NFL Week 2: What Did He Know and When Did He Know It

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I posted my summation of the Ray Rice story early Monday morning, and not three hours later there were several major developments and they continue to roll in. First of all Ray Rice has been both indefinitely suspended by the NFL and cut by the Baltimore Ravens. The indefinite suspension from the league office means even if another team wanted to pick him up he would need to be reinstated by the league office. The league has also started a buyback program for Ray Rice jerseys, Nike has cut its contract with Ray Rice, and EA has released an update removing Ray Rice from the Madden ’15 video game.

As a brief side note on the indefinite suspension punishment, commissioner Roger Goodell is being heavily criticized for the additional inconsistency of first suspending Rice for two games, then setting down the policy a first offence would be six games, then suspending Rice indefinitely. There clearly is still no set stance as far as punishment from the league is concerned. Some people will be punished only after the courts have decided, some before, and all with severity only determined by public/sponsor outcry and not grounded in anything resembling objective criteria.

As I mentioned on Monday the league denied that they had any knowledge of this second tape. I expressed skepticism that the letters TMZ held more legal sway than the letters NFL. Reports released yesterday from The Revel casino said the NFL never asked them for a copy of the tape and they would have been happy to provide one if they had. A law enforcement official has added that the NFL head office was sent a tape on April 9th(meaning the NFL would have seen it before announcing the two game suspension) and there is a voicemail from an NFL office phone number confirming they received the video and saying, “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the NFL did have the tape the whole time and still took the actions they have over the past six months. I won’t even venture a guess as to why Goodell attempted a cover up here considering he’s been fine laying down punishments far more severe than the crime in the past. Former FBI director Robert Mueller III has been appointed by the league to investigate the handling of the whole incident so we’ll see what else comes to light.

Sportsbook 101

Moving onto the picks for this week, I realized last week I talked about what betting against the spread actually is, but I need to talk about what the number means with a little more depth. I’m going to continue to use last week’s Green Bay @ Seattle(-6) line. Many people will tell you the handicap(the -6) is supposed to represent the number of points one team would have to spot the other in order for the two teams to be even. So if Seattle started the game at -6 or Green Bay started the game at 6 then the two teams would really be even and that’s what you’re betting on. Although that is how winning and losing bets are determined it isn’t actually what Vegas is implying when it sets a line.

What they mean is that they think the public thinks Seattle is better by 6 points. This sounds confusing until you remember Vegas’s goal isn’t to pick a winner, it is to pick a number that will cause 50% of the public to bet one way and 50% of the public to bet the other. This ensures the winners are paid with the losers money, and Vegas keeps a percentage. If more money is on one side than the other Vegas could lose, but if the money is split that means Vegas is guaranteed to win.

This is important when thinking about a line, especially a line on a team that is currently really popular or unpopular with the public. The public’s perception of a team will move a line one way or the other even if the statistics for a game haven’t changed at all. As an example, often time the public will overreact to an injury. If a star player gets injured that team could suddenly become a huge underdog and the public will bet heavily against them so Vegas can move the line in that direction more than is reasonable. By watching for a trend like that you can wait for the line to move and then bet the other direction.

This concept took me years to start to grasp, so by all means ask questions if I haven’t explained it that well.

Survival Pool

Well my nice safe Eagles pick needed to go down 17-0 before they remembered the season had started. Fortunately they came back, so we’re still in this thing. The number of people remaining in the pool after week 1 is 102. Most eliminations last week were on people picking the Patriots(never take an away team in a divisional matchup as a survivor pick) or the Bears.

Speaking of the Bears, my pick for this week is the 49ers. The 49ers won impressively on the road and the Bears lost embarrassingly at home. Now the 49ers become the home team and Bears become the road team. I’m also not convinced that the Bears head coach has really made the transition to NFL coach. Trestman’s play calling was poor last year and the 49ers coach Harbaugh is one of the best in the business. We’re still in a mode of making as safe a pick as we can until we have more info about the teams.

The two most popular picks from other people right now are the Saints and the Packers. These are both dangerous picks for different reasons. They both lost week 1, so preseason expectations of greatness could be wrong for both teams. The Saints are playing at the Browns. The Saints don’t play as well outdoors and the Browns came very close to executing a big comeback just like the one the Falcons did pull on the Saints. The Packers meanwhile took some rough injuries to their offensive line in the game against Seattle Last week and their opponents(the Jets) strength lies on their defense. Should both the Packers and Saints win? Yes. Am I more confident in the 49ers? Absolutely.

Bets To Actually Make: Last week(1-2) Season(1-2)

I know I promised more analysis this week, but with the Ray Rice recap I’m not interested in taking up too much more of your time.

Miami(-0.5)@Buffalo

Tennessee(-3.5) vsDallas

Arizona(+1.5)@Ney York Giants

Other Picks I’m Not Putting Money On: Last week(8-5) Season(8-5)

Pittsburgh(+2.5)@Baltimore

Atlanta(+5.5)@Cincinatti

Cleveland(+6.5) vs New Orleans

Detroit(+2.5) vs Carolina

Minnesota(+3.5) vs New England

Jacksonville(+5.5)@Washington

Tampa Bay(-5.5) vs St. Louis

Seattle(-5.5)@San Diego

Denver(-13.5) vs Kansas City

New York Jets(+8.5)@Green Bay

Houston(-2.5)@Oakland

San Francisco(-7.5) vs Chicago

Indianapolis(-2.5) vs Philadelphia

I know I’m picking a lot of underdogs, but as I hinted at in my Sportsbook 101 section, bet against public overreaction and there are few times there is more overreaction than week 2 of the NFL season.

As always, questions, comments, and criticisms are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.

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