I'm losing. It's happening in increments, but it's unmistakable. It's only Sunday and the week is slipping from my grasp. And I feel fine about it.
The Lords Disick are playing a team called the Waterfront Based Acolytes in fantasyland and the Waterfront Based Acolytes are slow-cooking us. The Waterfront Based Acolytes are Wolfgang Pauli's team. I've never met Wolfgang Pauli but it's pretty clear he's a trained fantasy assassin sent here by my enemies to for some reason shatter the Lords Disick's one-game winning streak. It's a bye week for both the Bengals (my usual defensive line) and Marshawn Lynch. Ryan Kuhlman told me to check the waiver wire. The waiver wire was all human driftwood. I tried every possible permutation of my starting lineup. No scenario ended with anything but me going down.
When the first sportsbook report hit my inbox Monday, the question "How did your book fare in the NFL?" was answered with "great." The same question, in the next email, was answered with “horrible.” These extremes alternated throughout the day, and a pattern quickly emerged. The square books made a killing, while the sharp books got killed.
"The house always wins” is an often-used phrased, and when it comes to sports betting — over the long run, in aggregate — it’s true. Bettors must risk $11 to win $10, and though that equates to a seemingly surmountable 52.4 percent win percentage to break even, the consensus estimate is that less than 1 out of 20 sports bettors profits over the long run.
Why do such a high percentage of bettors lose? On the surface, the bettor has many advantages, such as the power to decide when, where, and how much to bet. What the bookie asks for in return is the 11/10 vig. Vegas old-timers I know often refer to the bookies' 11/10 advantage as “the nuts” — and it’s certainly a formidable hurdle, but what makes winning nearly impossible for many recreational bettors is their failure to maximize the advantages they are offered.
I fly to New York with Lonely Bunny in my pocket. Lonely Bunny is one of my daughter's finger puppets. He makes the tip of your finger look like a white rabbit popping out of a gray top hat. I document Lonely Bunny's trip and send the pictures to my wife's phone for my daughter to look at. It's a thing we do. I mean, originally it was a thing my wife did when she'd travel and now I'm doing it too. Successful co-parenting is all about stealing bits from your partner. My Lonely Bunny pictures are derivative of my wife's work, albeit more accomplished photographically. Here's Lonely Bunny looking out the window of an airplane. Here's Lonely Bunny having a cup of coffee. Look at that depth of field.
My first breath of New York air outside the terminal. Cold wind, cigarette smoke. This is how my vacation tastes.
Yesterday, when the school day was over, I went home. After the bell rang, I stood around outside my classroom for a bit and then in front of the school for a bit more to make sure that none of the students fought each other. After they'd cleared out I gathered my things and just walked to my car and left. That was it. That was all. It was very sad.
Today's Grantland Channel video spotlights Pulaski Academy's Kevin Kelley, the high school football coach who never punts and almost always onside kicks. While Kelley's approach, which he calls both a strategy and a philosophy, has yet to catch on in college or the pros, Kelley has became the poster boy for savvy, statistically driven football innovations.
So who is the next Kevin Kelley? Well, he's probably bound to destroy your fantasy football draft strategy, because the next Kelley is going to stop running the ball. The numbers tell us that Kelley is correct not to punt, and the numbers also tell us the next football revolution should be NFL teams abandoning the ground game.
Let me explain: Winning football games requires moving the ball on offense. Even factoring in negative plays on sacks, NFL teams have averaged 6.10 yards per pass attempt over the past 10 seasons. In contrast, they've netted 4.17 yards per rush attempt. Teams can't afford to give up almost two yards per attempt based on play selection.
Still not convinced? Consider this: Over those 10 years, there has been almost no correlation between rush yards per attempt and winning. The correlation coefficient is 0.12, meaning yards per rush attempt accounts for 1.4 percent of the variance in winning. Conversely, yards per pass attempt accounts for 41 percent.
Perhaps the most impressive current Las Vegas stat is that Alabama has been favored in 51 straight games. Wow. The last time the Crimson Tide were underdogs in a college football game was in 2009. Not only has Bama been favored in every game since, but it has been favored by an average of more than three touchdowns per game. In this so-called age of parity, Alabama has dominated.
The combination of historic tradition and recent success typically earns a team strong betting support. Fan bases often bet their team as a matter of habit, while non-fans are drawn to dominant teams. Saturday was no different, with LSU-Alabama generating the biggest betting handle of the day. The LVH’s Jay Kornegay reports that Bama’s cover was the biggest win for football bettors this week, college or pro.
What’s unusual about Alabama is how often it wins money for backers. When a team receives lopsided support week after week, the bookmakers make it increasingly expensive to bet that team. Typically, such point-spread premiums result in ATS underperformance by the most popular teams. Alabama, though, is an exception, covering 62 percent of games during its four-season run as unvaried favorites — without a single season below .500 against the spread. By definition, the spread is expectation; and even with an extreme popularity premium tacked on, Alabama has exceeded expectation.
We played School D. this week. It was the final game of the season. Their team was the only thing that remained between our team and a perfect record. It was an unenviable place to be, for sure. I can’t imagine that standing between a mama bear and her cubs is any less treacherous. Some notes:
1. It took us approximately 10 seconds to score the game’s first touchdown. School D. kicked the ball off, The Helicopter caught it, turned on the big engines — which is something he only does when he wants to prove a point — and that was that.
Everyone knew right then that The Helicopter had already decided we were not leaving the field without a fistful of middle school history, which meant we were not leaving the field without a fistful of middle school history. When The Helicopter flexes his football might, it’s like that part in the first Matrix movie, when Neo realizes he is The One. I would not be surprised to learn that The Helicopter sees the football field in binary code.
2. All 20 players on our sideline found themselves in the game before the midway point of the second quarter, which is just a different way of saying we’d scored more points by than we were going to need by then.
This year Halloween fell on a Thursday. That morning brings the first real roster controversy of the Ryan Kuhlman era. I bench Denarius Moore from the Raiders to start Marvin Jones from the Bengals. When I tell Ryan I've done this over email, he advises me against "chasing Marvin's points from last week." Which stings, although it's exactly what I'm doing. Jones caught a career-high four touchdowns in the game against the Jets, the one I didn't watch that everyone keeps talking about like it was Andy Dalton's "Kendrick drops 'Control'" moment. On some level, by starting Jones against the Dolphins on Halloween night I'm trying to re-create whatever magic led to that 49-9 score, which is the act of a truly delusional Bengals stan. My desire to make the Marvin Jones era into a thing that happens is preventing me from fully embracing the Mission: Impossible–like team-management philosophy of the Ryan Kuhlman era, which involves handpicking a team for every job. No sentimentality. We're not a fantasy team, we're a fantasy strike force.