Friday, January 31, 2014

SuperPod 48

To prepare for Super Bowl XLVIII, we discuss their feelings about the first Broncos Super Bowl since the 90s, and why the Broncos defense might actually be good. Later, we dive in to what prop bets we like for this weekend's game and talk about our wagering plan.

SuperPod 48

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why Must Pro Athletes Be "Classy"?

After Sunday's 23-17 victory in the NFC Championship, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman let his opinion be heard. In his post-game interview with Erin Andrews, mere minutes after he made one of the biggest plays in his franchise's history, he shared his opinion about how his skills contributed to his team's victory:

Sherman: "Well, I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like [Michael] Crabtree, that's the result you're gonna get. Don't you ever talk about me."
Andrews: "Who was talking about you?"
Sherman: "Crabtree. Don't you open your mouth about the best, or I'm gonna shut it for you real quick. L.O.B."

Let's say the transcription is much less exciting than the video. Here's the interview as it appeared on Fox.
What followed on in the media (both social media and on TV) was a narrative about how Sherman is a thug and should act with class in victory (more on this shortly). You'll also notice in the video that Andrews seems to be cut off right before she's about to ask a third question. I read that the Fox production told Andrews to end the interview due to Sherman's rant. With a little context, we find that this is untrue. Watch this video and you'll see Sherman walks off after he yells "L.O.B.!" (whatever that means)...

What most interested me about the public backlash against Sherman was the narrative that professional athletes must be "classy" in both victory and defeat. These guys play a game for a living! Why must they be classy!? Take a look at your own reactions to winning and losing in competition. Have you ever...

  • Spiked an Xbox controller on the floor?
  • Talked smack to your friend after scoring in Fifa?
  • Pouted after giving up a huge kickoff return in Madden?
  • Spiked a pool cue on the ground after scratching on the 8-ball?
  • Been on the verge of physically assaulting your friend who made a cheap play?
  • Tomahawked a golf club across the fairway?
  • Given somebody the bird after intercepting a pass in backyard football?
  • Crushed a ping pong ball in your hands after losing game point?
If you've answered "yes" to any of the above questions, then you are guilty of the same things Richard Sherman is guilty of. We all react in "classless" ways when we win and lose (mind you, not every time); Sherman just did it on a bigger stage. I realize that his previous actions and attitude have fueled the narrative that Sherman is a dick, but this seemed to push it over the top. We scream for entertainment. It's why we watch sports every weekend. But when somebody gets a little too entertaining, the public freaks out. I don't get that.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Phew, it's Championship Weekend

Last week, I laid out the recent history of the NFL playoffs. It went a little something like this: seeding is irrelevant, home field doesn't matter as much as you think it does, and the better team on paper doesn't always win. Go figure, that for the first time since 2004, each favorite won, and the only top seed that lost (Carolina) was favored to lose to a superior team. Where does that leave us? It would be foolish to believe that the trend of inferior teams making runs through the playoffs is over. But this season, another season of major injuries, offensive records, and concussion protocols, the best four teams on paper have found their way to the final four. With that, we're given another series of narratives that involve two old school QB's going at it in the twilight of their careers and two new school QB's fighting to assert themselves as the future of the NFL. Either way, we're setup for a glorious Super Bowl matchup (unless the goddamn Patriots are in it...).

I've made the mistake in the past of picking an outcome that would make me seem like a hero. Nobody wants to read a vanilla blog post where I pick all the favorites to win, right? Well, maybe. I've realized I shouldn't try to stand out from the crowd and try my best to pick games with my head, instead of my heart. Here's the difference. If I'm picking with my head, I'm using all the information I have to make an informed decision. If I'm picking with my heart, I throw data by the wayside and make up things like "Tom Brady is too clutch for the Broncos defense to handle," and "The 49ers can't handle the Seahawks crowd". Where we reach an impasse is here: no narrative assumption is quantifiable, so we can't use it to make an informed decision on a game. Stats are great to tell you that Seattle will beat the 49ers eight out of ten times in games played at CenturyLink Field. They're not playing ten times; they're playing once.

Without further adieu, here are my picks.

Patriots (+5.0) over BRONCOS 

The narrative: It's Manning-Brady Bowl XV, and this may be the biggest one yet. This game is a rematch of the week 12 matchup that saw the Patriots rally from a 24 point deficit and win on a fortuitous bounce in overtime. Coming off a record-setting year, Peyton Manning pulled back the reigns on the passing game against San Diego in favor of a balanced run-pass game (36 pass attempts to 34 rush attempts). Tom Brady's Patriots continued to adapt as they morphed into a power running team, amassing 234 yards on 46 rush attempts (versus just 25 pass attempts) in their win over the Colts. It's interesting that the running game of both teams has been on display of late, but with pristine conditions expected Sunday, neither team's passing attack will be hindered. 

The pick: While I feel very awkward and uncomfortable picking the Patriots to cover, I believe it's the right move here. Any scenario whereby the Broncos win by more than five points sounds wonderful, however unlikely. The Broncos hold off the Patriots in the 4th to win 28-24

Some props: Keep your eye on the total in this game, currently set at 57 total points. Typically, in these high-caliber affairs, the betting public hits heavy on the over, leading to an inflated total. Your inclination may be that Manning and Brady always light it up. However, looking at their point totals from all 14 previous matchups, there were only five instances (36%) where they totaled over 57 points. However, dating back to 2007, they've totaled over 57 points in four of six matchups (67%). Even when you use your head, the data is still confusing.

SEAHAWKS (-3.5) over 49ers 

The narrative: The Seahawks and 49ers are two teams that absolutely loathe each other. It begins with Richard Sherman, a pupil of Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, who talks more trash (and backs it up) than anyone in the NFL. The rivalry continues with the perception of their respective quarterbacks, the tattooed, lanky Colin Kaepernick and the humble, stout Russell Wilson. Even Apple and Microsoft have duked it out for years. San Francisco has had little success playing on the road in Seattle, getting trounced by a combined score of 71-16 over the past two seasons. However, the 49ers are regarded as the most complete team in football right now, and ride an eight game win streak into the game. Seattle's dominance may be declining, due to their less than dominant effort in last week's win over the Saints. 

The pick: I don't place any merit in winning streaks in football (see, the Broncos 11-game winning streak entering last year's playoffs), so I throw out all that junk about the 49ers carrying more momentum. This isn't a physics equation! Seahawks dominance at home continues as the beat the 49ers 24-14.

Some props: Seattle led the league in takeaways (interceptions plus fumbles) in the regular season with 39, while San Francisco was 4th in the league with 30. Touchdowns after takeaways are largely random, however if you're a fan of defensive scoring, consider either prop "49ers to Score a Defensive TD and Win Game" at +750 or "Seahawks to Score a Defensive TD and Win Game" at +550.

Last Week: 2-2

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 NFL Divisional Round Picks

Greetings 303 Sports readers! I'm back to make my triumphant return to picking NFL games... just in time for round two of the playoffs. Hey, better late than never.

First, a mini history lesson on why round two is still called the "Divisional Round". The term more clearly made sense after the NFL-AFL merger, when only the three division winners, plus one wild card, from each conference would meet in this, the quarterfinal round. League expansion in 1990 brought in the modern wild card round as we see it today: one and two-seeds would receive a bye, while seeds three through six would meet in round one. We may see an additional wild card team brought into the mix in the coming years; yielding a scenario where only the one-seed will receive a bye. Make sure your 60" plasma can handle back to back triple-header days of playoff action in 2015.

Back in the day (the 90s and early 2000s), the wild card round of the playoffs only served as a one-week distraction while the real teams prepared themselves on a bye week. Since the Steelers improbable Super Bowl XL victory as a six-seed following the 2005 season, playoff seeding and regular season records have served zero prediction to the outcome of playoff match ups. Since that point (eight full seasons), six of eight Super Bowl champions began the playoffs in the wild card round. Two of those champions (2005 Steelers & 2010 Packers) were six-seeds... I'm looking at you, Chargers & Saints). One more fun fact that all Broncos and Seahawks fans will love: six-seeds are 6-2 against one-seeds since 2005. That's not covering the spread. That's winning outright. What it comes down to is this: if you're laying money on favorites, you will lose. Do not parlay (Kieran). Throw some dough on the underdogs.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-8.0)

The narrative: This game is a rematch of a week 13 beat down that the Seahawks put on the Saints on Monday Night Football, 34-7. Seattle, both anecdotally and scientifically, holds the best home field advantage in football since 2002. The Saints, meanwhile, return to the scene where their repeat title run ended after the 2010 season. We remember that game, of course, as the Beast Mode game. Fans of the 7-9 Seahawks created a measurable tremor in nearby seismic monitoring centers during Marshawn Lynch's signature run. Seattle has been poised all season to make a Super Bowl run, while the Saints hope to prove they can continue to win on the road.

The pick: As much as it pains me to say, one of the one-seeds is going down this weekend. And I'll be damned if it's the Broncos... again. It hurts me to say this, but Saints win, 28-24.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7.0)

The narrative: The Colts are coming off one of the craziest comeback wins you will ever see in a sporting event. Down 38-10 in the 3rd quarter, Andrew Luck and the Colts rallied back to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 45-44. If momentum exists in sports, they have it. The Patriots, meanwhile, sport an injury-riddled team that somehow has been good for over a decade. Mired in a nine-year Super Bowl drought, Tom Brady has performed poorly in the playoffs of late, contrary to almost anything you read about him. 

The pick: Tom Brady continues his trend of losing to inferior opponents in the playoffs (seriously, why does he get so much credit for being great? He won three Super Bowls early in his career and has been below average since. Why doesn't he get more shit for blowing the 19-0 season!?). Andrew Luck runs for two touchdowns as the Colts prevail 24-18.

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (+1.5)

The narrative: The surprise team of the regular season matches up against the reigning NFC champion 49ers. Cam Newton, possessor of all the tools teams look for in a young quarterback put it together this season, as his coach embraced how to not be a pussy on 4th down. This game is a rematch of an unusually entertaining 10-9 game played between these teams in week 10. On the other side, the 49ers are considered one of the hottest teams in the playoffs; riding a seven-game win streak into this Sunday's matchup. Both teams possess electric young quarterbacks and stout defenses, which should lead to another low scoring struggle.

The pick: Logic is often the most deceiving thing in the NFL. While on paper, this game looks like a defensive struggle, in reality it may be a surprise shootout. The 49ers manage the clock just a little better, get the ball last, and win 37-35

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-9.5)

The narrative: Congratulations Chargers & Broncos fans! Your team has automatically qualified for the final five! As for earning that final spot in the championship round, Broncos fans talk a mean talk, but deep down are scared to death of this Chargers team. Nobody wants to play the team with nothing to lose (see, Baltimore Ravens, 2012), and a guy who throws like a girl while wearing a bolo tie (see, Phil Rivers, 2013). Some Broncos fans I've spoken to are already pointing the finger at this weekend's scapegoat. 

The pick: Nobody will give a crap about the narrative going into this game after the Chargers are crushed by the Broncos, 45-24. That's this week's lock of the week! (But for the love of god, do not parlay this).

In Summary...

Saints +8 over SEAHAWKS
Colts +7 over PATRIOTS
49ers -1 over PANTHERS
BRONCOS -10 over Chargers

And if you're crazy enough to parlay these predictions:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Week 10 NFL Best Bets

In this week's pod, Spen and Kieran talk about why the World Series of Poker is still cool, whether the Chiefs are the worst 9-0 team ever and talk about what the best bets are for this NFL weekend. The guys finish up by discussing why it would be sad to see the Raiders leave Oakland.

Week 10 NFL Best Bets

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Broncos with Something to Prove?

The pod is back with Spen and Kieran feeling uncomfortable with the Broncos, despite a 7-1 record. Then the pod goes into what the best game lines are for week 9, and why Kieran needs go get into the Avs NOW.

Broncos with Something to Prove?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NBA Finals Game 7 & is Fantasy Football Actually Fun?

In this summer's pod, Spen and Kieran yell about the officiating in Game 6, figure out what it takes to draw a penalty in the NHL Finals and decide that fantasy football isn't all that great.

NBA Finals Game 7 & is Fantasy Football Actually Fun?