An avid gambler and sports handicapper wages war on Vegas with betting strategy, analysis, and of course free picks.

Monday, August 28, 2006

NCAA Football - Week 1 Analysis and Picks

Well, the wait is finally over.

It has been months since we watched Vince Young scramble for the game-winning TD over USC, and we've not had much of substance to feast on since. Of course, there's been coaching changes, spring games to evaluate, and a barrage of pre-season polls and predictions but now we are ready for some big-time college football. Well, maybe not quite "big-time" this week.

73 games are scheduled this week that include Division 1-A teams, but only 44 have lines posted with the other 29 games a "beating in-waiting" between Div 1-A and 1-AA teams (these typically do not have lines). Looking at just the 44 games with lines, 30 have lines with more than a touchdown and 18 have lines greater than two touchdowns. So much for marque matchups.

With matchups so one-sided and lines sky-high, the challenge for the handicapper this week is going to be game selection.

My Week One strategy is to handicap defense largely on last year's squad, but adjust offensive production significantly for teams that will debut new QBs. A couple of games are noteworthy:

Hawaii at Alabama (-17):
On the surface this would look like a 10 point game (27-17), but Alabama has it's first new QB in 3 years and they lost seven defensive starters from last year. Hawaii has their high-powered offensive returning nine starters including QB Colt Brennan. I expect Hawaii to put up some points, so we bet against new Bama QB John Parker Wilson. Hawaii +17.

La-Lafayette at LSU (-30):
Yes, I know that LSU is a better team, but 30 points better? LSU has got a returning QB, but they are replacing three starters on both the offensive and defensive lines. The Ragin Cajuns have got Sr. QB Jerry Babb back with a strong chance for conference player of the year, as well as RB Tyrell Fenroy who ran for 1000+ as a true freshman. Tigers win, but the Cajuns should put up 10-14 points. La-Lafayette +30.

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech (O/U 51):
No way these teams combine for over 51 points. 21-14 Notre Dame maybe. Georgia Tech has some returning offensive power, which should keep the game close. Big question is the Tech secondary which is green. D-Line should be fine. Is Notre Dame overrated? Perhaps. We avoid the temptation to lay the 7.5 and take the Under instead. Under 51.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

NFL: Betting Strategy for 2nd games between Division Foes

There are 256 NFL games per season, and 96 of those are Divisional games. Since each team in the division plays the other three twice, there are 48 2nd divisional games. Today, I'm going to explore a betting strategy for these second encounters.

First the facts.

During the '05 Season the team that one the first encounter won 67% of the time on the second meeting (32 of 48 games), and the loser won the second game 33% of the time (16 of 48) for a split. Against the spread, the situation is more evenly distributed with the first encounter winner winning only 25 of 48 games and losing 23 of 48. Also, the home team wins 26 of 48 (54%). This just means the line is damn solid and tough to handicap.

Looking at the Over/Unders however, I've been able to spot an opportunity.

Scoring in the second meeting tends to go up (44.0 vs. 39.5, +4.5 pts) but the O/U line actually goes down (41.1 to 40.2, down 0.9 pts) thereby creating an opportunity to "go over" on the second game. During the '05 Season the Over hit 60% on the second game (27 of 45 games....3 had no lines posted).

Looking further it turns out that in the majority of these games (20) there was a backup QB playing for at least one of the two teams. Turns out that the books tend to over estimate the negative impact of backup QBs, creating a situation where they can exceed expectations. More on betting strategies for backup QBs in a future post.....

Monday, August 21, 2006

NFL: Which Backup QBs look the best in Preseason?

I've taken a look at the relevant QB stats from the first two preseason games and evaluated those who had significant playing time (minimum of 15 pass attempts over two games). There were only 23 players who qualified, as the remaining 9 teams had their QBs playing time split among too many of their players to result in meaningful analysis of their #2s.

I got the depth charts for each team from, as well as the stats. Here are the headlines:

Looking Strong:
Aaron Rodgers (GB)
David Garrand (JAC)
Tony Romo (DAL)
Matt Cassel (NE)
Kyle Boller (BAL)
Jay Cutler (DEN)
Jeff Garcia (PHI)
J.P. Lossman (BUF)

About Average:
Seneca Wallace (SEA)
Sage Rosenfels (HOU)
Jamie Martin (NO)
Josh McCown (DET)
Vince Young (TEN)

Below Average:
Todd Collins (WAS)
Anthony Wright (CIN)
Marques Tuiasosopo (OAK)
Joey Harrington (MIA)
Ken Dorsey (CLE)
Chris Weinke (CAR)
Jim Sorgi (IND)
John Navarre (ARI)

My primary evaluation criteria is Yards per Attempt which tends to correlate best with Points per Drive, a key factor in determining the outcome of games. Teams with high Yds/Att tend to move the ball better, score more points, sustain longer drives and keep the opposing team's offense on the sideline. A starting QB in the NFL averages about 7.1 Yds/Att while a backup averages about 6.4 during the regular season.

It is also interesting to see which backup QBs have improved this stat during '06 Preseason relative to their '05 Regular Season performance.

Showing Improvement:
Rodgers (GB) 13.9 vs. 4.1
Garrand (JAC) 11.7 vs. 6.7
Garcia (PHI) 8.0 vs. 5.2 (with Detroit last season)
Boller (BAL) 8.6 vs. 6.1
Losman (BUF) 8.0 vs. 5.9
Casell (NE) 9.2 vs 7.6

Getting Worse, but explainable:
Dorsey (CLE) 4.7 vs. 5.3 (to be fair he switched teams SF-CLE)
McCown (DET) 6.2 vs. 6.8 (also changed teams ARI-DET)
Martin (NO) 6.5 vs. 7.2 (moved from STL to NO)
Harrington (MIA) 5.3 vs. 6.1 (moving from DET-MIA)
Rosenfels (HOU) 6.6 vs. 7.6 (MIA to DET)

Just plain getting worse:
Weinke (CAR) 3.9 vs. 4.9 (low number of passes however)
Sorgi (IND) 3.4 vs. 7.3 (might get bumped to #3 behind Shaun King)
Navarre (ARI) 3.0 vs. 7.3 (pre-season is supposed to be easier right?)

The best two backup QBs at this point are likely Romo (DAL) and Garrard (JAC), with Boller, Cutler, Garcia, and Losman right behind.

Let me know what you think.....

Friday, August 18, 2006

NFL: Odds to Win Conference Championships

With not much else to do besides watch pre-season games and evaluate 2nd string quarterbacks, I thought I would take some time to review the betting odds on making it to the Super Bowl. A couple of points are worth noting.

It is very difficult (not withstanding last years run by the Steelers) to make it to the Super Bowl without getting a first round bye in the playoffs. And to do that, you pretty much have to have a good returning team and a relatively easy schedule (like the Seahawks in '05). So when looking for good wagers, we'll eliminate any team without a winning record from 05.

Then we'll look at strength of schedule to eliminate good teams with hard upcoming schedules. Cincy and NY Giants have the toughest '06 schedules based on '05 wins. Tampa, Pittsburgh, and KC also have some daunting dates ahead this year. Fortunately, since division foes play each other twice, and some weak divisions do exist, this creates some opportunities for good teams to run the table and get a first round bye. In the AFC you got Jax, Miami, Indy, New England and KC. All are good teams with relatively easy schedules. In the NFC, you got Minny, Chicago, and Seattle. As a side note, I find it unbelievable that Seattle has the 29th easiest schedule on paper walking into the season.

Last, we'll look at value for our return with posted odds courtesy of Bodog. Seattle is 4-1 to repeat as NFC Champs, and Indy at 3-1 seem obvious yet do not provide enough value for the wager. Jax at 15-1 certainly does. Of course, they have to play Indy twice but consider they were 12-4 last year and have Leftwich returning. Also, Miami at 9-1 odds and New England at 8-1 offer good value as well.

I cannot bring myself to lay down a bet on anyone in the NFC North, so I'm left with Seattle at 4-1 weighed largely by their upcoming schedule and returning team.

In the AFC I'll take Jacksonville at 15-1 and New England at 8-1 for value. Three bets at $50 per.

Remember all they have to do is make it to the Super Bowl, not win it!

Complete odds to win NFC and AFC Championships can be found at:

NFL Opening Weekend

Lines should be posted around the 2nd or 3rd of September, and we'll be off to another season of NFL wagering.