By: John H
For a college student, winter break is a tale of two seasons - Christmas season and the college football bowl season.
I love most everything about Christmas season. I love the time spent with family I rarely see, the relief it provides from the stressors of college finals, the random acts of kindness people display as the holiday spirit possesses them. I love the Christmas feasts and seasonal treats. I love getting gifts for my parents, siblings, and godson. I even love the weather and, no matter how repetitive or downright awful, I love the Christmas music
But the one thing I do not love about Christmas season – it drags on forever. You know exactly what I mean. When you see Christmas decorations on sale the day after Halloween, you can’t help but feel bad for Thanksgiving – the redheaded stepchild of cold weather holidays. What ever happened to the 12 days of Christmas
? Hell, even the 25 days of Christmas? Now the season “officially” starts with Black Friday (only slightly less morally corrupting than the other Black Friday
). Christmas season has abducted up 2 full calendar months, which is about a month and a half longer than it should. By the time you get to the important part, there just isn’t anything special about it anymore. No excitement. You can only build up anticipation so long before appeal gives way to monotony. It’s like going home with the hot chick from the bar, only to find out that she wants at least ten dates out of you before you actually get to “go home” with her.
Which just happens to be the perfect segue into my love-hate relationship with the college football bowl season.
You see, I love a lot of things about the bowl season. I love that it forces good teams to actually test themselves against a worthy opponent that’s not in their conference. I love that it gives smaller schools a chance to shine in the spotlight (and often enough, succeed against unreasonably favored opponents). I love that nearly any night I can choose to do nothing other than sit on the couch and indulge myself in an evening full of college football games.
But there are many things I do not love about bowl season. As a purist, I despise the lack of a bracket style tournament to decide a champion (although we are obviously taking steps in the right direction with the planned 4 team playoff). I hate that the BCS rewards mediocre teams with the “glory” of a bowl game in the same way that a third grade teacher rewards mediocre students with the “honor” of a gold sticker. (Allow me a tangential rant here. There are 120 NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, of whom 3 were not bowl eligible based on NCAA sanctions. Of the remaining 117 teams, 70 are competing in post-season bowl games. I’ll save you the calculation – 60% of the eligible teams were rewarded with the honor of a postseason bowl game. This includes 12 teams that entered their bowl game at 6-6, as well as one team (Georgia Tech) who went into the Sun Bowl with a 5-7 record against FBS opponents. Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech finished their season 9-3 and fared better against Johnny Football’s Texas A&M squad than national championship hopeful Alabama, but is not playing in a bowl game this year. Yes, they were invited to the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (which to Karl Malone’s dismay they turned down in expectation of a better offer), but it should be strict policy that a good 9-3 football team is placed into a respectable bowl game ahead of a 6-6 bottom feeder who happens to be from a bigger conference. But I digress…
More than anything, I hate that the National Championship Game, which should
be college football’s equivalent of Christmas, is really more like that mythical bar girl. You went ahead and called her the next night because hell, what’s a couple of dates? And here we are, 10 dates later, and it’s the big night. Are you excited? Obviously. She was fucking hot. But you know she’s not “the one”, just another girl, and sooner or later there’s gonna be another, and was she really worth all that time and money after all? Just for one night? Well, maybe, but then again maybe not, and wouldn’t it have been so much better if she had just gone home with you that first night?
What I’m getting at is this: We are all excited for the National Championship Game tonight between Notre Dame and Alabama. It’s a game with just enough sex appeal to keep us interested over the last 3 weeks since the first bowl game of the season/4 weeks since the last regular season game/5 weeks since Alabama’s last regular season game/6 weeks since Notre Dame’s last regular season game. But just barely.
Maybe I’m in the minority here. And if so, both of my readers have probably stopped reading by now. But as a college football player, I simply have a hard time understanding how you can call this game a National Championship when neither team has played in well over a month. Teams can struggle to carry the momentum of a hot streak over a bye week, and yet we expect these teams to be at peak performance after so much time off? Most fans don’t understand just how hard it can be for a team to maintain focus with that much time off. Then throw in finals (a distraction SEC teams don’t have to worry much about), the holidays, and the various other distracters that come with playing in such a high profile game
and it’s simply impossible to justify that we are getting the best possible product come game time.
Any team can win one
game. What is impressive about going 12-0, or going 11-1, is the fact that week after week you have to fight through the grind of the college football season and play at your peak level. This is what defines a team’s worth, what separates the good teams from the bad. Good teams lose their edge when you remove them from that systematic rhythm. Case in point: last year’s snoozer.
So yeah, it’s not just the fact that I have to wait so long for the National Championship that bothers me. It’s the fact that I know it’s just not as special as it could have been if this game were held 4 weeks earlier. Will this ever
happen? Obviously not. Not while the BCS is in existence. All I can do is hope for a better future, and complain until it gets here.
A closing bit: If Christmas season gets any longer, there’s always Hanukkah. Unfortunately, we’re not that lucky when it comes to bowl season’s alternatives. So here’s to hoping tonight’s game is worth the wait. (Go Irish
BY: Greg Jones
Gambling has become an integral aspect of modern sports. A motivated person can place a bet on virtually anything; take the Super Bowl, for instance. Bets can be placed on every aspect of the game -from the winner or loser to the coin toss (heads or tails), or even the length of time it takes for the national anthem to be sung (an over/under). These bets not only drive interest in the sports on which wagering occurs, but they are a huge business. According to one CNBC study on illegal gambling, there is over 300 billion dollars wagered each year in the United States alone, and that is only illegal gambling. Due to the mass amounts of money that flow through this market each year, an inefficiency could result in large profits for a bettor if he can exploit the mis-pricing properly. This paper aims to determine if the market for NFL bets displays any biases that could be exploited or if it is an efficient market with regard to the variables we test.
In standard American football betting (both legal and illegal) a point spread system is used. In this system a spread is set for the weekend’s games early in the week, normally Monday. Bets are taken until kickoff, when the betting ends and the ‘closing line’ is established. For example, the line ‘Chicago minus five at Minnesota’ means that Chicago is expected to beat Minnesota by five points. If a bettor believes one team is undervalued compared to its opponent, he bets on that team with a book maker (bookie). In this case, if Chicago outscores Minnesota by more than five points, bets on Chicago win. If Minnesota loses by four points or less (including scenarios where they win outright), bets on Minnesota win. Finally, if Chicago wins by exactly five points a ‘push’ is declared, and the money is simply returned to the bettor.
In point spread betting the bookie acts much like a stock exchange specialist. The bookie, like the stock exchange specialist, charges a fee for setting up sellers and buyers (in this case bettors wagering on both sides of the line). The bookie makes money in two ways. First, for each wager a bookie pays out $10 in winnings for each bet of $11. This means that if in the previous example a bet was placed on Chicago for $11 and Chicago won by seven points the bettor would be given $21 by the bookie, not $22; this is known as the vigorish, or vig. Second, the bets that lose are collected by the bookie, and what is not given to other bettors in winnings is kept as profit.
Like the stock exchange specialist, a bookie would like to avoid ending up in a naked position. Therefore, if many bettors are wagering on one side of a bet, the bookie will adjust the line to encourage betting on the other side. Since betting lines move according to the dollar amount of wagers on each side of the bet, closing spreads should reflect all public and private information as well as any biases of market participants.
There have been numerous studies on the efficiency of the NFL gambling market over the years. Most repeat or build on the first study done in 1985 by Zuber et al. In that study, the authors expanded research done on the efficiency of racetrack gambling in order to analyze the NFL. Using an OLS model on one season (1983), they found that they could not say the market was inefficient. Other authors such as Gray and Gray (1997), Dare and Holland (2004), and Borghesi (2007) have looked at this problem using a binary model, which does not take into account the size of a bet’s win, only the fact that it won. They found biases in certain parts of the season and with home underdogs.
Using the readily available data from the 2006-2009 seasons, with games played at a non-neutral site, we ran both an OLS model and a binary model to see if we could locate any inefficiencies in the market. We start our examination with an analysis to determine if there is a statistically significant difference in the point spread and the actual outcome of the games. Dare and Holland (2004) developed a model that correctly isolates the venue and spread explanatory variables:
In this case, D is the outcome (the difference in points scored between the favorite and the underdog) minus the closing line, HF = 1 if the home team is the favorite; HF = 0 otherwise, VF = 1 if the visiting team is the favorite; VF = 0 otherwise and CL is the absolute value of the closing line. This is the model we will use and it will be referred to as the ‘Base Model.’ The binary model is the same as equation 4.3; however, now the left-hand-side variable is W, which is 1 if the favorite covers and 0 otherwise
If these two equations produce substantially different results, it would indicate that the magnitude by which a bet wins (loses) is of importance to bettors. The last aspect of valuation that we consider for the data is time variation by looking at sub-samples of various lengths.
The crucial aspect of our analysis is the difference between point spreads and actual outcomes. We assume the distribution of these differences is nonnormal so we use a Wilcoxon signed rank test to test their significance. The summary of this statistical analysis can be found in Appendix 1. Overall, home teams are predicted to win by an average of 2.64 points and actually win by 2.24 points, with this difference falling short of showing significance. Within the subgroup of home underdogs (not shown here), teams are predicted to lose by an average of 5.11 points and actually lose by 5.54 points. There are no weeks with a statistically significant difference from zero and only two weeks, four and twelve, even approach a 10% significance level. However, there is some evidence of seasonal biases.
One potential source of persistent seasonal biases is bettors not properly accounting for factors which affect team performance from one point to another in a season. The most pertinent of these that differs from the beginning to the end of a season is the weather. People around the game (coaches, players, sports writers, etc.) consistently argue that when a team from a mild climate like San Diego has to play in an open air stadium in a harsh climate late in the season, such as Chicago, the mild climate team is at a significant disadvantage. Teams based in harsh climates regularly practice and play in this harsh weather making them more adept at handling the adversity that the weather presents. In an efficient market this climate factor should be fully reflected in the closing point spread. It is possible that late season spreads do not account for this situation, and if the late season mis-pricing is a result of this it would indicate that bettors are not properly factoring historical results into their analyses. If they were, they would account for the effect the weather can have late in the season and the bias would be expected and incorporated into the prices.
To further investigate what we have seen, we develop four simple betting strategies and test out their effectiveness over the course of our sample, which can be seen in Appendix 2. While neither ‘bet on all home teams’ nor ‘bet on all home underdogs’ wins enough to cover the vigorish, ‘bet on all home underdogs’, when used over the last four weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, yields a return of 56.52% and 66.67%, respectively. This is more than enough to cover the vigorish and any other transaction costs. The final columns of Appendix 2 show that bets on moderate and extreme underdogs are even more precise. While only the ‘bet on 8+ home underdogs’ is a high enough percentage over the whole sample to make up for the vigorish, both ‘bet on 2+ home underdogs’ and ‘bet on 8+ home underdogs’ work very well over the late season and into the playoffs. In fact, in the small sample of 21, the ‘bet on 8+ home underdogs’ won almost 81% of the time. These findings show that the most profitable betting strategies rely not only on the venue and spread but also the precise timing of the bet.
Going further, to isolate and identify the length and severity of biases, we establish two variants of the Base Binary Model first proposed by Borghesi (2007). The first is the 1-Month Base Binary Model in which we regress the previous four weeks of data to predict the next four weeks of results. Estimators for the first few weeks of each season are derived from the final weeks of the previous season, except for the first weeks of our sample, weeks 1-4 in 2006, which are omitted. The second is the 1-Year Base Binary Model in which we regress the previous season’s data to to predict the season’s results. The first season in our sample, 2006, has been omitted from this model. The first model is used to identify and exploit short term biases while the second model is designed to identify and exploit long term biases.
Appendix 3 shows the results of these models. Neither model achieves the necessary 52.40% accuracy that has been the proposed breakeven point in previous studies. However, the end of the season shows inefficient prices. The 1-Month Base Model, used to identify short-term biases, yields a late season success rate of 53.60%. This result indicates that there are biases late in the season that do not take into account all the available information and create mis-pricings.
In addition to the late season bias, Appendix 3 shows evidence that the previous season’s aggregate biases can be seen in the early stages of a season (a graphical repensentation can be seen in Appendix 4). Early season for the 1-Year Binary Base Model shows much higher accuracy than late season, indicating that by the end of a season bettors focus on the current season’s variables and begin to disregard the last season’s results. This same phenomenon can be seen in the 1-Month Binary Base Model. The first four weeks of that model are based on previous seasons’ results and those first four weeks begin with relatively high accuracy; week 1 is 54.17% accurate compared to 51.22% accuracy for weeks 2 and a drop to 43.90% accuracy by week 4. This indicates that the biases present at the end of the previous season influence the bettors through the first few weeks of the new season until there is current data on which they can base their assessments. The bettors’ inclusion of the previous season’s data into their early season pricings and exclusion of current season data in their late season pricings indicates that the data processing time for these bettors is longer than the month that our model affords.
NFL betting has become a large and relevant market in America that has billions of dollars wagered on it every year. In such a big market, it is impressive that the betting lines can be as efficient as they are with little room to be exploited. As we saw through our tests, it is difficult to find any opportunities to exploit the NFL gambling market enough to overcome the vigorish that is charged to bettors. We did, however, find that there are some opportunities later in the season, at which time home underdog teams are, in fact, the wise bet. We felt that this was mostly attributable to mis-pricing that occurs late in the season when weather conditions for harsher climates were not properly compensated for. All in all, we concluded that the NFL gambling market is a near perfect system with little opportunity for gains. On a year to year basis, we will continue to test the betting theories presented here to see if these trends continue.
Appendix 4: Accuracy of out-of-sample Binary Base Model variants
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* This paper was originally published within the Washington University in St. Louis - Olin Business School *
BY: Bryce Lochmann
Much like my friend’s girlfriend's period, my Week 6 recap was a little late. Sorry for scaring everyone. Week 6 was a big one for the NFL. Much to the Baha Men
’s delight, the underdogs ran wild
this weekend. Let’s recap it. The Headlines
The Packers handed Houston their first loss of the year as Aaron Rodgers threw for six touchdowns in a 42-24 massacre. Green Bay sits at 3-3, still trailing the Bears(4-1) in the divisional race. Houston shot themselves in the foot a few times but the outcome was more due to Green Bay having an answer for everything Houston threw at them. The Packers were explosive, never giving the Texans a breather. Should Houston be worried? No, not really. Brian Cushing’s absence was definitely felt but they still have the AFC South on lock. As for the Conference Race, Houston doesn’t have any time off as they face Baltimore next week. Green Bay, meanwhile, needs to stop losing to teams like the Seahawks and Colts if they want to catch Chicago.
The New York Giants put a beating on the 49ers. Alex Smith had a horrible day, throwing three interceptions. The G-Men played a complete football game, winning 26-3 on the road. San Francisco hasn’t faced that consistent of a rushing attack since 1849 (ha ha, I know). The 49ers were bound to have another dud this season, but the distressing thing was the play of Alex Smith. He has had a phenomenal season and he can't let this slip up take his whole season off stride. For the Giants, this game was a clear statement to the rest of the NFL. New York is the team to beat in the NFC East. We will likely see these teams meet up again in the playoffs, but in the mean time the 49ers set their sights on three NFC West match ups over the next four weeks while the Giants face a mixture of AFC North and NFC East talent.
A final storyline to consider, which actually broke Tuesday, is that Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb are both out for the rest of the year. Does this have implications on the AFC North race? You bet. Though I think Terrell Suggs has been the better player between the two over the past few years, Ray Lewis is still a field general out there. Webb is another talented defender. Ideally, Suggs comes back soon and revitalizes the team after this emotional blow. It seems that the Ravens and Steelers are never at 100% though, so who knows how this plays out. Further, is this the last we've seen of Ray Ray? He is 37 now and as freakish as he may be, can only endure for so long. Ravens fan or not, this man is a thrill to watch on the field and never fails for a Top 10 soundbite each the year.
The Run Down
Power Rankings – Top 5
- The Titans beat the Steelers. WTF?
- Kansas City made another team look great this week. This time it was the Bucs who enjoyed the boost, beating the Chiefs 38-10
- The Jets won 35-9 over the Colts. Sanchez still played like shit though
- The Cowboys sat on their own spurs late in the game, dropping a 2 point conversion and missing a FG to allow Baltimore to escape with a 31-29 victory
- The Falcons won a surprisingly hard fought battle against the Raiders and are now the lone undefeated team left in the NFL
- Russel Wilson finally got to throw for a legitimate game winning touchdown, defeating the Patriots 24-23
- A Giant performance by New York let the G-Men dismantle Alex Smith and the 49ers
- The Rams played the Dolphins on Sunday. I think Miami won but I really don’t care enough to check
- THE BROWNS WON A GAME! Over the Bengals…Still, beggars can’t be choosers
- Detroit took down Philly. Vick had a few more turnovers. Should Andy Reid be fired because he can't realize they should give LeSean McCoy ten more touches a game? Probably.
- Bills won in overtime against the Cardinals. Kevin Kolb and Jon Skelton spent most of the game on the ground.
- Have you heard of this guy named RG3? Wow. His stat line was 182 yards passing with one TD and 138 yards rushing with two TDs
- Welcome back, Pack. Aaron Rodgers six TDs were a thing of beauty. Except for the whole "me having Houston -3.5" part
- The Chargers let up a 24 point lead at home on MNF, allowing the Broncos to rattle off 35 unanswered points in an embarrassing collapse.
1) Atlanta Falcons – The only unbeaten team has to have the top spot in my opinion. They’ve won three straight tight battles, too
2) Houston Texans – They got stung by an explosive Green Bay offense. It happens. They still should waltz into the 1st seed in the AFC and rest players starting in what will seem like Week 13.
3) New York Giants – I don’t care what you saw on MNF or what you’ve seen the past decade, Eli Manning is the better of the two brothers in the NFL right now and is also surrounded by better talent.
4) San Francisco 49ers – I had to give the Giants the nod over the 49ers after last week. If Alex Smith gets back to playing like he did through the first 5 weeks, San Fran will shoot back up to 1 or 2.
5) Chicago Bears – I had to put these guys ahead of the Ravens given their margins of victory. Their dismantling opponents 5 Teams to Watch
Green Bay Packers – Which team are they, the team that “loses” to the Seahawks and Colts, or the team that manhandles the Texans?
Seattle Seahawks – but only when they play at Qwest Field…
Baltimore Ravens – Injuries? Check. Hatred of everything that opposes them? Check. Antique play makers? Check. Questionable QB play? Check. Arrogance? Check. The Ravens have everything necessary to provide compelling story lines.
Washington Redskins – RG3, nuff said.
New Orleans Saints – they beat the Chargers and then had a bye. Joe Vitt now takes over as head coach with the Saints in a 1-4 hole. Will they go on an impressive run and snag a wild card spot? I doubt it. Power Rankings – Bottom 5
28) Carolina Panthers – Wait? Wasn’t this one of the most entertaining teams to watch last year?
29) Cleveland Browns – Holy hell, Cleveland won a game. Lebron James also lost in an exhibition game in China against the Clippers over the weekend. Clevelanders are on Cloud 9 right now!!
30) Oakland Raiders – We will find out who is the worst of the worst soon. Oakland plays Jacksonville, KC, and Tampa over the next three weeks.
31) Jacksonville Jaguars – This team sucks, but at least their fan base isn’t revolting against ownership (they’d have to actually have a fan base for that to happen)
32) Kansas City Griefs – this pains me. It truly hurts me at my very core.
See you all next week! Wait, what am I saying? Nobody reads this. In fact, writing this is really just me talking to myself in silence. Good thing I enjoy reading myself ramble.
By: Bob Lang
I dont have any major rants this week. So, I will lead in with some quick hitters from the world of sports, pop culture and maybe some politics…
...Omar Vizquel retired this week. I watched him when he played for the Indians in the 90s. Let me be very clear about something: I hate the Indians. Always have, always will. Vizquel and Jim Thome were my least two favorite baseball players for many many years. Having said that, they both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. I’ve heard so many talking heads this week say that he only put up those numbers because he “played for so long.” (He did play for 25 years in the Majors.) So what? The man was good enough to make a major league roster for quarter of a century. Mike Trout wasn’t even born when Vizquel came up with Seattle in ’89. If that isn’t enough, he won ELEVEN Gold Gloves at shortstop when there were some pretty damed good shortstops in the league. Eleven. That’s more gold gloves than seasons in the typical shortstop’s career. I hope his ability to be good for so long as opposed to great for a short time offensively doesn’t hurt him in the voting because he might have been the best defensive shortstop I have watched in my life outside of Ozzie Smith.
… I’m sitting here watching the new baseball playoffs and… I’m not impressed. St. Louis is going to beat the Braves and thus a team that would not have made the playoffs last year is going to play in the divisional series. Yipee. On the other hand, in the American League, oddly enough the outcome would have been the exact same under last year’s rules. Texas and Baltimore would have tied for the Wild Card and had to play a one game playoff. Exactly what will happen later tonight.
… Speaking of baseball playoffs here are my picks for the World Series (Homer alert coming up). The Tigers will win the AL and the Nationals will pitch their way to the World Series thereby sparing the Western World 2 weeks of Skip Bayless berating the organization for sitting Strasburg. In my heart I am pulling for a Tigers/Reds series so I could drive to every game. I wont, but I could.
… Did anyone watch the debate the other night? When did politics become a sporting event complete with it’s own attached drinking game
? Is this progress? I walked into two sports bars that night and both of them had tables request, and get, to have the debate on the big screen complete with volume. I couldn’t tell who they were rooting for.
… Also, I’m wrong so often I have to say when I’m right. Correctly predicted the Tigers to come from behind and win the division, the Pirates to fade at the end at the hands of the Reds and Cardinals, and the Nationals to win their division. See, I dont always suck at this.
… I have to say that Revolution is turning out to be a pretty good show. I suggest you tune in. Interesting concept and good production values.
… I’m just a little confused. Doesn’t an “Infield Fly” have to occur in or near the infield for it to apply? Bill McKean on ESPN, a former umpire, backed up the call on the field. My problem isn’t that it was called an infield fly, it’s that it was called an infield fly right before the damned thing landed. The point of the infield fly is to protect against a double play and allow the runners to advance at their own risk. If you have to wait that long, you shouldn't make the call. Did it cost the Braves the game? No. But it sure did put a cloud over the game.
… I recently started rereading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals
. It’s a biography of Lincoln and the story of how he created and led his cabinet; men who had all sought the Presidential nomination or worked to see he didn’t get it. It also happens to be the book that the new Lincoln movie
is based on. Reading it makes me think that America has been unusually fortunate enough to have great people arrive on the scene at just the right time. Holding that against the backdrop of the two empty suits I saw on stage in Denver the other night made me wonder where all the great men (or women) are in this country because they certainly are not in Washington. I highly suggest picking up this book if the topic interests you even a little. The man was a political savant and visionary.
… And if that trailer doesn’t give you goosebumps, go see a doctor, you might be dead.
… Just saw a commercial for the Rock of Ages
extended cut Blu Ray. Seriously? The movie didn’t suck enough? So they made it LONGER? Terrific marketing. If they had sold an "Abbreviated version that was a loop of Julianne Hough
scenes and Alec Baldwin saying "This place is about to become a sea of sweat, ear-shattering music... and puke," with a straight face, I MIGHT pick it up. This one I will skip.
… A story somehow made the front page of ESPN.com that a player at Ohio State didn’t like going to class. Stop the presses! College kid frustrated with classes! ESPN is both the best and worst of sports journalism. The tide is shifting to the worst.
Onto week 5. You know what I had last week? A winning week!! Holy crap. Yes, if I had bet them all I would have lost the juice, but I still had a winning record. The secret is to flip the right coin. Going back to the short version this week though. Better thought out, but short.
Falcons at Redskins +3 (o/u 52): The Falcons eked one out last week. Think they dont want to reestablish their dominance? I like RG3… I hope he doesnt get himself killed. Pick: FALCONS
Eagles at Steelers -3.5 (43): The Steelers get their big guns back on defense. Do you think they watched the beating and turnover machine of Vick’s first three games? You think they want to do even more damage? Me too. PICK: STEELERS
Packers at Colts +7 (48): Raise your hand if you REALLY think that Green Bay is only 7 points better than the Colts. Anyone? Hellooooo? Pick: PACKERS
Browns at GaInts -8.5 (44): Do I like this line? Nope. The Giants have a way of playing down or up to the competition. But here I like the competition even less. Pick: GIANTS
Dolphins at Bengals -3 (45): The Dolphins play scrappy and if this game was in Miami, I might go with them. But it’s not. And I think the Bengals roll. I like the over here too. Pick: BENGALS
Ravens at Chiefs +6.5 (46.5): This line has actually moved from -7. I like the extra half point and the Chiefs really are in a lot of trouble. This is no way to get healthy. Pick: RAVENS
Seahawks at Panthers -3 (43.5): Two of my friends and I are practicing to enter the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest next year. Mostly we are practicing how we are choosing which five games to pick. They both love the Panthers here. I hate them. Our first test to see how much weight I will pull. Pick: SEAHAWKS
Bears at Jaguars +5.5 (41): The Bears beat bad teams. That was made clear when they wiped up the Cowboys the other day. I dont love this game (I still dont trust the Bears offense to score enough) but I’ll go with it. Pick: BEARS
Titans at Vikings -6 (44): OK, Vikings, I believe you can win some games this year. Locker going down sealed the deal. Pick: VIKINGS
Broncos at Patriots -6.5 (52): Denver can beat bad teams. I dont know if they can beat good ones on the road. Could totally see a backdoor cover here though. But I dont like to bet on those. Pick: PATRIOTS
Bills at Niners -10 (44.5): Ten is a lot of points to give up. Buffalo will be the toughest test yet for the Niners run defense. I’m giving the ten. Pick: NINERS
Chargers at Saints -4 (53): Apparently the public still believes in the Saints. I dont. What are the odds that Sean Payton gets votes for Coach of the Year just by being absent? Pick: CHARGERS
Texans at Jets +9 (41.5): I’m taking the over. And I’m thinking the Texans can do it on their own. The Jets are in trouble. Of course, that also leads to the “We have our backs against the wall, playing a big night game at home upset out of nowhere” game that always seems to spring up at this point. I’m not touching the game with real money, but for the benefit of this column… Pick: TEXANS
Yes, it looks like a chalk board this week. Sue me.
Last week: 8-7
This Year: 27-34-2
This week: 0-1
BY: Bryce Lochmann
1. Denver Broncos (8-8) – lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs
2. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
3. Oakland Raiders (8-8)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
In 2011 the AFC West ran on Tebow Time. The Raiders swept the division but didn’t make the playoffs. The Chiefs were starting Keanu Reaves at QB for part of the season and the Chargers did their usual “1 game out of the playoffs” routine. 2012 should have the best championship race this division has ever seen since…well…last year. Everyone loves Peyton for the Broncos but he is one bad hit from being done which would open the door for Caleb Hanie. As mentioned, the Raiders have been the most impressive team in inter-division play the past two years and it’s only a matter of time before all those 40 yard dash all-stars actually do something on the field. The Chargers are eternally 1 game outside of the playoffs at the end of each year and the Chiefs showed some real grit playing through what I felt was the most extensive injury gauntlet of any team. 2012 is going to be wild in the West.
Noteable Adds & Drops
Denver Broncos – You may not have heard, but Peyton Manning now plays for the Broncos (and Tebow for the Jets). Along with Peyton, Ronnie Hillman and Joel Dressen join the team. Peyton is used to better targets than what he has in Denver. Then again, Pierre Garcon probably wasn’t considered a top tier target for a while unless you knew D3 college football. It seems silly to list any other notable adds and drops compared to the likes of Tebow and Manning.
Oakland Raiders – I really liked Oakland’s hire of Dennis Allen (Former Broncos DC). Allen should have a lot of insight into the Broncos personnel when it comes time to face the Broncos. The Raiders had salary cap issues so they didn't have huge changes. They added Carson Palmer in the middle of the 2011 season and many are curious what the aging gunslinger can accomplish with a full offseason to adapt.
San Diego Chargers – The Chargers have always been stacked on paper so I’m not sure what to make of all of their offseason shifts. They added RB Ronnie Brown, FB LeRon McClain, and WR Robert Meachem. Meachem is a big body that can replace Vincent Jackson. Brown and McClain should effectively replace Tolbert and help out Ryan Matthews once he comes back from injury. Luis Castillo was a force to be reckoned with but is replaced by Jarrett Johnson. Pro Bowl Guard Kris Dielman retired this offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs – RB Peyton Hillis comes in to replace Thomas Jones in a dual backfield with Jamaal Charles. Charles himself is a notable add to the Chiefs in 2012 given his early injury in 2011. Also returning from injury are Matt Cassel, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeaki. Brandon Carr left for the Cowboys when KC brought in Stanford Rout from the Raiders. LT Eric Winston is a sensational addition to a not so sensational O line that saw the loss of C Casey Wiegmann. Dontari Poe hopes to shape into the next Haloti Ngata but is a ways away from that status. Romeo Crennel gets his first full year as head coach of the Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) – The Chiefs were a blocked field goal away in Week 16 from taking this division with practically no original starters from the beginning of the 2011 season. Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are forces to be reckoned. Kansas City boasts one of the most athletic set of DBs in the league. Their offense, captained by game manager Matt Cassel, could very easily be in the top 10 this year. Quietly, Kansas City is a big threat with a soft schedule.
Denver Broncos (9-7) – The Broncos schedule is actually VERY brutal. I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggle early. Denver fans think that Peyton walked into town holding the Super Bowl XVLII trophy. They are going to be in for a rude awakening. They have 3 different stretches of back to back road games. Even so, this team will be competitive. Heck, they won a playoff game with Tim Tebow, anything is possible.
Oakland Raiders (8-8) –The Raiders are a tough nut to crack. They play very well against division opponents but shit the bed in other situations. I like the regime changes and the decentralization in play calling. This team is definitely headed in the right direction (unfortunately).
San Diego Chargers (7-9) – The offensive line is a big question mark and Phillip Rivers hates to get hit. He is coming off a very poor 2011 by his standards. Malcolm Floyd has trouble staying healthy and Meachem is known to underperform. I think the Chargers are going to be in the AFC West gutter this year.
BY: Bryce Lochmann2011 Recap
1. NY Giants (9-7) – Super Bowl Champions
2. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
3. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
4. Washington Redskins (5-11)
As you (hopefully) know, the Giants won the Super Bowl after sneaking into the playoffs; getting hot at the right time. The Eagles and Cowboys had disappointing season amidst injuries (see: Michael Vick’s spine, etc) and mental lapses (see: Dallas Opening Day, Dallas V Lions, Dallas V Giants, Dallas V Arizona). The new regime in Washington can at least take heart in the fact that they beat the Super Bowl champs twice and have made a bunch of impressive moves in the off-season. It’s interesting to note that any of the top 3 teams in this division could have made it into the playoffs with 2 weeks to go in the NFL Regular season. The NFC East never disappoints when it comes to great games to watch and I expect more of the same in 2012. Notable Adds & Drops
: N.Y. Giants:
Despite a very touching offer to keep Brandon Jacobs in NY (boy donates change) he and Mario Manningham won’t return to the G-Men next season (both going to the 49ers). Fittingly, the Giants picked up an RB and WR in rounds 1 & 2. Wilson (RB) and Randle (WR) will be able to learn from the veteran core already in place in New York. Philadelphia Eagles:
The Eagles played aggressively last year, which yielded a league leading 50 sacks but a middling run defense (16th). As such, they drafted athletes that can play on any down and learn from established veterans. The Eagles draft received great reviews but I am more skeptical than others. I think their offensive line still leaves a lot to be desired and given Vick’s durability issues, I would have made it more of a point of emphasis. Dallas Cowboys:
Dallas had a terrible passing defense last season so it makes sense that they dedicated free agency and a good part of the draft to shoring up the D. They landed Brandon Carr (CB) from the Chiefs, drafted the boy genius Morris Claiborne, and added some pass rushers through the draft to compliment DeMarcus Ware. Washington Redskins:
The Redskins know what it takes to compete in this league; a good quarterback. Considering Rex Grossman had a worse passer rating than highly scrutinized quarterbacks Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Mark Sanchez, the Redskins dedicated this off-season to acquiring RGIII and giving the offensive line a face lift. They even added Kirk Cousins as a value pickup with one of their league leading 12 draft pick selections 2012 Predictions
: Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
– Philly finished 2011 with 4 straight wins. They shored up their defense on draft weekend. If Vick stays healthy or, you know, learns to read a defense pre-snap, look out NFL. I think the Eagles season hinges on the under-praised offensive linemen. They have to protect Vick from vicious hits inside the pocket. Locking up Evan Mathis at guard will help keep Vick alive. There is just simply too much talent on this team. The Giants are hot and cold, the Cowboys routinely screw up, and the Redskins are still rebuilding. I like the Eagles to win the NFC East. They currently sit at +140 to take this division. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
– I love how they fixed up their secondary and they look great on paper but I just can’t back Tony Romo to take this division over all the other play making QBs. I think the Cowboys fall just short of first place and a berth in the playoffs. NY Giants (7-9)
– I know the Giants won the Super Bowl but they looked absolutely horrendous at some points last year. They lost subtle key members to their Super Bowl run and sideline distractions
are already coming into play. Mr ELIte doesn’t add any championships this year. Washington Redskins (6-10)
– This team, though fun to watch, still has a long way to go. I think RGIII vastly outperforms Andrew Luck this year, but doesn’t have enough to make a dent on this division just yet. Check back in about two years.
Up next, the NFC West.
Earlier today, Peyton Manning announced his plans to play for the Denver Broncos next season. But even as I write this article, the news just isn’t sinking in.
Not even a year ago, such news would be considered blasphemy. You could have told me that the Green Bay Packers were offering their entire roster for Manning, and I am confident that the Colts would have turned it down without a second thought. The Jets could have offered him their entire payroll, but not enough money in the world could have lured Manning away from the team he singlehandedly brought to prominence
. Peyton Manning was not just a Colt; he was the Colts
And yet, here we stand today, with Manning arguably the most notable free agent not named Lebron James
in the history of professional sports, working on a contract that will take him from the cornfields to the mountains. Only a bizarre set of random, unpredictable circumstances aligned in perfect coincidence could have brought us to this point. For those of you still in denial, overwhelmed, or simply just sleeping through the NFL
for the past year, allow me to play weatherman and break down all of the elements of this perfect storm. The Storm in Indy
It all begins with Andrew Luck. Not because, in a little over a month, he will be drafted first overall by the Indianapolis Colts as the successor to Peyton Manning. No, Luck catalyzed this process over a year ago with his decision to delay millions of dollars in exchange for one more year at Stanford. Throughout the 2010 college football season, many assumed Luck would take advantage of his rising stock and jump ship for the greener pastures of the NFL (much like his coach, Jim Harbaugh, would do). He should have been the Panther’s first overall pick in the 2011 draft (Sorry Cam, but Luck was clearly the more attractive option). However, Luck proved himself to be different from most college football stars, choosing instead to finish his degree and further his collegiate legacy. And, by successfully avoiding injury or a Jake Locker-style senior year, the legend of Andrew Luck grew. He went from simply being the No. 1 pick to being the most highly valued, NFL ready, can’t-miss-sure-thing draft prospect since… wait for it
… Peyton Manning.
That’s the same Peyton Manning who took the Colts from the bottom of the league to being perennial contenders. The same Peyton Manning who led the Colts to two Super Bowls, winning one. The same Peyton Manning who had started every single game for the Colts since being drafted, on pace to break Brett Favre’s consecutive starts record – as well as every other quarterbacking record in the books. And the same Peyton Manning who, as fate would have it, underwent neck surgery just months after Luck decided to bypass the draft.
Manning’s neck issues have been well documented, so I won’t spend much time on the details. What is important is the timing and magnitude of the surgery, as well as the impact it had on the Colts. In early September, when Manning announced that his initial neck surgery was ineffective and he would have to undergo another, it meant that the Colts would not have their star quarterback available for the regular season.
Unfortunately for them, Manning was the type of the quarterback that didn’t take a snap off in practice. While you love this when said quarterback is healthy, it meant for the Colts that they had absolutely no other quarterback on their roster with playbook familiarity. The Colts had taken Manning’s availability for granted for so many years that they didn’t have a quality option at the most underrated position in football – the backup quarterback.
Which is why, as the NFL season progressed, the Indianapolis Colts were in unfamiliar territory. The same team that, under Manning, had at least 10 wins in 11 of the past 12 seasons could not win a game. They started 0-13 on their way to finishing 2-14, tied with the Rams for worst in the NFL. The Colts were awarded the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, to be held at the end of April. Which, coincidentally, brings us back to Andrew Luck.
As mentioned earlier, Andrew Luck has for two years now been touted as the easiest draft decision to be made in over a decade. And because of that, the only NFL organization able to successfully avoid a quarterback controversy in the last 14 years suddenly had a major one on their hands. Hope that Manning could come back healthy and win for a few more seasons before retiring, or start fresh with a healthy, young, star-to-be in Luck?
But just how close were the Colts to not getting the first pick, i.e. Andrew Luck? One more win (perhaps against the god-awful Jaguars in Week 17 to end the season on a 3-game winning streak?) or one more loss by the Rams (against the Browns in Week 10, where they won 13-12 on a fourth quarter missed field goal?) and the Rams are sitting in prime position, ready to trade the rights to Luck to the highest bidder. This likely still would have been the Redskins. In fact, the only reason the Colts were given the first pick over the Rams is because the Colts had a weaker schedule.
A quick recap of all the things that shouldn’t be – 1) Andrew Luck should not be available in this draft; 2) Peyton Manning should not have needed a second surgery causing him to miss the 2011 season; 3) even without Manning, the Colts should not have finished 2-14 (they should have had a more prepared back-up); 4) the Rams should not have beaten the Browns, instead finishing 1-15; 5) the Colts should not be about to draft Andrew Luck first overall; which leaves us at 6) Peyton Manning should not be a free agent about to sign with the Broncos.
Nonetheless, all that shouldn’t be, was
. It was the perfect storm indeed. Miraculously for John Elway and the Denver Broncos, however, the storm did not end in Indianapolis, but traveled westward where a similar series of improbabilities had already been brewing. The Storm in Denver
It all begins with – who else – Tim Tebow
, only this storm has been building up for awhile now. Even though Tebow was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft and gave hope to the Broncos with three solid starts to end the season, it became immediately apparent upon the hiring of John Elway as VP of football operations that Elway did not see room for Tebow in the Broncos’ future. As such, the Broncos started the 2011 season with the world’s most mediocre quarterback (Kyle Orton), only to lose 4 of the first 5 games.
With fans demanding a quarterback change, Elway thought he had the perfect solution to his Tebow problem – play him, let the team lose a few more games, and allow the fan craze to die down. What Elway did not expect was for the Broncos to begin winning. Call it luck, fate, intangibles, or the work of God himself
, but Tebow Mania exploded as the Broncos rode an improbable winning streak into the playoffs.
Despite the season turnaround, Elway had to have been furious at the way his plan backfired. Had Tebow lost like he was expected to, the team would have been in draft contention for Andrew Luck, and Elway would have a quarterback he could consistently win with. Instead, Elway was stuck with a quarterback he didn’t want but couldn’t get rid of. Tebow, already a cult figure before his improbable string of victories, transcended the line between athlete and deity in the eyes of Denver fans. There was no replacing him, or heads would roll down the Rocky Mountains. And so John Elway, who established the culture of winning in the Mile High City, had no option but to wait for the clock to run out on “Tebow Time.”
Flash forward to March 7, 2012
. The release of Peyton Manning by the Indianapolis Colts was a sad moment for most true fans of the sport, but among those thrilled by the news was John Elway. For while it took the most improbable series of events in Indianapolis to get Manning and the Colts to break up, it would take all of those steps plus one in order for Elway and the Broncos to be able to dump Tebow. But with literally the only quarterback capable of successfully ousting Tebow Mania now a free agent, you could have bet the house that there was no way Elway would let anything stop him from bringing the Manning storm to Denver. The Aftermath – What to Expect
Since the end of the season, Colts owner Jim Irsay has been on a firing spree. You hear about teams going into rebuilding mode; well, here is your perfect example. General Managers, coaches, offensive superstars, defensive superstars – all fired, released, or allowed to sign with other teams. Sure, you are bringing in Andrew Luck to be your star quarterback of the future. But unless you can surround him with some talent, expect to lose (isn’t that right, Sam Bradford). Granted, the Colts have the draft in a month to bring in some young talent, and should have plenty of cap room to make some big moves in next year’s free agency. But this is a team who has forfeited any chance of short-term success in hopes of putting together a successful team down the road. All that this means is that we should expect the Colts to struggle.
Denver, meanwhile, looks exponentially better with the acquisition of Manning (Vegas odds on the Broncos winning the Super Bowl went from 70:1 to 10:1
today). This is essentially the team that made the playoffs and won a first round game last year, only now with a passing game. They didn’t have to give up or trade any pieces for Manning, meaning with a solid draft they could be in great position for the next handful of years. And while he hasn’t signed a contract yet, Manning cares more about winning than money and is not the type of quarterback to break Denver’s bank. Look for the Broncos to bring in a tight end (I hear Dallas Clark is recently available) to give Manning more passing options.
The Broncos, as long as they play it smart (as I assume they will), could be in just as good of position long term. Manning only has so many years left in him, but the rest of this roster has a lot of young talent, particularly on a defense led by Von Miller. Draft a quarterback this year, and allow him to develop under Manning. With Elway and Manning as your mentors, the Broncos should have a smooth transition once Manning eventually retires.
One thing fans need to be aware of – this very well may not be the same Peyton Manning we are used to seeing. Manning is a competitor if there ever was one, and has reportedly made unbelievable strides in his recovery. That being said, this is a 35-year-old quarterback coming off of multiple neck surgeries. Don’t expect the arm strength and velocity just yet, and the Broncos will need to keep him protected (especially when they line up against the New Orleans Saints
in 2012.) Nonetheless, there will be parts of his game that remain unchanged – he will read the defense, stay in the pocket, have quick releases, throw tight spirals, and hit receivers with accuracy. All will prove to be nice surprises to converted ex-Tebowers.
BY: Ben Lynford (@benlynford)
Now that the football season is officially over, and baseball season is still a couple of weeks away, I don’t know what to do with myself. As a two sport athletics enthusiast, my year is almost completely full between the baseball season and football season. Spring training starts in late February and the season goes into November now. Football season starts in August and goes to the first week of February. That leaves me with nothing (even the Lingerie Football League season is over!!)! But during this lull, what am I to do? There’s the mountain of work that I’ve been neglecting that has been slowly piling up from the previous eleven months… Let’s see what else there is.
I could tune in to basketball, but my home town team: the Knicks are awful (wait, what is #Linsanity?). Going a little farther, the Nets are terrible. But also, I haven’t pretended to care about basketball for over a decade, is Michael Jordan still playing? Maybe it’s because I’m short and white, or because my area teams have been dreadful for a long time, but I just can’t get myself to follow basketball. What else ya’ got?
I guess I could watch one of those sports where, similar to baseball, guys are trying to hit something with a stick (albeit a funny looking stick) like hockey or golf. My sources tell me the Rangers are quite good this year eh, but any sport that can’t crack SportsCenters coverage until 5 in the morning can’t be worth my time. Who watches hockey? I mean, really. And golf, now that Tiger Woods has stopped putting it in the hole off the links and doing it much less frequently on the course, where’s the fun for a casual fan who will forget the sport exists when spring training opens?
With no better options, and the days passing agonizingly slow until baseball comes back into my life, I’m left with one tormenting question: What do I do with my time?
By Ben Lynford (@benlynford)
In one of the most lopsided trades in the history of professional sports, Joe Namath famously traded his soul and the soul of the New York Jets franchise for a victory in Super Bowl III in 1969. While Jet fans appreciate the trophy in the case, it has been a very rough 43 years and 8 days since. In that time, the Jets have spent many years being decent, okay, and quite a few years downright terrible. Every once in awhile a promising season will come along and raise hopes that nobody can be that incompetent forever, but then the devil reminds us: it’s still the Jets.
Over the past 15 years it seems that Satan has become bored with watching the Jets simply lose game after game, and has started to get more creative with how he tortures Jets Nation. In the 1990’s Satan actually took a coaching job with the team, as the defensive coordinator and Head Coach for a Day before resigning at the press conference that was supposed to announce his hiring. This personal appearance to humiliate and further damage a New York Jets franchise that didn’t need any more help to fail, just seemed cruel.
It has been assumed that the consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances followed by the impressive implosion this season by the Jets were just Satan’s most recent tricks to haunt this beleaguered team. When reached for comment however, Satan said, that while he was very impressed by the Jets monumental collapse, and that he would love to take credit for it, Satan was not involved. According to the devil, “That was all Santonio! Wow is that guy good!”
When asked if he was involved in constructing the contract that now all but guarantees that Santonio Holmes will be a Jet long term, Satan chuckled and again took no credit, adding, “The Jets have always been really good at failing, it’s been one of my easiest deals, only the Cubs are easier. I almost never have to step in and stop them from succeeding; they do it just fine on their own. Though I am the unnamed source that has been telling everyone that Mark Sanchez is lazy,” he added, “I have to have some fun.”
With the locker room in shambles and the team worrying about everything except playing football, and Holmes not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, Satan admits with some sadness that he might not have to “look-in” on the Jets for awhile. He added “At least I still have the Bengals!”
Some advice for Jets fans out there, do like your greatest hero Namath did, crawl into a bottle and stay there for a couple of decades, at least it will numb the pain.