Please Welcome Guest Blogger Bill Simmons

I’m completely obsessed with the NFL. I know if you’re a guy, chances are you think that you are equally as obsessed as I am. Au contraire, my friend. 

I like the professional football more than pretty much anything that has ever existed, with the (possible) exception of my friends and family. From early September to late January, I completely disregard six out of seven days of the week, sleepwalking through life until the hour of 1 o’clock on Sunday mercifully arrives.

The reason I bring this up is because not only am I a football fan, but I am also a nerd. Recently, I have been able to combine the two vis-à-vis gambling. I’m pretty much a small timer right now, but here are a few money-making tips I have learned so far:

1) Don’t fall in love with high-powered offenses. Vegas and fans both get excited by teams that throw the ball, like the 2004 Bengals or the 2007 Browns, because they are more entertaining to watch. In a toss-up, they’ll usually prefer the high-flying gun-slingers to a methodical, plodding team like the 2008 Buccaneers. When in doubt, take the team that is less entertaining to watch, because you’re probably getting a free point or two.

Nice catch ... Vegas is probably impressed too.
Nice catch ... Vegas was probably impressed too.

2) Avoid complicated logic. Stuff like “The last 14 times the Browns played a team with a winning record, they covered 11 times” is crap. I know this because that quote came from an email sent to me by a gambling website. These websites are highly-profitable businesses, not charities. Also, this stat is obviously contrived. What’s their record the last 14 times they played on the road? What about the last 17 times they played in a dome? Who gives a shit?

3) Find new trends each year. This season, Vegas can’t seem to grasp the fact that the San Diego Chargers stink. It makes sense, they have a traditionally deep pool of talent, and they’ve scored more points than they’ve given up. But they’re not a good team. They’re poorly coached, LT is wearing down, Merriman is on the shelf, Cromartie is getting exposed, and Rivers plays like he’s trying to pad his stats and get Norv Turner fired at the same time.

At least when preparing his resume, Norv can add that he coached the best 5-11 team ever.
At least when preparing his résumé, Norv can add that he coached the best 5-11 team ever.

So the Atlanta Falcons come to town, with hot-shot rookie Matt Ryan and Michael Turner facing his former team, and get 6.5????!?!?!? The single worst line of the season, in my mind. But my point is, next year is different. The Chargers and Falcons could easily flip/flop their overrated/underrated status. Check the early season lines for trends and try to ride them out as long as possible.

4) Disregard lines of 2.5 or less. Only 8% of games are decided by 0-2 points, In fact, assume every game will be decided by 3, 7 or 10+ points, and you will be right 75% of the time.

nfl-points

From what I can tell, Vegas has no concept of shadow prices: they assume moving the line from -2.5 to +2.5 should cost just as much as moving it from +2.5 to +7.5. You can exploit this folly by taking the money line instead of a +0.5-2.5 spread, buying points, or teasing a game from -8 down to -2. 

5) Teaser rules: never tease the line up! You always get more incremental value by moving the line closer to zero. Never tease from one side to the other. Only one game every 5 years is decided by zero, making the -0.5 to +0.5 range essentially worthless. The best line for a 3-team teaser is -10.5, since 55.4% of victories are between 1-10 points. Only tease point spreads of -10 to -12.5 for 3-teams and -7.5 to -8.5 for 2 teams. 

6) It is a common expression to “take the points” in game considered to be a toss-up. This only makes sense for a line >3, and even then it is iffy. 65% of all games are decided by at least 7 points. If you’re not sure about a game, don’t bet on it! If the line is less than 3, I’d actually be more inclined to take the favorite. 

Then there are two useful strategies that I learned from Sports Guy (I guess now is a good time to drop the premise that he is actually guest-blogging here. I imagine Simmons being such a big shot now that he’s probably sitting in a penthouse suite somewhere yelling stuff like “Where the fuck is my caviar!” or “I ordered 7 limos, not 6!” but I do still read him anyway). One strategy is to try and guess the lines before actually seeing them. This allows you to formulate your own opinion first without being swayed by Vegas.

The second strategy is to try and rank all the NFL teams. Moreover, having a tiered ranking structure is ideal for gambling, because it allows you to make easy decisions. For instance, if two teams in the same tier are playing each other, you might just take the home team. I think this week, all of the teams fit nicely into nine categories. So without further adieu, here are the Week 15 Tiered Power Rankings.

Total Suck: 32.Lions 31.Bengals 30.Chiefs 29.Rams 28.Seahawks 27.Raiders

Slight Pulse: 26.Jags 25.Niners 24.Browns 23.Bills 22.Texans

Underachievers: 21.Chargers 20.Packers

Jekyll/Hyde: 19.Bears 18.Redskins 17.Dolphins 16.Saints

Cruise Control: 15.Broncos 14.Vikings 13.Cards

Crafty Veterans: 12.Jets 11.Pats 10.Colts

Idiot Savants: 9.Cowboys 8.Eagles

Puncher’s Chance: 7.Falcons 6.Bucs 5.Ravens

Contenders: 4.Panthers 3.Steelers 2.Giants 1.Titans

Also for good measure, I’ll throw in a Super Bowl prediction: Giants 24, Steelers 20. Til next time, sports fans!

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One thought on “Please Welcome Guest Blogger Bill Simmons

  1. honestly, this was much better than anything bill simmons has written in 2 years. great work on the stats, very interesting

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