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The physicist Werner Heisenberg (this guy, not this guy) found that observers affect the systems they attempt to measure, something that is related to but actually separate from his Uncertainty Principle. Even if Heisenberg was thinking about submicroscopic particles whizzing around, his ideas can still apply to writing about NFL betting. Writing about my bets could change the sequence of events that follow, at least in theory, just like all the other actions people take everywhere that put the world on a different course. The NFL season that just unfolded was just one of an infinite number of potential seasons that could have happened. In what share of the possible seasons did my pick for the NFL’s worst team start the season 9-1? Am I just the worst predictor ever, someone dumb enough to underestimate the great Arians and the new great HC of the NYJ? Or was I tempting fate by writing about real bets?

Since I am supposed to be a coldly-rational, data-driven guy, I am going to chance it and review my NFL betting this year. This is risky since my betting year could still be saved by events yet to be determined. Before I get to all that, I am hoping that maybe my writing about football can influence something much more plausible, namely whether I attend the Super Bowl next week. Apologies for this distraction, but I could really use some help.


If you have read any of my stuff here or on Football Outsiders, you may know that I am a Patriots fan. Sufficiently dedicated to have flown from Los Angeles to Boston for the Ravens game, then back to LA for the first week at Loyola Marymount, before flying back to Boston for the Colts game. Now I am hoping to obtain two tickets to the Super Bowl. Here is what I can offer:

  • Clear Patriots support: If you want to get two more Patriots fans in the door, my friend and I can accomplish that.
  • Moderately intelligent analysis: If you want, I will provide a written statistical breakdown of the game, kind of like the game previews I have written for Outsiders. At a minimum, if you will be sitting nearby, you can ensure that people who are maybe not even mildly irritating are around.
  • A fair price for the tickets: I’m thinking that would be face value, but I will entertain any offer. Obviously, this will not be something to consider if you want to maximize your financial intake, but I imagine that is not the primary goal for everybody.
  • A date with Jessica Alba: OK, that is not even close to true.

Other than the last one, I am entirely serious. Please contact me at ahealy1976 at gmail dot com if you are interested in talking more. I am grateful, too, for any forwarding of my request onto others via e-mail, twitter, etc. Many thanks.


OK, back to the bets. Here are the futures bets I wrote about back before time began, or about five months ago:

TeamBetOddsAmount BetPotential Win
AllAny team to win 14 games3/176228
ARIWorst team in football by record40/110400
TBMake playoffs13/21597.5
GBAaron Rodgers to win MVP13/220130
MINWin over 6 games20/292016.33
NEWin Super Bowl15/130450
JACWin AFC South30/130900
GBWin NFC North10/133023.08
SEAWin NFC West13/103039
ATLWin over 8 games2/35033.33
ARIWin under 7.5 games3/2100150
NYJPoint differential to worsen from 20137/11/7 of beerFull beer

I will rank these bets according to 2014 playoff quarterbacks, starting with the bet that looks the dumbest and ending with the one that now appears the smartest.

I actually made two bets on Arizona that look very dumb in retrospect. My single biggest bet was Arizona to win fewer than 7.5 games at 3/2 odds (+150, bet $100 to win $150). I also bet a smaller amount on the Cardinals to have the worst record in the league. I managed to lose the over/under bet after only nine games, which is basically impossible to do. Now they were much worse than their record. They ranked 22nd by DVOA, which means they were about as good as 6-10 or 7-9 team. But they were also ravaged by injuries. Even though I thought Palmer was unlikely to play a full season, Arizona was not who I thought they were. They were better.

  • Andy Dalton Bet: Some team to win 14 regular season games

I really liked this bet at 3/1 odds, but started feeling queasy pretty quickly when smart people such as Chase seemed to prefer the other side. Needless to say, I ended up not even close to winning this bet, as no team even reached 13 wins.

I was betting on Matt Ryan and the excellent Falcons offense, along with the lesser consistency of defense from year to year. I also was not betting on Mike Smith getting even worse as a coach as he continued his descent from the light into the abyss. While the depths to which Smith would fall were hard to predict, I have spent enough time thinking about coaches that I probably should have avoided casting my lot with Smith. The signs were certainly there before this year.

I liked the 13/2 odds that I got on this bet, but it still looks pretty bad in retrospect, given that Tampa and not Arizona ended up with the worst record in football. I expected Lovie Smith to make a real difference, but the bigger difference turned out to be Josh McCown’s 2013 season being exactly what statheads figured: a small sample anomaly. I did not really think McCown would be close to his 2013 self, but I thought he could be good enough.

Even more so on this bet, I was chasing the odds. I pegged the AFC South for a terrible division and thought there was some chance Blake Bortles would take over for Chad Henne and be better than I thought he would be. Instead, Bortles ended up giving Real American Blaine Gabbert a run for his money as the worst first round Jaguars quarterback.

I liked that I got to push on six with this bet, even though I had to give up some odds to do so. I got this bet at 20/29 or -145 (bet $145 to win $100). I was bullish on Bridgewater, which looked better towards the end of the year. The Vikings got there in the last game for me.

  • Joe Flacco Bet: Green Bay Packers to win NFC North

I got this at a little worse than even money. The Packers won the division last year with Rodgers out for half the year. I had the Packers as my NFC Super Bowl representative, so I liked this bet a great deal. I also think the bet should have won more easily. Detroit was lucky to win so many games.

  • Tony Romo Bet: Seattle Seahawks to win NFC West

And, like many, I was down on San Francisco this year. Seattle was one of the two best teams in football and very young. Arizona almost won the division by winning a bunch of close games. But if Carson Palmer had stayed healthy I might have lost this one.

I liked getting who I thought would be tied for the best quarterback in the league at 13/2. I assume this bet will win. Only some true craziness would stop that. I think the case for J.J. Watt was less unreasonable in 2012, but incredibly weak this year. Forget that there is zero chance that he is worth as many wins as the 10th-best quarterback. His defense was only good, his team missed the playoffs, and almost half his sacks came against the Titans and Jaguars. Like everybody else, I love J.J. Watt the player, just not Watt the MVP candidate.

  • Aaron Rodgers Bet: New York Jets point differential to worsen from 2013 to 2014

When the great Chase Stuart said that the Jets’ point differential would almost certainly get better this year, I sensed an opportunity and offered a wager at 7/1 odds. Here, I was essentially shorting Geno Smith. And man did he ever implode like a subprime mortgage security. The Jets’ point differential fell all the way to -118 points from -97 in 2013. I only had to wager 1/7 of a beer to get this bet, too. Now I am the proud owner of a future full beer.

  • Tom Brady Bet: New England to win the Super Bowl

I loved this bet back in February when I made it, and obviously I love it even more now. The Patriots had not signed Revis at the time, so I certainly got lucky with the roster moves, but 15/1 was a sweet price for a team that seems to get a bye every year. I could hedge my way to a winning year right now with the Super Bowl having the Patriots favored by 1.5, but there is zero chance of me doing that.

If the Patriots lose, I will be down $106 for the year. If they win, I will be up $394.

TeamBetOddsAmount WageredOutcomeWin/Loss
AllAny team to win 14 games3/176Loss-76
ARIWorst team in football by record40/110Loss-10
TBMake playoffs13/215Loss-15
GBAaron Rodgers to win MVP13/220Win130
MINWin over 6 games20/2920Win16.33
NEWin Super Bowl15/130??????
JACWin AFC South30/130Loss-30
GBWin NFC North10/1330Win23.08
SEAWin NFC West13/1030Win39
ATLWin over 8 games2/350Loss-50
ARIWin under 7.5 games3/2100Loss-100
NYJPoint differential to worsen from 20137/11/7 of beerWinFull beer

So there are even more reasons than usual that I am rooting for the Patriots to win on Super Sunday. They can still save a down year of betting and predicting by winning. Yes, I have more invested in the Super Bowl than most men who are pushing forty should, but Heisenberg basically pointed out that the universe is close to entirely random. I am taking that to mean that it is OK to love football more than other stuff that is more important. To me, the Super Bowl matters. A lot. And I hope that I get the chance to be there.

  • “Writing about my bets could change the sequence of events that follow, at least in theory, just like all the other actions people take everywhere that put the world on a different course.”

    That sounds a lot like the “Butterfly effect” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect). I am not sure if I am on the right track with that line of thinking. Can you give a specific example with one of the bets you made?

    Thanks! (And I love the website from what I have seen so far. Very thought provoking!!)

  • Tellyosister2callme

    JJ Watt’s WPA is just about identical to Philip Rivers’, according to AdvancedFootballAnalytics. So, doesn’t that make him exactly as valuable as the 10th best quarterback?

    • Dave


      Not exactly. For defenders +WPA is only counting their positive plays and none of their negative ones. So their +WPA is significantly inflated compared to quarterbacks WPA. A quarterback who has all their plays counted: incompletions, sacks, interceptions. If JJ watt whiffs on a sack and the QB scrambles and goes for 10 yards for a TD that isn’t counted towards his +WPA. Whereas if Rivers throws an interception it is counted.

      • Ty

        Exactly. EPA is the better stat if you want to compare the impact between two players (and even that doesn’t consider every possible scenario).

  • JR

    Matt, the Uncertainty Principle is where a scientist demonstrated that the act of observing something actually changes the behavior of the thing being observed. So Mr Healy is half-joking that his analysis itself could have caused different results from what would have happened if he didn’t write about it. Or maybe he’s dead-serious about that.

  • George

    Late coming to this one – have been busy – just wanted to say I am on the other side next week (have barely done ratings all season, so I don’t know quite where I stand), but have Seattle at 4/1 to win it all the day after the week 1 game (felt good about them before the game, but wanted to see what they looked like against the Packers who I had as a play-off team and a good measure of quality). Good luck to anyone that has a wager still running.

    Re: the uncertainty principle – yeah, I’d buy into that but I don’t think you can prove it? You can have streaks where good/well made, wagers can just come unstuck and at the back of your mind, you do sometimes think (as irrational as it is) did me posting a picture of the betting slip on instagram (or your social media of choice – along with a good luck comment to said participant) somehow influence the event that you have bet on? Am currently debating do I stick a picture of the ticket up?