FIWK the NFL: Underdogs galore!

I have competed in many different NFL pools in the last ten years or so and the largest one was about 50 people run by my father-in-law. Of these 50 people, one guy always bought two entries every week; one of all the home teams and one of all the favorites. Overall, he did just ok...but I always beat him. In fact, I don't know if he actually won a single week using either strategy. In the three years I competed (I didn't quit, they stopped running the pool) I never won a week. I could consistently pick 55-60% of games against the spread, but to win a week you usually had to go 14-2, and even then you had to win the tiebreaker (which I lost three times). That's my forte...consistently averaging 55% against the spread. I promise no more, no less. This year I am 78-60 ATS (Odd8483: 1183/25643 = 96 percentile) by following this three step method: 1) Always pick the Chargers. (Not because they have an impressive ATS record...because I'm a complete homer) 2) Click on all the underdogs and take the points. 3) Examine the games and determine if you can find a compelling reason that the favorite will not only win, but cover the spread. Following that formula, here are my picks for the week:

Chicago @ Miami (-1.5): I picked the Dolphins yesterday. My favorite metric in picking games is interceptions. Turnovers impact game and fumbles tend to be pretty random. It's easy to say that whichever team throws fewer interceptions will probably win. It's a little harder to actually predict which team will throw more interceptions. Jay Cutler is the second coming of Lord Voldemort. Tyler Thigpen isn't that know what...if they were to play again next week, there's still a decent chance I'd take the Dolphins -1.5
Not so bold prediction: Matt Forte carries the ball 25 times for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Bold prediction: The Bears score one touchdown and still cover a 15 point spread.

Buffalo @ Cincinnati (-5.5): The Bears are the least trustworthy 7 win team in the NFL. The Bengals are the least trustworthy...checking...actually, they're 2-7 and that feels about right. So the 2-7 team is giving 5.5 points to the 1-8 team? A 2-7 team led by a below average quarterback? No thank you. I'll take the Bills and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens scores a touchdown.
Bold prediction: Cedric Benson or Fred Jackson will get his second 100 yard rushing game of the season.

Detroit @ Dallas (-6.5): Yay overreaction! Dallas beat the Giants by 13 last week...they must be good! Detroit lost to Buffalo...they must suck...I can take the Cowboys and give less than a touchdown? Last week, eight minutes into the second quarter, the Giants had driven down to the Cowboys 2 yard line and looked poised to score a touchdown. Instead of scoring and taking a 10-9 lead, Eli throws an interception that gets returned for a Cowboys touchdown and a 16-3 lead. For the rest of the game each team scores 17 points. So if Eli had thrown a touchdown instead of an interception the Giants would have won 27-26. Now considering they were favored by 14 and their 6-2 record was going up against the 1-7 Cowboys, it's still a very disappointing performance by the Giants...but nothing about that game gives me any confidence to take the Cowboys and give any points, much less 6.5. I'll take the Lions and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Calvin Johnson leads the game in receiving yards.
Bold prediction: Calvin Johnson has more fantasy points than Miles Austin and Dez Bryant combined.

Washington @ Tennessee (-7): The Titans lost to the Dolphins last week despite knocking their first two quarterbacks out of the game. They lost to the Chargers the week before despite getting a punt block for a safety a minute into the game. They're 5-4 and that feels right given the volatility of this team. If Chris Johnson is running wild, Vince Young is throwing accurately and making plays with his feet and the defense is playing like the #1 defense that Football Outsiders says they are, then they can probably beat any team in the league. The Redskins didn't play last week and as a result they forced fantasy football writers to determine if Michael Vick's amazing fantasy day was actually a record. (It wasn't.) While I still think the Titans are the better team and I would pick them to win outright, I don't feel comfortable backing a schizophrenic team giving seven points. I'll take the Redskins and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Chris Johnson runs for 100 yards.
Bold prediction: Donovan McNabb will have more passing yards, a lower passer rating AND more rushing yards than Vince Young.

Arizona @ Kansas City (-8): Another team on a two game losing streak giving a touchdown to a bad team. Matt Cassel has more 400 yard passing games than 300 yard passing games. For the exact same reasons above, I am not backing a 5-4 team giving up a touchdown. I'll take the Cardinals and the points in a dangerous emotional double down. I would hate to get this pick wrong and a Charger's first place division rival also gets a win. Everybody cheer for the Arizona Fitzgeralds.
Not so bold prediction: Kansas City has more rushing yards than Arizona
Bold prediction: Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones both have more rushing yards than any Cardinal.

Green Bay (-3) @ Minnesota: Did you know Brett Favre used to play for Green Bay. I despise the overcoverage of #4 so much that I am using Matthew Berry's joke and trying to refer to him as Lord know, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Lord Voldemort leads the league in interceptions thrown...again. Green Bay's defense is T-3 in catching interceptions. I've tried to make bold predictions regarding #4 throwing interceptions and the consensus is that 2 interceptions thrown isn't bold enough to count as Bold. If the Packers were giving 8 points, there's a chance I would take the Vikings...but since they're only giving three, I will gladly pick the Packers to cover.
Not so bold prediction: Brett Favre throws an interception.
Bold prediction: Brett Favre throws 3 interceptions.

Houston @ NY Jets (-7): The Jets are 7-2. Their last three games were a 9-0 loss to the Packers and overtime victories over the Lions and the Browns. I don't trust Mark Sanchez. But they are 7-2. The Texans are 4-5 and currently on a three game losing streak. The Jets haven't covered a touchdown in a month. Now the Texans do have the worst defense in the NFL and if the Jets are going to blow out anyone, it would be the Texans or the Bills or the Lions or the Browns...what's that? They've already played three of those teams and only blew out one of them? You know why? Because Mark Sanchez is average and their defense isn't as good as it was last year. Now, they do deserve their 7-2 record, but it's hard to feel confident this team isn't going to let the Texans get a garbage time touchdown to get inside within a single score. I'll take the Texans and the points.
Not so bold prediction: There is a rushing touchdown in this game.
Bold prediction: Santonio Holmes has more fantasy points than Mark Sanchez.

Oakland @ Pittsburgh (-7): The banged up Steelers* hosting a team on a three game losing streak. One of the best defenses in the NFL going up against...well, an average offense...or a good running game and a below average passing game. The Steelers are somewhere between the best team in the NFL and above average. The Raiders are somewhere between the Raiders and above average. I'll take the Raiders and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Someone attempts a field goal.
Bold prediction: There are at least two missed field goals.

Baltimore (-10) @ Carolina: The Panthers are tied with the Bills for the best odds on getting the #1 pick in next April's draft. In fact, there's an 85% chance one of those two teams will get the #1 pick and an 80% chance they both finish with a top three pick. So I'd take a BYE over the Panthers, right? Well, yes, but I'm not taking BYE -10 over the Panthers. The Ravens are deservedly 6-3 and among the best teams in the NFL, but they aren't the kind of team that wins by double digits very often...but the Panthers are so bad...but the Ravens have only covered 10 points twice, and the Bills took them to overtime...but the Panthers are on their third running back and the first two have been having horrible seasons...but I'm still taking the 10 points. I can't even type "I'm taking" and the team name in the same sentence. STOP THE PRESSES...IT DOESN"T COUNT!! I just remembered (learned) that Brian St. Pierre is starting at quarterback for the Panthers. This guy did not complete his only pass attempt in 2004 while on the Steelers and went 2-4 for one TD and 1 interception last year while on the Cardinals. The Panthers can't run the ball and I don't think this guy can throw the ball. So I'll take the Ravens and give 10 points.
Not so bold prediction. Ray Rice leads the game in rushing yards.
Bold prediction: The Panthers turn the ball over at least twice.

Cleveland @ Jacksonville (-1.5): Peyton Hillis can run the ball. The Jaguars are an average team. Four of their five wins are against teams that are a combined 10-26 (the exception being a 31-28 victory of the Colts) and their four losses came to the Chargers, Eagles, Titans and Chiefs. The Jaguars beat the teams the should and lose to the better teams. Cleveland has played nine games. Eight of their opponents currently have a winning record and seven of those are 6-3 or 7-2. Cleveland's opponents are 52-28. That is an incredibly brutal schedule that makes me think there's a decent chance the Browns are better than we think. I definitely think the Browns are better than the Jaguars, but I'll take the point and a half anyways. I'm taking the Browns and the points.
Not so bold prediction: This game doesn't end on a Hail Mary as time expires...nor does it go to overtime.
Bold prediction: Peyton Hillis has more rushing yards and as many or more rushing touchdowns than Maurice Jones-Drew

Atlanta (-3) @ St. Louis: I think the Falcons are a better team and the spread isn't big enough for me to consider the underdog. The Falcons have a better QB, a better receiving corps, a better running game, a better defense and a more generically named head coach (but their GM's name makes up for it). I'm saying the Falcon win and cover three points.
Not so bold prediction: Roddy White leads the game in receiving yards.
Bold prediction: Danny Amendola has more catches than Roddy White.

Man...this is getting long with no one on a bye...

Seattle @ New Orleans (-11.5): So the Saints that we weren't quite sure about are 6-3...and I'm still not quite sure about them. They beat the Steelers and the Bucs, but lost to the Cardinals and the Browns. I'm going to say that the Saints are above average and the Seahawks are below average, but that's not enough to lay double digits. I'm taking the Seahawks and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Drew Brees leads the game in passing yards.
Bold prediction: Mike Williams leads all receivers in this game in fantasy points.

Tampa Bay @ San Francisco (-3): Tampa Bay is 6-3. San Francisco is 3-6. How the hell are the 49ers favored? I get they're on a two game winning streak and that Troy Smith (it is kind of funny to look at their schedule and see that Smith has led them in passing every game) has a better career passer rating and TD/INT ratio than Joe Montana. But they're 3-6. They have lost twice as many games as they have won. They are worse than the Buccaneers. I'm taking the Bucs and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Vernon Davis catches a pass.
Bold prediction: Frank Gore has his best fantasy day of the year.

Indianapolis @ New England (-3.5): You know what sucks about the NFL? Well nothing compared to how awesome the NFL is as a whole, but if I'm allowed to nitpick (thank you), this just might be the best game of the year looking at the schedule. When the Patriots and Colts meet it is always a clash of the titans to determine supremacy in the NFL. I can't wait to sit down at 1pm on Sunday, along with every other NFL fan in the country, and watch an epic battle between two Hall of Fame quarterbacks still in their prime. Oh, what's that Mr. Goodell? You're not going to allow San Francisco, St. Louis or New Orleans watch this game? Every other television market in the US will have this game on CBS, except for those three? That's fucking stupid. Anyways, as for the game...I would take the underdog and the points either way, so ...checking...looks like I'm taking the Colts and the points.
Not so bold prediction: By either going to a sports bar or watching this game illegally over the internet, I watch this game while drinking a beer.
Bold prediction: Two Colts wide receivers have more fantasy points than any Patriots wide receiver.

NY Giants @ Philadelphia (-3): Yeah, yeah...Michael Vick scored lots of touchdowns against the Redskins and now he's MVP and going to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl. The Giants are definitely going to have someting to say about that. This should be another great matchup with two 6-3 teams in the same division. Football Outsiders says the Giants have the second best defense in the NFL. The Eagles defense leads the league in interceptions. Every conventional metric says the Giants have the best defense in the NFL. The Eagles have Michael Vick, who has the best passer rating in the NFL. So of course, this game is going to be determined by Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs and the Giants ability to run the ball against the Eagles front seven. I say they run successfully and I'll take the Giants and the points.
Not so bold prediction: Michael Vicks runs it at least three times.
Bold prediction: The Giants have more rushing yards than the Eagles.

Denver @ San Diego (-10): I'm taking the Chargers because I always take take the Chargers.


  1. I'm taking Detroit +6.5, Green Bay -3, Baltimore -10, Tampa Bay +3, Atlanta -3, Cleveland +1.5, Buffalo +5.5, Houston +7.

  2. I have the following -

    Arizona +8: I have no clue what will happen in this game, but 8 points is a lot to lay down for the mediocre Chiefs. I will enthusiastically take Aaron's shortcut: the Cards and the points.

    Cleveland +1.5: an okay team playing a bad team and GETTING more than a point? Cha-ching.

    Baltimore -10: a good team playing a horrible team and laying 10 points? Okay, not exactly cha-ching, but even though the Ravens don't blow people out I think the Panther are so terrible that the Ravens can accidentally win really big here.

    Tampa Bay +3: single dumbest line of the week. Is TB not good? What am I missing here? Love that the better team is getting 3 points.

    In other news, I too am very excited for the Pats vs Colts. I might the first half though so hopefully it comes down to the wire. I'm also glad the Chargers have a Monday night game and I hope we acquit ourselves well by blowing out the Broncos.

  3. I went 6-2. I'll give the results of my predictions tomorrow. Even though I was technically wrong, I am still proud of my Santonio Holmes, Donovan McNabb and Calvin Johnson Bold predictions. All three will qualify for 'Close, but no cigar...I had the right idea' status.

  4. Late (again), but I went with this week:

    Packers -3: Green Bay is good; Brett Favre is not.

    Chiefs -8: I almost always pick against the West Coast team playing the early game on the East Coast, especially if they're playing at Arrowhead.

    Niners -3: Homer pick. I honestly thought we'd win 24-14, and be able to run all over the Bucs. Nope - the Niners suck.

  5. PS - you also took the Dolphins -1.5 A-ron.

  6. PPS That Bengals/Bills game was ridonkulous.

  7. I meant to say that it was not an official pick, just giving my thoughts. I never felt confident about the Dolphins over the 6-3 Bears. That's kind of why I was joking around with my Not So Bold and Bold predictions.

  8. Ah - I get it...

    Updated standings:

    Aaron: 39-25-3 (+14)
    Scott: 20-12-2 (+8)
    Royce: 22-18-1 (+4)
    MP: 0-0-0 (+0)

    I'm super torn by how I should approach these next few weeks. Being 6 games back, but still showing a .625 win percentage hurts - especially when that is higher than the .609 win % of the 'leader'. I guess I have to start picking more than the 3-4 games I currently go with. Poop!

  9. Or you could wager more money on the games you feel really comfortable we want to try and introduce a fantasy $100 (or $100k) bank roll to be with?

  10. I'm a BIG fan of introducing a bankroll for this (next year!); you'd list your pick (lines & odds are important then) with the amount you're risking. (S)He with the largest bankroll at the end of the season wins!

    Woohooo! Great idea Aaron!

  11. I went 12-2 with my 'Not So Bold' prediction...mostly because I made predictions like "Brett Favre will throw an interception" and "I will drink a beer while watching the Pats-Colts."

    I went 4-10 with my Bold predictions.

    I was particularly proud of Donovan McNabb (having more passing yards and a lower rating and the same number of rushes, but fewer yards), Calvin Johnson (having more catches and yards than than Dez Bryant and Miles Austin combined, but fewer fantasy points), and Santonio Holmes (having more fantasy points than the quarterback throwing to him).