When I was working for the Oakland Raiders in 1974, and before I was married, I had an apartment in Alameda. My living room furniture consisted of a construction spool turned on its side to serve as a coffee table and a couch covered in a bedspread to avoid having the stuffing picked up on your clothes. A card table and chairs served as my kitchen set, and two masonry blocks with a board over the top as my television stand.
I know, it sounds luxurious, but the best part was my 26 NFL team pennants that were laid on the carpet in what I considered the order of the best to the worst. In those days, the teams at the top of this order were the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers. The bottom consisted of the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Colts.
Each night when I got home I would walk by those pennants like a general inpecting his troops, moving one team up, another down, to keep them in what I considered the perfect order from best to worst.
While during my four seasons with the Raiders I never wagered on a football game, accepting the restrictions directed by the league with absolute reverence, I nevertheless continued to handicap the league. Something I had been doing since high school in a rather orderly fashion.
I noticed something in this process even before my living room display, those five pennants at the top of my order were teams good enough to win even when my motivational charts indicated they were in trouble. And those bottom five teams often proved incapable of winning even when circumstances and point spreads seemed to dictate they would have success.
With that knowledge, I developed a process in 1973 called System 44, named such because the night I discovered it Willie McCovey, who wore #44, hit a game winning home run for the San Francisco Giants. What System 44 does is eliminate the best and worst teams from consideration on the motivational charts and focused on, at the time, the sweet 16 squads that weren’t good enough to overcome a bad spot and good enough to win in an advantageous one.
Most of the Top Picks released by Qoxhi Picks utilize this middle group. I’m not looking to slay the dragons of the league, or dredge the river to find a winner. Instead, I’m looking for a game involving two middle teams where one side has a significant situational advantage.
Today, I have developed much more sophisticated methods to rank the teams with tools I had no access to in the 70’s. The Point Spread Price chart does not evaluate talent, but rather where value exists in current point spreads. Currently, by this chart, the five best teams in the league based on the point spreads assigned by the books are, in order, the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts. By the same standard, the bottom five teams are the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, New York Jets and Washington Redskins.
Now, it is worth noting that this season the most expensive teams based on the point spreads they have had to carry into their games are 14-6 straight up and 12-7-1 against the number. The bottom five are 4-16 straight up and 7-12-1 against the point spread. In the weeks to come, you can be sure that the books will be adding extra points to opponents of the top five teams to make them lower percentage plays, and adding points on the bottom five teams to enhance their prospects of beating the point spread. All this, while the public will be betting the top teams and against the bottom teams.
But, where we will find our vein of winners is in the middle 22 teams, where spreads won’t tip the scales dramatically and motivation will rule the day.
Like the Thursday night game this week.
Qoxhi Picks: Chicago Bears (+5½) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers