Monday, January 01, 2007

NFL Thoughts, Week 17

Good-bye to the 06-07 season, and good riddance from a betting standpoint. As I have mentioned before, around week 10 I attempted to develop a regression model to see what (if any) factors might best indicate a team's weekly performance. Though I haven't completely abandoned hope, as of right now I'm the black trooper in Spaceballs combing the desert with his pick: I ain't found shit. I mean nothing. I've tried total offensive yards, total defensive yards, passing yards (gained/allowed), rushing yards (gained/allowed), sacks (made/allowed), takeaways, giveaways, home field advantage (not just no correlation on this one, by the way, but a NEGATIVE correlation--how?!), bye-week advantage, short week advantage, Atkins Advantage--you name it, I tried it.

And if you're the type of aesthete who shuns statistics and thinks I was wasting my time, well, you're...absolutely right. On the other hand, the sexy intangibles weren't really a reliable predictor either. Just look at the final week: who could have had more intangible advantages than Denver, Dallas, and Cincinnati: all three playing at home, all three with huge playoff incentives to win, all three playing crappy and/or indifferent teams (you could argue that Dallas's opponent, Detroit, actually had an incentive to lose in order to get a higher draft pick). And all three lost! That Denver game played out like the old Cold War nuclear-cautionary movie Fail-Safe: the Broncos had a ton of backup plans--and to top it off only needed a tie--but still couldn't avert an apocalyptic disaster. At the same time, if you're a trend-bucking rebel who liked underdogs, the Patriots crushed the Titans, the Giants stomped the Redskins, and the Jets un-ironically torched the Raiders.

If there's any consolation to us all, I still don't think you could just pluck a space alien out of a flying saucer (or even an illegal alien out of a midwestern meat-packing plant, for that matter) and have him/her/it choose winners better than you. I base this conclusion on how I envision my wife would have performed had she bet this season. First, she would have put the most down on the Dolphins all year (Dolphins are cute), then the Colts (ditto), then Oakland (where her favorite band, Green Day, is from), then Green Bay (sounds like "Green Day"), and then Minnesota (purple is pretty). Her only consistent successes would have been San Diego (her best friend is from there) and Baltimore (a wannabe goth, the whole Ravens/Edgar Allen Poe/violent and bloody death thing appeals to her). So you still have to know something about football, but paying $7 for special "insider" magazines and researching obscure efficiency rankings--not that I do any of these things, of course--will probably do nothing for you (other than anger your spouse--again, so I'm told).

So while I'll miss football, I'll also be happy to retreat full-time to the NBA, where the round ball takes no weird bounces, the weather plays no role, home court is not really an advantage (or a disadvantage), injuries are limited, crazy plays and unforseen turnovers can only lead to at most 2% of the total scoring, there are only 13 players/head-cases on the entire roster, and the good teams crush the bad ones darned near every time (as a Bobcats fan, I'm only too painfully aware of this fact)--in short, where outcomes are safe and predictable.

There's a reason why movies with bad and/or ambiguous endings rate poorly with audiences: we want logical closure. We want evil punished (especially if the punishment involves hanging the evildoer on a fighter jet's missile and firing him into a helicopter--the more imaginative, the better) and girls to eventually realize their shy and thoughtful guy-friends have actually been their soulmates all along. And if we can get hilarious cameos by Will Farrell thrown in, all the better. But give us something like Eraserhead, and we demand our money back (or, in my case, become so troubled after seeing it that we hang a poster of it on our apartment wall for five years as a twisted way of inoculating ourselves from nightmares, then wonder why girls won't talk to us).

Offensive Player of the Week: Jon Kitna, Lions. 28/42 for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns. Kitna probably played well enough for the Lions to think they don't need a quarterback and hence can blow yet another high draft pick on a receiver. Calvin Johnson in Detroit blues? How could Matt Millenresist--it'd be like telling a drug addict you've got an extra ticket to see The Grateful Dead.

Defensive Player of the Week: Walt Harris, 49ers. 2 INT's, one for a TD, to ruin the Broncos season. Because of Harris, at the post-game press conference Mike Shanahan looked disturbingly like Anthony Perkins at the end of Psycho; I just hope one of the stadium security guards was able to give the poor guy a blanket.

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