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Nate Silver’s Grantland-esque website FiveThirtyEight debuted today. It includes an interactive graphic (utilizing seven different predictor variables) featuring every team’s chances to reach every round of March Madness, including their odds of winning it all. How do those odds stack up to the current (as of 11:59 pm Eastern Time) odds given by Sportsbook.com? Best of all, which teams make for the best bets, even if they are unlikely to win the championship, because Vegas is giving them even longer odds than they deserve? Find out below!

Positive Expected Value Bets to Win the NCAA MB Tournament

Team Sportsbook Odds-to-One Break Even Percentage FiveThirtyEight Percent Chance to Win Bet Expected Value
Arizona 8 11.11% 13.00% 1.89%
Villanova 30 3.23% 4.00% 0.77%
Ohio St 75 1.32% 2.00% 0.68%
Creighton 40 2.44% 3.00% 0.56%
Duke 20 4.76% 5.00% 0.24%
Michigan 35 2.78% 3.00% 0.22%
Kentucky 50 1.96% 2.00% 0.04%

For a bet of Arizona’s odds to be profitable (in the long run), it needs to cash 11.11 percent of the time; Nate Silver and his team estimate that the Wildcats’ true odds lie at 13 percent. That gap produces the largest positive expected value in the field. Which teams should you avoid putting money on to go all the way?

Worst Expected Value Bets to Win the NCAA MB Tournament

Michigan St 5.5 15.38% 6.00% -9.38%
Syracuse 18 5.26% 1.00% -4.26%
Iowa St 30 3.23% 1.00% -2.23%
UCLA 35 2.78% 1.00% -1.78%
Florida 5.5 15.38% 14.00% -1.38%
Wisconsin 22 4.35% 3.00% -1.35%
Wichita St 15 6.25% 5.00% -1.25%
Kansas 13 7.14% 6.00% -1.14%

Everyone loves Michigan St, and that is precisely why they are overvalued. The Spartans are good, and it is entirely possible they could win; it is even possible that Silver’s methodology has sold them short, perhaps by not accounting for Tom Izzo. But it is also true that at the five-and-a-half-to-one odds currently offered, the Spartans have to win 15.38 percent of the time for this bet to be profitable. Even if their true probability of a championship is around ten percent, or even 12 percent, it would still not be a good idea to put money on Michigan St. With the fabled winning streaks, Syracuse and Wichita St also make appearances on this list of worst bets in the tournament.

This is not to say that these teams are guaranteed to lose. But if you place bets with a negative expected value, while you may win one or two, over time you are guaranteed not only to lose, but to lose money.

Last Week: 2-1-1. Regular Season: 53-49-3. My Entire Life: 55-50-4

Lines from Sportsbook.com; home team in CAPS.

Saints (+7.5) over SEAHAWKS

I have many theories for this one, mostly hinging on the idea that losing 34-7 is nearly the worst end of the spectrum for the Saints, and there could be some #regression. The Seahawks always seem to force some early turnovers in games like this; they did against the Saints in Week 13, and they did in their blowouts of the 49ers the last two times they went to Seattle. But forcing turnovers, despite the skill involved, requires some luck as well. Since 2008, 29 teams have gone plus-eight or better in turnover differential in the regular season, averaging at least plus-0.5 per game. In the playoffs, 23 of those teams saw this rate decline, 17 by a net turnover per game or more, down to a negative turnover differential in the playoffs. Only 14 of those 29 teams actually won a playoff game. Seattle led the league this season at plus-20. Maybe they will keep it up…but more likely they will not.

Colts (+7) over PATRIOTS

Quote from Bill SimmonsWeek 17 Column on Grantland:

Quick note on the Pats: Their best 12 players in April were Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski, Jerod Mayo, Aaron Hernandez, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Aqib Talib, Devin McCourty, Shane Vereen and Rob Ninkovich in some order. Only four of them finished the Baltimore game last week; six aren’t coming back. As fellow Pats fan Jay Jaroch points out, “We had four guys starting for us in Baltimore — [Sealver] Siliga, Chris Jones, [Matthew] Mulligan, and [Josh] Kline — who were signed off the street. Not rookie free agents, not guys signed off some other team’s practice squad. Four dudes who were signed off their couch.”

Not included in Simmons’ list was Brandon Spikes, Pro Football Focus‘ sixth-best graded inside linebacker this season (among 55 who have played 25 percent or more of their teams’ snaps), who, really, do I even need to say what happened to Spikes? Ironically, most of the Pats’ defensive losses (Wilfork, Kelly, Spikes) affect their run defense, and the Colts are terrible at running the ball, but still, is it not a miracle that New England somehow got the two seed in the first place? And they could somehow win because the Colts really are not very good? Ridiculous.

49ers (-1.5) over PANTHERS

…(takes breath to say someth–)…

BRONCOS (-9.5) over Chargers

Yup! I just did that. I also took the Chargers at +10.5 when they won outright in Denver in Week 15. AND now the Broncos are without Von Miller. So this is crazy. The Chargers defense is 25th in weighted DVOA. The Broncos offense is first. I have no clue if San Diego’s prior defensive success is replicable, but I am guessing that no, it is not.

Well…I am really excited to watch football tomorrow. Playoffs!

I wasn’t going to post today. I’ve had some bonus Saturday posts the last couple weeks (about Pro Bowl snubs and my emotional state regarding the 49ers-Packers game) and I am still exhausted after yesterday. But then I was all like… nah, check the Super Bowl odds! But I am keeping it quick.

Here are the eight remaining teams’ odds to win the Super Bowl at Sportsbook.com, alongside Football Outsidersestimation of their true probability, ranked by expected payout:

Super Bowl XLVIII Odds- 1/6/2014

Team American Odds Odds To One Break Even FO Chance Expected Payout Rank
CAR 1000 10 9.09% 15% 5.91% 1
NE 750 7.5 11.76% 17.2% 5.44% 2
NO 1500 15 6.25% 6.5% 0.25% 3
SD 1500 15 6.25% 6% -0.25% 4
IND 2000 20 4.76% 2.3% -2.46% 5
SEA 250 2.5 28.57% 24.6% -3.97% 6
SF 500 5 16.67% 8.9% -7.77% 7
DEN 250 2.5 28.57% 19.6% -8.97% 8

Again, Football Outsiders’ model can’t really account for all the Pats’ injuries1, so don’t immediately buy into New England. But the Carolina Panthers are still looking nice and undervalued! Here are teams’ odds to win their conference championship:

2013-14 NFL Conference Champion Odds- 1/6/2014

Team American Odds Odds To One Break Even FO Chance Expected Payout Rank
NE 340 3.4 22.73% 37% 14.27% 1
CAR 400 4 20.00% 27.9% 7.90% 2
SD 700 7 12.50% 14.7% 2.20% 3
NO 800 8 11.11% 13.1% 1.99% 4
IND 750 7.5 11.76% 8.1% -3.66% 5
SEA 100 1 50.00% 41.6% -8.40% 6
SF 260 2.6 27.78% 17.4% -10.38% 7
DEN 62.5 0.625 61.54% 40.3% -21.24% 8

I’m a little more inclined to like New England here; with a home win over Indianapolis, and another Chargers win in Denver (the last of which came less than one month ago), it might not be… well no, it’s still pretty crazy given the injuries, but maybe has a higher chance than 22.72 percent? I’m intrigued by San Diego and New Orleans as well. We know the Chargers can win in Denver, but we don’t seem to believe it (Denver is favored by 10 points); we saw the Seahawks crush the Saints a few weeks ago, and might believe that a little too much. I would certainly not put money on Denver at this point, not with Von Miller out for the season.

Fewer than four weeks until the Super Bowl. Can’t wait!


  1. OH, and there’s been another one! Top run defender Brandon Spikes is out for the year, after playing the whole regular season. Really, really sad stuff. 

Well first of all, this:

1st 49ers game

That’s me the last time I was at a football game! Which was my first 49ers game, as detailed in Part 1. What can I say, I was a chubby sixth grader. And in many ways, I still am. But check it:

cool

This chubby sixth grader still climbed all the way to the top of Seahawk Stadium! Boom. And here’s me watching the 49ers and Seahawks take the field before kickoff, way back in 2002:

chute

Awesome stuff. Thank you to my mother for digging up the pictures. Now, over 11 years later, I’m headed back to an NFL game. I mostly covered all of my many, excessive emotions yesterday (again, in Part 1), but there’s a couple other things.

It’s possible tomorrow I’ll be wearing five layers on my upper body and three on my lower body. I’ve probably done that once or twice before, but I can’t recall specifics. I was considering laying out my gear and taking pictures for the hilarity, before being like “Hell no, that will take forever.” Also when getting it all together I fleetingly considered “Wait, will you really need all this? What if you get too hot?” And then I laughed and threw in a thicker pair of socks. Quite frequently I’m worried about being too hot, even in the cold, it makes me pretty uncomfortable. I don’t think I have ever been less worried about being too hot.

Last check of the weather, before going to sleep: high in Green Bay on Sunday, three degrees. Low -19. At 3 p.m, just before kickoff, it will be three degrees, and “feel like” -14 degrees. By 4 p.m. that allegedly will drop to one degree, “feeling like” -17 degrees. Goodness.

Last check of the lines, as always from Sportsbook.com (home team in CAPS), and I’m going… sigh,

PACKERS (+3) vs 49ers

My thinking here is many fold, and I was going to lay it out, but just forget it.1 Until we see a few plays (and maybe still even then), we’ve got No Idea what in heck is going to happen with this game. Three combined passing attempts in the first half? Three touchdowns each in the first half? Three players ejected from each time for lighting themselves on fire in the first half? All three? Anyway, if this game actually does end up being as weird as we suspect it might, I think the home-field could be the deciding factor. No, not the weather, a possibility I’m considering less likely given the Packers style of play and the 49ers defensive strengths. But the refs. There could be weird things, weird calls, and the close ones could be a little more likely to go Green Bay’s way. I’ve got no real problem with that–it’s how it works, it’s not intentional, and you try refereeing a subzero game with thousands of half-frozen/half-drunk people screaming at you–but I think it’ll matter.

Now I’ve got to get some sleep; I’ve got somewhere to be tomorrow.


  1. If you’re curious, I was going to start with data like this and work my way from there., eventually hitting some of my usual favorites like Pythagorean winning percentage, DVOA, team health, etc, but seriously consider the context of this game and then try to answer, what’s the point? 

Last Week: 8-8. My Entire Life: 53-49-3.

Hallelujah, all rejoice, for the 2013-14 NFL Playoffs have arrived at last! A quick note: I will be writing another bonus post, featuring all of my thoughts, emotions, and spiritual beliefs about the 49rs-Packers game on Sunday (which I will be attending, thanks to the profound kindness of some Packers fans friends). This game is just too much everything for me right now, and there’s no way I could not devote an entire post to it. The over-under on the word length for my entire experience is about 4,000 words right now; let me know if you’d like to place bets.

Anyway, here are the rest of my predictions (against the spread, naturally) for the upcoming Wildcard Round. As always, lines from Sportsbook.com; home team in CAPS.

The Kansas City Football Team (+1.5) over COLTS

I actually think Indy might be a little better, and have a higher ceiling. They did beat the Seahawks, Broncos, 49ers, and… oh, right, Kansas City! In Kansas City, no less. At that point, Kansas City didn’t have a whole lot to play for, but still. But then there’s the Kansas City defense.

Saints (+2.5) over EAGLES

I dunno…. taking another road team? I just… yeah. The Eagles defense is bad. The Saints defense is better. Drew Brees… Sean Peyton… greater than Nick Foles, Chip Kelly, right? Maybe? The Eagles do have a good offensive line… I’m going to be pretty upset if the Saints lose this game by three points, is what I’m saying.

BENGALS (-7) over Chargers

They’ve won big a few times… Philip Rivers is having a great season… Time for Andy Dalton to show off on national television? San Diego’s defense is the defense to do it against? I would feel a lot better if Geno Atkins and Leon Hall hadn’t gone out for the season. But the Bengals are due for a postseason win right? Maybe? Or they’re just good, not elite, and Marvin Lewis will be another good coach that gets fired because his team keeps losing in the playoffs?

Alright, that’s how I’m feeling right now, so far as the first three games. As I said, I’ll be back tomorrow with most likely a mega-post (perhaps a meta-post?) detailing all the things I’ve already gone through regarding this 49ers-Packers game, including a picture of me holding all twelve hand-warmers I bought today! Stay tuned.

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