Thursday Night Football: The Quants' View (Week 5)

At numberFire.com, we use contextual, efficiency-based metrics and similarity algorithms to predict sports player and team performance. Just like you (or someone you know) spend your days digging for the real drivers of a stock or fixed income product so you can make the best investment decisions, we dig for the most descriptive player and team information in figuring out who to start in fantasy lineups and which bets to take. We provide that fantasy and handicapping advice to you at numberFire.com. Division... rivalry? Division battles are supposed to be close contests, right? I guess the Pony Express got lost between St. Louis and Phoenix. In their last 11 games against the Rams, dating back to December 2006, the Cardinals have won 10 times. That's not surprising; the Rams have had some horrendous teams (the starting QB for Rams in the week 16, 2009 game was Keith Null). What is surprising, though, is how the Cardinals have dominated the Spread. The Cardinals have won Against the Spread in 73% of those meetings, including both games last season. And two of the three times they didn't cover (Week 11, 2009 and Week 5, 2007), they won but missed the cover by one point. Under the Bridge Judging defensive effectiveness by Yards Allowed is as hopeless a pursuit as looking for love at 230 5th… You need to look at context: the caliber of an opponent is very important. In numberFire's opponent-adjusted defensive rankings, both the Cardinals (#2) and Rams (#9) have top ten defenses. Teams currently in the top ten have faced off six times this season, and, in those games, Vegas has horrendously miscalculated the totals line: the under has been the correct choice five times: Cleveland/Philadelphia (under 42.5), Atlanta/Denver (under 50.5), Chicago/St. Louis (under 42), Arizona/Philadelphia (under 41), and Atlanta/San Diego (under 47). Only Houston/Denver (43.5) went over. The QB Connection Are you one of those old-school folks who thinks QBs are overrated? Well, last week, the teams with more efficient QBs went 11-4. With that in mind, it becomes important to examine the Bradford-Kolb matchup. We’ll use numberFire's best friend, the Net Expected Points (NEP) formula, which lets us measure a skill player’s efficiency, to do so. Kolb has been surprisingly efficient this season, with a +19.51 NEP total, and +0.16 NEP/pass, meaning that he has added 19.51 total points and .16 points/pass to the Cardinals’ offense over what a league average QB would have added this year. Of the four games Sam “I was a #1 draft pick” Bradford has started this year, three saw barely positive NEP performances. The big indicator for our purposes came in week 3 against the Bears when Bradford posted a -24 NEP. You could see that as an outlier, but, again, context is key! That Bears game was the only time Sam Bradford faced a defense in numberFire's top 10. The Bears are #3. The Cardinals are #2.
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At numberFire.com, we use contextual, efficiency-based metrics and similarity algorithms to predict sports player and team performance. Just like you (or someone you know) spend your days digging for the real drivers of a stock or fixed income product so you can make the best investment decisions, we dig for the most descriptive player and team information in figuring out who to start in fantasy lineups and which bets to take. We provide that fantasy and handicapping advice to you at numberFire.com.

Division... rivalry?

Division battles are supposed to be close contests, right? I guess the Pony Express got lost between St. Louis and Phoenix. In their last 11 games against the Rams, dating back to December 2006, the Cardinals have won 10 times. That's not surprising; the Rams have had some horrendous teams (the starting QB for Rams in the week 16, 2009 game was Keith Null). What is surprising, though, is how the Cardinals have dominated the Spread. The Cardinals have won Against the Spread in 73% of those meetings, including both games last season. And two of the three times they didn't cover (Week 11, 2009 and Week 5, 2007), they won but missed the cover by one point.

Under the Bridge

Judging defensive effectiveness by Yards Allowed is as hopeless a pursuit as looking for love at 230 5th… You need to look at context: the caliber of an opponent is very important. In numberFire's opponent-adjusted defensive rankings, both the Cardinals (#2) and Rams (#9) have top ten defenses. Teams currently in the top ten have faced off six times this season, and, in those games, Vegas has horrendously miscalculated the totals line: the under has been the correct choice five times: Cleveland/Philadelphia (under 42.5), Atlanta/Denver (under 50.5), Chicago/St. Louis (under 42), Arizona/Philadelphia (under 41), and Atlanta/San Diego (under 47). Only Houston/Denver (43.5) went over.

The QB Connection

Are you one of those old-school folks who thinks QBs are overrated? Well, last week, the teams with more efficient QBs went 11-4. With that in mind, it becomes important to examine the Bradford-Kolb matchup. We’ll use numberFire's best friend, the Net Expected Points (NEP) formula, which lets us measure a skill player’s efficiency, to do so.

Kolb has been surprisingly efficient this season, with a +19.51 NEP total, and +0.16 NEP/pass, meaning that he has added 19.51 total points and .16 points/pass to the Cardinals’ offense over what a league average QB would have added this year. Of the four games Sam “I was a #1 draft pick” Bradford has started this year, three saw barely positive NEP performances. The big indicator for our purposes came in week 3 against the Bears when Bradford posted a -24 NEP. You could see that as an outlier, but, again, context is key! That Bears game was the only time Sam Bradford faced a defense in numberFire's top 10. The Bears are #3. The Cardinals are #2.

Related

Football? Yep. Oscars? OK. The VIX? Really?

I was scoring up the Super Bowl (small loss) when Ocean called. Ocean is a good customer. He had a couple questions, and I told him fire away. First he wanted to know if we were doing the Oscars again this year. Of course we are. I'm not thrilled about it –I'm half paranoid about inside information bubbling on the Internet, but I'm learning to embrace the inside mis-information. Most importantly, we do it as a service, so the customers won't start betting online with bookies in Costa Rica. Ocean was pleased. For what it's worth, he likes The Artist at very short odds. He watches rom-coms. With his wife, he says. His favourite movie though is Love Story, and he cries shamelessly every time he watches it: he truly believes that love means never having to say you're sorry. I've never figured that out. I'm forever apologizing to my wife for doing boneheaded things and saying stupid shit. And apologizing is a necessity But whatever. A happy customer is a beautiful thing. And I thought the phone call was over. And then Ocean said it. “What do you have on the VIX for this summer?” I asked him what the hell he was talking about because I didn't compute what I was hearing. He then said how he had been watching CNBC. He went to his mutual fund guy determined to buy the VIX, and the salesman blew him off with “Oh, that's just gambling”. So, hey, I must surely book the VIX, right, because I take bets from gamblers? Well I totally had my pants down and started mumbling about monthly contracts and the need to be a sophisticated investor and how there were a few products out there and...he cut me off. He understood how “the 1% were trying to make this complicated” and he just wanted a near-even-money type bet that the VIX would be over 30 at the end of June, as per the top of the screen on CNBC. I gave him the bet. 30's a pretty big number, and I figure this'll make me learn about trading the VIX instruments so I can lay it off if I want to. (I've never done anything more sophisticated than buy a put spread when I was afraid of a downturn. Go ahead, laugh.) 30's a lot. So I let him have it at 6-to-5. He was only expecting even money or slightly worse, so he was pleased. Ten minutes later I was using this episode as an object lesson for my Faithful Assistant, a guy who is muddling through an MBA while living in his parents' basement. Garage loft, I stand corrected. Anyway, good customers need to be kept happy, good customers lose, and happy customers pay. The Hollywood-movie days of kneecapping customers who stiff you were over before I was born, if they ever even existed, and—and the phone rang again. Ocean again, wanting an over/under number on where Apple would be in a couple months' time. Oh, and Facebook. I told him I would have to call him back. I started throwing coffee cups and in between my screams my Faithful Assistant told me he'd just pretend I have Tourette's. He's cold. Then he asked me what was going on. And after I told him, he smiled, and tried to give his boss an object lesson of his own: “This is great. You trade the odd option. All my electives are Finance. We just set the over-under price, I mean you KNOW he's going 'over', high enough that we can buy calls a couple strikes below that number. We use his bet to buy the calls, if he wins we clean up, and we're covered.” And when I asked what would happen to Ocean's bankroll over time, the answer came back that we would sodomize it. I just shook my head. My young friend may well end up in a business career where the necessary m.o. is to grab-it-all and grab-it-now, but that's not how my business works. I actually want my customers to win 45-50% of their bets, lose fairly small amounts over time, and never lose so much in one fell swoop that they can't pay or that they decide to stop playing. There's a purpose behind all that languid ritual at the Baccarat table in the high-limit room at the casino: try to keep the House's earn slow-and-steady. It makes the news when a whale beats Vegas for $10 million, or drops $10 million, but the casinos tolerate those lumpy earnings—aside from a little ink, they don't really want them. The casinos want everybody playing dollar-slots, losing three cents a spin. His eyes kind of glazed over, so I thought, what would Suze Orman do to get her point across? I figured Suze, to make the young'uns understand, would probably Go Gangsta. So I said “Look, we make money by drawing blood from our customers.” His eyes lit up as I continued: “We're blood collectors. We need a nice orderly blood bank. What you're proposing, is a drive-by.” (Well, I actually said “drive-thru”, but we sorted it out after a little confusion.) So we've told Ocean that these bets are going to be for peanuts and we're going to have fun with them. He's on board, and he's all excited. Faithful Assistant is going to make the numbers and I told Ocean to give us some requests for stocks he thought would go lower. “Oh you mean I could bet 'under' too? Not just 'over'?” Yep, 'under' too. February's a shit month in the bookie biz—the regulars are there, but football's over and it's a ways before March Madness. Ocean's stockpicking is going to keep me interested.

CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton Uses Public Meeting On Dodd/Frank Rulemaking To Test Out Open Mic Night Bits

In full: "Thank you Mr. Chairman. There are a couple of important events coming up that I want to share with you today. First, tonight the All-Star game will be played. Also, in just 11 days, we’ll have the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Now, some of you are asking, “How’s he going to put these two totally divergent things together?” It’ll all make sense in a minute. Really. First, how many of you have heard of Bryce Harper? He’s the youngest position player ever chosen for an All Star game and plays for what is for many of you, your hometown team, the Washington Nats. He not only has a way with the bat but he seems to have a way with words, too. A couple weeks ago, a reporter asked him what he seemed to think was a silly question, and he responded by saying, “That’s a clown question, bro.” That answer went on T-shirts. It went on late-night TV. It went viral. Now, back to Dodd-Frank. There are those who say we don’t need it. Let’s repeal it—or at least parts of it. Let’s de-fund the agencies overseeing it so they can’t enforce it. Heck, let’s just take ‘em to court if we don’t like the line-up. Let’s take our bat and ball and go home. So, here’s the question they seem to be asking: “Do we even need Dodd-Frank?” Let’s not even talk about 2008 and the financial collapse and the real reason Dodd-Frank came along in the first place. Let’s talk about how MF Global (as some would suggest) got caught trying to steal. Let’s talk about JPMorgan’s losing streak. Let’s talk about Barclays’ balk. Do we need Dodd-Frank? That’s a clown question, bro. So yes, we need rules. We need the funding to enforce them. Plenty of folks still seem to think they can get around the rules. Plenty of folks in this town seem to think we don’t need umpires. Do we? That’s a clown question, bro." That's A Clown Question, Bro [CFTC]

Half A Dozen Former Goldman Partners Will Be Forced To Fight The Urge To Attend Greg Smith's Book Signing Next Week*

Something you may have picked up on is that next week, Grand Central Publishing will release Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story, by former employee Greg Smith. Should you buy the book? That depends on you ask. Some people, like the ones who made Smith famous, say no. Others, like those who enjoy vivid descriptions of a naked Lloyd Blankfein and edge-of-your-seat ping pong matches, would probably say yes. One group of people who'd prefer you save your money? Goldman Sachs. As previously mentioned, the bank embarked on a Discredit Greg Smith tour last month which has involved equating him with a first or second or third-year analyst who thinks people care about all the crazy stuff he was privy to when in fact it wasn't crazy and no one does; leaking unflattering performance reviews that suggest he was "unrealistic" about his abilities and earnings potential; and generally painting a picture of someone who was a nobody at the firm ("My first reaction [to hearing about his Op-Ed] was, who is he," the firm's head of HR told Bloomberg TV this morning), who wrote his book out of spite for not receiving the bonus he thought he deserved, and whose claims re: The Firm should not be trusted. For the most part, a number of people-- from current to former employees to those familiar but not intimately familiar with Goldman-- have concurred with their assessment of young Greg. Of course, every now and then you have some individuals who speak out of turn and who should probably consider sleeping with one eye open. There are a lot of people who acknowledge these things internally, but no one is willing to say it publicly,” Smith, who was a vice president when he left Goldman Sachs, said in the “60 Minutes” interview. “And my view was the only way you force people to change the system is by saying it publicly.” Seven former Goldman Sachs partners and managing directors, positions that are more senior than vice president, said in March interviews that Smith shouldn’t be taken seriously because he was a junior employee and may have been disgruntled about his pay or career. All asked not to be identified because they didn’t want to risk ruining their relationship with the firm. Six of the seven said they agreed with Smith’s criticism of how the firm has treated clients under Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, 58, and President Gary D. Cohn, 52, and that current members of the management committee would, too. Even so, they said they don’t expect the board of directors to take action or that anything will change because the bank has made money and outperformed most rivals. What? He shouldn't be trusted because of X, Y, Z but, having said that, he does make some excellent points? Do you hear yourself talking? This is what happens when you don't stick to the script! Goldman Sachs Op-Ed Wasn’t a ‘Betrayal,’ Smith Tells 60 Minutes [Bloomberg] *And will lucky if they're not eating out of feeding tubes..