Monday, January 12, 2009

NFL Conference Champ Picks

If your non-profit NFL pool extends through the playoffs, take both home teams this weekend.

Over the past 38 seasons since 1970, favourites have won 2/3 of conference championship games straight up – right in line with overdogs' outright winning % in regular season games. Ordinarily, this would point me to both underdogs since 1 of 5 regular season games turn on points.

But, I'm going with the Steelers –5 based on evidence (albeit not significant in the statistical sense) that fewer games turn on points in the playoffs than regular season. Oddsmakers and their foolish customers may not fully account for the fact that winning teams go all out to put away opponents in elimination games. I also take comfort in the fact that the fifth point in a 5-point spread rarely comes into play. It is unusual for an NFL game to end with a 5-point gap. So, I treat Steelers -5 as Steelers -4.5 for practical purposes.

And, I'm taking Arizona +3 as the home underdog in the NFC championship. Archibald's buddy Michael (Moto) Gourleymann informs us that home underdogs are riding a 13-4 streak against the spread in playoff games. I don't take a sample size of 17 seriously, but I'm counting on home underdogs being as good a choice in the playoffs as they have been in most regular seasons -- although not this past season.

Playoff results so far:







Home Faves ¼ finals



Home Dog Wild Cards



Readers' Choice




As my regular readers know, I do not waste time analyzing team stats and other irrelevant data. But, for entertainment purposes, I will pass along these unsubstantiated factoids courtesy of former Godiva toy boy and long-suffering Jets fan Reginald:

  • Baltimore was lucky to defeat Tennessee in a game when they were outgained 391-211. You can't count on winning the turnover battle every week.
  • Steelers have now reached 7 of the past 15 AFC championship games -- a tremendous record of achievement. Before we get carried away, let's keep in mind that their AFC championship record under Coach Cowher was only 2-4.
  • The underdog plus the points has now won 10 straight Eagles-Giants contests – a record streak for NFL head-to-head rivalries.
  • The Eagles defeated the Cards 48-20 on Thanksgiving night by gaining 458 yards.
  • Lady G was correct that home overdogs have won almost 3 of every 4 divisional ¼ final games straight up since 1990. But, that record is based on 82% home team dominance from 1990 through the January 2005 playoffs. From 2006 on, home teams have won only 7 of 16 divisional ¼ final games.
  • This has been the year for unusual final scores. In the regular season, the Steelers and Chargers posted the first 11-10 final in NFL history. And, the Eagles-Giants playoff match ended with the first 23-11 score.
  • From memory, Eagles vs. Cardinals must be the first conference championship game featuring two teams that failed to reach 1o wins in the regular season -- at least since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule and maybe even going back to the 14-game era.

NBA Underdogs

30-23-1 or 56% against the spread for underdogs of 12.5 points or more. The results so far are proving Stanford undergrad whiz kid Gibbs (see 1 November post) correct with his analysis showing that we can expect to see heavy NBA underdogs finish above 50% by a statistically significant margin over a full season. I will track this trend for the rest of the year for players in non-profit NBA pools. Tonight, I recommend taking my beloved Raptors +12.5 against the Celtics.

Dr. Archibald Not Licensed

Official Godiva toy boy Archibald directed me to the following article and suggested that I would be doing him a good turn -- since every good boy deserves favour -- by parading around in my birthday suit in order to extend his life.

A small amount of research dashed Archibald's hopes.

Keep your day job, Archibald, and forget about applying to medical school. And, I will be doffing my duds only for my benefit, not yours, thank you very much.

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