I much prefer picking games straight up than against the spread, not because it is any easier, but because it doesn’t twist me into what to me is an uncomfortable position as a fan having not to root for one or the other team to win, but rather for a certain, amenable final score.
It’s the same reason why I still can’t bring myself to get involved very much in fantasy sports. As much as I love both sports and numbers -- a pair of predilections that I’ve always thought directly informs my love of poker, too -- I just can’t interest myself in the statistical tsunami of fantasy football.
The start of the season reminded me of last year. For the first three weeks of the NFL season, 16 games are played each week (then the byes kick in). Last year I’d gotten 10/16, 10/16, then 9/16 for a so-so start of 29 out of 48.
I was already eight games behind the leader, and thus ended up spending the entire playing catch-up. By the end I was scrambling, picking lots of upsets in a desperate attempt to close the widening gap and ultimately finishing with just 156 of 256 correct (about the same percentage I’d hit during those first three weeks).
That was way, way behind our group’s winner who picked 178 of 256 games correctly for the season (an impressive 69.5%). Meanwhile there was one genius out of the hundreds of thousands who played the game on ESPN who correctly picked 191 of 256 last year (74.6%). No shinola.
In 2012, I hit 166 of 256 (64.8%), good enough to bubble the cash. The year before I also hit 166 of 256, which won me the pool that year.
I was chatting with a friend yesterday who was showing me the results of picks made by the Football Outsiders over the last few years, including how they did picking games straight up. They’ve improved every year over the last six in that category, getting 171 correct each of the last two years.
That’s getting just about exactly 2 out of every 3 picks right, a good line to shoot for. Getting 11 of 16 just barely beats it. Harder than it looks, though.