Sunday, January 27, 2008

Super Bowl Pick and Playoff Results So Far

New England -12.5 over New York Giants

Playoff results so far:

All my picks 3 wins 7 losses
My home fave picks 3-6
My home dog picks 0-1
Spread a factor 0-2
Lady G’s best bets 1-4
Readers’ choices 1-2

All overdogs’ strategy 4-6
All road teams’ strategy 7-3

Lady Godiva is like the little girl with the curl. When I’m good, I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

I wish. Truth be told, I’ve had a bad year. But, I’m not discouraged. I have followed a consistent approach to NFL pool success based on years of historical data – underdogs during the regular season and overdogs during the playoffs. As explained in previous blog entries, the 2007 regular season turned out to be one of those rare years when overdogs won a higher than normal percentage of games outright with a lower than normal percentage of outcomes reversed by the point spread.

The 2008 playoffs also deviated from historical norms. Overdogs have won 6 out of 10 games, 1 below the long-term average. And, 2 overdog straight-up victories were turned into losses by the point spread, up a touch from the 1.5 long-term average.

What does historical data tell us about picking the Super Bowl? Not much because a sample size of 41 is probably too small to be generate significant results. For what it’s worth, overdogs have won 28 of 41 outright or 68%. This is consistent with overdogs’ 67% and 69% winning percentages in the regular season and playoffs respectively since 1992. However, five overdog straight-up Super Bowl victories have gone to the underdog on points and two others were turned into ties. So, the overdog record against the spread in Super Bowls is 21-18-2 or 54%. This is consistent with the historical record showing that playoff games are less likely than regular season outcomes to be reversed by the point spread. So, I’m taking New England.

However, check out Freakonomics author Professor Steven Levitt’s interesting analysis that the Super Bowl is one game when we can count on the oddsmakers aiming to line bets up evenly on each side so that their profit comes solely from commission.

The Super Bowl action is so large that gaming houses cannot run the risk of having to pay out to more winners than losers even if the oddsmakers may think they have a better idea of the “true” point spread than their customers. Professor Levitt believes that picking the underdog in the Super Bowl is your best strategy on a consistent basis because Super Bowl bettors are less sophisticated than usual and overvalue overdogs even more than regular season bettors.

We shall see.

See you all next season. I won’t be very active during the off-season. Check back for NCAA basketball tournament picks at the end of March. If I can convince toy boy Archibald’s pal, Paul (Jarhead) Bloyer, to reveal his scientifically-based picks, I will post them.

Jarhead is a true sports geek whose nickname comes from his military haircut left over from his days in the Canadian Forces. I can’t claim to know enough about American college basketball to advise anyone on their picks in non-profit NCAA office pools, but Jarhead claims he has a mathematical system that will put you in a strong position against know-nothing NCAA pickers.

Jarhead also has a system for professional golf pools that I am hoping to convince him to reveal to my readers in time for the Masters tournament in April. And, I may allow Archibald to post his NHL and NBA playoff picks on this site in the spring. In the meantime, I will running polls on the American presidential election and may throw in a few of Archibald’s goofy pop culture polls.

Monday, January 14, 2008

NFL Final Four Picks and Playoff Results So Far

GREEN BAY -7 over New York Giants
NEW ENGLAND -14.5 over San Diego

Playoff results so far:

All my picks 3 wins 5 losses
My home fave picks 3-4
My home dog picks 0-1
Spread a factor 0-1
Lady G’s best bets 1-3
Readers’ choices 1-1

All overdogs’ strategy 4-4
All road teams’ strategy 5-3

Faithful readers won’t be surprised to learn that I’m sticking with my overdogs-first playoff strategy based on years of historical data despite disappointing results last week.

On a personal note, I can report that toy boy Archibald and I spent a delightful long wild card weekend in New Orleans where Archibald was presenting a paper on “The cultural industry multliplier: high culture vs. low culture” at the American Economics Association (AEA) conference.

We can recommend the following for visitors to New Orleans:

- stay at the W Hotel downtown if you can get a good conference discount
- eat at GW Finns across the street from Arnauld’s in the French ¼ (Arnaud’s turned us away because they were afraid that their female patrons would be too busy staring at Archibald’s legs in shorts to order dessert)
- take the Garden District walking tour with guide Lloyd Sensat which leaves from the Rink Mall and see the House of Quarterbacks Manning home among many others
- take the Pearl River Eco Tour of the Honey Island Swamp, but ladies watch out for the honey-tongued guide who had Archibald convinced that he was angling for a threesome with yours truly and the comely kiwi lass from Christchurch, New Zealand who was on the boat with us

In other personal news, Archibald’s paper at the AEA conference was so well received that he was offered the post of Director of the new Bruno Gerussi Centre for the Study of Popular Culture at Yukon College in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory. So, this summer Archibald and I will be moving north of the Arctic Circle. I can’t believe that Archibald gets paid for doing his ridiculous work studying Gilligan’s Island and other frivolous topics or that I’m willing to follow him to such a godforsaken location so far from my roots in Coventry, England.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

NFL Elite 8 Picks and Wild Card Results

GREEN BAY -8 over Seattle
NEW ENGLAND -13 over Jacksonville
INDIANAPOLIS -8.5 over San Diego
DALLAS -7.5 over New York Giants

Results from last weekend:

All my picks 2 wins 2 losses
My home fave picks 2-1
My home dog picks 0-1
Lady G’s best bets 1-1
Readers’ choice (SD over Tenn) 1-0

I’m sticking with my overdogs-first approach for the playoffs despite the large point spreads. History shows that the spreads come into play less often in the playoffs than in the regular season.

I didn’t know what to do with the home underdog last week and lost by taking the Steelers as a home dog. Toy boy Archibald tied the game in his pool because his posted spread was Pittsburgh +2, not +1.5.

I have done a bit more analysis of how my underdogs-first approach went wrong during the 2007 regular season.

Recall that overdogs won 52% of all games against the point spread in 2007 – up from the 48% historical average. Overdogs’ better-than-expected performance in 2007 can be attributed to two sources.

First of all, overdogs won 69% of all games outright – up about two percentage points from the 67% historical average, but still well within the 64% to 70% range in two out of three years that we would expect to see based on random variation around a 67% long-run average. A 69% outright winning rate for overdogs would have generated a 50/50 year if the normal 19 percentage point gap had prevailed between overdogs’ outright and against-the-points winning percentages.

Unfortunately for yours truly and all other underdogs-first pickers, this gap shrank to 17 points in 2007 – at the bottom end of the expected 17-21 point range.

In other words, two powerful forces converged to favour overdogs in 2007 – a higher than normal outright winning percentage without the point spread and a lower than normal rate of reversal once the spread was factored in.

Time permitting between now and September 2008, I would now like to do some more analysis to see whether overdogs’ outright winning percentage without the spread has been creeping up by enough in recent years to suspect that a statistically significant change has occurred.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

NFL 2008 Wild Card Round Selections

SEATTLE -3.5 over Washington
PITTSBURGH +1.5 over Jacksonville
TAMPA BAY -3 over New York Giants
SAN DIEGO -8.5 over Tennessee

There is no contradiction between my underdogs-first approach to regular season selections and my 3 home overdog picks in the first playoff weekend. Both are based on data analysis.

From 1992 to 2007, overdogs won almost 7 out of 10 playoff games outright and took 54% against the spread. Overdogs have historically performed better in the playoffs than during the regular season when they win about 2/3 of all games outright. About 20% of all regular season results are overturned by the point spread.

With overdogs winning a higher percentage of playoff games outright and with fewer results turning on the point spread, it makes sense to back overdogs.

I don’t have data on home underdogs in the playoffs. And even if I did, the sample size might be too small for the record to tell us anything. So, I’m going with the Steelers based on regular season data tipping home underdogs as the best bet for any pool picker.