Friday, September 30, 2011

The NFL Blog: 2011 Week 4 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread: (5-11); Straight Up: (10-6)

Season: Vs. Spread: (19-27-2); Straight Up: (31-17)

Week 3 Review: Another poor week for me, and combined with my CFB picks, probably the worst week I’ve ever had picking football games on this blog. I knew there was a chance for disaster because I had taken so many road favorites. Making it worse for me, I’m once again out of the “Eliminator” contest early, as I had New England as my guaranteed straight up winner last week and they lost to the Bills for the first time since 2003 and just the 2nd time in their last 22 meetings.

Week 4 Preview: I got nothin’. Some interesting matchups of course, but as far as whose going to win, I have no idea. I’m just hoping for some better luck this week.

Sunday’s Early Games

Detroit (+2.5) @ Dallas

Pick: Cowboys cover

Comment: Detroit is perhaps the hottest team in the NFL, while the Boys are banged up and barley surviving from week to week. I’ll admit to being pretty surprised that the Lions are 3-0 and already 2-0 on the road. They were 10-70 on the road over the previous 10 seasons coming into this year.

Carolina (+6) @ Chicago

Pick: Bears win but Panthers beat the spread

Comment: I thought the Panthers had a chance to be more competitive than expected this season but I didn’t see them being a passing juggernaut. The Bears impressed me in week 1. Since then their play has made me really worried about my Falcons, who Chicago pummeled in the opener.

New Orleans (-6.5) @ Jacksonville

Pick: Saints cover

Comment: This seems like a small spread for a matchup between a team averaging 34.7 points a game and a team averaging 9.7 points per game.

Tennessee (+1) @ Cleveland

Pick: Browns cover

Comment: Chris Johnson got paid but hasn’t gotten rolling yet this season. It will be tougher this week as the Titans have lost their other offensive weapon in WR Kenny Britt.

Buffalo (-3) @ Cincinnati

Pick: Bills cover

Comment: Listen to this: the Bengals have played the Bills 10 times since beating them soundly in the 1988 AFC Championship Game and they’ve lost every single game. The Bills have won 4 straight and 9 of 10 ATS. Remember, these games haven’t happened on a yearly basis, they’ve been random over the course of 22 seasons, and yet regardless of the year, the pathetic Bungles just can’t seem to even beat the spread against Buffalo.

Sure, the Bills were dominant during the first half of the 90’s, but they’ve been one of the worst teams of the millennium. The Bengals, however, have been one of the worst teams almost every year since 1989 when this streak began. Oh by the way, the Bills have won 4 straight in Cincinnati (4-0 ATS).

Minnesota (-2.5) @ Kansas City

Pick: Vikings win but Chiefs beat the spread

Comment: The team that loses this game is going to be bummin’. Both teams had a chance to win last week, and the Vikes have been in every game this season. Arrowhead is a tough place to play but it’s hard for me to take the Chiefs to beat anyone anywhere right now.

San Francisco (+9.5) @ Philadelphia

Pick: Eagles win but Niners beat the spread

Comment: This is a big game for the Eagles, who have looked pretty vulnerable over the last couple of weeks. This is the 4th straight season these two have met in the regular season and the 9th time in the last 11 years. Philly has won 5 straight (5-0 ATS) and 6 of 7 (6-1 ATS) over the Niners. San Fran beat the Browns in Cleveland last Sunday and they’ve remained in Ohio this week in an attempt to overcome some of the problems they’ve had away from home. The Niners haven’t won back-to-back road games since December of 2006. They usually struggle away from the west coast, and they’ll be trying to win consecutive 1:00 PM EST games on the east coast for the first time since 2001.

Washington (-2.5) @ St. Louis

Pick: Redskins cover

Comment: Is it just me or do these teams play every season about now? No, they do play every year about this time. This will be the 4th straight year they’ve met in the regular season (week 6 in 2008, week 2 in 2009, week 3 in 2010) and the 6th time in 7 years. The Rams have won 3 of the last 4 and 4 straight ATS. However, the Rams have pretty much sucked balls so far this season. Any Rams fans who aren’t also St. Cardinals fans have got to be a bit depressed at the moment.

Pittsburgh (+3.5) @ Houston

Pick: Texans cover

Comment: I was as impressed by Houston’s loss last week as I was by their wins in weeks 1 and 2. The Steelers, meanwhile, have looked a bit shaky so far this season. And you know their pattern this decade: go to the Super Bowl one year and miss the playoffs the next year. They did in 2005-2006 and 2008-2009.

Sunday’s Late Games

Atlanta (-4.5) @ Seattle

Pick: Falcons cover

Comment: No real need to discuss this. The Falcons need to win and win convincingly or else it’s time to wonder if this is going to be a lost season.

New York Giants (-1) @ Arizona

Pick: Giants cover

Comment: I know the Cards have been competitive so far and they’re always a better team at home, but it seems like this spread should be more like NYG -3 or -3.5. They usually say that home field advantage is worth 3 points. So would the G-Men only be 4-point favorites against Arizona at home?

Denver (+12.5) @ Green Bay

Pick: Packers cover

Comment: I wonder how much longer til’ the Broncos give in to local demand and turn things over to Tebow. Packers should crush.

New England (-4.5) @ Oakland

Pick: Patriots win but Raiders beat the spread

Comment: The Pats suddenly have something to prove after blowing a big lead and getting upset by the Bills last week. The Raiders could be sitting at 3-0 and a win this week would go a long way towards making them feel like legit contenders for the playoffs.

Miami (+7) @ San Diego

Pick: Chargers cover

Comment: It’s amazing how the Chargers seem to have the same personality year in and year out. They seem to be lackadaisical, even though they’ve basically underachieved over the last decade or so. The Dolphins lost a heartbreaker last week and they could be playing for their coach’s job.

Sunday Night’s Game

New York Jets (+3.5) @ Baltimore

Pick: Ravens cover

Comment: It will be hard for this game not to be an enjoyable one for neutral fans. This is obviously a heated rivalry due to all of the connections on the coaching staffs and rosters. But this is also simply a matchup of 2 of the best teams in the AFC and it could have major implications. The Ravens have won 6 straight over the Jets, including the season opener on Monday Night Football last year.

Monday Night’s Game

Indianapolis (+10) @ Tampa Bay

Pick: Bucs win but Colts beat the spread

Comment: Well, another primetime game that doesn’t have much sizzle without Peyton Manning. I guess NBC got a better game than expected last Sunday night, and ESPN will have to hope that the same thing happens this Monday. There will still be 3 more primetime Colts games to go after this one. What’s the over/under on the number of times ESPN reminds us what the last time these two played in Tampa on MNF in 2003? Whatever it is, I’ll take the over.

The College Football Blog: 2011 Season Résumé Rankings (After Week 4)

Season Résumé Rankings after Week 4

1. LSU 4-0 (NR)

2. Alabama 4-0 (1st)

3. Oklahoma State 4-0 (2nd)

4. Boise State 3-0 (NR)

5. Oklahoma 3-0 (NR)

6. South Carolina 4-0 (8th)

7. Florida 4-0 (4th)

8. Michigan 4-0 (7th)

9. Clemson 4-0 (NR)

10. Virginia Tech 4-0 (NR)

Out: Stanford (3rd); Wisconsin (5th); Florida International (6th); Texas (9th); Houston (10th).

Explanation: Last week I told you I was in the process of coming up with a more scientific formula for these rankings and I thought it would be ready for this week. I miscalculated. This isn’t a new problem, and it’s probably the main reason I have yet to come up with a mathematic formula to determine which team’s résumé is the best. I just don’t think I’m smart enough for the job.

I was highly distracted by the Braves’ collapse again this week, but when I did spend time trying to figure out a formula the early results were not very promising. For now (and probably forever) I’m going to scrap the idea of coming up with some sort of mathematical system. However, I have made some significant changes to my usual method of coming up with these rankings. The changes are drastic enough to make it basically a completely different formula (non-mathematical of course).

It may seem unfortunate that I’ve decided to make these changes 4 weeks into the year rather than at the start of the season, but that’s really a non-issue because these rankings are only just now becoming useful anyway. Very early in the season you are still relying on reputation and preconceived notions. Plus, when 30 or so teams have yet to play a quality opponent you’re going to end up with strange results (such as an SBC team being 6th in the rankings last week). 4 weeks is about enough time for these rankings to be somewhat relevant.

Anyway, the changes I made mostly address the 2 main problems I’ve had in coming up with these rankings: dealing with games against FCS opponents and dealing with the fact that the numbers of games played by each team are never totally equal. As far as games against FCS opponents, I’ve decided to ignore them for the most part. An unimpressive performance against an FCS opponent—or (of course) a loss to an FCS team--will be counted against a team’s résumé, but when looking at W-L records I’m going to be looking at games against FBS teams.

This might not be the best way to do it but I think it’s the most sensible way for me. Clearly, not all FCS teams are the same. Wins by Appalachian State and James Madison have shown us that some FCS teams are more than capable of putting up a fight against even some of the biggest BCS teams.

On the other hand, you have teams like Tennessee Tech, Idaho State, and Coastal Carolina—the 3 FCS teams that my Bulldawgs have played over the last 3 years. Since the start of the 2009 season, the Dawgs are 13-14 overall against FBS opponents, outscoring them 790-710, for an average score of 29.3-26.3. During that same time they are 3-0 against FCS opponents, outscoring them 152-7, for an average score of 50.7-2.3. My point here is surely obvious.

While not all FCS teams are pushovers, most of them are not able to stay in the game against the majority of FBS teams, and even the stronger FCS teams almost always come up short against the weakest FBS teams. Thus, for teams in these rankings, the only thing helpful about blowout wins over FCS teams will be that they aren’t close wins or losses against FCS teams, and therefore won’t hurt you.

Moving on, I’m not going to separate teams based on the number of games played as I often have in the past. For example, after week 7, I’m not going to automatically place a 6-0 team behind all the 7-0 teams. I may use an extra win as a tie-breaker between 2 otherwise equal résumés, but that will be about it. I’m going to be looking at the quality of wins and the number of quality wins more than purely the number of wins of any kind.

While losses are still clearly going to be the biggest difference makers in these rankings (simply because most great college football teams only lose once or twice all season), I’m not automatically putting undefeated teams ahead of 1-loss teams or 1-loss teams ahead of 2-loss teams and so on. I never have done this, but I usually end up ranking undefeated teams ahead of 1-loss teams simply because doing it that way makes it easier and quicker to determine these rankings. This year I’m going to try and avoid taking the easy route. You will notice that all of the teams in my top 10 are still undefeated this week, and it will likely be that way for some time, as teams who have lost simply haven’t played enough games yet to be able to amass enough quality wins to rank higher than teams who haven’t lost.

Now on to this week’s edition. The rankings went through some drastic changes, in part due to the new system, but mostly due to the fact that it’s still really early. All of the spots in the top 10 changed this week, with 5 teams falling out and 5 new teams taking their place. Of the teams remaining in the top 10, Florida took the biggest drop, falling 3 spots, while South Carolina made the biggest climb, moving up 2 spots. Obviously, however, the team making the biggest jump was LSU, as they came from outside the rankings to #1, knocking off Alabama. Stanford took the biggest fall, dropping out of the rankings from #3.

1. LSU: 4-0 (won at West Virginia, 47-21). LSU got another quality win last Thursday night and thus comes from out of the rankings to #1 this week. The Tigers have 3 wins away from home, all 3 have been over quality opponents, and all 3 have come by at least 13 points.

2. Alabama: 4-0 (won vs. Arkansas, 38-14). Despite blowing out a solid opponent in Arkansas to move to 4-0 against FBS teams, Bama falls out of the top spot and drops to #2 this week. Bama has a pair of very good wins, including 1 on the road, and they’ve won handedly against each team they’ve faced.

3. Oklahoma State: 4-0 (won at Texas A&M, 30-29). It doesn’t seem to make sense that the team collecting the single biggest victory in week 4 would then move down in these rankings, but that’s what happened to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys went to College Station and defeated Texas A&M to move to 4-0, but Alabama also had a great win and thus stayed ahead of them.

Oklahoma State has 4 wins against FBS teams, while LSU has only 3 wins against FBS teams, but this week I did away with the automatic separating of teams based on number of wins/number of wins vs. FBS teams. LSU’s 3 wins over FBS teams are simply more impressive as a whole than Okie State’s 4 wins over FBS teams. But to be clear, the Cowboys have a super résumé through 4 weeks, with a couple of road wins over quality opponents, particularly A&M.

4. Boise State: 3-0 (won vs. Tulsa, 41-21). Boise State joins the rankings at #4 this week. The Broncos got their 3rd win of the season last Saturday, and all 3 of their wins have been against quality opponents and have come by 14 or more points.

5. Oklahoma: 3-0 (won vs. Missouri, 38-28). Oklahoma moves back into the rankings at #5 this week. The Sooners beat a quality Mizzu team for their 3rd victory of the season last Saturday. All 3 of Oklahoma’s wins have been against quality opponents and they have won all 3 games by double digits.

6. South Carolina: 4-0 (won vs. Vanderbilt, 21-3). South Carolina made the biggest rise of any team remaining in the top 10 this week, climbing 2 spots to #6. The Gamecocks won 21-3 over a previously undefeated Vandy team to move to 4-0 against FBS teams. For South Carolina it is really more about having 4 quality wins than it is about them having been all that impressive, although they do have a road win over Georgia.

7. Florida: 4-0 (won at Kentucky, 48-10). Florida whipped a conference opponent by 38 points on the road last Saturday, but they ended up taking the biggest fall of any team remaining in the top 10, as they dropped 3 spots to #7. The Gators are 4-0 against FBS teams and they have won all 4 games by double digits, but their only quality win is against Tennessee at home by 10 points. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to get bigger and better wins in the coming weeks, but they’ll also have plenty of opportunities to lose.

8. Michigan: 4-0 (won vs. San Diego State, 28-7). Michigan drops a spot to #8 this week, despite beating San Diego State by 3 TD’s to move to 4-0 against FBS teams. Michigan has a solid résumé so far, but they’ve played all 4 games at home, and their best win is a miraculous victory over ND.

9. Clemson: 4-0 (Won vs. Florida State, 35-30). Clemson moves into the rankings at #9. The Tigers defeated a banged up FSU team at home to move to 3-0 vs. FBS teams. Clemson’s wins over Troy and Wofford (by just 8 points) at home are not too impressive, but they have won back to back big games over Auburn and Florida State.

10. Virginia Tech: 4-0 (won at Marshall, 30-10). Virginia Tech moves into the rankings at #10 this week. The Hokies are 3-0 against FBS teams, but their closest thing to a quality win is a7-point victory at ECU.

Teams Falling Out of the Rankings

Stanford: 3-0 (Idle). Stanford was off last week and it cost them a lot in these rankings, as they fell out of the rankings from #3. Big wins by other teams, as well as the fact that the season is still very young led to this happening.

Wisconsin: 4-0 (won vs. South Dakota, 59-10). Wisconsin had another blowout victory last week but it came against an FCS opponent, and the Badgers ended up falling out of my rankings from #5. Wisconsin has destroyed the competition, but they have yet to play a real road game, and they don’t yet have a truly quality win. In fact, the closest thing the Badgers have to a quality victory is a beat down of NIU in Chicago.

Florida International: 3-1 (lost vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 31-36). FIU would have fallen out of the rankings even if they had beaten ULL 108-0, but the loss at home to the Ragin’ Cajuns surely didn’t help, as the Golden Panthers dropped out of my rankings from #6.

Texas: 3-0 (Idle). Texas did not play in week 4 and thus fell out of my rankings from #9. The Longhorns have played a fairly light schedule, and have yet to really destroy anyone. Their best win so far is a 1-point victory over BYU at home (note: the Cougars were massacred at home by Utah the following week).

Houston: 4-0 (won vs. Georgia State, 56-0). Houston won 56-nil over GSU last week, but had the score been doubled they still would not have remained in the top 10, as they fell out of the rankings from #10. Houston has won twice on the road, but their closest thing to a quality win at this point is a 4-point home victory over UCLA. Just to be clear, that’s actually not very close to being a quality win, which is sort of the point here.

The Baseball Blog: 2011 MLB Postseason Predictions

2011 MLB Postseason Predictions


New York Yankees over Detroit (3-1)

Tampa Bay over Texas (3-2)


Philadelphia over St. Louis (3-0)

Milwaukee over Arizona (3-2)


New York Yankees over Tampa Bay (4-3)


Philadelphia over Milwaukee (4-0)

World Series

Philadelphia over New York Yankees (4-2)

ALCS MVP: Mariano Rivera

NLCS MVP: Hunter Pence

World Series MVP: Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The College Football Blog: 2011 Power Rankings (After Week 4)

Power Rankings after Week 4

1. Alabama 4-0 (1st)

2. LSU 4-0 (3rd)

3. Oklahoma 3-0 (2nd)

4. Boise State 3-0 (6th)

5. Oregon 3-1 (7th)

6. Stanford 3-0 (8th)

7. Oklahoma State 4-0 (11th)

8. Texas A&M 2-1 (5th)

9. Wisconsin 4-0 (9th)

10. Florida 4-0 (13th)

11. South Carolina 4-0 (10th)

12. Nebraska 4-0 (14th)

13. Florida State 2-2 (4th)

14. Clemson 4-0 (NR)

15. Texas 3-0 (15th)

Out: Arkansas (12th).

Explanation: There was change in 13 of 15 spots in my power rankings, as the #1 and #15 teams were the only ones to remain in place this week. Florida State took by far the biggest tumble in the rankings, dropping 9 spots from #4 to #13. They are also the first 2-loss team in my power rankings this year. Oklahoma State rose the most of any team, climbing 4 spots from #11 to #7. Arkansas was the only team to fall out of my top 15, while Clemson jumped into the rankings.

1. Alabama: 4-0 (won vs. Arkansas, 38-14). Bama stays as my top team, as they routed Arkansas (was my #12 team). They face what may be their toughest test of the entire season this week, as they go on the road to play Florida (#10 in my rankings)

2. LSU: 4-0 (won at West Virginia, 47-21). LSU moves up a spot to #2 this week, as they went on the road and blew out West Virginia. They should destroy Kentucky this week and get ready to host the Gators (#10 in my rankings) after that.

3. Oklahoma: 3-0 (won vs. Missouri, 38-28). Oklahoma moves down a spot this week to #3, as the Sooners struggled to hold off Mizzu at home. I was frankly stunned that they only won by 10 points. For most teams, defeating a solid Missouri team by double digits would be impressive, but Oklahoma usually crushes the competition at home. This week they have a gimmie, as Ball State comes to town, but the following week they play rival Texas in the Red River Shootout (or classic or rivalry or whatever they call it).

4. Boise State: 3-0 (won vs. Tulsa, 41-21). Boise State jumps up 2 spots to #4 this week. The Broncos won easily over Tulsa and they should do the same at home against Nevada this week. They face some decent competition the rest of the way, but I’d be stunned if they lost a game this year.

Their challenge once again will be to win impressively against overmatched competition, try and avoid an upset, and hope that enough BCS conference teams lose for them to finally wind up in the national title game.

5. Oregon: 3-1 (won at Arizona, 56-31). Oregon climbs 2 spots to #5 this week, as the Ducks put up 56 points against Arizona on the road. They’re off this week. The Ducks are my highest ranked team with a loss.

6. Stanford: 3-0 (Idle). Despite being off last week, Stanford moves up 2 spots in my rankings to #6. They have 4 fairly easy contests in a row over the next month before a road game with the Trojans in LA on October 29th.

7. Oklahoma State: 4-0 (won at Texas A&M, 30-29). Oklahoma State made the biggest jump in the rankings this week, climbing 4 spots to #7. They had the most impressive victory of week 4, coming from behind to defeat Texas A&M (#8 in my rankings) on the road. They are off this week. Tough road contests against Texas (#15 in my rankings) and Missouri loom in the near future.

8. Texas A&M: 2-1 (lost vs. Oklahoma State, 29-30). A&M falls 3 spots in my rankings to #8 this week. I expected the Aggies to get past Ok State at home last week, and for much of the game it looked like they would, as they built a 20-3 halftime lead. However, the Cowboys came roaring back and the Aggies would find themselves down 10 points late in the 4th. They staged a late comeback but eventually fell short by a point. A&M actually has a fairly tough schedule the rest of the way, including this Southwest Classic against Arkansas in Arlington.

9. Wisconsin: 4-0 (won vs. South Dakota, 59-10). Wisconsin stays at #9 this week, as they blitzed FCS South Dakota last week by nearly 50 points. They have a huge showdown with Nebraska (#12 in my rankings) this week at home.

10. Florida: 4-0 (won at Kentucky, 48-10). Florida moves up 3 spots to #10 this week, as the Gators blew out Kentucky once again last Saturday. They now begin a 3-week gauntlet with a battle against Alabama (#1 in my rankings) at the Swamp this Saturday. They go to LSU (#2 in my rankings) and then to Auburn in their next two games.

Even if the Gators pull off an improbable 3-0 sweep over the next 3 weeks, they will still have games against UGA, at South Carolina (#11 in my rankings), and against FSU (#13 in my rankings) to come. If they were somehow to finish 12-0 they would still have to beat the SEC West champ in the conference championship game.

Simply put: if the Gators go undefeated this season and win the national championship it would be without question a bigger feat than anything they did under Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer.

11. South Carolina: 4-0 (won vs. South Carolina, 21-3). Despite a 21-3 win over a previously undefeated Vanderbilt team, the Gamecocks move down a spot to #11. They still haven’t looked to me like a truly dominant team. They do have a favorable schedule, but that’s a relative term when you’re dealing with the SEC.

12. Nebraska: 4-0 (won at Wyoming, 38-14). Nebraska moves up 2 spots to #12 after winning easily at Wyoming last week. The Cornhuskers’ season will likely be decided by their play over the coming 2 weeks, as they play Wisconsin (#9 in my rankings) at Camp Randall this week, and then host Ohio State (who will by then be at something close to full strength) on October 8th.

13. Florida State: 2-2 (lost at Clemson, 30-35). FSU lost for the second consecutive week last Saturday and therefore slid 9 spots in my rankings to #13 this week. The Noles were without QB EJ Manuel and had several others banged up last week, yet they still had a shot to win late on the road against Clemson (#14 in my rankings).

However, they’ve lost back to back games, they are still banged up, and now they even have to deal with some off the field issues. FSU is the only 2-loss team in my top 15 and they have a much needed off week in week 5.

14. Clemson: 4-0 (won vs. Florida State, 35-30). Clemson jumps into my rankings at #14, as they knocked off FSU (#13 in my rankings) for their 2nd straight impressive victory. We will find out this weekend whether the Tigers are for real or not, as they have to go on the road to play Virginia Tech.

15. Texas: 3-0 (Idle). Texas was idle in week 4 and stays at #15 in my rankings. The Horns have a tricky game at Iowa State this weekend, but the schedule gets a lot trickier after that, as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are their next two opponents.

Teams Falling Out of the Rankings

Arkansas: 3-1 (lost at Alabama, 14-38). The Hogs went to Tuscaloosa and got outclassed last week, and they drop out of my rankings from #12. Alabama is my #1 team and they were playing on the road in a very hostile environment, but I just haven’t been all that impressed with Arkansas so far.

Outscoring Missouri State and New Mexico 103-10 is fun for the fans but it really doesn’t prove anything. Against reasonable competition they haven’t been as impressive, struggling to hold off Troy at home, and then getting run into the ground by Alabama.