NFL Picks- Week 13 of 2014

Overall: 29-24
Week 12: 8-6
Week 11: 9-5
Week 10: 6-7
Week 9: 6-6

1-2 in games highlighted last week. 6-6 overall.

Here are my week 13 predictions, with the current line in parentheses:

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-7.0): Predicting 17.0-23.7. Bet on the Chicago Bears.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-3.0): Predicting 26.0-27.9. Bet on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-1.5): Predicting 20.7-20.9. Bet on the Seattle Seahawks.
San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens (-7.0): Predicting 18.7-25.0. Bet on the San Diego Chargers.
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills (-2.5): Predicting 18.1-22.7. Bet on the Buffalo Bills.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-7.0): Predicting 17.0-25.5. Bet on the Houston Texans.
Washington Redskins at Indianapolis Colts (-10.5): Predicting 19.5-29.6. Bet on the Washington Redskins.
New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5): Predicting 22.5-21.7. Bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5): Predicting 18.2-23.7. Bet on the Minnesota Vikings.
New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5): Predicting 24.4-28.4. Bet on the New Orleans Saints.
Oakland Raiders at St Louis Rams (-7.0): Predicting 19.4-24.1. Bet on the Oakland Raiders.
Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5): Predicting 23.3-20.5. Bet on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons (+2.5): Predicting 22.6-21.7. Bet on the Atlanta Falcons.
New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers (-3.0): Predicting 27.2-28.7. Bet on the New England Patriots.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (even): Predicting 22.9-25.6. Bet on the Kansas City Chiefs.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (+7.0): Predicting 25.9-18.7. Bet on the Miami Dolphins.

Each week I’ll show all the predictions, as above, and I’ll pick three games that I feel most confident about, as I look at my model and think about what I’ve seen watching football. Here are the 3 teams I would actually bet on ATS (against the spread):
Bears, Saints, Dolphins

Book Review: America, 1908

America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model T, and the Making of a Modern Nation
by Jim Rasenberger, 2011

america1908

A visit back to the year 1908 provides snapshots of the innovation and excitement that was present a century ago. I found the bits about the Wright brothers and the Great White Fleet most fascinating. For the Wright brothers, it tells how they worked both in the US and France to showcase their flying machine to both best their rivals and to secure funding/payment for purchases. For the Great White Fleet, it tells about how and why Teddy Roosevelt sent the US navy around the world and the reception in other countries. I also liked the description of Merkle’s Boner in the Giants’ pennant race.

I could do without the details of pop culture and interesting murder cases from 1908. I also thought the book focused too much upon New York City. And the book was overly long-winded at times, occasionally putting me to sleep when I wasn’t driving (I listened to the book on tape). Overall, a mixed review. Would be interesting if you’re into early 1900′s history.

NFL Picks- Week 12 of 2014

Predictions from Week 11

Week 11: 9-5
Week 10: 6-7
Week 9: 6-6

2-1 in games highlighted last week. 5-4 overall.

Here are my week 11 predictions, with the current line in parentheses:

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders (+8.0): Predicting 24.1-17.1. Bet on the Oakland Raiders.
Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons (-3.0): Predicting 21.7-23.0. Bet on the Cleveland Browns.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-4.5): Predicting 17.0-25.1. Bet on the Buffalo Bills.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears (-5.5): Predicting 22.0-26.8. Bet on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-1.0): Predicting 19.1-23.8. Bet on the Houston Texans.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-15.0): Predicting 18.4-31.5. Bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (+10.0): Predicting 26.4-21.2. Bet on the Minnesota Vikings.
Detroit Lions at New England Patriots (-7.5): Predicting 18.3-26.0. Bet on the New England Patriots.
Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles (-12.5): Predicting 19.5-29.2. Bet on the Tennessee Titans.
St Louis Rams at San Diego Chargers (-4.5): Predicting 17.6-25.0. Bet on the San Diego Chargers.
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-7.0): Predicting 20.9-23.2. Bet on the Arizona Cardinals.
Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos (-8.0): Predicting 22.5-25.3. Bet on the Miami Dolphins.
Washington Redskins at San Francisco 49ers (-10.5): Predicting 18.0-25.2. Bet on the Washington Redskins.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (+3.0): Predicting 24.4-22.9. Bet on the New York Giants.
Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints (-3.0): Predicting 24.3-23.7. Bet on the Baltimore Ravens.

Each week I’ll show all the predictions, as above, and I’ll pick three games that I feel most confident about, as I look at my model and think about what I’ve seen watching football. Here are the 3 teams I would actually bet on ATS (against the spread):
Bills, Titans, Chargers

Life Tips- Inexpensive Giant Whiteboard

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An 8′x4′ whiteboard can cost hundreds of dollars commercially. That’s no good. We like whiteboards, but not spending money.

Here’s our inexpensive work-around. Buy an 8′x4′ slab of white hardboard panel at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Each board costs about $13. This product is made for cheap showers, mud rooms, laundry rooms, etc., in order to be water-resistant and minimize staining.

We didn’t want a single 8′x4′ whiteboard, preferring 3 large whiteboards: one 3′x4′ and two 2.5′x4′. Lowe’s was happy to cut the board with their saw for us. Their saw is not appropriate if you need super-precise measurements, but it works for something like this.

We hung one whiteboard in the kitchen for Maria to keep a weekly menu and shopping list. We hung one in the living room near the stairs (shown above) for any group brainstorming or Pictionary. And the biggest one went up in the office for me to write math on.

The hardboard seems to approximate an expensive whiteboard pretty well. Most dry erase markers write and erase well. Here is the above picture half-erased:
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We use normal dry erase markers on the boards. We’ll probably put a tray under the boards to hold them at some point.
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I’m sure you could get fancy and put a boarder on the whiteboards. We decided to just screw the boards straight to the wall. Close-up of the screw in the corner:
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You can see that the saw at Lowe’s will leave a bit of a rough edge where the board is cut. It’s not very noticeable in person, though.

The white boards have been up for about a week and are working well. I’ve heard that the hardboard tends to stain over time, so we bought two 8′x4′ panels, cut to the same size, from Lowe’s. So in a year or two, if the boards are stained, we can easily replace them. Alternatively, if we like them so much that we want more, we can hang more whiteboards.

I got this idea from a post at lifehacker.

Book Review- Against Football

Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto
by Steve Almond, 2014

againstfootball

I won’t be letting any kids of mine play football. They’ll probably be skinny like me and won’t want to anyway, but still.

Football is an overly violent form of pseudo-battle that causes permanent brain damage to its players. Players are expected to act tough, take another hit, and fight back, no matter the circumstance. It has a culture of fans willing to sweep aside the faults (sexual assaults, drug use, cheating in school) of their team’s players in order to keep them active for the weekend’s game. And it has a corrupt business model in which the NFL is somehow a non-profit and teams blackmail their cities into funding ridiculously expensive stadiums for billionaire owners.

Those are the arguments. Most of them ring true. Unfortunately, the sport is a lot of fun to watch as a strategist, analyst, and fantasy owner. So what’s a fan to do? I like the suggestions for change at the back of the book. They would improve many situations without ruining the fun of watching football. I don’t think the situation is equivalent to a modern-version of gladiator sports or sacrificial offerings, so some of the book was a bit over the top. Interesting read though.

NFL Picks- Week 11 of 2014

Predictions from Week 10.

Week 10: 6-7
Week 9: 6-6

1-2 in games highlighted last week. 3-3 overall.

Here are my week 11 predictions, with the current line in parentheses:

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (-5.0): Predicting 18.4-24.7. Bet on the Miami Dolphins.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-1.0): Predicting 24.3-24.7. Bet on the Atlanta Falcons.
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (-3.0): Predicting 22.5-23.0. Bet on the Minnesota Vikings.
Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns (-3.0): Predicting 19.4-22.9. Bet on the Cleveland Browns.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers (-5.5): Predicting 25.6-28.6. Bet on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs (even): Predicting 19.1-24.3. Bet on the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cincinnati Bengals at New Orleans Saints (-8.0): Predicting 21.7-27.9. Bet on the Cincinnati Bengals.
San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants (+4.0): Predicting 22.5-23.1. Bet on the New York Giants.
Denver Broncos at St Louis Rams (+10.5): Predicting 29.3-21.8. Bet on the St Louis Rams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Redskins (-8.5): Predicting 20.0-28.2. Bet on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers (-11.5): Predicting 17.1-27.1. Bet on the Oakland Raiders.
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals (-1.0): Predicting 17.1-21.2. Bet on the Arizona Cardinals.
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5): Predicting 26.2-29.5. Bet on the Indianapolis Colts.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans (+7.0): Predicting 24.2-21.8. Bet on the Tennessee Titans.

Each week I’ll show all the predictions, as above, and I’ll pick three games that I feel most confident about, as I look at my model and think about what I’ve seen watching football. Here are the 3 teams I would actually bet on ATS (against the spread):
Cardinals, Giants, Titans

Upcoming Sports Open Houses

In case you haven’t checked it out, look at the Sport Open House schedule. Let me know if you’ll be coming by for one of the upcoming events:

Friday, 11/14/14: US vs Colombia, soccer friendly, 2:45pm
Sunday, 11/16/14: Patriots at Colts, 8pm
Tuesday, 11/18/14: Kentucky vs Kansas, 9pm
Wednesday, 11/19/14: Spurs at Cavaliers, 7pm
Sunday, 11/30/14: Redskins at Colts, 1pm and Kentucky vs Providence, 2pm
Tuesday, 12/2/14: Indiana vs Pittsburgh, 7pm and Pacers at Suns, 9pm
Friday, 12/5/14: Kentucky vs Texas, 7pm and Pacers at Kings, 10pm
Sunday, 12/7/14: Colts at Browns, 1pm
Tuesday, 12/9/14: Indiana vs Louisville, 9pm
Saturday, 12/20/14: North Carolina vs Ohio State, 1pm and Indiana vs Butler, 2:30pm and Kentucky vs UCLA, 3:30pm

Some awesome matchups, especially those basketball games on 12/20. Stop by.

Book Review- How to Measure Anything

How to Measure Anything, 2nd Edition
by Douglas Hubbard, 2010

how-to-measure-anything

This book is of value to anyone in a decision making role. It details the steps necessary to… ahem… measure anything. It is written from a PRACTICAL standpoint of asking questions and performing basic statistics to determine what actually matters to a decision.

Even with a strong decision science and statistical background, I found the way this book framed questions and thought-processes to be refreshing. Too often we delve so deeply into the math of the problem that we forget how to frame the question initially. So while the math wasn’t new at all to me, I found it’s presentation useful. I think other PhD students and professors would benefit from this book as well.

Here is the method the book suggests when deciding what (and how much) to measure to aid in making a decision:
1. Define the decision and the variables that matter to it. If you can’t define a decision that will be affected by your question/measurement, then it doesn’t matter.
2. Model the current state of uncertainty about those variables. This typically involves querying experts to get their confidence intervals on the variables of interest. Experts should be calibrated in providing accurate confidence intervals before beginning.
3. Compute the value of additional measurements. This aids in determining which variables have confidence intervals that are too wide to make a decision right now. Typically, only a couple variables require ANY measurement in a decision, and they are not necessarily the variables that decision makers would normally try to measure.
4. Measure the high-value uncertainties in a way that is economically justified. Measure in an iterative manner, starting with a small study. You will often need less information than you think to shrink a confidence interval to an acceptable range.
5. Make a risk/return decision after the economically justified amount of uncertainty is reduced. You will have adequate information at this stage to make your decision. Does the reward expected from the decision justify its risk for your organization?

You should read the book. That said, the book is not perfect. It messes up a couple mathematical topics in its exposition. It can be very dry and boring in places, even for someone used to reading statistical prose. I think its benefits outweigh its drawbacks, however.