NFL Picks, Week 7:
Cracking the Code with Advanced Metrics

by Pete Tothero

advanced metric for predicting NFL games

Last week: 8-6
Season: 41-33

THURSDAY [written 10/18]:

Seattle (4-2) at San Francisco (4-2)

I write this in a state of calm acceptance. I am at peace with the fact that I cannot pick a Seattle Seahawks game correctly. I now strike my dollar store finger cymbals to remind myself that an inability to correctly pick a Seahawks game is part of my path in life, and as valuable to me as having correctly predicted, in consecutive weeks, winless teams (New Orleans and Cleveland) to get their first victory.

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]

Last week I wrote my Seattle pick while in the grip of "monkey mind." I see this now. I wanted so badly to be right, to possess insight, and to receive the instant gratification of a correct Seattle Seahawks pick. This caused me to do a triple-switch on my pick—I picked Seattle, so intentionally switched to the Patriots, intentionally double-switched back to the Seahawks, and then "freaked out" and triple-switched back to New England. I apologize for my behavior.

I also apologize for the fact that I cannot correctly pick a Seahawks game.

Wait, I don't apologize. My flaws are a part of who I am. I apologize for my behavior, not for my failings.

Hold it—does that make sense? It doesn't seem like those two things can be so easily separa—

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]

It is I who have created negative chi between the city of Seattle and myself, and I seek now to repair it. The chi, not the city. There's nothing that can be done about the city—they should have put light rail in decades ago, but it's too late now, it's just going to be a stop-and-go freeway nightmare from Tacoma to Seattle forever, no matter the time of day. I can't do anything about that.

But god, it felt good getting those New Orleans and Cleveland games right. I feel I have special insight on losers, you know? Like I can just sense when a loser is going to barely win, one time, before going back to losing again. It's something I know. Which is why it's weird that I can't predict Seahawks games, because I think most of us think of them as los—

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad. Serenely sips tea. Or coffee or energy drink, or whatever mix of tea or coffee or energy drink is in mug by this time of day.]

I pick the San Francisco 49ers to win this Thursday night football game. I am at peace with the likelihood that I will be wrong, since they are playing the Seattle Seahawks. And thus...I...switch and pick the Seahawks.

No. I will not give in to doubts and fears. I pick the 49ers. This is not a double-switch. This is my original pick. I did not switch to the Seahawks and then switch back to the 49ers. I just picked the 49ers, in a state of calm acceptance of the fact that I cannot possibly be right.

But since I know that I cannot possibly be right, of course I pick the Seahawks. That's just a logical move.

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]

That is grasping. My mind is playing tricks on me again. I breathe deeply, restoring positive chi. I remain steadfast in my pick of the 49ers. Despite the fact that they looked like crap against the Giants last week, and it seems like the Seahawks might actually be good. I...

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad. Sips drink. It tastes mostly like energy drink, though it's supposedly tea. Weird. Must wash mug.]

I stay with my pick of the Seahawks. No, I mean with my pick of the 49ers. That was my original pick, wasn't it? Wait, let me... Yes, it was. I confidently pick the 49ers, knowing that this is unlikely to be accurate.

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]

I don't like Seattle. They totally screw with my ability to even have a decent—

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]

And how the hell do the New England Freaking Patriots, who by all rights should—

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad. Finishes drink in one last, big gulp.]

You know, one of their wins wasn't even a win. It was that referee thing, so what am I supposed to—

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]

Pick: 49ers. The San Francisco 49ers are going to win this game. They should, at least!

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]


[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]

[Dons and strikes dollar store finger cymbals. Places finger cymbals back on tatami mouse pad.]

[Begins to cry.]


Tennessee (2-4) at Buffalo (3-3)

Both of these teams won by field goals last week when I'd picked them to lose. So should I be miffed at them for winning, or at Pittsburgh and Arizona for losing to Tennessee and Buffalo, respectively, and possibly respectfully, but not respectably? You're right—why choose? Being miffed is no big thing. I can just be miffed at all four of them.

There are a lot of games this week that will be tough to pick, so I'm going to do what the pros do: signal my prognosticatory flailing by employing "advanced metrics" that are in actuality neither advanced nor metric, and are almost total bullshit. Here goes:

A lot of folks probably think Chris Johnson is back and Tennessee should be a legitimate contender in this game, but the crucial thing to look at here is Degrees Below Average Replacement Temperature. Buffalo plays more negative DBART games than most teams, and did you know that over the last three seasons, Tennessee's record in games where DBART is more than -7 is, um, like, not that good? This is an advanced metric more people should be looking at, because it prevents us from falling into just looking at these two teams and trying to decide who will win. DBART makes it obvious! Pick: Buffalo.

Washington (3-3) at New York Giants (4-2)

Sure, the Giants destroyed the 49ers last week, but they used the "Nobody believes in us" trope to motivate themselves. I've been monitoring RANBUV (Response After Nobody Believes in Us Victories) for the past few years, and the Giants' So Maybe People Believe in Us After That Victory? (SMPBUATV?) Index tends to escalate up into the 140s, which, as you know, puts the them into DS (Dangerous Swag).

I'm trying to say, in a really bogus statistical way, that this might be a let-down game for the Giants. The problem is that Washington's defense just gives up a hell of a lot of points every week. I don't have a sexy statistic for that, though. How boring, to just point out that Washington's defense isn't very good, and the Giants have a proficient offense. Sorry. My fault. Pick: NY Giants.

New Orleans (1-4) at Tampa Bay (2-3)

New Orleans and Tampa Bay are both coming off bye weeks—New Orleans didn't have a game, while Tampa Bay was collecting their free victory against Kansas City. Zing! KC, I just zinged you. KC? KC, are you there?

It's weird to look at New Orleans' record and realize that I still believe in them. But I do. I live in a part of the country where there's no chance this game will be on television, so this 1-4 vs. 2-3 tilt will just be some numbers that show up at the bottom of the screen once in a while. I am fine with this. Pick: New Orleans.

Dallas (2-3) at Carolina (1-4)

Teams have mostly solved the Cam Newton problem this year, so I'm tempted to pick Dallas here. But Dallas has a tendency to not show up to certain games. They sent bobbleheads instead of a real team to their Seattle game, and then played Chicago with what I might call a quite relaxed je ne sais quois, except that I do sais the quois: it's called sucking.

Dallas desperately needs a win, though, whereas, weirdly, I don't think Carolina feels the same. Doesn't Carolina strike you as a team that has lowered its expectations of itself? They strike me that way, and I know a lot about that. Just look at me. Oh, right, you can't see me. Just know that it's Friday and I'm at work, but I'm not wearing a single clean article of clothing. Why? Because it's Friday. I actually think that way, and I think Carolina kind of does, too. Let's look closely before this game starts and see if Carolina's uniforms are wrinkled and still have grass stains on them from their Seattle game two weeks ago. I think they might. Pick: Dallas.

Baltimore (5-1) at Houston (5-1)

Houston's loss of their undefeated status in a blow out by Green Bay last week—you heard it here first, or if not first, you did hear it here, or if you didn't hear it here, look, I'm just trying to say I got that game right, okay?—should wake them up, while Baltimore has some injury issues stacking up, and their offense struggles on the road. Pick: Houston.

Cleveland (1-5) at Indianapolis (2-3)

This game is like those commercials for "The Mentalist" CBS has been shoving down our throats for the last few years. Look, I'm not going to watch it, CBS. I don't have to watch it to know that it's stupid. Do all you want to try and convince me this smug Australian guy is a tv star. I'm not saying he's not—I'm saying I don't care. Pick: I jut my head just so, and smirkingly suggest that I already know that Indianapolis will win this game. I'm The Mentalist. Catch me some weeknight at some time. Or don't. Ever.

Green Bay (3-3) at St. Louis (3-3)

Green Bay beat Houston last week, while St. Louis lost to Miami. That's probably not significant enough to claim these teams are going in different directions, but I think they are. Prediction: Green Bay is going to get dangerous as the season goes along, because they have a chip on their shoulder after the Seattle game, and they're angry at themselves about their loss to Indy. When a good team has two different pools of anger to pull from, you have to be careful. I see them moving right through the Rams here. Pick: Green Bay.

Arizona (4-2) at Minnesota (4-2)

Both of these teams are coming off bitter losses....Arizona's great at home, but this is a road game for them...hmm...:

An advanced metric that too few analysts pay attention to is PAUS (Performance After Uniform Stain)! These teams have shockingly low PAUS numbers—Arizona's has even, at times, dipped below .222 SST (Stain Stick That), and their SGWS (Significant Gains While Stained) is so low as to be almost embarrassing. This is why playing indoors in Minnesota is actually to Arizona's benefit—their whites will stay white, their reds will remain vibrant. I see them looking great and keeping this close. Minnesota's uniforms, though, should also remain quite clean, making this a tough one to call. The real question is which team is willing to sweat less here. I see Minnesota surviving a scare, by which I mean the scare that someone might get cut and bleed on their uniform a bit, marring what would otherwise be a carefully-planned and nearly-perfect sartorial effort. Pick: Minnesota.

New York Jets (3-3) at New England (3-3)

As usual, Rex Ryan felt like he wasn't getting enough attention this week, so he hinted that he might use Tim Tebow as a running back. Oh. How fascinating. Rex, we wish your press conferences could go on forever, you are so fascinating—for a coach who has never won a big game and whose team is thoroughly mediocre. Pick: New England.

Jacksonville (1-4) at Oakland (1-4)

They should blast "The End" by The Doors on the stadium PA before this game starts. Then the announcer should just whisper "The horror...the horror" into the microphone, and then they should kick off. Every time one of these teams screws up, they should play on the stadium screen the clip of Martin Sheen karate-chopping his own reflection. The halftime show should be a helicopter that drops down into the stadium, out of which a few dancing girls jump, gyrate for a few minutes, and into which they return as it takes off amid confusing colored smoke. Cameramen should set up right on the field during the game, shouting to the players, "Don't look into the camera! Just keep moving! Don't look into the camera!" Pick: Oakland.

Pittsburgh (2-3) at Cincinnati (3-3)

Who is more embarrassed about last week, Pittsburgh after losing to Tennessee, or Cincinnati after losing to Cleveland? I say Pittsburgh, because I don't think Cincinnati gets embarrassed. I mean that in a good way. If Pittsburgh started the game with their flies open and Cincinnati pointed it out, I think Coach Mike Tomlin would take it as a deeply embarrassing failure of masculinity and dedication, and would feel the need to then reaffirm his deep belief that his guys would re-dedicate themselves to lacing up the flies of their pants, and that they would comport themselves like true men from here on out. Cincinnati is the kind of team that could accidentally play a whole game with their flies open, and if someone pointed it out while watching the highlights, they would just kind of laugh and say, "Oh, man! That's crazy that we did that again!" and then just continue on with their day without worrying about it too much. That's good—they understand that sometimes you make mistakes. They strike me as a well-adjusted bunch. Which is why I pick: Pittsburgh.


Detroit (2-3) at Chicago (4-1)

Chicago has had two weeks off—a bye last week, and a free victory over Jacksonville the week before. Will enough rust have accumulated to leave them a step slow against a Detroit team that a) just got a tough win against Philadelphia, and b) needs another win here to stay close in the division?

Heck, I don't know. The more pressing question is what Jay Cutler does during a bye week. Does he go to local elementary schools and push the kids down on the playground? Does he go to funerals and stand apart from everyone, scowling as if he's not a part of why this happened, it's everyone else's fault? Does he play some community league baseball so he can take a big lead off of first and get picked off? He has to stay in practice somehow, right?

This should be an automatic Chicago win, but I have a spooky feeling about it. I don't think I've played any other wild hunches this week, so why not? Pick: Detroit.

Pete Tothero is not a certified professional football analyst, and does not have access to any information unavailable to the average American. He is not contractually bound to watch all of the games.