Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» FEI Week 8: What's With A&M?

Brian Fremeau explains why his rating system remains unimpressed with Texas A&M.

31 Oct 2007

The Fourth-and-a-Half Quasi-Super Bowl Prop Bet Extravaganza!

by Bill Barnwell

In this week's Scramble, I'll be departing from our typical format and topics to discuss at length the Patriots running up the score. I'll be discussing ethical conundrums related to scoring, the chart comparing maximum allowable pass length to score differential as delineated by quarter and time remaining, the effects of the signal-stealing penalty upon Bill Belichick's psyche, how Tom Brady wants to stay on the field to avoid being a father to his children, what Robert Kraft's unconscious gestures mean, how the '72 Dolphins should be shamed for beating the Patriots 52-0 with the last two touchdowns being 50-plus-yard bombs, how Joe Gibbs actually used sleight-of-hand on Sunday to avoid shaking Belichick's hand when there's photographic evidence that he did...

Oh, wait. You guys covered it already? 87 times over? Sweet.

In this week's Scramble, I'll take a bit of a different angle, then.

Every year, Scramble does a prop bet column for the Super Bowl, looking at the game from the perspective of many different, often silly over/under bets. The column usually runs about, oh, 28 pages long.

Since this game has been pretty much declared the Super Bowl of the regular season, we're going to turn the tables a bit. I have yet to see any prop bets set for the Pats/Colts game. Instead, what I'm going to do is create what I would consider to be reasonable lines for the game in a variety of different situations and then pick an Over/Under based upon those bets. It'll work out well because if I end up winning money, I'll be accused of setting the lines in my favor, and if I lose, I'll be accused of not knowing how to set lines. Good ol' lose-lose.

Regardless, feel free to discuss my bets in the comments section. I won't be tracking anyone else's bets but my own, but if anyone wants to volunteer to track other people's bets, I'd be happy to run the results in Scramble next week.

Unfortunately, some of the pageantry of the Super Bowl won't be featured in the Colts game, so we can't do bets on the more bizarre features of the event (e.g. the length of the National Anthem). We'll restrict our bets to those related to gameplay. Gotta save something for the Super Bowl.

What will the coin toss be? (Heads -105, Tails -105)

OK, so I lied. For the newbies in the audience, let's explain how these bets work. Here, a line of -105 means you'd have to bet $105 in order to win $100 (for a total of $205). If the line was +105, I'd have to bet $100 to win $205 -- my $100 back, plus the $105 line. Here, Vegas has both options below the break-even point because the line is guaranteed to be one of these two options. It's a pretty silly bet, which means I'll take it. Heads it is.

Team Bets

Who will score first? (New England -135, Indianapolis +105)

That line would entice betting on both sides of the line -- New England's offense has scored a touchdown in the first drive of every possession this year, while betting on Indianapolis to score with the odds in your favor seems like an obviously intelligent move. I'd take Indianapolis.

Who will punt first? (New England -105, Indianapolis +105)

New England's punted 18 times in eight games; Indianapolis, 20 times in 7 games. That makes them the slightest bit inferior, so I'll take the Colts to punt first.

Who will score the game's longest touchdown? (New England -150, Indianapolis +115)

I wonder how long those odds on New England should be. I mean, they can't be too long, but could you sit through this whole game in fear that the Patriots were one play-action pass away from winning this? It would kill you. The other factor is that you can't make the Colts line too high, because their offense is far too much of a threat to put big odds against. Manning's longest pass against the Patriots is a 64-yard pass in Week 4 of the 2001 season, and he has seemingly a 45-plus-yard pass against them in every game since 2003. There's no chance of the running game being the long touchdown of the day. Brady's median longest pass of the season is between 35 and 45 yards, so I'll go with Indianapolis again in this one.

First team to record a sack? (New England +105, Indianapolis -110)

This is a really tough one. The Colts struggled to get to Brady last year in the playoff game, and the Patriots offensive line has looked absolutely impenetrable through eight weeks; on the other hand, Peyton Manning never gets sacked. In last year's conference final, Manning was sacked once every 16.7 dropbacks, while Brady was sacked once in 35 dropbacks. However, I think the Colts are going to bring some surprise pressure to try and throw Brady off, especially from Bob Sanders. I'll say Indianapolis takes Brady down first. (Hmmm, I seem to be saying Indianapolis a lot...)

Combined rushing yards more than either team's passing yards (Yes +130, No -160)

Hey, Vegas wouldn't run such a convoluted bet, but I will. This is a bet saying that the combined rushing yards of the Patriots and Colts in the game will be below the passing yards compiled by either the Colts or the Patriots, whichever is lower. For example, if the Colts and Patriots combined for 285 rushing yards, but the Patriots only threw for 240 yards, the answer would be yes; if the Patriots threw for 320 yards and the Colts 315, the answer would be no. I'm going to say yes with the idea that the Colts are going to run the ball and stretch the field against the Patriots linebackers.

Individual Bets

Tom Brady Total Passing Yards o/u 312.5 (o -120, u +140)

This bet is a little different -- here, the bet is that Tom Brady will have 313 or more passing yards (the over), or fewer than 313 passing yards (the under). Again, to win $100 on the over, you'd have to bet $120 (to win a total of $220), but if you bet $100 on the under, you'll win $240 (your $100 back plus $140). I'm going to take the Under here in the thought that the Colts simply drop everyone back, let Wes Welker get five and six yards at a time, and try to force the Patriots to beat them with the running game.

Peyton Manning Total Passing Yards o/u 298.5 (o -120, u +105)

Manning's averaged 298 yards per game in his contests against the Patriots since 2004, but he's got three straight 300-yard games against them as well. At home, I think this line is in his favor. Over.

Randy Moss Longest Completion +/- 43.5 (o -115 u -105)

Like I said, I think the Patriots' strategy will be to take away Moss and everything deep and allow stuff underneath. That means the Under for this one.

Marvin Harrison Receptions +/- 6.5 (o +105, u -120)

This combines the possibility of Harrison not playing with the reality of his success against the Patriots in previous years. I think he was held out last week so that he'd be as healthy as possible for this game, and he'll shine. Over.

Laurence Maroney Carries +/- 13.5 (o +130, u -105)

If you can file any complaints about the 2007 Patriots offense, they've got to be directed towards Maroney, who's been alternately injured and unable to make the starting running back spot his. No one doubts (or should doubt) Maroney's pure talent as a runner, but he just isn't a blocker to the level Bill Belichick wants him to be. The result has been a bigger-than-expected role for Sammy Morris, followed by the same for Kevin Faulk following Morris' injury. If the Patriots continue to operate their offense in the same way they have been, Maroney's not the right back for it. That means lots of Faulk, and I'll take the Under.

Joseph Addai Longest Run from Scrimmage +/- 15.5 yards (o +105, u -110)

The Colts are famed for their lack of long-distance running all the way back to the heart of the Edge days -- so expecting a big run from Addai is unlikely. On the other hand, Addai's longest run has been above this number three times this year, and was right at 15 yards in another game. The Patriots are a very disciplined defense, though, not one likely to shirk their gap responsibilities and forget about the rare Addai cutback. I'll go with Under here.

Player to Score the First Touchdown of the Game:

Tom Brady (+1300)
Laurence Maroney (+900)
Kevin Faulk (+1600)
Heath Evans (+2800)
Randy Moss (+600)
Wes Welker (+900)
Donte' Stallworth (+1200)
Ben Watson (+1100)
Kyle Brady (+1700)
Jabar Gaffney (+2900)
Peyton Manning (+1700)
Joseph Addai (+800)
Kenton Keith (+1900)
Reggie Wayne (+1000)
Dallas Clark (+1100)
Marvin Harrison (+1000)
Anthony Gonzalez (+2200)
Ben Utecht (+2400)
Field (+3000)

This kind of bet lists a series of players to fill a particular role (in this case, whoever will score the first touchdown) and their odds on being that person. For example, in this case, if Tom Brady scored the first touchdown (rushing or receiving), you'd receive $1400 for betting $100 (your original $100 plus $1300).

The tempting bet, of course, is to take the field and count on Mike Vrabel or Dan Klecko. I'd be tempted with several of these bets -- mostly the Patriots running backs and the Colts receivers. If I had to choose one, though, Dallas Clark would be my pick. The Patriots still don't have a way to defend him that I can see.

Multi-Sport Bets

Who will have more on November 4?

Peyton Manning completions -3.5 (-120)
Kevin Durant points +3.5 (+120)

This line is complicated at first, but it's not that hard. We're comparing Peyton Manning's completions in the Patriots game to the number of points Kevin Durant scores in his game against the Clippers that night. If the number of points Durant scores plus 3.5 is more than the number of completions Manning has, Durant wins; if not, Manning wins. I'm gonna take Durant, thinking the 3.5 will push him over. Tim Thomas? For real? Come on.

Tom Brady passing touchdowns +0.5 (+110)
Most touchdowns thrown by any other quarterback on the day -0.5 (-130)

Basically, do you think Tom Brady will tie or throw more touchdowns than any other quarterback in football next week? I don't. Someone's playing the Jets, right? I'll play the field.

I'll bet on this game in the best bets.

Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Loser League

QB: Ignoring Gary Kubiak's vile treatment of his "concussion," Matt Schaub had an ugly day last week. Two interceptions and only 77 yards leave him with a -1 and tie him for Losingest Loser of the Week. Vince Young and the magic Floppy Throw Express scored three points for second, and Daunte Culpepper could only score four points against the Tennessee defense.

RB: Speaking of Oakland, LaMont Jordan couldn't do much, either. He had 16 yards for a single point. Both Reuben Droughns and Najeh Davenport had two; you never, ever want to be linked with Najeh Davenport. Frank Gore and Ron Dayne each had four. KUBIAK is sorry and wants you to take him back. Honest.

WR: Four guys with a lone point this week: Marty Booker, Justin Gage, Steve Smith, and Plaxico Burress. That's a weird foursome. In our internal league, Ted Ginn pulled off the awesome 23 with a penalty move. That's the 15-point penalty, plus catching a touchdown on your only pass. The maximum you can get with a penalty and no rushing plays is 30, but Ginn did well for himself here.

K: No missed extra points this week, sadly, but a missed field goal and single extra point from Robbie Gould gave him -1 for the week and tying him for league worst. That was no consolation to Shaun Suisham and John Kasay, both of whom only had one point each. And the teams they played last week were the Colts and Patriots! What a coincidence!!!!!

Keep Choppin' Wood

KCW this week goes to a duo -- thank you, Bryan Pittman and Matt Turk, for combining for one of the uglier displays of football we'll ever see. For those of you who didn't see the play, the normally-reliable Pittman snapped the ball yards over Turk's head, and as the ball came to rest in the end zone, Turk overran it, allowing Antonio Cromartie to fall on it for the easiest touchdown he'll ever score. Pittman's last botched snap apparently came at Walla Walla Community College, which, honestly, is where most people from Walla Walla Community College's last botched snap occurs, so Pittman's done well for himself.

Best Bets

2-1 last week, 10-10-1 overall

Don't invoke the FOMBC curse, kids. Just don't.

Jacksonville (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS

I'm not exactly on the Saints bandwagon yet. There are 31 percentage points of DVOA between the Jaguars and Saints. That's more than enough to account for the home-field advantage.

KANSAS CITY (-2) over Green Bay

I am taking this bet because I looked at it for three minutes and couldn't think of a single reason why Vegas would make this line as is. That usually means Vegas knows something we don't, and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

INDIANAPOLIS (+6.5) over New England

I don't know if the Colts will win. I think it will be close, either way. I don't think there's a number you can give me that I wouldn't take the over on. If it were on a neutral field, I'd flip my bet. But it's at home. And the Colts are the champions, and not just a very good team, but an incredible team this year. The Patriots are good, but I don't think they're blow-the-Colts-out good. What the hell; Indianapolis 35, New England 32. And yes -- Adam Vinatieri kicks the game-winner.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 31 Oct 2007

37 comments, Last at 05 Nov 2007, 2:25pm by Herm?

Comments

1
by The Jerricho Road (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 6:48pm

The explanation of "Combined rushing yards less than either team’s passing yards" is backwards.

2
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 6:58pm

Doh - that should have been "more", not "less". Corrected.

3
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 7:07pm

What am I calculating wrong on the LL? According to the NFL Gamebook, Culpepper was 15-32 for 167 yards (8 points), rushed for 9 yards (0 points), had 1 INT (-2 points), and four fumbles (-8 points), for a total of -2 points. What am I missing?

4
by RickD (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 7:08pm

Colts +6.5?

Where do you see that line? The lines I see are about 5.

5
by Fat Tony (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 7:46pm

Correction: The Pats have SCORED on every opening drive this year, not a touchdown on every opening drive as stated in the piece.

6
by dan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 7:52pm

4) It's 6.5 at Bodog, with the Pats -105.

7
by Kal (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 8:03pm

The thing you're missing about the KC-GB line is that GB played an overtime game on Monday night and will be starting yet another RB, and will be playing against a team coming off a bye. Most teams that win on Monday have a hangover, and it's not like KC is easy to play at.

8
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 8:11pm

Jason is in rare from this year. The cartoon rocks. Again.

And as for who scores first, I really like "the field".

9
by Luke (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 9:45pm

The saints are at home and haven't looked back after handing the seahawks their collective arses in week 6. The jags are without their starting QB, and presumably wont be able to exploit NO's biggest defensive weakness (the DBs). I think the saints win this one handsomely.

10
by Sheldon (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 9:52pm

I'm only 4 points back of the lead in the Loser League! Is this week the last week before we pick again?

11
by flounder (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:08pm

Re: 7 exactly. I'm surprised the line isn't -3

12
by Athelas (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:14pm

Bravo Jason Beattie!

13
by Eric J (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:49pm

3: Culpepper only lost one of his four fumbles. Points taken away on fumbles are usually based on fumbles lost.

14
by Jim from Sydney (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 2:41am

I'll second the mad props for the cartoon. Brilliant!

15
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 2:48am

Outstanding Cartoon.

Bill, making Indy a best bet? Man, haven't you been reading the Internets?

16
by ND (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 6:35am

Whilst I think the Colts aren't an awful bet at +6.5 how on earth can they be one of the 3 best bets in the league? When the patriots have yet to be within 21 points of the opponents and being on fire on offence, there must, surely, be a better bet in one of the other 13 games then betting against Brady to win by less then 1 TD??

17
by eric (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 7:23am

what set of circumstances brings about an adam vinatieri game winner in a game where the colts score 35? 2 touchdowns and 7 field goals? 2 touchdowns, 5 field goals, and 3 safeties? two normal touchdowns, 3 field goals, and 2 touchdowns where vinatieri misses the extra point?

18
by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 7:30am

#16 - But they are now playing one of the 3 best teams this deep into the season in the DVOA era. Which is a lot different from beating up on plain "good" teams (or just plain terrible ones).

19
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 8:31am

what set of circumstances brings about an adam vinatieri game winner in a game where the colts score 35?
You missed: four touchdowns (one with two-point conversion), field goal, game-winner late.

The crazy part would be both teams getting to 32. Of course, both teams got to 29 in Superbowl XXXVIII, so it's possible. But that game's scoring was quite odd, with two missed field goals and a successful two-point conversion on one side, and two missed two-point tries and a 50-yard figgie on the other.

20
by gnomonclature (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 8:56am

The Colts are "incredible", while the Patriots are "good"? You should go to this football site where they have a thing called DVOA. I won't bore you with the details, but its sometimes worth reading.

21
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 9:45am

The comic is pure genius.

22
by Kurt (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 10:08am

Didn't Devin Hester put up a 35 without a rushing play a few weeks ago (1 catch for 80 yd TD, kick return TD)?

23
by nat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 10:23am

The comic is great!

And this is from someone who thinks that the "run-up-the-score" charge against the Pats is bogus. (This is not the place to discuss the evidence, please.)

It can be read as either a spoof of the Patriots' attitude, or a spoof of the people complaining about the Patriots' success.

And "Crack 100" would be a good name for a rock band.

24
by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 11:21am

#13: Gee, given how FO always makes the point that fumble recoveries are basically random and that Fumbles is a more important stat than Fumbles Lost, I would have thought that an FO league would deduct point for fumbles, not fumbles lost... (Plus the LL rules say "-2 points for each fumble or interception", not "-2 points for each lost fumble or interception.")

Ah, well. I'm just bitter because one of my WRs is on the IR and another had a bye, or I would have posted a pleasingly mediocre 20 or so, even with 4 points for DC.

25
by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 11:47am

#24

I'd guess that the Loser League just uses standard fantasy football scoring, which is easier to find. And only counts fumbles lost.

26
by Herm? (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 11:48am

#20
I also think it is funny that this site is predicated upon grading teams in all facets through play-by-play breakdown. Then, for whatever reason, its employees go against their own logic.
I know that there are factors not captured in DVOA that can help determine the outcome of the game
(IE homefield advantage, adjusted gameplans, injuries)
But if they go against their own logic, how much credibility do we accept here?
Then again, not every team that is favorable according to DVOA wins every week, and we wouldn't enjoy it if they did.
That's why they play the games. (Hello?)

27
by Herm? (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 11:52am

by the way, despite what probably sounds like criticism, and I do sound off here and there, I truly enjoy this site and what they bring to the game. It beats turning on nitwit radio in Boston and listening to callers with bad accents (same as mine) screaming back and forth with the hosts.
The comic was awesome.

28
by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 12:43pm

Please the 72 Dolphins clearly had their back up QB in the game from the start of the game let alone the 4th quater, and used their version of Heath Evans (slow white fullback) all 4 quarters.

29
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 1:09pm

re: 7
GB played an overtime game, true, but there was only 1 play! Not exactly gruelling. The monday night hangover is the main point, obviously.

30
by Diane (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 2:41pm

If Charles Schultz isn't rolling in his grave from the recently-published, less-than-flattering biography, this strip might do it.

Bravo Jason!

31
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 3:14pm

28 But THEIR slow white fullback is in the HOF, no?

Herm, I've asked a similar question a few times and the basic answer is that the site is based on X, and while all the contributors vale X, they are free to have other opinions. I thought I was smart in calling Aaron on the preseason wins projections, with Jax at 12 wins and Indy at 9. Especially when in his Slate.com article he wrote that if everything breaks just right for Jax, they could "challenge" for the AFCS title. Even though the computer handed Jax the AFCS title outright with a 2.5 game margin.

Turns out he and I were both closer in our opinions than the system, IN THIS INSTANCE. (Look how well the computer did with GB and Chi predictions this year!)

Aaron's response to me was essentially that the system is not perfect, but it's quite good and evolving, and we don't have a "golly, that looks out of whack" button to press when things look off. They tinker when it seems appropriate, but bottom line: the computer is pretty good and they're all humans with their own opinions.

32
by honest abe (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 10:54am

You can get a lot of prop bets with the English firms - try www.oddschecker.com or www.bestbetting.com which are the two best odds comparison sites. You may not be able to bet with these firms, but at least you can see what they're offering.

33
by cryptomnesiac (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 1:37pm

Favre or Manning this week? I'm leaning toward the former ...

34
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 5:54pm

"I also think it is funny that this site is predicated upon grading teams in all facets through play-by-play breakdown. Then, for whatever reason, its employees go against their own logic."

Well, they've basically said the Patriots weren't going to cover every week except week 1. They've been screaming about how absurd the spreads are, when DVOA says the spreads are pretty good.

35
by Bill Barnwell :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 2:49am

Well, they’ve basically said the Patriots weren’t going to cover every week except week 1.

Except for last week, when I wrote in this very column that they'd cover.

Also, "employees of this site" don't share a have mind. Scramble is the column on this site that has the least to do with, well, quantitative, rational thought.

36
by JOHN (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 2:38pm

How can I use DVOA this week to select a good underdog?

Thank You

37
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2007 - 2:25pm

Bill, bobman, thanks for your responses.