Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week Seven Observations

1. Check out this sequence from “the best team in the NFC” after recovering a Sam Bradford fumble at the St. Louis 6-yard line:

1st and goal, 6-yard line: Josh Freeman throws a pass to Kellen Winslow in the back of the end zone. Winslow catches it but lands out of bounds. Winslow is flagged for offensive pass interference.

1st and goal, 16-yard line: LeGarrette Blount, who you should pick up in fantasy ASAP if still available, breaks four tackles on a very rough three yard gain. Holding on guard Jeremy Zuttah.

1st and goal, 26-yard line: Josh Freeman is sacked by three Rams for a loss of ten.

2nd and goal, 36-yard line: Cadillac Williams picks his way for two yards.

3rd and goal, 34-yard line: Freeman throws what ultimate Frisbee players call “a hospital pass” up for grabs towards Mike Williams and two Rams. Williams, who is on the short list of players I will be looking to sign to a 3-year contract in my fantasy keeper league in 2011, skies to make the catch at the 12-yard line, lands, takes a hit, somehow stays on his feet, fumbles, and somehow recovers the ball amongst a cluster of Rams. Bucs kick a field goal and take a 3-0 lead.

2. Tampa Bay has the worst crowd in the league.

3. Danny Amendola is more of "a middle-class man’s Wes Welker" than “a poor man’s Wes Welker."

4. Bucs +3 over CARDINALS is one of those games that drives me nuts as a gambler – these could be the two most overrated teams in the league. You can't bet against both.

5. The longer Alex Smith stays injured and the Niners have to play David Carr, the higher Smith’s stock should rise. Oh wait, nevermind – the Niners have already opted for Troy Smith over Carr.

6. An annoying trend right now is the excessive cutbacks ball carriers are making rather than just taking the outside yardage available. Marshawn Lynch has always been the biggest offender in this department.

7. Another annoying trend: coaches screwing up the decision to go for 1 or 2. Although there are some subtleties to these decisions, they’re not rocket science. This is 2010. Much like players report to OTAs, coaches should practice game and clock management in the offseason. Or maybe Roger Goodell should start fining coaches for particularly egregious game management errors.

8. All things considered I think this was the coolest, craziest play of the season.

9. Just when I was ready to give the Manginius credit for an amazing coaching performance against the Saints, he made the worst challenge of the season, actually turning a Saints 4th and 3 field goal attempt into a Saints 4th and 1 and subsequent conversion followed three plays later by a Saints touchdown.

10. Both the Bears and Redskins are particularly adept at making their opponents play like crap this season. This seems to be more than just solid defensive play, which both teams have. Opponents are dropping and fumbling balls and missing throws with greater frequency against Chicago and Washington.

11. I am one of those bleeding heart Jay Cutler supporters that somehow still believes all his problems result from the inadequacies of those around him and not his own mistakes.

12. Ray Rice's play seems to have regressed closer to his rookie season than last year's.

13. The San Diego Chargers are a fascinating team. The general rule in the NFL is that you need a quality quarterback to win. With Philip Rivers, San Diego has a QB who is, at worst, the second best in the world right now. Incredibly, the Chargers also feature an excellent defense, probably a top-5 unit. But San Diego is 2-5. The combination of Rivers and a staunch defense should ensure a playoff berth, yet the Chargers postseason hopes are dwindling quickly.

San Diego has the worst special teams in the league, and has an excellent chance to wind up with the worst special teams in the history of the NFL.

Special teams performance is typically more variable than offensive or defensive performance. It’s essentially impossible for San Diego’s special teams not to improve as the season progresses.

All five losses have come by one score or less. Four have come on the road against decent but not elite teams. Incredibly, the 2-5 Chargers are at +28 on the season in point differential. Football Outsiders actually has them as the 8th best team in the league, which doesn’t seem too far off to me.

The Chargers have been hit acutely by injuries at wide receiver, losing their top two wideouts (top three including holdout Vincent Jackson) as well as a hobbled Antonio Gates. The guys playing wide receiver for them this past week were bottom of the barrel sorts called up from the practice squad and/or recently acquired on waivers.

San Diego has a hard time running the ball, especially in short-yardage situations.

San Diego’s remaining schedule is favorable. A 7-2 finish is reasonable. But the Chiefs may well win ten games this season, and nine won’t be enough for a Wild Card in the AFC. The Chargers made the playoffs after starting 4-8 in 2008, but that won’t happen again.

San Diego would be the best team to wager on the rest of the season but for one problem: the Chargers are typically one of the most overvalued teams in the league by the public, thanks to a flashy offense and success in high profile games during the Norv Turner era.

14. Kudos to Ryan Wanger for finding this clip a week before the worst defeat in Denver Broncos history.

15. Every year I seem to badly misevaluate one team and stubbornly refuse to budge them despite mounting evidence. Last year it was the Giants – I maintained they were one of the league’s best as the losses continued to pile up. This year it was…the Giants. Consider me convinced now. The Giants are absolutely loaded on both sides of the ball; I see no weaknesses.

Evaluating these teams can be maddening. Last year New York’s defensive line, stacked beyond comprehension, just didn’t play well. Knowing how good players can be and watching them underperform (this year I’m looking at you, Jay Ratliff) is incredibly frustrating for the football gambler.

The Giants won Super Bowl XLII in large part because of their defensive line and a brilliant game plan installed by then defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Their defense dominated again in 2008 (without Osi Umenyiora) under Spagnuolo’s direction, but faded in 2009 despite Umenyiora’s return and incredible depth. There was no one to pin this decline on other than new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, promoted after Spagnuolo took the head coaching position in St. Louis.

Last season the Buffalo Bills sucked pretty hard, but their defense (particularly their pass defense) was a bright spot. The Bills upgraded to down right mediocre after firing Dick Jauron midseason and installing defensive coordinator Perry Fewell as interim coach. Buffalo blew up the building after the season, letting go of Fewell and the entire coaching staff. Fewell moved across the state to guide the Giants D. Now Buffalo’s defense could be the worst in the league, New York’s could be the best, and Fewell is on the short list of candidates to replace the likes of Jack Del Rio and Mike Singletary at season’s end.

16. In a week in which the dominant news story in the NFL was a crackdown on big hits by the defense, more points were scored per game than any week in seventeen years.

Power Rankings

32. Arizona (30)
31. Carolina (31)
30. Buffalo (32)

29. San Francisco (26)
28. Denver (21)

27. Jacksonville (28)

26. Tampa Bay (25)

25. Oakland (29)

24. Cleveland (24)

23. St. Louis (27)

22. Detroit (23)

21. Seattle (22)
20. Dallas (9)

19. Chicago (20)

18. Cincinnati (19)
17. Washington (18)

16. Houston (16)
15. San Diego (17)

14. Minnesota (15)
13. Kansas City (14)

12. Green Bay (6)

11. Miami (13)
10. New Orleans (7)
9. Atlanta (8)

8. Tennessee (12)
7. Philadelphia (10)

6. New England (6)
5. Indianapolis (3)

4. New York Jets (4)
3. New York Giants (11)

2. Baltimore (2)

1. Pittsburgh (1)

Week Eight Picks

Also like:

RAMS -3 over Panthers
SAINTS -1 over Steelers

If forced to choose:

Texans +5.5 over COLTS
CHIEFS -7.5 over Bills
JETS -6 over Packers
Bucs +3 over CARDINALS
Seahawks +2.5 over RAIDERS
LIONS -2.5 over Redskins
Broncos +1.5 over Niners
Dolphins +1.5 over BENGALS
Vikings +6 over PATRIOTS
Titans +3.5 over CHARGERS
Jaguars +6.5 over COWBOYS

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 2-1
Also like season record: 18-10-2
If forced to choose season record: 34-34-1
All games season record: 55-45-3

My 100 Favorite Songs: Addendum

The Replacements - Shiftless When Idle

Indolence could be my greatest enemy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Week Seven Power Rankings & Picks

32. Buffalo
31. Carolina
30. Arizona
29. Oakland
28. Jacksonville
27. St. Louis
26. San Francisco
25. Tampa Bay
24. Cleveland
23. Detroit

22. Seattle
21. Denver
20. Chicago
19. Cincinnati

18. Washington

17. San Diego
16. Houston

15. Minnesota

14. Kansas City
13. Miami
12. Tennessee

11. New York Giants
10. Philadelphia

9. Dallas
8. Atlanta
7. New Orleans

6. Green Bay
5. New England
4. New York Jets
3. Indianapolis
2. Baltimore
1. Pittsburgh

Week Seven Picks

Also like:

COWBOYS -3.5 over Giants
PACKERS -2.5 over Vikings
BUCS -3 over Rams
FALCONS -3.5 over Bengals
Steelers -3 over DOLPHINS

If forced to choose:

RAVENS -13 over Bills
Niners -2.5 over PANTHERS
Eagles +3 over TITANS
SEAHAWKS -6.5 over Cardinals
Chiefs -9 over JAGUARS
Patriots +2.5 over CHARGERS
Browns +13 over SAINTS
Raiders +7.5 over BRONCOS
Redskins +3 over BEARS

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 2-1
Also like season record: 16-7-2
If forced to choose season record: 28-31-1
All games season record: 47-39-3

Friday, October 22, 2010

My 100 Favorite Songs: Addendum

Dolly Parton - Jolene

An innocent song that sounds like a dreadful one

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Running Back Rankings

1. Adrian Peterson
2. Steven Jackson
3. Jamaal Charles
4. Maurice Jones-Drew
5. Chris Johnson

6. DeAngelo Williams
7. Rashard Mendenhall
8. Jonathan Stewart
9. Frank Gore

10. Peyton Hillis
11. Michael Turner
12. Arian Foster
13. Ray Rice
14. Ahmad Bradshaw
15. Matt Forte
16. Ricky Williams

17. Fred Jackson
18. LeSean McCoy
19. Marshawn Lynch
20. Felix Jones
21. Ronnie Brown
22. Darren McFadden
23. Michael Bush

24. Shonn Greene
25. Willis McGahee
26. Jahvid Best
27. Pierre Thomas
28. Reggie Bush
29. C.J. Spiller

30. Ryan Mathews
31. Jason Snelling
32. Jerome Harrison
33. Justin Forsett
34. Chester Taylor
35. Derrick Ward
36. Ryan Torain
37. LaDainian Tomlinson
38. Thomas Jones
39. Tashard Choice
40. Cedric Benson
41. Clinton Portis
42. Joseph Addai
43. Darren Sproles
44. Beanie Wells

45. Mike Bell
46. Marion Barber
47. Benjarvus Green-Ellis
48. Correll Buckhalter
49. Mewelde Moore
50. Cadillac Williams
51. Knowshon Moreno
52. Brandon Jacobs
53. Brandon Jackson

54. Mike Hart
55. Kenneth Darby
56. Julius Jones
57. Tim Hightower
58. Laurence Maroney

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NFL Quarterback Inefficiency

Last Sunday Max Hall, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore, Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie and Jake Delhomme saw significant action behind center in the National Football League. These guys are bad. Really bad. Clausen, Hall, and Hanie are the only ones that might have a shot to be decent. Those other four have played enough (and in a couple cases, too much) that their suckitude is definitive.

The quarterback position defines NFL football. It's bothersome when the star player gets all the exposure, credit, and blame. But in the NFL, putting it all on the quarterback is often pretty accurate. There is no other position in team sports nearly as critical. The quarterback handles the ball on almost every offensive play. Though his success is based somewhat on the quality of his teammates, the success of his teammates is more dependent on him. His wide receivers are almost entirely dependent on him. How many touchdowns did Randy Moss score for the Raiders? How many career catches would Austin Collie have if he played for the Raiders? It's frightening to think what teams like the Chargers, Colts, Patriots, and Saints would look like without their starting QBs. Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees might be worth six wins a season. Peyton Manning might be worth nine or ten.

Conversely, teams like the Cardinals and Panthers might be in the playoff hunt with a serviceable player behind center. (I understand the Cardinals are 3-2 and could actually make the playoffs, but no sane football watcher ranks them in the top three quarters of the league). Both are starting rookies not selected in the first round. Hall wasn't even drafted. The jury is still out on these two rookies, but we can assume they won't be studs this season. A legitimate quarterback could win games with Arizona's defense, throwing to Larry Fitzgerald. A legitimate quarterback could provide just enough of a threat to the defense to spring DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart for the sort of monster gains we saw in 2008 before Delhomme self-combusted.

It's unfortunate that we have to watch guys like Fitzpatrick and Moore slinging the ball around on Sunday. It's unfortunate because there are better options available. There are very few elite quarterbacks, but there are viable alternatives to Jake Delhomme and Todd Collins. Here are sixteen quarterbacks who likely won't take a meaningful snap this season but deserve to see the field more than many of the stinkers currently taking snaps.

16. Chase Daniel (Saints backup)
Daniel wasn't selected in the 2009 NFL draft because he is short and lacks arm strength. Yet eighteen months later he is backing up one of the league's best QBs. I understand the NFL plays differently than the Big XII, that coordinators want players who can throw with velocity, that the sick numbers Daniel put up in Missouri's spread wouldn't translate to the NFL. But did you watch this guy play in college? Daniel is extremely accurate, doesn't make bad decisions, and has done nothing but win games his entire career - sort of like the guy ahead of him on the depth chart in New Orleans.

15. Kerry Collins (Titans backup)
You know what you're getting with Collins - nice long balls, quality short throws, and zero playmaking. You can't tell me the Bears wouldn't rather have this Collins, or that the Panthers wouldn't be starting Kerry right now.

14. Matt Leinart (Texans 3rd string)
Leinart isn't that bad. He just isn't. Having watched half a dozen Leinart games and a couple dozen Derek Anderson games - a couple dozen too many - I can confidently tell you Leinart is the better quarterback. We can only assume that what Leinart said about his situation in Arizona, that he and head coach Ken Whisenhunt had problems off the field, contributed to his release shortly before this season more than that of his play or Anderson's.

13. Dan Orlovsky (Texans backup)
Orlovsky is best known for this hilarious safety, the defining play of Detroit's winless 2008 season. But Orlovsky actually played pretty decent football for that horrendous team; they probably would have won a game or two if he had played the whole season.

12. Troy Smith (49ers 3rd string)
Smith won the Heisman trophy in 2006 and was slated to start for Baltimore in 2008 before tonsillitis sidelined him. Joe Flacco took over that and was the last we heard from Smith.

11. David Carr (49ers backup)
"We want Carr" chants are still ringing in Alex Smith's ears. It would be interesting to see how Carr would play with a decent offensive line.

10. Billy Volek (Chargers backup)
Volek is the rarest of backup QBs, a gunslinger who prefers chucking the rock to "managing the game." In 2004 Volek became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 400 yards in consecutive games.

9. Charlie Whitehurst (Seahawks backup)
Nobody knows anything about Whitehurst other than he looks really good holding a clipboard. He is regarded highly enough that Seattle traded San Diego a third round pick for him during this year's draft then paid him $10 million for two seasons. Considering Matt Hasselbeck's health history, there's a good chance we'll get to see Whitehurst in action later this season.

8. Sage Rosenfels (Giants backup)
Rosenfels gets a bad name because he choked away a few games for the Texans in Matt Schaub's absence - games the Texans were winning because Rosenfels had played so well in the first three quarters.

7. Byron Leftwich
6. Charlie Batch
5. Dennis Dixon (Steelers backups)
Pittsburgh's fourth-string quarterback is better than most second-strings and several starters.

4. Tarvaris Jackson (Vikings backup)
Tarvaris was a project. Remember, that was the plan. He has the physical tools. Just as he was turning the corner (a 95.4 QB rating in 2008) the Vikes brought in Brett Favre. I wouldn't be surprised if this project is now a better quarterback than the hobbling, mistake-prone, multi-injured, team-sacrificing, Wrangler-wearing, penis-messaging 41-year-old douchebag who starts for the Vikings. Perhaps we will find out later this season.

3. Josh Johnson (Bucs backup)

This is what I wrote about Johnson about a year ago:

Josh Johnson could be the closest thing we have to Michael Vick in today's NFL - closer, even, than Michael Vick. I'm not sure how Johnson dropped to the fifth round - his talents are immense. His feet are as quick as a running back's. His arm is huge. From what I can tell, his accuracy is good too. There's a reason Johnson made the team and Luke McCown did not. I know last year I said Dante Rosario was "the most athletic tight end to enter the league since Antonio Gates" so take it with a grain of salt when I tell you that Josh Johnson is going to be a star quarterback in the National Football League.

There are several things he needs before that happens 1. Practice 2. Film study 3. A better running game 4. An offensive coordinator 5. Practice with the first team 6. A holster 7. A defense 8. Receivers who catch the ball 9. More playing time 10. Practice

It breaks my heart that Johnson is stuck behind Josh Freeman (who I was initally cool on but am starting to like) because he needs to play.

2. Tyler Thigpen (Dolphins 3rd string)
Thigpen is the biggest crush I ever developed on a little-known player while studying the games the last three seasons. In 2008 he played for an abysmal Chiefs team without an offensive line, defense, head coach, or wide receivers. He threw for eighteen TDs, ran for three, and even caught a touchdown pass in his eleven starts. The quarterbacks who preceded and followed Thigpen in Kansas City have had far less success. Thigpen is an athletic 26-year-old QB oozing with skill and upside. And yes Tyler, I'm sorry I benched you in the 2008 fantasy championship for Matt Schaub, costing me the title.

1. Chad Pennington (Dolphins backup)
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Chad Pennington has the 11th highest passer rating in the history of the NFL.

Week Six Picks:

Also like:

NINERS -6.5 over Raiders
Colts -3 over REDSKINS

If forced to choose:

BEARS -6.5 over Seahawks
RAMS +9 over Chargers
Browns +13.5 over STEELERS
BUCS +4.5 over Saints
Lions +10 over GIANTS
TEXANS -4.5 over Chiefs
Falcons +2.5 over EAGLES
JAGUARS +3 over Titans
PATRIOTS -3 over Ravens
Cowboys +2.5 over VIKINGS
Jets -3 over BRONCOS

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 2-1
Also like season record: 15-7-1
If forced to choose season record: 25-24
All games season record: 43-32-1

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Revisiting NFL Gambling

I am absolutely crushing the NFL picks so far this season: 62% for the year and an absurd 74% in games I have liked. These gaudy numbers have won me exactly one six pack of beer. I have not bet money on any game this season.

Longtime readers of this blog know I bet a lot of money on games during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. I had no intention of ever betting sports seriously but decided in 2008 I was knowledgeable enough to give it a try, and was immediately successful. In 2008 I was part of a three-man team that fared pretty well, particularly during the middle part of the season. All told for 2008 I was 16 games over .500 picking all the games, 55-41-4 in games in which I had an opinion, and a very strong 15-8-1 in games I felt strongly about.

We were extremely fired up for the 2009 season and expected to make quite a bit of money. We fell flat on our faces, lost consistently for the first half of the season, and completely abandoned the project around the midway point of the '09 season. In 2009 I finished 11 games below .500 picking all the games, 49-57 in games in which I had an opinion, and 6-10 in my highest priority games. It seemed like the more work we put into it (I watched every play of every game in 2009 thanks to DirecTV’s Short Cuts and spent an estimated 40-50 hours a week on the NFL) the worse we picked the games. I have spent an eternity trying to figure out why we were able to pick so well one season and so poorly the next. Were we overthinking it? Pressing? Talking ourselves into bad bets? Was it just variance? Is the NFL, as many have suggested, truly unbeatable? Were we lucky in 2008? Were we unlucky in 2009?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. There are some things I have been considering though.

I felt like most of our success in 2008 came down to betting on an undervalued corps of teams whose quality we accurately understood. The Ravens, Titans, Falcons and Giants were our ponies that season and we rode them all year long. I believe more than 100% of our profit came from betting on those four teams. I still remember some of the lines, laughing when they came out, knowing we were going to win betting on them.

In 2009 these teams didn’t exist. We never found undervalued ponies to ride. 2009 was actually a historically light year in the NFL in terms of turnaround. Most good teams from 2008 were still good in 2009, and most bad teams still stunk. It’s completely possible that we had no skill in analyzing games and that the only reason we were winning was that we had those four teams figured out while everyone else was too caught up in what they had done the year before.

There is a theory that the beginning of the season is the best time to bet on the NFL. In the beginning the public has a misguided perception of the teams. You can get a leg up before they catch on. Teams will not be evaluated properly for a while.

Personally I feel I had three advantages on the public entering this season:

a) I understand the concept of regression to the mean: the Saints were just not going to be as good as they were in 2009 even though their roster looks similar; Brett Favre was not going to play as well as he did last season; Chris Johnson was not going to run for 2000 yards again; the Rams and Lions had nowhere to go but up.

b) I read the Football Outsiders Almanac. This is a book about the NFL written by people who are very smart, very mathematical, and very obsessed with football. They know what they’re talking about.

c) You may have noticed I’m pretty obsessed with NFL football myself and have plenty of original thoughts of my own. I understand the teams and the game more thoroughly than the average fan.

Coming into 2010 there were six teams I liked notably more than the public: the Falcons, Steelers, Redskins, Chiefs, Texans and Patriots. Through four weeks these six teams are a combined 15-8 against the spread, and none are below .500.

Meanwhile, there were five teams I evaluated lower than the public: the Vikings, Niners, Chargers, Bengals, and Cardinals. These teams are a combined 7-11-1 vs the spread so far, and none are above .500.

Picking the teams I ranked higher than the public and against the ones I devalued accounts for most of my success. However, the public is catching on; when the Falcons win in New Orleans and the Chiefs blow out the Niners, the secrets get out. Looking at the lines this week, I didn’t feel like many lines were “off”: most seem about where they should be. At this point it’s more about evaluating situations than overall quality of teams. It’s more of a struggle to find teams I value far differently than the public, though I do have some opinions left:

The Cleveland Browns I still like a bit more than the public. After watching their first two games I was pretty confident the Browns were improved from a year ago and much better than people thought. They easily could have won their first two and I was excited to pick them in their next two, a closer-than-expected loss to the Ravens followed by an “upset” home win over the Bengals. That win over Cincy alerted the public to Cleveland’s quality, but maybe not all the way.

The Arizona Cardinals could be just horrendous, bottom of the league horrendous, but we can’t be sure until we see Max Hall play a full game or two.

I’m pretty sure the Indianapolis Colts are as good as ever.

I’m expecting the Colts to roll the Chiefs this weekend, which may give me a chance to bet on a Kansas City Chiefs team that will still be a good play at home or against mediocre teams.

I have picked the Miami Dolphins 4/4 weeks and think they still have value after a couple high-profile national TV losses.

The Atlanta Falcons might still be a tad undervalued, especially against tough teams.

The New York Giants might not be at all decent, which could be good news for my bankroll but bad news for my fantasy team.

I don’t think the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, and Carolina Panthers are as bad as they appear so far and should get better as the season progresses. I have actually picked the Lions in every game this season (including this week) and they are 3-1 vs the spread so far.

The San Francisco 49ers may have some major bouncebackability after slipping into this hole but the public still seems to agree, installing them as a 3.5 pt favorite over the Eagles Sunday night. If they lose to the Eagles on national TV this week, they could become a 2009 Tennessee Titans-style turnaround team.

It’s hard to believe but the Oakland Raiders could actually be overvalued; we’ll find out more against the Chargers.

The St. Louis Rams have yet to drop a game against the spread but the public may overreact; St. Louis has faced a laughable schedule of Arizona at home, Oakland on the road, Washington (Mike Shanahan loves to blow games to bad teams) at home, and Seattle (the worst road team in the league) at home. If the Rams really wanted to compete for a playoff berth they would be 3-1 or 4-0. Bettors aren’t totally convinced, giving the Rams three points at 0-4 Detroit. Should the Rams win this one, they could become overvalued.

There is a chance the Baltimore Ravens are the best team in the league; they have, after all, beaten both the Jets and the Steelers – two of the other clear best teams – on the road. They are only a touchdown favorite at home against Denver, an apparent middle of the pack squad.

Watch out for the Washington Redskins as dogs and as favorites – for many years, Mike Shanahan has played right up to the competition.

Keep an eye on the New Orleans Saints – they are 1-3 vs the spread, their three wins are close ones against teams with a combined 1-10 record, and as I’ve noted before, Drew Brees sucks in cold weather.

The Seattle Seahawks feature a home/road gap larger than any American sports team not called the Rainbow Warriors.

Don’t forget to bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road – not only are they the league’s best team, but their exquisite defense thrives playing away from the cesspool known as Heinz Field.

I have absolutely no clue why the Houston Texans are only favored by a field goal this week at home against the Giants.

There are two other reasons I believe I have been so accurate with the NFL picks thus far this season. First, I firmly believe I understand NFL homefield advantage much more clearly than the public. Watching all the games and tracking their results gives a rounder understanding of what it means for certain teams to play home and away.

In today’s NFL, not all home field advantages are equal. Some teams have a bigger edge at home than others. The Chargers, Chiefs, Falcons, Lions, Rams, Saints, Seahawks, Texans, and Vikings seem to me to have a special homefield advantage. Some of this is due to rabid crowds, some is due to distance of travel, and some is due to field conditions and the type of offense and defense the home teams play. The combined record of these “special” homefield teams at home vs. the spread so far this season: 13-5-1. The biggest edges belong to the Seahawks & Chiefs, who are a combined 4-0 at home (all blowouts vs. the spread).

Some teams (Bucs, Dolphins, Panthers, Steelers, Titans) seem to have almost no homefield advantage. The combined record of these teams at home vs. the spread this season: 3-8.

The third reason I believe I am doing so well this season is that I honestly believe I am on a very lucky run in life. Everything (except poker) seems to be going my way the last two months. A year ago at this time everything seemed to be going the other way. I am a superstitious person; I legitimately believe in running good and running bad, and feel like Midas right now.

The picks may be less bountiful down the stretch. Not too much jumped out at me in week five. But if it goes well, I feel as if I will have no choice but to put some money on the games starting next week.

Week Five Picks:

Also like:

TEXANS -3 over Giants
COLTS -7 over Chiefs
BILLS +1 over Jaguars

If forced to choose:

RAVENS -7 over Broncos
BENGALS -6.5 over Bucs
Saints -6.5 over Cardinals
PANTHERS -1 over Bears
Falcons -3 over Browns
LIONS -3 over Rams
Packers -2.5 over REDSKINS
JETS -4 over Vikings
Chargers -6 over RAIDERS
NINERS -3.5 over Eagles
COWBOYS -7 over Titans

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 2-1
Also like season record: 14-5-1
If forced to choose season record: 21-17
All games season record: 38-23-1

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Superlatives From Scotland

I have never been so aware of my good fortune.

I have never had so much facial hair.

I have never missed my dog so much.

My poker career is winding down.

I still really like beer and have not ruled out making it my profession.

I am coming home this weekend. For the rest of the year I am going to stick to the plan: Gamble and write a book.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

September Top 15

15. Giant Drag - Wicked Game
14. Moby - The Sky Is Broken
13. The Dead Weather - Die By The Drop
12. Weezer - I'm Your Daddy
11. Moby - South Side

10. Coconut Records - West Coast
9. Green Day - Panic Song
8. The Whigs - Like A Vibration
7. Green Day - J.A.R.
6. Ida Maria - Oh My God

5. The Kings - Shoulda Been Me
4. Beach House - Zebra
3. Green Day - 2000 Light Years Away
2. Regina Spektor - Better

Song of the Month: Scissor Sisters - Fire With Fire

Monday, October 04, 2010

EPT London £1k Heads-Up Day Two

Frank Kassela's 18-year-old son Michael beat me 2-0 today. It is a humbling experience to get your ass kicked heads up by an 18-year-old, but I'm sure his cards were much better than mine.

I am headed to Scotland tomorrow.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

EPT London £1k Heads-Up Day One

I won three best of three matches today to advance to the final eight of this 61 player tournament. I whisked away my first opponent in two rounds without incident, then played a tough Belgian Pokerstars Pro named Matthaias De Muelder. I lost a coinflip for 100% of the chips to lose round one, then fell behind in round two. But I won two races to take the round, then beat him in round three. I then beat David Paredes 2-0. He was a strong opponent but I fared well in the all-in pots.

We are now in the money. First will be something like £21k. I won't be making any deals this time.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Week Four Picks

Also like:

BROWNS +3 over Bengals
CHARGERS -9 over Cardinals
FALCONS -6.5 over Niners

If forced to choose:

Lions +14.5 over PACKERS
STEELERS -2.5 over Ravens
BILLS +6 over Jets
Panthers +13.5 over SAINTS
RAMS +1.5 over Seahawks
Redskins +5.5 over EAGLES
DOLPHINS +1 over Patriots
Texans -3.5 over RAIDERS
Bears +3.5 over GIANTS
Broncos +6.5 over TITANS
JAGUARS +7 over Colts

Lock season record: 1-0
Really like season record: 2-1
Also like season record: 12-4-1
If forced to choose season record: 14-13
All games season record: 29-18-1