Podcast: Evan Silva on the NFL Conference Championship Games

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, I talk with Evan Silva, senior NFL editor at RotoWorld. He writes a weekly NFL match up column that DFS big shots like Peter Jennings read every week.

Among other topics, we discuss:

  • The very simple definition of analytics that guides Evan
  • The one weakness in Jacksonville’s defense that New England might exploit
  • The change on offense Minnesota made last week that could impact the game at Philadelphia
  • Two players to buy in your DFS contest this week
  • The book that Evan reads each off season

Evan offers a ton of other insights from both analytics and watching games that you don’t want to miss.

After the interview, I have my own segment on the surprising player that has propelled Jacksonville’s defense, and how that impacts the game against New England. Listen at 33:30.

To listen on iTunes, click here.

To listen here, click on the right pointing triangle.

Podcast: Cade Massey on predicting the NFL Divisional Playoffs

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, Professor Cade Massey from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania joins me to talk the NFL playoffs. We have a wide ranging discussion that includes:

  • The predictor that gets the most weight in the Massey-Peabody model
  • The surprising predictor that still gets included this late in the NFL season
  • How New England’s defense excels, and how they’re really terrible
  • How to adjust for absence of Carson Wentz
  • The game in which Massey-Peabody takes a different side from The Power Rank’s prediction

You can check out all the good work Cade does at Massey-Peabody. We also discuss this fine article by Bill Connelly on the randomness of big plays.

After the interview, I have my own segment on passing and rushing in the NFL, and the statistic with which 8 of 12 playoff teams really struggle. Listen at 34:23.

To listen on iTunes, click here.

To listen here, click on the right pointing triangle:

The secret that no one tells you about in predicting Georgia vs Alabama

Alabama and Georgia meet in the college football championship game, and my member numbers predict Alabama by 4.2. I often make this prediction with a certainty that the most likely result is an Alabama win by 4.

However, posting a single number is deceiving. There’s uncertainty in making a prediction, whether by analytics or the markets, and no one talks about it.

To illustrate this uncertainty, let’s look at Alabama.

Alabama versus Clemson year to year

To close the 2016, Alabama met Clemson in the college football championship game. The markets closed with Alabama as a 6.5 point favorite.

Alabama lost a close contest to Clemson, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the Crimson Tide heading into 2017. The hype for this dynasty reached a fever pitch when they destroyed Vanderbilt 59-0.

In November of 2017, the markets made Alabama better than even odds to win the college football playoff. Think about this. If you ask yourself whether to take Alabama or any other team to win the playoff, the markets favored Alabama. It didn’t even matter that they had yet to make the 4 team field for the playoff.

Then the Auburn game happened. Alabama lost 26-14 on the road to their arch rival.

This one game changed everything. With the loss, Alabama didn’t win the SEC West. Instead, Auburn won the division and played Georgia in the SEC title game.

Alabama no longer controlled their playoff destiny, and they sat at home sweating it out on championship weekend.

Lucky for the Crimson Tide, two of the top 4 teams lost on championship weekend. The debate about the last playoff spot came down to one loss Alabama that didn’t win their division against two loss Ohio State that won their conference.

The committee picked Alabama, and they were slated to face Clemson again in the playoff semi-final game. The markets closed with Alabama as a 3.5 point favorite.

Remember, Alabama was a 6.5 point favorite just a year before. I personally find this swing in point spread insane.

Alabama improved from 2016 to 2017. By my adjusted yards per play, they had the top defense both seasons. But QB Jalen Hurts developed as a sophomore in 2017. The offense jumped from 12th in 2016 to 8th in 2017 in my adjusted yards per play.

On the contrary, Clemson isn’t the same team as last year. Their defense has arguably improved, but they lost a generational talent in QB Deshaun Watson.

What was the real cause of Alabama going from a 6.5 to 3.5 point favorite? In 2016, Alabama scored 15 non-offensive touchdowns. This made them seem invincible both to the eyes as well as points based analytics.

This preseason, I wrote about how this scoring production from defense and special teams was irreproducible. In 2017, Alabama had 2 non-offensive touchdowns, and one came on an interception against Clemson.

The second factor in this point spread swing? The loss to Auburn. Alabama was undefeated in 2016, but had a blemish in 2017.

The difference in Alabama versus Clemson suggests at least a 3 point uncertainty in making predictions.

The impact of one game

Now, how about Alabama versus Georgia? The day of the game, Alabama is a 3.5 point favorite, with a few sports books at 4. This is close to my member prediction Alabama by 4.2, which suggests no value in this game.

But, if Alabama had beaten Auburn, they would have played Georgia in the SEC championship game. In fact, they would have played on the exact same field in Atlanta at which they will meet for the playoff championship game.

If Alabama had played Georgia in the SEC title game, Matthew Holt of CG Technologies, the guy who sets the line in Vegas, says Alabama would have been a 7.5 to 9 point favorite.

This suggests one game against Auburn shifts the spread by up to 6.5 points.

Auburn was a big data point for Alabama, as the Crimson Tide lost to the best team on their regular season schedule. However, this loss should not imply a shift of 6 or more points in the Georgia prediction.

There is uncertainty in making football predictions.

Podcast: John Ewing on NFL Wildcard Playoff, CFB title game

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, I talk with John Ewing, data scientist at BetLabs and The Action Network. Among other topics, we discuss:

  • The true reason behind his trends, such as NFL teams coming off a 20 point loss to a good team are 62.1% against the spread
  • The NFL playoff game this weekend in which our predictions straddle the markets
  • Two Super Bowl futures that John likes
  • Whether Philadelphia could be a home underdog next weekend (remember, Carson Wentz is out)
  • The hidden factor that affects the total in the Georgia vs Alabama championship game

I really enjoy all of John’s insight on Twitter. To follow him, click here.

After the interview, I have my own segment on my spread prediction for Alabama vs Georgia. But it’s really a story about the uncertainty in making these predictions.

I use an insight from Matthew Holt of CG Technologies, who tells me what the spread would have been for an SEC championship game between these two teams. Listen at 34:38.

To listen on iTunes, click here.

To listen here, click on the right pointing triangle.

Podcast: Dave Mason on how sports books view the NFL, college football

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, Dave Mason from BetOnline.ag joins me for a wide ranging conversation. Among other topics, we discuss:

  • How a bartender changed his life
  • The similarities between breaking into a new field and wagering on sports
  • How the NFL has treated sports books in 2017
  • How BetOnline sets the markets, usually with the earliest football lines
  • The difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas for volume of wagers

The sports markets are quantitative by nature, and I always enjoy hearing from those that run the sports books. Dave is a great follow on Twitter, as more than 30 thousand people can’t be wrong.

After my interview with Dave, I do my own segment that answers the question: What is sports analytics good for?

The answer has to do with sports science and college basketball. Listen at 30:32.

To listen on iTunes, click here.

To listen here, click on the right pointing triangle.