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Why Are the Colts 5-Point Favorites?

Posted by Neil Paine on February 7, 2010

Just a quick pre-Super Bowl thought... Given that "Power Rating" style systems like the SRS are designed to retrodict game scores and produce the lowest retrodictive error, you can compare two teams' ratings and derive a decent expectation of how the teams would match up on a neutral field. If we throw out the Week 17 games by all division winners + the Colts-Jets Week 16 game (to only capture games each team was trying to win) and minimize squared errors, we get these ratings:

Team Rating
atl 4.4182
buf -4.4528
car 2.1842
chi -3.7367
cin 2.0606
cle -8.1995
clt 10.4767
crd 0.9833
dal 5.2163
den 0.7210
det -14.1667
gnb 5.6217
htx 1.5537
jax -6.2228
kan -8.3436
mia 1.0747
min 7.4098
nor 12.0872
nwe 10.0121
nyg 1.6399
nyj 5.6000
oti -2.4651
phi 6.0969
pit 1.9830
rai -10.2420
ram -16.9181
rav 8.5104
sdg 7.1117
sea -8.9631
sfo 0.5119
tam -6.2509
was -5.3118
HFA 2.0733

One problem: minimizing squared errors gives undue weight to extreme blowouts, like New England's beatdown of Tennessee (which in turn affects the ratings of both Indy and N'awlins). What if we minimized absolute errors instead?

Team Rating
atl 4.3532
buf -4.3880
car -1.2291
chi 1.1098
cin -0.4821
cle -7.0644
clt 7.2744
crd 1.2745
dal 6.6062
den 6.9355
det -8.3080
gnb 6.8568
htx 3.8568
jax -8.6018
kan -9.4745
mia -1.5529
min 9.3532
nor 9.9356
nwe 6.3532
nyg -1.0644
nyj 4.0297
oti -0.4589
phi 7.5274
pit 2.1815
rai -7.7596
ram -14.6633
rav 2.7811
sdg 2.3533
sea -7.3079
sfo 3.2745
tam -8.8115
was -4.8902
HFA 2.4177

OK, well what if we just isolated the second half of the season, when New Orleans supposedly fell back to earth? Minimizing squared errors, we get:

Team Rating
atl 3.2130
buf -5.3046
car 7.5346
chi -6.5979
cin 0.1855
cle -2.5621
clt 9.4075
crd 0.3849
dal 4.9098
den -5.0528
det -15.3099
gnb 6.5715
htx 1.3528
jax -4.7835
kan -7.7046
mia -1.3911
min 6.4942
nor 9.8053
nwe 6.0161
nyg -0.2253
nyj 5.8909
oti 3.8817
phi 4.2944
pit 0.5480
rai -8.1044
ram -15.6764
rav 7.1223
sdg 12.0403
sea -12.1215
sfo -0.0113
tam -1.5260
was -3.2813
HFA 2.7451

And minimizing absolute errors:

Team Rating
atl 3.8829
buf -3.7508
car 6.6105
chi -8.0339
cin -2.0338
cle -4.5066
clt 6.5776
crd 2.2898
dal -0.5066
den -2.1175
det -11.2685
gnb 3.6608
htx -6.1171
jax -5.8119
kan -4.3391
mia 2.8829
min 13.2713
nor 11.5774
nwe 8.1881
nyg 1.4934
nyj 6.9440
oti 1.5030
phi 1.4931
pit -1.8119
rai -12.8119
ram -13.9465
rav -0.1171
sdg 7.1881
sea -7.1918
sfo -1.9633
tam 5.5776
was 3.1878
HFA 4.6947

Judging from these ratings, New Orleans should be somewhere between 5-point and 1/2-point favorites in the Super Bowl tonight. So why are the Colts 5-point favorites instead, and why have very few people (other than FO's Aaron Schatz) given the Saints a chance to win? Reading and listening to some of the chatter this week, you'd think we'd be looking at an on-paper mismatch like Super Bowl XLII (Pats SRS: 20.1; Giants SRS: 3.3) instead of one of the closest SB matchups in recent memory. In fact, if anything the odds should be leaning towards New Orleans. What gives, Vegas?

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 7th, 2010 at 3:43 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.