The Science of Picking Football Winners

Purpose:   Many have developed systems for picking the winning team in a football game.  For some, its a matter of accounting for weather conditions, average weight of the offensive line, yards let up per game, average first downs and millions of other stat tidbits. For most its picking a favorite team or whatever team has the better colors. This week, Scientific AmeriKen will examine several of these methods under strict scientific scrutiny as we search for the secret to making football picks.

Hypothesis: It is the hypothesis of this experiment that because Las Vegas odds makers make a living off of setting the correct odds in each football match that they will make the highest percentage of football picks.

Equipment:  Needed for this experiment will be a pen and a pad of paper, a newspaper which can provide the latest vegas odds and later a source to get scores, a coin, at least one other person to get outside opinions.

Procedure:  In this experiment, methods tested are who is wanted to win, the opinions of 3 other football watchers, vegas line without factoring in point spread, and the coin used is a Susan B. Anthony dollar ("Betsy").  The first step is to determine all the football match ups in a particular week and write each down, then gather everybodys' picks before the start of the first game. At the end of the week, calculate everybodys' pick percentage and compare.

Who's Picking "My picks" "Betsy"  (the coin) Vegas Line "Erik" "Doug" "Brian"
Week 1 (NFL week 4) 8 of 14 7 of 14 9 of 14 7 of 14 9 of 14 7 of 14
Week 2 6 of 14 7 of 14 5 of 14 10 of 14 9 of 14 6 of 14
Week 3 6 of 14 10 of 14 13 of 14 9 of 14 7 of 14 7 of 14
Week 4 7 of 14 6 of 14 9 of 14 9 of 14 7 of 14 11 of 14
Total Right/Total Games 27 of 56 30 of 56 36 of 56 35 of 56 32 of 56 31 of 56
Percentage Right 48.2% 53.6% 64.3% 62.5% 57.1% 55.4%

Conclusion: Based on the raw data, it would appear that the hypothesis was proven correct and vegas squeaked out with the best record. It would seem as though putting any effort into the picking of the winner is merely a waste of time as in the best case of Vegas only added an extra 11% of picking efficiency over the flip of a coin.  In fact, as a group, picking of the right team occured 56.8% of the time, seeing as this is only 6.8% higher the 50%, it would seem that there is in fact no logic in picking football winners.

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Click here to go to a printable version of this experiment

Music composed by Doug Seldeen