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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Barking up the wrong tree

It was a pretty dull weekend in the pro football underdog pool in which I play. There were three winning 'dogs (Denver, Miami, and Jacksonville), but none of them earned more than 3 points, which means that a high roller like myself wasn't on them. Surprisingly, however, the guy who's leading the pool had the Jags, which means that he's a perfect 4-for-4 on the season, with a commanding 25 points. Gulp! I'm still at zero, as my wild shot in the dark, the Oakland Raiders, got seriously punked.

The slate of games for this weekend has just come out, and it's time to start cogitating about underdog teams (in caps below) who might win their respective games outright, without the benefit of the point spread. The points are relevant only in that that's how many I'll earn for the week if I pick a winner. The player with the most points at the end of the season wins dough -- actually, the top five finishers in the pool do. It's time to get serious, people. I think there are going be four or five upsets this weekend. What do you think?

16 OAKLAND at NY Giants
15 TAMPA BAY at Philadelphia
10.5 DETROIT vs. Pittsburgh
9.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Minnesota
9 KANSAS CITY vs. Dallas
9 CINCINNATI at Baltimore
6 CLEVELAND at Buffalo
5.5 HOUSTON at Arizona
4.5 TENNESSEE vs. Indianapolis
4 WASHINGTON at Carolina
3.5 DENVER vs. New England
2.5 ATLANTA at San Francisco
1.5 MIAMI vs. NY Jets

Comments (44)

I like Cleveland as the best combination of "reasonable shot" and "reasonable number of points to be won." Buffalo has played horribly, Cleveland looked shockingly competent against the Bengals, and you're down 25 points entering Week 5 of the season. Translation: it's time to go for the gusto.

Hmmm... off the top of my head... KC and Cleveland look pretty juicy. Washington looks very doable, but only 4 points.

I'll return later this week with my SLAM DUNK pick. I think I'm 1 for 2 on those, meh.

I thought the Steelers looked pretty shaky toward the end last weekend.

I can't remember a year where there's been so many "no way" picks.
My two last week (Tampa and Baltimore) were in the conversation but...

BTW, I know Denver is 4 and 0 but isn't that spread a little light against New England?

Okay, I have no confidence in this, but I'd say double down on the Oakland Raiders.
The way it's going for you, you'll need a miracle. Plus Eli has foot problems.

The days of "parity" are over, as the first six matchups on that slate clearly show.

Jack, what was the winning total in that pool last year? It would help us help you, to know. One thing, for example, find the avg. weekly that you need to make that total number for a ballpark target this year. Slow & sure does it. As the season goes on it gets more difficult to make up on large udog spreads. Sorry I couldn't get online Sat. to tout Denver. I had a lot of fun in Dallas Sunday watching all their fans around me in the airport as the Cryboys let the Broncos out of the corral. I'll get back to you later this week, after the injury reports are out.

Forget Oakland this week. They're crummy and even good westcoast teams heading to the eastcoast to play struggle most of the time. The Giants could beat Oakland with Y.A. Tittle at QB this Sunday.

Cleveland is looking attractive this week.

P.S. Eli's plantar fasciatis shouldn't be a lasting problem. he'll need better shoes, at least, in addition to proper stretching to resolve the problem. Ibuprofen is placebo for inflammation and stresses the liver & kidneys. Faggedaboudit. PF can be resolved in as little as 2 days.

Last year the winner had 66 points going into the final week, which turned out to be moot because she and the only challenger for the crown picked the same team that week.

You can't pick 3's and 4's every week. There are only 20 weeks in the pool.

No sweat. If you avg. 4.5 for the remaining 16 weeks, you'll end up with 72 pts. in week 20. Now, if you still want to bet on Oakland this month, go to London and bet that Al Davis croaks before they make it to another playoff game. Not much return on that bet, though. It's probably 1 to 5, or less, on that.

Oakland's a terrible bet, because there's less than a 10-to-1 chance that they'll win outright and get you the 16 points. But, say, Kansas City, which has about a 20% chance of winning, will get you 9 points.

Hmmm. How do you figure those percentages? Doesn't seem to have anything to do with the actual players, venue, surface, weather, etc.

I let the professional oddsmakers tell me.

And remember, all things being equal in the NFL, the home team is favored by 3 pts.

Yep. Gotta prefer the home 'dog to the road 'dog. All three winning 'dogs last weekend were at home.

Oakland is a terrible bet - it would be the upset of the year - but it sounds like you're up against Nostradamus here. You need an irrational long shot. Dallas is 2 and 2 so they're a cornered beast. They will be playing for their lives against KC. You never know. The Giants could take the weekend off.
Besides I had that PF thing with a foot once and it took a lot longer than 2 days. In fact, that's what knocked me out of the NBA.
Maybe I'm projecting as an Eagles fan. Somebody's got to beat the Giants.

Tennessee has the team speed, running game, and power to beat the Colts, but they're in a free-fall. McNair's murder was a terribly disturbing force, perhaps. Still, hard to see them going 0-5, and at home this week. Worth a hard look, esp. at 4.5 pts.

Houston looks like a decent bet. But they go up and down, and they lose in the odd-numbered weeks.

Plus, Jeff Fisher is one of the top 3 coaches in the league, but the secondary needs a couple of guardian angels to survive P.Manning. Turnovers, every defense's favorite dessert, may be Titans only hope.

Houston, maybe. They're so schizo. Compare teams' strengths & weaknesses. Houston's major weakness right now might be the swine flu rampaging in the locker room:

Say, Bill, I think you are projecting as an Eagles fan per the norm -- Norm Van Brocklin or Norm Snead, that is -- going for the long bomb at this point. Don't worry, McNabb's back this week and the Eagles will overtake the Giants by Thanksgiving. Jack, if you keep reaching for those big-numbered longshots in a desperate effort to catch up fast, you'll end up in single digits at the end.

Here's one for you Bill, an old Eagles fave of mine, where is he now?

He had a heck of a game against the Lions in the mud in Detroit one Thanksgiving Day.

if you keep reaching for those big-numbered longshots

So far my average play has been 7.4. The guy in first place has gone 6.3. Thanks for your font of advice, but pardon me if I disregard most of it.

you'll end up in single digits at the end

I won money last year, while the guy currently in first place missed 16 weeks in a row. Neither one of us is doing anything much different this year. Go figure.

Cleveland for sure. Cincy has a chance of beating the hapless Bills. Atlanta has a chance against SF.

In order:


One way to look at it is the upside/downside quotient. Teams that are showing worse than they should like the Titans have upside room. Overachievers doing well are poised to fade.
I think Atlanta has upside. I thought they'd do better.
Other teams (Denver?) are overachieving.
Not only do the Eagles get McNabb and Westbrook back, but they have Humanitarian Work-In-Progress Michael Vick. It's a team doing pretty well that still has great upside.

Cleveland would get you some nice points and the Bills are truly horrible.

Denver also looks good. They are a hot team and NE was lucky to win against Baltimore.

Oakland. Do the Rex Grossman and keep throwing the long ball!

Portland State could beat Oakland right now so stay away from Oakland for the rest of the season...or at least until the coach is arrested (and then suspended), Russell is benched, and McFadden is healthy.

Cleveland is tempting because Anderson scored more points in one game than Quinn scored the previous 3 weeks combined. However, defense still stinks. Only the Lions' defense has allowed more total points, in large part thanks to Chicago. But we are talking Buffalo here, which is tied for the 4th worse offense in the AFC. So, Cleveland defense has a chance to shut down Buffalo.

Another thing about Cleveland...I imagine that a large percentage of your league is going to gamble on Anderson this week. So if you lose, you are no worse off, and if you win, no better off, than that percentage, whatever it is. If Anderson steps up, then the spread next week will be less and if he loses big, then nobody will bet on Cleveland in the upcoming games. This is probably the week to place your fate with Anderson.

I thought that those picking the Bengles were completely nuts because I don't see Carson Palmer and 85 beating Ray Lewis's defense. And Flaco's offense is on fire--only New Orleans has more total points.

But the Bengles are one crazy TD from being perfect when Stokley on Denver's last play of the game hauled in a deflected pass for a TD. And, they have beat really good teams: Green Bay at Green Bay and then Pittsburg.

On the other hand, Baltimore hasn't really dominated any team and its defense has allowed mediocre teams to score a lot of points. KC, SD, and NE all scored over 20 points.

Between a winless Cleveland and a 3-1 Bengles, you almost have to go with the team that has a winning record, especially when there is an extra 3 points up from grab.


Don't really have any logic, just my gut feeling.

KC or Cleveland, I think. Cleveland is probably the better bet: Buffalo looks like they've given up on Jauron, and he'll probably be fired soon.

"stay away from Oakland for the rest of the season...or at least until the coach is arrested (and then suspended)"

Thanks, I got a good laugh out of that.
You make a compelling case.

Here's a free idea (and you know what they're worth) . . .

You keep playing in the 'dogs pool but you also run a mirror of the same pool here, only instead of playing for money, your readers can put up $20 to you via paypal at the start of the season (or as soon as you start it this season). The only prize is that the winner (most points) gets to designate which of the charities in your charity pool gets all the dough at the end or, I suppose, how the pot is divided among the charities on your list.

George, that is a great idea. We could have a lot of fun with that and do some good at the same time.

Make it so, then, and I'll take KC for this week if the paypal link is up in time for this week's games.

You'd be wise to stay away from KC or Oakland for the rest of the season. I wouldn't be surprised if the only game either of them wins is the one they have left against each other (the first of which already accounts for OAK's only win)

If you're really trying to shoot the moon, I'd go with TB. They're terrible, sure, but I'm not sold on Philly and you know what they say about any given Sunday...

Long shot home run aside, I like (in order of likelihood):

Washington (yes, they suck, but Carolina may be worse)
Denver (they're playing great D and play well at home)
Cleveland (both teams REALLY suck; this could go either way)
Houston (no one knows what to make of Houston and 'zona hasn't exactly been on fire)

The value bet says one of the latter two. Take your pick.

[Note: I'm not jumping on the Cincy bandwagon for two reasons: 1) They almost lost to CLEVELAND. 2) Everyone points out that they would be 4-0 without the fluke tipped pass against Denver, but fails to note that they trailed for 59 minutes of that game and probably deserved to lose anyway.]

But Nate, we're not wise, remember? It's an UNDERDOG pool -- by definition we're trying to be that one half-step smarter than the entire Delphic wisdom of the national odds makers, which reflects far more knowledge and insight than you or I will ever have. That's what has made this fun and also the only time I've given a damn about pro football in many years.

It really is a clever twist on a weekly betting pool, one that raises the difficulty bar quite a bit -- so much so that I think it's still an open question as to whether it's actually a game of skill at all. Jack's mention of past year results vs. performance so far this year suggests that we might be in a monkeys-and-dart-boards thing, such as Malkiel wrote about in "A Random Walk Down Wall Street."

One thing I really like about the game is that you're actually pulling for teams to win -- not just beat the spread -- on Sunday. In that sense, it's a "pure" play. If your team and its fans are celebrating, so are you; if they aren't, then you aren't.

I still think Eli Manning is hurt pretty bad. Did you see the play where he went down? Nobody hit him. His foot just wouldn't bear the weight. These are tendons here and you don't screw around with tendon problems.
He should sit out.
I admit this injury didn't knock me out of the NBA. What would happen after a long day in the hotel business is I would get off my feet and after 20 minutes I could barely touch the floor it hurt so much.

Jack, you feel KC is twice as likely to win as Oakland, and that sounds good but look at it this way using your numbers: One has an 80% chance of not happening - the other a 90% chance of not happening. The situations aren't as different as twice as likely implies.

So given Eli's foot, and as long as you're picking a crazy long-shot since there are no other good options, I say go with Oakland.
At least if it happens you max out on the rewards.

If it doesn't, it's on to next week.

I also admit if it were money involved I wouldn't touch it, but I don't gamble on sports. I had a bad incident with a Raiders fan back when the Denver quarterback was Craig Morton, and other than one bet on Joe Montana that I knew was a lock, I never bet on sports anymore.

With She-lie hobbled, I REALLY want to take the Raiders, but I just can't do it. Oakland can't stop the run, so look for a whole lotta Jacobs and Bradshaw, regardless of whether She-lie or Carr is handing the ball off to them.

Go with Houston. Neither AZ or Houston can run the ball at all. They both rely on the pass. The difference is that Houston has a top 10 passing defense, while AZ is 30th in the same.

Well, does today's game prove once and for all not to bet on the Raiders? Hope you picked a team from Ohio....

Well, Oakland once again proved that they're truly awful. Unless they switch QBs, you'd have to be a fool to bet on them in the future (well, except maybe against KC at home, but they'll probably be the favorite for that one anyway). If those two teams weren't in the same division I might bet on both of them to oh-fer the season (by the way, how mediocre is Dallas?!?!)

Cleveland came through for me in their pillow-fight with Buffalo and Houston came close against Atlanta, but not quite.

I don't remember any previous season where there were so many teams I didn't think had a chance in hell to beat ANYONE besides each other. Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland, KC, TB, St. Louis, and Washington ALL seem to fit into that category (Detroit may too, but they have at least put up a fight a couple times).

Oh yeah, and my apologies to Cincy. I guess they may be the real deal after all.

3 out of 3 - Cincy was my iffy pick - doubt they'll be getting tagged underdogs for awhile now though.

2 for 2, and 9.5 points in your pool, if you picked Cleveland and Denver.

Should be a good MNF game tonight. As a lifelong Jets hater, I would love nothing more than to see them give up a lot of yards on the ground to and lose to the 'Fins.


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