Pro Football

Armchair Athlete




Commentary Archives - 2000

Wagering Philosophy - August 15, 2000

It is our belief that one stands the best chance of showing a profit by placing many bets than by placing just a few bets.  To illustrate this fact take a look at the following scenarios:


Player A wagers $1,100 on every game for the final thirteen weeks of the season (about 189 games).  He wins 56% of his games for a record of 106-83.  Player A's net profit is as follows:


Wins        106 x $1,000 = $106,000

Losses        83 x $1,100 = $91,300

Net:                                  $14,700



Player B wagers $1,100 on only five games per week for the final thirteen weeks of the season.  His winning percentage is 60% (3-2 weekly average) for a record of 39-26.  Players B's net profit is as follows:


Wins         39 x $1,000 = $39,000

Losses      26 x $1,100 = $28,600

Net:                                $10,400



Player C wagers $1,100 on only three games per week for the final thirteen weeks of the season.  His winning percentage is 67% (2-1 weekly average) for a record of 26-13.  Players C's net profit is as follows:


Wins         26 x $1,000 = $26,000

Losses      13 x $1,100 = $14,300

Net:                                $11,700



As one can easily determine Player A has made the larger profit than the other two players even though he had the lowest winning percentage of the three.  As stated above, it is our belief that the best way to make a profit is to wager on many games rather than a select few.  There are several reasons for this and the main ones are:



1.    According to the saying "on any given Sunday anything can happen."  By wagering on a select few games you are increasing the chances that you have selected one of these such games.

2.    The loss of a player through an injury or penalty in the middle of a game can severely impact the outcome of a game.

3.    A poor call by the officials can also severely impact the outcome of a game.

4.    The impact of turnovers and poor plays get minimized.



There are others, but I think you see what I am getting at.  The more games that are wagered on, the more the intangible qualities of the games are leveled.  In doing so one can analyze statistics over a broad spectrum which leads to more consistency.  Others may argue with this approach, but our numbers over the past 5 seasons show otherwise.


Team Chemistry - September 10, 2000



How many times have I seen teams attempt to 'buy a championship' fail?  All efforts do not fail, but I have seen a lot more teams fail than succeed.  Most recently the Lakers in basketball succeeded, but it took a coach with a proven track record in winning championships to get this group to play like a team (the Lakers failed badly without Phil Jackson as their coach).  How many championships have the most talented team in baseball of the 90's (arguably, the Atlanta Braves) won?  Only one.  Look at how many championships Dan Marino of the Dolphins won (none).  For that matter, how many Super Bowls did he even play in?  Only one, very early in his career.



Pro football, like other sports, is a team game that is best played by a dedicated group of men pulling toward one goal, winning the Lombardi Trophy.  Look at some of the recent teams that have won Super Bowls.  The St Louis Rams had no real superstar.  The Denver Broncos had stars that have been to Super Bowls before (all losses), but did not win the 'big one' until the played like a team.



In looking at the strength of a given team a factor that must be evaluated is how well the group of men play as a team and how well the coaching staff does in preparation as well as motivation.  Look at the work done by Bill Parcells with three different teams over the last two decades.  His teams were never the most talented, but he made sure they played well together and as a unit. 



While it is too early to say the Washington Redskins will not win the Super Bowl this year, it is safe to say that this talented group of individuals is not playing like a team. If they want to get very far this post season, they had best play together.


Winning Percentages - September 18, 2000



Even though our picks against the spread are not released for the first four weeks of the season due to the fact we statistically evaluate each team over this time, I do make picks for the first four weeks to maintain a contest I have had for years with a good friend of mine.  This week it appears as if I am going to go 12-1-1.  The lone loss was the Atlanta - Carolina game and the tie was the Cincinnati - Jacksonville game.  My friend did pretty well also.  The reason I bring this up is not to show that I am some sort of genius.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Yes, I did have a good week, but I have certainly had bad weeks too.



In looking back at my bad weeks, I can typically find them occurring after I have had a very good week or a small series of fairly good weeks.  Over the years I have had a tendency of becoming too self confident in my picks after a spell of success.  I'd like to think that history has taught me a few good lessons and I have become better at avoiding the disastrous weeks I have suffered during my earlier years.



Another cause of disastrous weeks I have found is making selections with sentiment and habit rather than exercising better judgment.  For example, players can tend to hang onto teams that they have had success with when they should be carefully examining performances of all of the teams.



The use of the methods used in determining our selections on this web page from week five on out helps to eliminate both becoming too self confident as well as playing with sentiment.  I have posted game selections based on numbers from my computer analysis when I personally have not agreed with the pick.  Sometimes I am right and sometimes my computer is right.  That is the fun in handicapping and, in the words of ESPN's Swami, "that is why they play the games."



In handicapping, I have found that important things are, but not limited to being consistent, being aware of what is transpiring around the league, listening to others (newspapers, TV, web pages, etc), and not get too involved with good streaks (enjoy them) and/or bad streaks (ride them out).


Defense - October 2, 2000



Don't look now, but the Rams are on a record setting pace.  They are scoring points almost at will.  They had better be careful and remember that they need to play defense as well.  In my time I have seen some very good offensive teams come up short in the playoffs.  Some examples include:


  • Most recently, the Minnesota Vikings.  Two years ago they were everyone's pick to go to the Super Bowl with Randall Cunningham throwing TD bombs to Cris Carter and Randy Moss.  The Atlanta Falcons of all teams beat them in the NFC title game and went on to the Super Bowl.

  • How many times did Dan Marino win a Super Bowl?  None.  For that matter, how may times did he even get there?  Once, and he lost big to the 49ers.

  • The Buffalo Bills from the early to mid 1990s.  With Jim Kelly operating the hurry up offense with Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and James Lofton these guys could put up points.  Only problem was they got shut down by the NFC's superior defense defense when they got to the big game.

  • Remember Warren Moon's Houston Oilers of the late 1980s and early 1990s?  There was a passing attack.  They never got very far in the playoffs because they typically ran into Denver, Cleveland, or Buffalo in the playoffs.  Invariably Houston would be on the road in December at any one of these places when it was freezing cold.  The passing game, especially the long passing game, is not as effective in the cold weather.

  • How about Air Coryell with the San Diego Chargers during the 1980s.  Fun to watch during the regular season, but just another bust in the playoffs.


There are other similar teams, but I think you get my point.  The main problem with these 'score a minute' teams is that they put up big numbers at the expense of their defense.  By scoring quickly these teams force the defense onto the field time and time again with little rest.



I can recall a famous saying that says something along the lines ". . . offense brings the fans, but defense wins championships."  If the Rams want to repeat as Lombardi Trophy winners what the Rams need to do is slow down their offense a little bit and develop a more controlled passing game along with the running game.  They should also take the time to develop and sharpen their defensive game plans and skills instead of trying to develop more ways to put points on the board (we all know they can do this).  They will obviously win the NFC West this year.  They also need to guard against over confidence.  It is easy to get a little too big for your britches when there is a lack of competition.


Tough ATS Losses - October 16, 2000



This week there were some tough losses for those who play against the spread.  Some of the ones are:


  • The Falcons scoring a last minute TD.  Net result, the Falcons covered the 18 point spread.

  • The Packers let the 49ers back into their game and had to kick a last minute field goal to win the game.  Net result, the 49ers covered the 4.5 point spread.

  • The Chiefs let the Raiders back into their game and lost the game.  Net result, the Chiefs were favored and by virtue of losing the game, they obviously did not cover the 2.5 point spread.


A few of the tough losses that someone can dwell on and let ruin their week.  In other games we faired pretty well going 8-3.  When playing against the spread it is important not to get down on yourself.  It is like playing the game yourself.  If you think your beat, you probably are or will be. 



Another important item to remember is not to panic.  By panicking one could double up on either the Sunday or Monday Night games which is not advisable.



One common link to the games mentioned above is the use of a prevent defense.  The prevent defense is designed (I use this term lightly) to help a team maintain their lead by forcing the team that is behind to use the clock while gaining yards in little chunks.  However, quite often seems to backfire and keep players from winning.  Often it will help an underdog cover the point spread even though they still lose the game.



Even though the three games that were lost this week hurt us, there are instances in the past where the prevent defense has helped us as it has gotten and underdog that we played to cover.  Unfortunately, none come to mind at the moment.



The best thing to do is to remember there good breaks and bad breaks.  Try your best to remember the good ones and let go of the bad ones.  It isn't always easy, but it will help.


Report Card 2000 - December 26, 2000



We have taken a two month hiatus from writing this column due to relocating our office.  We have kept up our standards features, but have let the commentary slip.  But now, it is time to evaluate our preseason picks.



Below please find our picks versus the actual result:





AFC East 2000 Actual 2000 Preseason Comment
Miami 11-5 8-8 Defense rose to the occasion
Indianapolis 10-6 11-5 Defense almost kept the Colts out of the playoffs
N Y Jets 9-7 9-7 2nd half collapse ended the Jets
Buffalo 8-8 10-6 Not enough Doug Flutie
New England 5-11 5-11 Got this one right on, not very difficult.

AFC Central

Tennessee 13-3 11-5 Exceeded expectations and #1 seed to Super Bowl
Baltimore 12-4 9-7 Accelerated improvement
Pittsburgh 9-7 6-10 Good 2nd half close equals more wins
Jacksonville 7-9 12-4 Poor start kept Jags out of the playoffs
Cincinnati 4-12 4-12 See Patriots
Cleveland 3-13 5-11 Season all but ended when Couch got hurt

AFC West

Oakland 12-4 9-7 Got over the hump in the close ones
Denver 11-5 10-6 Even with injuries, the Broncos roll on
Kansas City 7-9 8-8 Same old, same old
Seattle 6-10 8-8 A disappointing year
San Diego 1-15 6-10 Chargers were better than their record indicated





NFC East 2000 Actual 2000 Preseason Comment
N Y Giants 12-4 7-9 Are the Giants really this good?
Philadelphia 11-5 8-8 Wins the close ones
Washington 8-8 11-5 Too many players that can't play together
Dallas 5-11 9-7 Disappointment
Arizona 3-13 6-10 A bad situation worse than anticipated

AFC Central

Minnesota 11-5 8-8 Effectivemess of Duante Culpepper a major surprise
Tampa Bay 10-6 12-4 Midseason slump hurt
Green Bay 9-7 10-6 A poor start did in the Pack
Detroit 9-7 6-10 Second half tailspin tamed the Lions
Chicago 5-11 7-9 Cade McNown showed he isn't ready

AFC West

New Orleans 10-6 4-12 Surprise team of the year
St Louis 10-6 10-6 Typical defending champ struggles
Carolina 7-9 8-8 Never got untracked
San Francisco 6-10 5-11 Did better than anticipated
Atlanta 4-12 6-10 Same old Falcons, especially when Chandler is hurt



In the AFC we picked the Colts, Bills, Jets, Jaguars, Titans, and Broncos to make the playoffs with the Colts going to the Super Bowl.  The Colts, Titans, and Broncos did make the post season and we'll see about the Colts over the next couple of weeks.



In the NFC we picked the Redskins, Cowboys, Eagles, Buccaneers, Packers, and Rams to make the playoffs with the Buccaneers going to the Super Bowl.  The Eagles, Buccaneers, and Rams did make the post season and we'll see about the Buccaneers over the next couple of weeks.