Welcome to Upset Watch. Each week I guide you through which teams have the best chance to win and cover against the spread. Last week, we picked every underdog that won in the NFL, going 3-1 in our underdog picks, the second time this season that I have nailed every underdog in a week.
This week represents a huge challenge. I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss how we adapt to the current situation in the NFL regarding Covid-19.
Whatever your thoughts on Covid, it's very much here again. The new Omicron variant is far more transmissible, and that means trouble for the NFL, where players spend a lot of time together, and protocols have generally lapsed over the period where it appeared we were out of the worst of it.
But Omicron is a problem because it's going to infect more people, and in the NFL, we're also seeing how quickly that can happen. OBJ played on Monday night, he tested positive Tuesday morning. We're losing good players from rosters at short notice, and for us here at Upset Watch, that represents both an opportunity and a hindrance.
For the most part, my approach will be to assume players will play unless currently on Covid, but there are teams where it's clear things will get worse before they get better. Washington has 18 players on the covid list, and because this is a virus, we can assume that will not end there. Similarly, if the Rams situation gets worse, would anyone be surprised?
So the other element to this is using common sense. If a team has multiple players out on the Covid list, we can probably have a good guess that they will have more problems as the week goes on. With the NFL determined to play on, we have to factor that into our picks too, as we found with the Rams last week, you don't get to void your bets if the game takes place!
One final note - we do what we can to keep you updated. It goes without saying that at some stage, we'll get caught out. An underdog we love will have it's star QB taken out. You're going to have to give me a little bit of leeway on those things!
I'm looking at ways we can adapt how we present Upset Watch in future. It's tough, in a world of injuries and covid, to see underdogs go to being a favorite and then be duty bound to update my pick. On that basis, I'm going to leave my pick even if a team becomes a favorite, as the important part is the analysis, and the money line is unlikely to change dramatically for an underdog.
In addition, I'm also going to look at trialling a star rating system in one of the remaining weeks. This will give you a better idea of which teams I favor most.
One final option that I have considered is to go back to the column's original format, and list the underdogs in order of likelihood to cause an upset. This was good because it meant that a team in 8th place was clearly more likely to win than one in 16th, but conversely, I find that once a team is off the board for us as a play, I tend not to want to worry about whether they win or lose too much. For me, it's all about the underdogs...
Individual picks ($100 on each underdog win pick): +$2,150
Double Round Robin Picks ($10 on parlays of 2, covering every combination of underdog picks) +$1,141.23
Treble Round Robin Picks ($10 on parlays of 3, covering every combination of our underdog picks) +$1,505.83
Total of all parlays (doubles and trebles): +$2,647.06
Last week was amazing. Thanks to getting on the 49ers when they were underdogs, we nailed the 49ers, Falcons and Rams picks to go 3-1. Perhaps worse, the Ravens were our other pick and could easily have won the game against the Browns if Lamar Jackson had not been injured early.
I will hold my hands up though, if we got unlucky there, we got lucky with the Rams. Had I the option, I would certainly have cashed out of that pick once the news of Jalen Ramsey and Tyler Higbee testing positive for Covid broke late on Monday. I mentioned it in the analysis, but of course, by that stage it was too late. Sometimes you get lucky, and hey, we've had plenty of bad luck this year, so we'll take it.
Number of weekly upsets
Someone requested I bring this section back, so I thought I'd explain why it had dropped off the column recently.
Each week we look at the historical number of underdog wins and covers in the NFL. We do more research on the types of teams, the conditions, and the general trends that make up the 'average' upset both historically and this season.
I haven't stopped doing this, but there are two factors that have complicated the process.
First, the 18 week season means that the dynamics that lead to less upsets as the season goes on are altered. All of a sudden, the 6-7 Falcons are very much in the playoff hunt, and even the 5-8 Seahawks aren't done yet and can still finish with a positive record. This means that teams aren't going to give up as early as they did in a 17 week season.
The other issue is the double threat of Covid and injuries. As I mentioned above, the general position is that we're as much in the dark as you are, and games can flip round to favor the underdog quite quickly. We don't want to limit ourselves in that kind of scenario, so you can expect to see some divergence from our data at times.
Week 15 was ordinarily the final week you could expect every team to play it's starters, but this season it has a mid-season vibe, with every team having 4 games left. Historically, we've seen 4.5 underdog victories over the last 8 years, but we will round that up, for all of the reasons stated and pick 5 underdog winners at least.
With 7.0 average underdog covers, we'll add a further two picks to our 'Grey Zone' which I've had positive feedback on. These are teams we like as potential covers OR wins, with the cover being the safe play, and the win being for the more risky players. We tend to update these picks later in the week to give our final verdict on whether it's a cover or a win.
Week 15 Picks
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