravens defense led by Ray Lewis is simply one of the best anywhere.

Chargers and Cardinals, money in the bank.

Now's the time to start thinking position strategy.

You're right that this is the crucial week. There will only be two games next week, so it's rather unlikely you'll gain or lose ground then versus any single competitor. That's why picking Baltimore this week would be absolutely boneheaded - you're guaranteeing that you'll have to pick two straight dogs in a row that 1st or 2nd didn't also pick to gain a position. That's a very poor proposition.

Baltimore only helps with insurance for holding onto 3rd, but you'd accomplish the same thing by picking 'Zona this week. It would guarantee that 4th place would need a Chargers + The dog you don't pick next week combo to win, and that assumes there will be two 4 point dogs on the table, as otherwise you can shut them out by picking the one that is. Hence, Arizona is better defensively (and obviously better offensively), and we can cross Baltimore off of your list. All this is not to mention that 1st place should definitely be picking Baltimore or the Eagles this week (hoping to pick what second place picks or scare him/her into taking a longshot so as to not duplicate) so you might not gain the close to meaningless ground anyway.

(Btw, A 1st/2nd/3rd money breakdown would help in terms of calculating your expected value. I'll wait to make my suggestion for that info, as this post is getting long anyway).

Questions?

Btw, on a more basic level if 4th place is just going straightforwardly, you would expect an Arizona pick with him being exactly 9.5 back and the chances of him making that up with two dogs you don't pick being unlikely. If that is the case, you picking zona would essentially lock up your position in the money. I guess it's possible AZ could be double-digit dogs @NYG even after beating Carolina (even if they are, they'll likely be your most +EV pick then), but I doubt it and SD definitely wouldn't be against BAL/TEN.

But the chances of him/her hitting AZ and your SD/PHI dog missing are around 10-15%, so you definitely don't have to go for that block even if you think an AZ pick is likely.

Confused yet? I'll be back later this week for more analysis.

1st: $325
2nd: $100
3rd: $60
4th: $35

Having three of us mathematically in the running for the top spot makes it interesting. Neither the current 1st or 2d place pickers can play it too safe.

Another thing to think about is that the guy currently in 4th has people breathing down his back. There are players 2, 3½ (two at that score), and 11 behind him. Hard to tell whether he'd go after me in 3rd rather than protect his 4th money.

uh oh. looks like San Diego lost its best running back (LaDanian Thompson).

He's been pretty much MIA for a while. Sproles is a worthy replacement.

Besides, I hear LT is going to play.

That's a nice top-heavy price system. I didn't have time to run a spreadsheet for possibilities, but it's clear that you should be focusing on winning the whole thing (+$265) rather than dropping a place (-$25) which is unlikely anyway. To that end, I strongly recommend giving yourself a chance to take the lead outright this week rather than depending on hitting two straight that they don't pick.

Vegas has the odds as following:
Philly: 34.2% (for the tie if neither picks them)
San Diego: 28.7%
Arizona: 20.2%

Again, I haven't had time to write a program that computes this, but I'd guess the extra 8.5% you get from San Diego is worth the 3.5 points of lead cushion you give up. An argument for Arizona would be that it's probably less likely to be duplicated by 1st or 2nd.

Cliffnotes: AZ and the Chargers are by far your best choices, and I like the Bolts.


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