I probably should have put my concept for an NFL Wins Pool up a week or two ago so you could have followed it but I am going to share it anyway. A few years ago, Bill Simmons had a column discussing a wins pool wherein ten people pick three teams each. That’s a nice idea, but I decided to go smaller and add an element of strategy to it incorporating, of all things, the Indian caste system.
Here are the rules for the five person pool I have (two of them, actually): The NFL is divided into 3 groups (castes): The top group will have the 10 best teams based on current aggregate power rankings, the middle group will have the next 11 best teams, so those ranked 11th through 21st, and the bottom group will have the 11 worst teams in the league. It broke down this way:
Top: Seattle, Arizona, New England, Green Bay, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Carolina, Minnesota
Middle: Dallas, Oakland, NY Giants, NY Jets, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Houston, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington
Bottom: Tampa Bay, Miami, Tennessee, Cleveland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago
Each person is required to pick 6 teams, but must pick two teams from each group. The draft order will go A-B-C-D-E-E-D-C-B-A and repeat twice. Having done this for a few years, my friends and I have developed various strategies. One will immediately go for the best team in the bottom group hoping to get 10 wins from a team in the group likely to average only 5-6 per team. My strategy is mainly based on getting the best QB/coach duos combined with an easier projected strength of schedule.
But you can still make some mistakes: in both of my drafts, I was “stuck” with the last team available in the top 10 group which was the Minnesota Vikings due to the injury to starting QB Teddy Bridgewater. I’m just hoping that their defense holds up and that Adrian Peterson has a good year.
I had Denver +2.5 last night mainly because the home team rarely loses that opening Thursday game. To make things easier, spreads are based on the ESPN Pick ‘Em game:
Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Atlanta
Baltimore (-3.5) vs Buffalo: I was shocked when in one of my leagues, the Ravens were picked first overall because my friend declared that his algorithm had them as the best value by far. They got written off far too early; most of their losses last year were within one score.
Houston (-4.5) vs Chicago
Cincinnati (-1.5) at NY Jets
Cleveland (+6.5) at Philadelphia: I wouldn’t be taking Carson Wentz giving almost a touchdown at this point.
Jacksonville (+4.5) vs Green Bay
Tennessee (+2.5) vs Minnesota
San Diego (+7.5) at Kansas City: San Diego strikes me as a great value in the league because like the Ravens they lost a lot of close games last year. I am also wary of how they are on the verge of moving so they have no home field advantage, but overriding that is the fact that we all know what Philip Rivers is at this point. He’s been very consistent through the years even if he’s never made a Super Bowl.
Oakland (+1.5) at New Orleans: I made sure to not pick the Saints this year because I have every other year and watching their defense blow games time after time was very frustrating. And they never do a good job of addressing it.
Seattle (-9.5) vs Miami
NY Giants (+3.5) at DallasDetroit (+5.5) at Indianapolis
Arizona (-5.5) vs New England: As a Patriots fan, I don’t even want to discuss the bullshit that is youknowwhat. But this strikes me as a game that turns into a blowout, much like the Patriots in New Orleans in 2009 or Kansas City in 2014.
Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Washington
San Francisco (+2.5) vs Los Angeles: The 49ers won’t have many chances to win games, so they better take advantage here. Chris Berman will be on the call so feel free to mute the TV and listen to the radio call. It could be Bobcat Goldthwait in character and that would be preferable.
Season: 1-0 (I swear!)