What is the point of this site?
I have been grappling with that question recently, and it is not an easy one to answer. It is made even more difficult as we try to change the site on the fly, constantly moving the goalposts.
And taking a step back, this question becomes more challenging at this point in the season. After writing for 11 weeks, over 100 hours, more than 50 articles, and north of 100,000 total words, it can feel like we are not further down the path to success than we were at word one (especially given that we are just one game over .500 on our Best Bets).
So clearly, we are not at the final product yet, and in realizing this, maybe we can find the purpose of all of this work.
You see, at this juncture, Owl Eats Football is a step in a journey to find a way to quantify and share NFL football predictions. That is as true as ever, but our mode has changed and will change.
In all honesty, I have no idea where we will be in a year.
But, as I write about 12 months down the line, it seems like it could be useful to think about Week 11 2018. One year ago, here are some of the things that were happening:
The 9-1 Rams and the 9-1 Chiefs played a historic offensive game in which the announcers declared this the clear rivalry of the future. Now the Rams look likely to miss the playoffs and the Chiefs could be second in their division if they lose tonight.
The Bears were 8-3 en route to a 12-4 record as potential Super Bowl contenders. Now are looking at a potential top-ten pick that they don’t own (hello, Raiders).
The Ravens beat the Bengals by three in Lamar Jackson’s first game replacing Joe Flacco at quarterback.
Antonio Brown caught a touchdown from Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers improved to 7-2-1.
Andrew Luck led the Colts to a win.
Eli Manning led the Giants to a win, hitting top receiver Odel Beckham Jr. for a touchdown.
Washington was 6-4.
The point of this exercise is to point out that a year is a very long time. A lot can be built in a year and a lot can change. The teams that are in a better position than a year ago are the ones who didn’t rest on their laurels. They are the ones who were forward thinking, adaptable, and flexible.
For this site, those are our goals. So let’s take today’s recap to think about what WILL happen with this site to try to get a clearer grasp on what we are doing here. Mixed in with these goals and visions will be some of the recap of the week that most of you are undoubtedly here to read.
What Will Happen: WORMS will be developed and will become the center of this site.
This weekend, I was talking with Owl Hive superfan Robert, and he touched on something interesting.
He pointed out that perhaps, one day, this would be a site that didn’t revolve around articles and hours of research by me, but instead picks by WORMS and tight explanations.
This peaked my interest because it feels to me that most evolved way to do things.
To be clear, we will be finishing the year out the same way we have been operating it: three articles a week with a recap, WORMS picks, and my Best Bets. But the future could offer a more flexible and lean version of this.
What this would mean is that there would not be a certain number of picks a week, there would not be flowery and artistic recaps looking at the NFL world at large. Rather we would provide you with the bets that were most valuable - be it one, two, or ten – and provide context for those bets.
You could imagine this working well this week, where we would have been able to clearly communicate the value of the Ravens bet without burying it in the noise of several other bets.
In this case, we would have presented you the Ravens as WORMS unquestioned pick and given the context of that pick. Instead of dividing your attention between that and all of the other possibilities in other games, we could have virtually guaranteed readers a winning week by honing in on this.
Moving forward this season, though, we can begin this work.
It seems helpful to not grade WORMS on the totality of its work, but rather on the top end of its efforts. For example, this week it got its top pick right (Baltimore) with a Delta of 29. It also got its bottom pick wrong (Washington) with a Delta of 0. Those two should not be counted equally.
So there may be minor tweak like that moving forward this season, but I would not be surprised to this site be WORMS centric next season. This could be the clearest path to success.
As far as updating the algorithm itself, The Night Owl is already chomping at the bit to recalibrate the formula, something that will happen this off season. Given the fact that an NFL season is just 16 games, we have a limited amount of opportunity, data, and time to get this right. In the offseason, however, we will have the luxury of rerunning the numbers to find out what parts of the algorithm are doing their job, and which ones may be clouding the picture.
Plus, there are already conversations about the next form of our data analysis: a Power Ranking system. With this in place, it could allow users to determine winners based upon their position there. It is code name NEST (Neutral Estimated Success of Teams ) and it could add to the center of next season.
In summary then, we don’t know what will happen in the future, but it could be that this site becomes a data rich, word lite version of its current format. My fiancé and my sanity are both fans.
What Will Happen: We don’t know.
A big theme of the last two weeks for me has been the inability to know about the NFL. We can think, predict, analyze, and calculate to shave our disadvantage down into an advantage, but we can never truly know.
A great example would be the Atlanta Falcons.
All information available through the first eight weeks of the season was that the Atlanta Falcons had no defense and were not able to win games. They entered their bye at 1-7 looking like a #1 pick contender.
In the last two weeks, however, they have beaten New Orleans and Carolina to move to 3-7 and to somehow still be mathematically alive for the playoffs. They are one game behind the Chicago Bears.
The change that occurred was one that was not reported on, not visible in the numbers, and essentially unknowable in its impact. Head Coach Dan Quinn stopped calling defensive plays and turned that over to Raheem Morris, his defensive backs coach.
In the ensuing two games, the Falcons allowed a combined 12 points to the Saints and Panthers.
The point of highlighting this example is to remember that we don’t know what will happen.
And sometimes, even when we do, chance intervenes.
I had several multiple parlays (not printed here) that had the Cardinals +9.5 against the Niners on Sunday. If you watched the game, you know where this is going. Arizona built a big lead, lost it in the final seconds, and then had their final play lateral/fumble recovered by San Francisco and returned for a touchdown.
Even though the Cardinals were, in fact, the right bet in this situation and kept the game close the whole time, they lost by ten. My parlays were lost, even though I was right.
And all of this serves as a good reminder that most teams in the NFL are capable of winning any game at any time against anybody.
Denver improbably went up 20-0 on Minnesota; the Vikings improbably came back.
Anything can happen, and we cannot know for certain what will come next.
That goes for the future of this site, the outcomes of games, or even the next word in this…diatribe.
As we move forward here at OEF, we will continue to remind ourselves and our readers that knowing is impossible. We are just in the game of minimizing the risk of gambling.
What Will Happen: We will win, lose, and improve.
This last one is a bit of a cop out, but it is something that will happen for sure.
It is always helpful in this business (or in any) that there will be success and failures. We here at Owl Eats Football acknowledge this, and anticipate being better tomorrow than we were today.
Something I used to tell my students in my former life was “The only thing that all successful people have in common is that they all failed first”. With that in mind we are in elite company every time we try something unsuccessfully and get back up anyway.
Let’s move forward to Week 12 and win, lose, and improve.