We are proud to bring you the return of the Footballguys.com Staff Confidence Pool Challenge. 22 Staff members will pick the winner of each NFL game, and rank each choice from most confident (16 points) to least (1 point). As a tie-breaker, the person who is closest to the total points scored on the last Monday Night game will be the winner. Winners will be announced from week to week and the best overall record will be crowned Confidence pool Champion. Picks and ranks are due on Wednesday, so any late-breaking news may not be reflected in the choices. Also please note that no point spread is taken into account with these picks – it is a straight up pick of which NFL team will win this week. See the other confidence pools for picks against the spread (ATS) or Survivor / Eliminator style.
WEEK 17 RESULTS
WHAT A WEEK! While most of the field were looking at Alex Miglio or Dave Larkin to see who would take home the top overall spot, Danny Tuccitto walked in and showed everyone how it's done. In a week with big upsets and surprise finishes, Tuccitto zigged when everyone else zagged and crushed the field with an impressive 118 point performance. Tuccitto missed only three games, and only lost a few confidence points when others lost their top picks. Stephen Holloway also had an impressive week, finishing second with only four missed picks and 103 total points.
New England was the big upset of the week, taking down 281 confidence points with their loss to Miami. The Patriots were the most confident pick this week, just proving how diffcult the final week of the season can really be to predict.
We've been tracking Miglio vs. Larkin for the top spot for the last two weeks. It didn't matter though, because Tuccitto's killer performance gave him a come from behind win of the overall board as well. Tuccitto's only weekly victory was in Week 17, but his consistent performance week over week and his crushing performance at the end gave him a big win when he needed it and the overall crown:
I asked Danny to give us some of the strategy that he used for his big comeback. Here is what he shared with us:
Without getting into too much detail, my normal process for making picks and assigning confidence each week is almost entirely stats-based, and involves combining what the Vegas lines say in terms of perceived win probability with what Pro Football Reference's Simple Rating System says about implied win probability. This process got me to fourth place, and within 31 points of first, going into Week 17, so by no means should one construe what follows as a rejection of my own system. Rather, I was presented with a unique and straightforward game theory situation that should sound familiar to anyone who's played a March Madness pool or has been short-stacked in a poker tournament or has entered a tournament lineup in DFS: If I played it safe and went with what works in the long run (i.e., a low-variance strategy), I'd have a minimal chance of finishing first, so I had to go with what works in the short run (i.e., a high-variance strategy).
And that's exactly what I did...within reason, of course. At the end of my normal process, I had the following picks that I would have made in previous weeks:
Of course, these picks represented the safe, low-variance strategy, which I figured was what Alex Miglio would use -- as he should have being in first place by a comfortable margin. Therefore, I tried to figure out how I could rearrange these picks such that I'd have the best chance of making up my deficit. Via logic, there were two paths: I get a game right that he gets wrong, and I have more confidence in games we both get right. To accomplish the former, I figured that the games we'd most likely have different were the ones in the bottom half of the table because, after all, the closest games are the toughest to pick. And so my first course of action was to go contrarian in the Bottom 8 such that my pick was San Diego rather than Denver, Seattle rather than Arizona, San Francisco rather than St. Louis, and so on.
To accomplish the "higher confidence when our picks are the same" goal, I flipped the confidences such that New England was my 9-point pick rather than my 16-point pick, Kansas City was my No. 10 rather than my No. 15, and so on. Aiding this line of strategy was that I've noticed recently how the most obvious winners don't just fail to cover the point spread; they lose outright. This insight -- totally bunkum or not, statistically speaking -- added onto the difference-in-confidence strategy I had already decided upon. For instance, if New England lost as the most likely winner on Sunday, and Alex indeed went the safe route by picking them as one of his most-confident choices, me having the Patriots lower down the totem pole would make for a "better" loss than him. Similarly, if Cincinnati, a middling favorite this week, won, then me having them as my 16-point pick would give me 6, 7, or 8 points more than his assumed safe strategy of "Bengals for 8, 9, or 10 points."
In the end, make no mistake, I got incredibly lucky. Most everything had to go my way, and it did. That said, they say that "luck is where preparation meets opportunity." To me, in the context of game theory, "preparation" means figuring out the best strategy to beat your opponent. Albeit a largely unscientific endeavor stats-wise, I did my best to do just that. On Sunday, opportunity knocked.
Final Wrap Up
We hope that you have enjoyed this season's picks and really hope that you found this article helpful enough to dominate your local office pools. Look for our straight picks, Against the Spead picks and Eliminator picks next season as well!