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Predicting week 10 games (Part 2)

Posted by Chase Stuart on November 10, 2006

If you didn't read Wednesday's post, you should probably do that before reading this post. I'm going to analyze the rest of this weekend's games using that system.

San Francisco (3-5) at Detroit (2-6)
Old games: 3-5 teams are 5-3 against 2-6 teams, but six of those games were at home. 3-5 went 1-1 on the road. Example: 1981; the Cardinals (3-5) lost in Washington, 42-21. (This was Joe Gibbs' first season, and his Redskins started 0-5 but finished 8-8.)
New games: 3-5 teams are 1-7 against 2-6 teams, with three of those games being away. Road 3-5 teams are 0-3. Example: 2003; Chicago (3-5) lost at Detroit, 12-10.

Prediction: San Francisco (+6) covers against Detroit. I'm pretty surprised to see a 2-6 team favored over anyone with a better record, but I'll give the market some credit for this one. I'd expect Detroit to win (after all, road 3-5 teams are just 1-3) but six is a lot of points to give. I wouldn't bet this game, but I think SF covers.

Washington (3-5) at Philadelphia (4-4)
See the analysis in the Green Bay @ Minnesota game in Wednesday's post.

Prediction: Washington (+7) is what the numbers would tell me. Of course, Philadelphia could really be 7-1, so I'm not sure how similar they are to similar 4-4 teams of years past. The only thing I know is that there's no way I'd want to bet on this one.

Denver (6-2) at Oakland (2-6)
See the analysis in the Tennessee-Baltimore game in Wednesday's post.

Prediction: Oakland (+9.5). Yes, I know this sounds like near insanity. In fact, I didn't type "Oakland (+9.5)" without bursting out laughing. The Raiders have looked like a NCAA I-AA team in several games this year, and the Broncos are one of the NFL's elite teams. Of course, all of that is factored into the spread. What's probably not, is that road 6-2 teams are just 7-7 against 2-6 teams. Nine and a half is a lot of points to give on the road, especially when you have as anemic an offense as the Broncos have. Granted, Denver has scored 30+ in consecutive games, but they looked horrible for the first month and a half.

Everyone knows Mike Shanahan used to coach the Raiders, and he's pretty much owned them since joining the Broncos. Here are some quick stats:

Since 1995, Denver is 18-5 against Oakland, and including an 8-3 record in Oakland.
Average score: Denver 25.6, Oakland 17.3.
Average score in Denver wins: Denver 26.9, Oakland 13.6.
Average score in Oakland: Denver 26.3, Oakland 20.5.
Number of times (out of 23) that Denver has beaten Oakland by more than 9.5: Ten.
Number of times (out of 11) that Denver has beaten Oakland in Oakland by more than 9.5: Four.

Oakland is terrible, and Denver has had Oakland's number, despite the Raiders being pretty good for a number of years. I wouldn't want to bet a lot of money on Oakland covering, but I think they will.

Dallas (4-4) at Arizona (1-7)
Did you know Arizona is the only team in the league with fewer than 2 wins? Weren't they being touted as a sleeper team two months ago? Anyway...

Old games: 4-4 teams are 3-1 against 1-7 teams, but only one of those games (a win) came on the road. Example: 1985; Washington (4-4) won at Atlanta, 44-10.
New games: 4-4 teams are 3-3, and 2-2 on the road, against 1-7 teams. Example: Week 10, 1997, was when three of those four games occurred. Philadelphia and San Diego (4-4s) lost in Arizona and Cincinnati, 31-21 and 38-31, respectively; Washington (4-4) clobbered the Bears in Chicago, 31-8.

Prediction: Bill Parcells doesn't pull a Kevin Gilbride and Ray Rhodes on us, and Dallas (-7) wins easily. Ok, so I didn't really follow my system there. Road 4-4 teams are just 3-2 against the 1-7 teams on the road, but two of those wins were by 57 points. Dallas covers the seven point spread.

New Orleans (6-2) at Pittsburgh (2-6)
This line actually opened as high as Pittsburgh (-6) in some places. This is the third 6-2 @ 2-6 game of the weekend, along with Denver/Oakland and Baltimore/Tennessee. It's pretty interesting that the lines as of Thursday night are -9.5, -7 and +4.5 for the three games. Does one of those look a bit out of place?

This is a pretty intriguing matchup, because if features half of the league's teams that rank in the top ten in offense and defense (San Diego - 6th offense, 2nd defense and Dallas - 4th offense, 5th defense are the other two). Pittsburgh is without a doubt one of the best 2-6 teams in recent memory, ranking third in passing yards per attempt and sixth in rushing yards per attempt allowed. Willie Parker is ninth in the league in rushing, and the Steelers rank third in defensive interceptions. So sure, it's surprising to see them at 2-6. But...

Prediction: New Orleans (+4.5). History tells us this game is a coin-flip. Taking the points with a team that has won four more games seems like free money.

St. Louis (4-4) at Seattle (5-3)
Old games: 4-4 teams are 9-12 against 5-3 teams, with nine of those coming on the road. Away 4-4 teams are just 1-8 against 5-3 teams. Example: 1981; Cleveland (4-4) lost at Buffalo, 22-13.
New games: 4-4 teams are 8-9 against 5-3 teams, but only seven of those were road games. Road 4-4 teams are 2-5. Example: 2004; Detroit (4-4) lost at Jacksonville, 23-17.

Prediction: Seattle (-3.5) covers; home 5-3 teams are 13-3 against road 4-4 teams. Sure the Seahawks record is inflated a bit, because Alexander and Hasselbeck were a big part of those five wins, and won't play on Sunday. But 13-3 is pretty strong evidence, and I like Wallace and that home field.

Chicago (7-1) at N.Y. Giants (6-2)
Doesn't it feel like 1974 all over again? Just like the '74 Vikings, the '06 Giants are 6-2 and playing a 7-1 team that's coming off its first loss.

Old games: 7-1 teams are 0-6. That's mind-boggling, and even worse: the 7-1 team was home in four of those games. Example: 1975; Miami (7-1) lost in Houston, 20-19. Five of the six games were decided by four or fewer points.
New games: None.

Prediction: New York (+1) wins. A 7-1 team has never beaten a 6-2 team since the merger. The real winners are the fans though, as this pits the first time teams with those records have squared off since 1988. Of the six previous games, only once was there a rematch in the post-season. In 1974, the 7-1 Cardinals lost to the Vikings at home, and then got blown out in the rematch in Minnesota in the playoffs. I know the Bears lost to Miami, and got outplayed by Arizona, but I'm a bit surprised to see a Giants team without its top two receivers favored in this one.

Tampa Bay (2-6) at Carolina (4-4)
Old games: 2-6 teams are 2-8 against 4-4 teams, with six of those games at home. Road 2-6 teams are 0-4. Example: 1988; San Diego (2-6) lost in Seattle, 17-14.
New games: 2-6 teams are 1-6 against 4-4 teams, with three of those games on the road. Road 2-6 teams are 1-2 against 4-4 teams. Example: 2002; Houston (2-6) lost at Tennessee, 17-10.

Prediction: Tampa Bay (+9.5) covers. Sure, 2-6 teams are 3-14, and 1-6 on the road. But of those seven road games, only once did the 2-6 team lose by more than ten points.


I don't really know what to expect with this system. I don't think it will be excellent, because there are just too many flaws. The Giants aren't downgraded for losing Strahan and Toomer, for example. That's bad. And the sample sizes aren't as big as you'd like. I don't know what to make out of 6-2 teams winning all six times against 7-1 teams, but I'd imagine the results would be closer to 50/50 if they played 30 more times.

That being said, it's important to remember the benefits of this system. For one, people don't know these numbers. In the end, that's the only way you're ever going to beat the market. We've got three matchups of 6-2 and 2-6 teams this weekend with three different spreads. Why? Because the market thinks Oakland stinks and Denver's great, that Pittsburgh is good and who knows what New Orleans is, and that Tennessee/Baltimore is somewhere in between.

It always makes me laugh when I see a prediction about a game that goes something like this: Team X (-8) will cover this weekend; they're playing at home and against a rookie QB! Expect lots of turnovers and short fields for Team X.

The reason Team X is -8 is because they are at home and because Team Y has a rookie QB. We could all say "how can you bet on Oakland, did you see them on Monday night?" But the key point is that we all can say that. And that's factored into the point spread. Had the Raiders played well on MNF, the line might be Oakland +7.

This type of analysis intrigues me because it's objective data, and I don't really know what the results mean. Why have home 2-6 teams fared so well against road 6-2 teams? I have no idea. If you asked most football fans, I imagine they would guess that in fourteen matchups, 6-2 teams were 10-4 or 11-3 against 2-6 teams, and not 7-7. But the thinking is that whatever it is that makes 2-6 teams win, Tennessee (and Oakland and Pittsburgh) might have it too, and that's why they're more likely to win (or cover) than you might think.

In reality, the sample size for this would always be too small. My gut feeling is that if Tennessee and Baltimore played this game 100 times, the Titans would cover on 60-70 of those games. For this system to look successful, it's going to take a lot more than one or two or even eight weeks to really figure it out. But I'll be watching the scoreboard a bit more carefully on Sunday.

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