Week 7: Picking Winners, Thinking Outside the Box

Tony is a former retail manager turned full-time sports investor. This is a new column at 4for4 designed to help those of you in weekly pickem and survivor pools gain an edge on the competition. Tony is glad to field questions on Twitter or through email.


What Have We Learned?

Over the last few season, several of the teams making it to, and/or winning the Super Bowl have looked like longshots earlier in the year. Last year around this time I made a nice wager on Green Bay to win the Super Bowl. We all know how that turned out. This week I made a wager on team I think everyone has given up on. 

This team has been ravaged with injuries at the skill positions, just like the Packers last year. All that will be talked about is their talented quarterback who has never won a playoff game. Their defense will not be talked about much, just like Green Bay’s last year, but will be a big reason they will win the Super Bowl. This team will win their division and get the three seed in the playoffs. It will win their first round playoff game at home then knock off the second-seeded 49ers. This team has the talent on both sides of the ball to be able to go into Green Bay in a NFC Championship game and beat them. This team would be a favorite in the Super Bowl against almost every possible representative from the AFC. You may call me crazy but I took the Dallas Cowboys at 35-1 to win the Super Bowl.

Their schedule gets much easier the second half of the season. They will win the NFC East. I am all about finding value, and getting a team at 35-1 that will make the playoffs is a steal. I will have opportunities in the playoffs to hedge my original wager and make a profit no matter what happens. I do believe the Cowboys have the type of defense to slow down the Packers offense. They slowed down the Patriots offense this past week. The Cowboys are starting to get healthy and the loss of Jones isn’t that big of deal because I think Murray is a better running back, just like Starks was better last year after Grant got hurt for the Packers. So we have four months to wait and see how dumb or smart this wager is.


Surprising Stats

The San Francisco 49ers are 3-0 in games played in Eastern time zone. San Francisco’s Super Bowl futures odds were 200-to-1 before the season but are now up to 18-to-1, sixth-best in the league. The 49ers are the only team in the league with an unblemished ATS record at 5-0-1.

There is so much noise at Ford Field, the Lions' last two visiting opponents, Chicago and San Francisco, committed 14 false starts.

Seven of the league's top 10 tight ends play for winning teams. Only three of the league's top 10 rushers play for winning teams.

For people that play in pick-the-winner pools, home teams are 56-34 straight up, home favorites 35-13 straight-up, and home dogs 11-20 straight-up.

A couple of against-the-spread (ATS) numbers: unders went 9-3 in week 6. YTD overs are 51-38 (57.30%). Favorites are against-the-spread 45-41-4 (52.33%), with 27 of those underdogs who covered, being outright winners. Double digit dogs are 7-3 ATS (70%).

Here is a potential angle going forward from twitter user @EL_Apostrophe:

Despite being a torturous game to watch, John Gruden brought up a fantastic point in the 4th QTR on MNF this week, making the 3 hours of watching worth my while. He mentioned that the new CBA includes a rule that requires all teams on bye week to provide a 4-consecutive day break from any sort of practice or meetings and must include the Saturday and Sunday of the off week. This means that smack dab in the middle of 2 weeks off, teams can’t even meet to discuss plays. It’s a huge detriment to teams looking to prepare for a tough matchup or get reps for new starters. Gruden was so emphatic about how this rule will hurt teams, that he suggested he'd pay whatever the fine was for ignoring the rule if he were still coaching.

Including Miami, teams off the Week 5 bye went 1-5 last week (W: Bal L: Mia Cle Dal Stl Was). It's a legit angle and I don’t think enough people are talking about it yet.


Picking Unpopular Winners

For pick ‘em, against-the-spread type pools (Office Football Pool, Pick 5 formats, etc.), a key to winning is often finding the unpopular public plays and going against the grain. Here are some unpopular plays I like this week that may help you win your pool. My year-to-date record is 11-9.

Miami -1: I know Miami is terrible, especially with Matt Moore at quarterback, but there is no way I can pick Tim Tebow to win a road game. I don’t think Denver will win another game this year with Tebow starting. I see this being a low scoring game that Miami wins because of Tebow’s mistakes. I set the over/under for field goals made in this game at 6.5.

Arizona +4.5: Pittsburgh is banged up and this isn’t a very good spot for them. 90% of the betting tickets have been written for Pittsburgh. Arizona is off of a bye and I love backing them as a home dog, especially getting more than a field goal.

Cleveland -3: Browns are the better team with a better quarterback. The defenses are about equal and Cleveland has a huge edge in special teams. Seattle had lost ten straight games in the Eastern Time Zone until they beat the Giants two weeks ago. They are 3-17 ATS their last 20 games in the Eastern Time Zone. Cleveland wins this game easily by more than a touchdown.

Tennessee -3: The Titans are going to win the AFC South and this is a big step towards that. I am not sure why over 70% of the betting tickets have been written for Houston. This is a franchise that has never finished above .500. They have never proven that they are able to win tough road games like this. This is the week Chris Johnson gets going since Houston is 25th against the run.

With Andre Johnson being out, the only chance Houston has is hoping Foster has a big game running the ball. This is going to be tough since the Titans have the 5th ranked run defense.

New York Jets +2: A west coast Norv Turner coached team should never be favored in the Eastern Time Zone for a 1pm start. This is the type of game that the Jets have won the last couple of years, when at the end of it you say I can’t believe the Chargers lost. The Jets have the 2nd ranked pass defense that will shut down Rivers. This is the week we finally see the Jets “ground and pound” offense. The Jets will win an ugly, close, low scoring battle.


Survivor Pool Tip

I am taking the Saints this week. The Cowboys are also a good option. If you have already used these two, this is one of the few weeks you can take the Browns.


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