Jay Cutler and the Bears' O-Line, I love you! Oh how sweet it feels; for the first time since January, BadNFL has a positive week. Although the Skins did everything possible to blow this game, they did manage to cover. Put simply, the QB play was atrocious.
Cutler obviously threw some backbreaking interceptions, but his fumble on the 1 yard-line on a QB sneak was particularly devastating. To be sure, Lovie probably should have challenged it, but that failure speaks volumes about the state of the Bears' organization. Some analysts argue that the breakdown extends beyond Cutler to the entire offensive system, as the breakdowns across the board leave the team in danger of unraveling.
He was under a lot of pressure from the Redskins' defensive line, which was bolstered by Albert Haynesworth long overdue emergence. And as I predicted, Orapko was a constant presence. But overall, this was about Cutler, and the Bears, being still significantly overrated. It is true that the Bears outgained the Skins by nearly a yard and a half per play. It is also true that the Redskins' offense failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities to close out the game. But this game was about the Bears' self-inflicted wounds (reminds me of the Cowboys) and allowing the Redskins to cover in an exceedingly sloppy game.
1. Identify QBs who are structurally flawed. Jay Cutler, take a bow. To his credit, he's taken a lot of hits, but because of it he's looked like he's playing scared, unable to make good decisions. Last week, that resulted in him holding the ball too long and getting repeatedly sacked -- something that BadNFL fans watched in agony. This week, it resulted in him chucking the ball up for grabs. His INTs were the story of the game, and despite a very uneven performance by the Skins, they still covered.
Next time we see a gunshy QB like that, one who has been seriously rattled by the pressure, picking against is a great idea. Of course, the counter-argument is that Sanchez looked totally overwhelmed week 1, and we all know what happened with his improbable bounceback against the Pats the following week.
2. The Skins' have been ugly but effective. This was yet another Skins' game that was so ugly it was hard to watch. But like most of their games (5 of their last 6 have been decided by 5 points or fewer, and 4 by exactly 3 points), it came down to 3 points, and this time the Skins' managed to pull it off. Morale of the story? The Skins are looking like a team I would never want to pick if they were favored, but as 3+ point underdog, they've proven pretty reliable.
3. Pay attention to the actual Hilton Contest. For those of you who don't know, this is a collection of mostly sharps who play for a major prize, picking 5 games each week. Given the number of participants, general quality of the players, and huge economic incentive for well thought-out picks, I've pondered whether the pool of Hilton contestants might serve as a prediction market (a concept that is gaining favor among many economists as outperforming statistical prediction) in which the wisdom of qualified crowds generates accurate predictions.
I've started systematically tracking the results this week, and I'm going to keep track of the performance, against the spread, of any pick that receives at least 100 Hilton picks (there are usually only 2 teams per week that qualify). This week, those two picks were Seattle -5.5 vs. Cardinals and Chiefs -7 vs. Jacksonville. Both teams covered easily, by an average of 10.5 points beyond the spread. That will be an interesting trend to monitor.
4. Conversely, beware the "wisdom" of the public. Chad Millman had a post this week in which he pointed out some remarkable stats: since 2003, when 65% of the public money comes in on one team, the other team covers 56% of the time. This year, such public-backed teams were 18-26 coming into Week 7 -- only a 40% win percentage.
Very interesting. The game singled out by Millman as being well-suited to the deployment of "contrarian logic" (i.e. betting against the public) was the Browns +13 @ Saints. Well, that obviously would have been a great pick. Especially betting against an overrated team like the Saints, coming off what was apparently a one-week mirage against the Bucs. In retrospect, I think that may have been the soundest pick of the week. In any event, check back next week to see if I can get that elusive 2nd win of the season.