2008 NFL Week 13 Picks

Thank you all for your encouragements. Some of you have given me great ideas to develop on and some have just given me the encouragement to keep this experiment going. This week my picks are based on the model's predictions, as always, but the confidence measure is being ignored. I am posting picks on the predictions that are farthest from the spread without any teams suffering from recent injuries or changes.

This week, all I had time was to upload last week's data and run the model. Comments for each game have been avoided as well as the point spread predictions. I feel confident this week's picks will come through as we all munch on turkey legs. Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Ignoring misconceptions, team discrimination, and going back to my old self of picking teams based on statistical predictions, here are week 13's NFL point spread picks:

Week 13 RESULT: 4-0 Perfect!

Pick 1: Kansas City +3correct NFL point spread pick
Pick 2: New Orleans +3.5correct NFL point spread pick
Pick 3: Pittsburgh +1correct NFL point spread pick
Pick 4: Tennessee -11correct NFL point spread pick

Afterthoughts from Week 12

It is easy to say, this blog or these picks suck. You know why? Because I am holding myself accountable by making my picks public and keeping track of them. Many "Football Experts" from ESPN and other stations change their opinions on teams every week (sometimes even during a game), but they never play back the videos when they said New Orleans was going to win their division or the Jets were not going to make the playoffs.

Is it time to go back to the drawing board? Probably, but I have to stick with what I have this year. Although I am not completely dissatisfied with the point spread predictions, it is time to send the confidence measure out the window. For example, last week the prediction for the Dallas game was a point over the spread. The confidence was thirty-something percent, so I chose SF as my pick, wrong.

I have had issues with this confidence measure from the beginning. It is not game specific but situation specific. Also, situations with big sample sizes (> 80), the confidence tends to be close to 50%. Meaning, if all situations were as likely, all confidence measure would be close to 50%. The confidence should be a function of the teams involved, the off/def stats, and the spread currently only the spread and the prediction is considered.

Lesson 1: Throw the confidence measure out the window and do not chose the reverse picks.

The other issue is that I only have access to game/team level data. So if I player is absent or has been absent, the model will not pick up on it directly. One of you pointed this week at the Dallas game and if it was considering Romo's presence and health. Well, no, I cannot statistically tell the model "Romo is expected to play better today, please account for it", if I had player level data, I could probably do something like that. So what lessons did I learn from this?

Lesson 2: If the team has changed one of its key players in the past 5 weeks, stay away from that game.

I am not throwing the towel yet. At 56%, I hope to bounce back to 60 before the end of the season. Every week is a learning experience and with every experience we become better decision makers. I may be equipped with great statistical tools, but when the pressure is on and we have to decide the NFL picks of the week, we have to keep our plan and stay cool. If we let emotions make decisions for us, or if we become biased towards certain teams, we will not be successful. Stay calm and act rationally and remember that as bad as a pick might sound, Oakland covered this week.

Betting Size and Kelly's Formula

After several weeks of highly volatile results, I decided to go out and search for a mathematical formula to compute betting size for each game. This is a topic that I would like to dedicate more time to and even come up with a more sophisticated method to decrease my chances of ruin and increase my profitability in the long run. For what is left of this year at least, I will use Kelly's formula.

Kelly's formula determines the percentage of your bankroll to use on a bet. In our case of the weekly NFL spread, it will determine the amount of bankroll to use each week. The formula is simple and takes into consideration the odds received on the wager and the probability of winning.

Fraction of Bankroll = [(odds)*(prob) - (1 - prob)]/odds,

where prob=probability of covering the spread and odds=odds given for the wager

I will make the following assumptions and then compute the fraction of the bankroll to use each week:

  • Odds = 10 to 11. The typical -110, for every $11 you bet you receive 10. Most bookies change these odds depending on the game and which team you choose. To simplify the computation, we assume the odds are always -110.
  • Prob = 60%. The probability that my system makes correct picks is assumed to be 60%. This is where we stand today and this is where we finished last year. We assume, regardless of the confidence measure, that every game has equal chance of success.
  • Picks are independent of each other. Kelly's formula assumes independent events. The fact is that NFL picks are not like rolling a ball on a roulette, but it is not that far off to assume they are independent. Here we are assuming that last week's New England pick is not correlated with this week's New England pick because the Vegas spread adjusts to avoid trends.

Therefore, the formula simplifies to: [(.909)(.6) - (.4)]/.909 = 16%

Now, this does not mean that for every game you will spend 16%. Kelly's formula applies to sequential gambles. Because on Sundays, bets are mainly made simultaneously, I would use 15% (a bit less to go on the safe side) of your bankroll every week (including Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night). Although Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night games you are able to make bets sequentially, I do not want to give more bankroll to these games just because they are the night games.

For example, if you have a bankroll of say $1,000 then you can risk around $150 per week. If there are 3 games you choose to bet one, then (for now) bet $50 on each game. Next week, if your bankroll increases or decreases, you adjust the total per week accordingly. At the end of the year you will not be ruined and hopefully you have a decent profit.

To put this in perspective, suppose you start investing in week 4 with a bankroll of $1,000. At $150 a week and 60% success rate you would average about $35 profit a week. Even if you do not increase your weekly bet as your bankroll increases, which you should, you would end up (13 weeks plus 2 playoff weeks) with a total profit of $35*15 = $525 or about a 53% return on investment. Not bad considering there seems to be no bottom in the stock market. Kelly's formula is only valid as you make more and more gambles, that is, it is not a short-term solution it is an optimal solution for the long run (think 10-20 years).

I know it is tempting to bet it all or larger amounts, especially when you want to make up ground. Betting it all or deciding on a size without a strategy will make you act like a gambler and not like an investor in the NFL point spread market. Stay calm, optimize betting size, play it safe, and use 15% of your bankroll every week. Even if you think Buffalo is a given cover this week, remember that in any given Sunday anything can happen.

In the future, I would like to relax the second assumption, the one that states that every game has equal chance of winning. I have been publishing a confidence measure that although is detecting opportunities well, withing those opportunistic games, it is not clear-cut that one game is better than the other. If this measure becomes more accurate, then of the $150 for the week, the distribution of these $150 can be done more optimally according to the refined confident measure.

2008 NFL Week 12 Picks

Enough crying about last week. We are still at 60% and learning more about becoming a better handicapper every day. This week, the model's point spread predictions follow the same methodology, but the way we make the pick is tweaked a bit.

As we can see from the table below, the following picks have a pretty good confidence and a comfortable difference between the point spread and the Vegas spread: Green Bay +2.5 against New Orleans, Buffalo -3 against KC, Tennessee -5 against the Jets, San Francisco +10.5 against Dallas, and Cleveland -3 against Houston.

Of these picks, the consensus has Cleveland at 65%, Green Bay at 59%, San Francisco at 59%, Buffalo at 55%, and Tennessee at 40%. Now, I am convinced that going with the consensus all the time is not a good strategy because the house will always win. We need a better edge and that is where advance modeling predictions hopefully step in. Combining these two information sources will hopefully provide us with solid picks.

You have to take those consensus picks carefully. For example, Indianapolis, Washington, and New England are the top three this week and my model is not detecting a solid edge on neither of them. Some of the games that I mentioned are backed up by the consensus, except for one of them. This one is the Jets/Titans game. As interesting as this game might be, I will stay out of it. Bettors are favoring the Jets and my model predicts the Titans will win by more than 5. The other games consist of Week 12 NFL Picks:

Week 12 RESULT: 1-3 %$#@&*%$#%^?!

Pick 1: VISITING UNDERDOGS Green Bay +2.5 incorrect point spread pick
Pick 2: VISITING UNDERDOGS Buffalo -3 correct NFL point spread pick
Pick 3: VISITING UNDERDOGS San Francisco +10.5 incorrect point spread pick
Pick 4: HOME FAVORITES Cleveland -3 incorrect point spread pick

If there is any significant injuries or situation I should be aware of for any of the above picks, please let me know. As always, read more to see the table with point spread predictions for each NFL game.

GameVegas SpreadPredictionConfidence
OAKLAND @ DENVER-10-10.550.1%

Afterthoughts Week 11

Every week is a learning experience. In order to become a better handicapper I have to avoid weeks with no wins. Week 11 turned out to be one of these. If I would have stayed within game plan, I could have done slightly better. Let me explain. We are hanging by a thread on 60% and need to make solid picks in the coming weeks in order to beat my goal and finish the season above 60.

In the table from the previous post, Oakland was as good a pick as Atlanta, so why was it not included in one of the picks. One word: Emotions.

Lesson #1: No matter how bad a team is, there is always a possibility that the team will cover the spread. If model indicates a pick for this underdog, go for it.

I do not regret the Pittsburgh pick because we got cheated out of it. Although Pittsburgh covered the spread with a last second touchdown, after various reviews, it was determined that the last TD did not count and the final score was 11-10. Referees admitted it was an error, no forward pass was don, but still that did not change the score.

The Atlanta pick I still think was a good one. They did not play as well as they could and lost. Fine I'll take that one.

The confidence measure is not providing reliable results. I can't remember a week where the highest confidence game covered. Also, when the confidence is far below 50%, doing the opposite is also not being as consistent as it should. I should consider doing each confidence dependent on the teams in the game. Currently, the measure takes into account the spread and the prediction only.

The other possibility is considering the wisdom of the crowds. Crowds are not always good predictors of games, but their knowledge tied with my statistical analysis might work well. Wagerline provides more than 3,000 people's picks of for each game. For this week for example, picks above 59% went 5-2 (something you do not see every week). These picks coincided with my point spread predictions for all games except Miami which my model correctly predicted would not cover. Their top picks were: ARI, PIT, TB, MIA, SF, NO, and TEN.

For today's game, Monday Night Football, between Cleveland and Buffalo, 52% is picking Buffalo, a no pick in my new hypothesis. The model predicts Cleveland will win the game by a few points. So the best thing to do for this game is to stay away from it.

I will not change my philosophy, what I will do is tabulate historical consensus picks and see if my hypothesis is true. Hypothesis: My statistical analysis complemented by consensus picks does fairly better than just my picks or just consensus picks.

The Other Week 11 NFL Picks

Unfortunately, yesterday's game did not result as we expected but we have 2 picks to make up for it. The Patriots made a great run at the end but fell short of the game and the spread. The good thing is that the loss was just a slight dent on the bankroll. For Thursday's game I had warned about the Patriots' linebacker injury and that it should be considered in the percentage of bankroll to be used for the week. Hopefully, there is plenty left for these Sunday's picks:

Week 11 RESULT: 0-3 What happened?!

Pick 2: Pittsburgh -5 incorrect point spread pick
Last week the Steelers had the same spread against a stronger team and without their starting RB. This week Parker is back, Ben will play well to not lose the starting role and the defense will also help. The Chargers have been playing well lately, but Rivers will have to worry against the number one defense against the pass.

Pick 3: Atlanta -6 incorrect point spread pick
Denver is hurt both on defense and offense. Atlanta is unbeaten at home and those wins have been by wide margins (except against the Bears). I think Vegas has not yet realize that the young guys in Atlanta have learned a lot this season and can play with the big boys.

You can also read more and see the point spread predictions for each game. These were the two games that stood out to me as great picks. Other picks I considered posting were Philadelphia at -9 and Oakland -10.5. Feel free to comment and give your opinions on these games or others.

NFL Point Spread Predictions Week 11:
GameVegas SpreadPredictionConfidence
OAKLAND @ MIAMI-10.5-6.456%

2008 Week 11 NFL Picks: Thurday Night Game

I have 3 picks for you this week. The first pick is Thursday night's game. The other two picks will be posted Friday. This is a pick I believe you will not like. I have my doubts too, I couldn't believe it. But take those opinions and emotions and throw them in the garbage and listen.

The New England Patriots and the New York Jets are considered to be of equal rank by Vegas. Some sites have the Patriots favorites by -3 and some by -3.5. They are tied at the top of the AFC East and both have a 5-4 ATS record this year. Offensively, New York and New England are not as far apart as one would think. Besides points, which the Jets are averaging 28 and the Patriots 20, they are pretty much even in every other category. Defensively, the Patriots have problems stopping the run and the Jets the pass and it all it evens out to both teams allowing around 300yds/game.

The Jets have won 3 in a row and 5 of their last 6, although of those 5 wins, 3 include STL, KC, and CIN. Both teams have defeated Buffalo (by more than 9pts.) and lost against San Diego (by more than 19pts.). This two teams seem to be in fact even, so a spread of 3.5 seems quite right, right? Not for me.

This spread is brought down from what it should be -5 or -6 for the Patriots. This is due to the Jets' games against St. Louis and Arizona where they beat them by 44 and 21 points respectively. See, some guys in Vegas are running similar models I am and some are using a pool of opinions and bets, I assume, to come up with the point spread. The problem lies in weighing this 44 and 21 point spread the same as the other games. My model does not suffer from "fat point spreads", it recognizes abnormal scores like 47-3 and minimizes its impact. Isn't that cool?

When a game is predicted to be between 2 and 4 points in favor of the home team when the spread is near 3, the model is correct 60% of the time in the past 10 years, hence my first pick of the week.

Pick 1: New England -3.5 incorrect point spread pick

One big concern is last game's injury to linebacker Adalius Thomas. He is probably out for the season. This is a guy that averages 7 sacks per season and already has one on Favre. For this reason, I will save a bit more of my weekly money pot for the other two games.

Afterthoughts for Week 10

After debating a long time whether I should have picked Pittsburgh at home or Arizona on Monday night, I am glad I didn't. Following my lessons learned from week 9, I kept my cool, stuck to the strategy, and did not get greedy.

Although the algorithm predicted these two teams to cover the spread there were some issues. Pittsburgh had the uncertainty of Ben playing and RB Parker for sure sitting out. The Cardinals were favored, but the confidence was low (54%). San Francisco was using a new QB and Singletary was coaching them for the 2nd time. Both picks would have lost.

The strategy is to bet for games whose situation is seen previously (throughout the years) more than 20 or 30 times (big sample size) and whose confidence is at least 57%. With a confidence of 54%, I do not have enough proof to say that statistically I have found an edge. When a game is sitting at above 57% confidence of covering the point spread, then I look for injuries and other extraneous situations. If everything looks normal, as it did for the 3 picks we ended up making, then we go for the pick.

We have also learned that of the games that we should make bets for, those with higher confidence are not necessarily doing better. That is, a 58% confidence is not beating a 64% so the strategy (for now, until I figure out a better confidence measure) is to spread the wealth evenly among picks and diverse the portfolio. There are many gambling strategies in terms of the amount to put in, I will not get into that, but I will say this: do not put all the eggs in one week.

2008 Week 10 NFL Picks

RESULT: 3-0 Perfect!

Tough week for picks. My statistical model did not find many opportunities and those that did are somewhat sketchy. For example, it found Pittsburgh to win at home, but will Ben play? There is too much uncertainty if he doesn't and I would not recommend the bet. Also found the Jets at home against St. Louis. This game is off the table in many sites so if you can get -8 go for it, anything above that would be a scratch. There were 3 other games whose confidence was not as high as the ones I just mentioned, but that still are great plays.

Without further ado, here are Week's 10 NFL Spread Picks, back with comments:

Pick 1: VISITING UNDERDOGS New York Giants +3 correct NFL point spread pick
If you think these two teams should have the same rankings, then the spread is correctly priced. If not, I would assume you think the Giants are slightly better, so does my computer prediction. Tthis spread should be either a pick or the Giants slightly favored.

Pick 2: VISITING UNDERDOGS Kansas City +15 correct NFL point spread pick
This young team is getting tired of being slapped around. They are not the Rams or the Raiders, they will come out swinging. San Diego has scored well at home this year, but another +15 spread at home is highly unlikely.

Pick 3: VISITING FAVORITES Tennessee -3 correct NFL point spread pick
Last week was Tennessee's first ATS loss, nothing to worry about. The Bears are heavily favored at home because of some 4 or 5 game streak. Pay no attention to that, Tennessee will crush them regardless of who throws the ball for the Bears.

Read more to see the table with the game spread predictions and its confidence (probability of the prediction being on the right side of the spread). Remember, a negative sign implies home team is favorite.

GameVegas SpreadPredictionConfidence
ST LOUIS @ NY JETS-8.5-1158%
SEATTLE @ MIAMI-8.5-8.150%

Afterthoughts from Week 9

Thank you to all of you that encouraged me to keep going after week 8's losing streak. We came back with a solid 4-1 ATS in week 9. Your input and encouragement motivates me to improve and put the time to make this work.

One of the biggest benefits I get from doing this week in and week out is the lessons I learn every week. Each lesson I write down in this blog, I carry it with me, and I apply it to my methodology of making picks. As I learn and get experience, I will become a better handicapper.

Here are this week's lessons:

Lesson #1: Don't get greedy

If we've had a perfect or profitable week and there is only Monday Night Football left, why gamble? Even if the confidence measure is the highest for MNF, take your profits and buy a gift for your kid. Wait for the next set of games, there is no rush.

Lesson #2: Check for Key Players Coming Back From Injuries
I need an assistant, help, comments. Someone that tells me, hey Jaime I notice you picked Washington this week, did you notice that Parker is back at the RB position for Pittsburgh this week? Is your NFL model accounting for this? NO. We have a community of readers in this blog that can contribute their knowledge by adding comments to the NFL point spread picks. I will do my part and check more thoroughly for key injuries.

Lesson #3: Ignore Incoherent Trends
Although picking Pittsburgh on MNF based on the election trend would have given me a win, it is better to ignore these coincidences. As most of you have heard, if the Redskins win, the party who won popular vote the previous election wins(used to be party who won the election the previous year until 2000, that is when they changed to popular vote). Looking at the polls and seeing a comfortable Obama lead would have led to a Steelers pick. But come on, this is nuts! Finding a correlation between two completely independent events is not what smart NFL pickers do. Stick to your game plan, ignore incoherent trends, and find patterns that make sense, have significant meaning, and a big sample size.

See you next week!

NFL 4-0 Sweep this Week, get Monday Night's Pick HERE

I get the "NFL 4-0 sweep this week" emails every week from various sites selling picks. I have always wondered how truthful they are, but never had the extra money to pay and find out. Has anyone tried? No one can be perfect or even close to perfect every week. This week, as you have witnessed, it is my turn to truthfully say it. Here it goes:

Dear Reader,

We pulled off the perfect 4-0 in the NFL this week! If you are interested, you can see this week's picks in my previous blog post.

This season we have completed a total of 26 picks, 17 of which have been correct for a total of 65% ATS. To finish off the week, we have one NFL pick left, Monday Night Football.

Remember, only our premium readers get access to our highest value picks. Purchase now to make sure you get access to the picks. Take advantage of these premium winning picks from statistical professionals who are crunching the numbers for you to create winning spread strategies. Order here. Just kidding, they're free. This week's Monday Night Football Pick is:

Pick 5: Washington -2 incorrect point spread pick