Sunday, February 09, 2014

Superbowl underdogs and overdogs

(Stephen Colbert tells me that NFL guards their copyright of the name of the game they played on Sunday, which is why stores say they have a `big game sale on beer'. I will get around this the same way he does. I hope he doesn't sue.)

In Superb owl XLVIII (48) (one of the few uses of Roman Numerals left) Denver was the favorite but got beaten. This is not so unusual and they were not a favorite by much-just 2.5 points. But they lost 43-8. That sounds unusual--- for the favorite to get completely whomped (spellcheck thinks that's not a word, but spellcheck doesn't even think spellcheck is a word).

So- how uncommon is it for the favorite to get whomped? We would need a rigorous definition of whomped. I'll say two touchdowns, or 14 points. A list of all of the superb owl games and what the spread was and what happened is here. I summarize:

  1. The underdog WON 15 times. The most surprising was probably when the NY Jets were an 18-point underdog to the Baltimore Colts  in Supeb owl III in 1969 and won 16-7. Good thing they won since Joe Namath (the NY Jets QB) guaranteed  victory.
  2. In 2010, Superb owl 44,  Indianapolis was a 5 points favorite over the New Orleans Saints but the Saints whomped  31-17.
  3. In 2003, Superb owl 37,  Tampa Bay was a 4 point underdog to Oakland. Tampa Bay whomped by winning 48-21.'
  4. In 1988, Supeb owl 22, Washington was a 3 point underdog to Denver, but Washington whomped 42-10.
  5. In 1984, Superb owl 18, LA was a 3-point underdog to Washington, but LA whomped 38-9.
  6. In 1981, Superb owl 15, Oakland was a 3 point underdog to Philadelphia, but Oakland Whomped 27-10.
  7. In 1970, Superb owl 4, Kansas City was a 12 point underdog to Minnesoda, but whomped 23-7.  The reason they were an underdog is that people still though the AFC to be the lesser league and didn't remember that in Superb Owl 3 the AFC won (though didn't whomp).
So the underdog has whomped 5 times. That is FAR MORE than I would have thought. Does this show that underdogs are undervalued? Not sure since if an underdog wins it doesn't matter by how much for the betting, where as if a favorite wins it matters by how much for the point spread.

This may also call into question if point-spread is the best way to express `this teams is that much better than that team'. One issue (though it was NOT an issue in Superb owl 48) is that if a team is behind
then they may use a high-risk high-reward strategy which, if it fails, they lose my a lot. The phrase one may hear is ``the game was closer than the score''.  Note that for baseball they don't do point spreads, they do odds instead. Should Football follow that? What are the PROS and CONS of points spread vs odds?

The cliche is `I watch the game for the commercials' I actually skip the game and watch the `best of superb owl commercials' that come the week before the game.

1 comment:

  1. The interesting thing to me is that the point spread, like all gambling odds, is not chosen such that the probability of covering the spread is exactly half. It is chosen such that half the betting public will take each side.