Earlier in the season I attempted to predict the week five games by looking at what had happened in previous seasons, when teams with the same records played each other. I'm going to do that again this weekend, and I expect better results for this weekend (to be fair, I didn't even calculate my results from the earlier time, so I'm not even sure how the system fared), for three reasons:
- We now have five more weeks of data to analyze, which should eliminate some of the luck involved in a team's record. A 6-2 team is more likely to be a very good team than a 3-1 team. It's just more difficult to have sustained success (or lack of success) than it is to have a good or bad stretch.
- We have more data to analyze now, since every team in the NFL has played eight games. I'm guessing you didn't know this, but when the Jets played the Browns in week 8, it was the first time in over 70 years that a 1-5 team played a 4-3 team in the NFL. While that sounds shocking at first, remember that the NFL didn't begin having a regular bye system until 1990. But now that every team has played a similar number of games, we can look at all matchups of 4-4 teams against 7-1 teams in either week 9 from 1990 to the present, or from week 8 from 1970 to 1989.
- With three caveats. The 1982, 1987 and 1993 seasons were all thrown out, along with any game played before 1970. Why those three years? 1982 and 1987 were strike years, and 1993 was the one season where the NFL went with a two-bye system. It would have taken a bit more time programming my system to include that year, so I went the easy route and eliminated it.
Now that I have my caveats out the way, let's look at this weekend's games. I'm not sure how much success this system will have. Well I'm not an expert on the stock market, I believe this way of predicting NFL games would be similar to technical analysis, where you analyze trends to predict the future. This is in stark contrast to fundamental analysis, where you'd actually look at the specific business to predict its future stock price. To give an NFL example, technical analysis would say the Colts will beat the Bills because 8-0 teams are 10-1 since 1970*, with the only loss coming when the '77 Cowboys lost to a 5-3 Cardinals team. Since the Bills have a losing record, technical analysis says Indy wins in a romp. Fundamental analysis would lead me to say Peyton Manning is a lot better than J.P. Losman, no matter how many dropped interceptions Manning has thrown this year, and therefore the Colts will win.
*If you read yesterday's blog you might notice that there were 12 teams, not 11, to start 8-0 before the 2006 Colts. The difference is explained by the 1990 49ers, who at 8-0 played the 3-6 Cowboys. Remember, my study eliminates all teams that played an opponent with a different number of games played, since that won't happen in week 10 of the 2006 season.
There are flaws with technical analysis, and there are flaws with the way I'm going to try and predict this weekend's games. Here's the most obvious one: if Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai all get sick on Wednesday and are declared out for Sunday's game, my analysis wouldn't change. History would just see the Colts at 8-0, and give them a W. This is problematic, of course, and is why I caution putting too much emphasis on this system. But I can't help but run the numbers, especially when there are some interesting results. Today I'll look at eight games, and tomorrow I'll look at the remaining games and respond to the comments. If you have any suggestions on how to present the data in a better manner, let me know. This way just seemed right to me.
Last note: I'm going to list the results of all games from the "old era" and the "new era". This isn't because I think the analysis is better, but just because that's how my system is currently set up. The old era includes the week 9 games from 1970-1989* (with the strike seasons excluded), while the new era includes the games from 1990-2005, excluding 1993.
*For the most part. For example, in 1991 the Cardinals and Vikings game from week 9 is included, because both teams had byes very late in the season. The years are guidelines, not rules.
Baltimore (6-2) at Tennessee (2-6)
Old games: 6-2 teams are just 3-4, and hosted three of the seven games. Road 6-2 teams are 1-3. Example: 1989, Buffalo (6-2) lost in Atlanta, 30-28.
New games: 6-2 teams are 4-3, but hosted four of the seven games. Road 6-2 teams are 1-2. Example: 1999, Detroit (6-2) lost in Arizona, 23-19.
Prediction: Tennessee (+9) pulls the upset. History shows that 6-2 teams are 7-7 against 2-6 teams, and hosted exactly half of those games. Road 6-2 teams are just 2-5. This game's a coin flip, so the smart money would be on the Titans.
Buffalo (3-5) at Indianapolis (8-0)
Old games: 3-5 teams are 0-1, and hosted none of the games. Closest example: 1985, Green Bay (3-5) lost at Lambeau to the Bears, 16-10.
New games: 3-5 teams are 0-3, and hosted one of the games. Example: Cleveland (3-5) lost at Arrowhead to the Chiefs, 41-20.
Prediction: Colts (-11) win. Home 8-0 teams are 2-0 against 3-5 teams. Yes, you won't get this type of analysis anywhere else: 8-0 teams are good! Against the spread this one is a toss-up, and is a game I'd avoid.
Cleveland (2-6) at Atlanta (5-3)
Houston (2-6) at Jacksonville (5-3)
A pair of 2-6s against 5-3s, so I'll analyze them together.
Old games: 2-6 teams are 1-7, and were on the road for five games. Road 2-6 teams are 1-4. Example: 1972, Buffalo (2-6) lost on the road to the Jets, 41-3. (The next time the Bills went to New York, O.J. Simpson would become the first player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.)
New games: 2-6 teams are 1-4, and were on the road for three of those games. Road 2-6 teams went 0-3. Example: 2005, week 10. Baltimore and San Francisco (2-6) lost in Jacksonville and Chicago respectively, by 30-3 and 17-9.
Prediction: Atlanta (-9) Jacksonville (-10.5) in romps. Road 2-6 teams are just 1-8 against these opponents. Against the spread, I'd probably avoid both of these games. Of those nine previous matchups of road 2-6 teams, the margin of victory was between 8 and 11 points in four of them. (For those curious, the one team to win was the 1978 Chargers in Oakland.)
Green Bay (3-5) at Minnesota (4-4)
Old games: 3-5 teams are 6-6, and hosted six of the games. Road 3-5 teams are 2-4. Example: 1970, Chicago (3-5) lost at Green Bay, 20-19. Note: The 3-5 team won the last four games (1985-1991), but three of those were at home.
New games: 3-5 teams are 5-4, and hosted only three of those games. Road 3-5 teams are 3-3. Example: 2001, Tennessee (3-5) beat Cincinnati, 20-7.
Prediction: Green Bay +5. 3-5 teams have actually won 9 of the last 13 matchups, and seven of those were on the road. Road 3-5 teams are 5-7 overall though, so this game is really just a coin-flip. I'd take Green Bay, with the five points.
Kansas City (5-3) at Miami (2-6)
Old games: 5-3 teams are 7-1 against 2-6 teams, but five of those games came at home (remember, this is just the flip-side of the Cle/Atl and Hou/Jac games). 5-3 teams are 3-0 on the road. Example: 1988, New York Giants (5-3) won in Detroit, 13-10.
New games: 5-3 teams are 4-1, but just 1-1 when on the road. Example: 2001, Philadelphia (5-3) won in Dallas, 36-3.
Prediction: Kansas City (-2.5) seems like a strong bet; road 5-3 teams are 4-1 all time. As is the case in this specific matchup, generally 5-3 teams are playing for the playoffs, while 2-6 teams have less at stake. History isn't a great guide here though, so be careful basing much on the sample size of just two games since 1990.
N.Y. Jets (4-4) at New England (6-2)
Here's something pretty fascinating. I started doing this Sunday afternoon, and at the time I had pegged the Pats to beat the Colts. If this was a matchup between a 4-4 team and a 7-1 team...
Old games: 4-4 teams were 1-9 against 7-1 teams, and 0-4 on the road.
New games: 4-4 teams were 1-4 against 7-1 teams, and 0-3 on the road.
Conclusion: The 4-4 team was just 2-13 (and one of those wins was a one-point squeaker), and an ugly 0-7 on the road. This would look like the lock of the week. But since New England lost...
Old games: 4-4 teams were 5-5 against 6-2 teams, with six of those games on the road. In those games, the away 4-4 teams went 3-3. Examples: 1978, week 9. Minnesota (4-4) won in Dallas, 21-10; Tampa Bay (4-4) lost 9-7 at Green Bay.
New games: 4-4 teams were 5-7 against 6-2 teams, with ten of those games on the road. But, away 4-4 teams were 5-5 on the road. Example: 2005, St. Louis (4-4) lost in Seattle, 31-16.
Prediction: New York (+10) is a strong play. Road 4-4 teams are 8-8 against 6-2 teams since 1970, so getting ten points in a coin-flip game looks good. Of course, in a lot of ways this is where the technical analysis breaks down. If the Colts beat the Pats, NE has only a 50% chance of beating New York (8-8); but if NE beats Indianapolis, the Pats have a 100% chance of beating the Jets (7-0).
But I'm of the opinion that the Jets had a much better chance of beating the Patriots if New England had beaten Indianapolis, because an angry Pats team is going to beat New York. The Jets have lost eight straight to New England. But giving 10 points is enough for me to like New York in this one.
San Diego (6-2) at Cincinnati (4-4)
Old games: 6-2 teams are 5-5 against 4-4 teams, and 2-2 on the road (remember, this is just the flip side of the Jets/Patriots game). Examples: 1979, week 9; San Diego (6-2) lost in Oakland, 45-22; Tampa Bay (6-2) won in Minnesota, 12-10.
New games: 6-2 teams are 7-5 against 4-4 teams, and 2-0 on the road. Example: 2001; Chicago (6-2) won in Tampa Bay, 27-24.
Prediction: San Diego (-1). This game is almost a coin-flip, and it's properly viewed as one. I'd stay away from betting on this one.
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