Chris Andrews, the director of the sportsbook at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, joins me to talk about the NFL. He describes how he sets the market, and how numbers play a role. Then we dig into the four Divisional Playoff games:
We end with a discussion of poker, books and Winston Churchill.
Fabian Sommer, an NFL handicapper, joins the show to discuss the NFL Wild Card weekend. First, he describes this three part approach to evaluating games, the first of which involves analytics. Then he breaks down Rams at Hawks, Ravens at Titans and Browns at Steelers before giving another game with value. Throughout the conversation, he divides the contribution of an offense's success into quarterback vs coach and other players.
Professor Edward Egros of SMU joins me to talk football analytics, both college and pro. He tells us about the tools he uses and produces for college football, and how his NFL model differs. We get into the College Football Playoff and discuss Clemson vs Ohio State and Alabama vs Notre Dame. Finally, Edward discusses the Dallas Cowboys and their chances to win the NFC East.
Peter Bukowski, who hosts the Locked On Packers podcast and covers the Packers for SB Nation, joins me to talk NFL analytics. He tells us about how analytics informs his coverage and the model he has built to write his betting column. Then he gives us the key to transforming Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense from mediocre to great. Analytics also plays a role in the defensive philosophy, which frustrates many fans. Finally, we talk about Tennessee at Green Bay in week 16 and the two teams Green Bay would least like to face in the playoffs.
Richard Johnson, a college football writer whose work appears on the SEC Network, Washington Post and FiveThirtyEight, joins me to break down championship week. First, he tells us how analytics informs his coverage, and his beautiful description applies quite generally. Then Richard describes how to fix the lack of black head coaches in college football. Next, we break down Clemson vs Notre Dame, Alabama vs Florida and Ohio State vs Northwestern. Finally, we find a common love for the same cuisine.
Ben Fawkes, Vice President of Digital Content at VSIN and formerly of ESPN, joins me to talk about analytics and sports betting. Based on over a decade of experience, he offers his perspective on data and analytics in the sports betting industry. We also talk about Pittsburgh at Buffalo and Minnesota at Tampa Bay on the Week 14 schedule. Ben also offers advice for people looking to break into the industry.
Drew Martin is a sports bettor known for his appearances on many outlets, including The Power Rank YouTube channel. He tells us about how he handicaps college football games based on his background playing QB. Drew talks about his alma mater Auburn, and whether they should fire Gus Malzahn. As a small school specialist in college football, he breaks down Liberty at Coastal Carolina in week 14.
John Sheeran, the director of trading at FanDuel Sportsbook, joins the show to discuss football analytics. He tells us how he learned to set a market and started doing it for horse racing. Then John describes how analytics plays a critical role for his team, and how the analytics division works at FanDuel. He then talks about taking a stand against market consensus, dealing with teams in seeming free fall (Michigan, New York Jets) and the US presidential election markets.
Kevin Cole, a data scientist at Pro Football Focus, joins me to discuss the 2020 NFL season. He tells us about the metric he uses to predict the Most Valuable Player, and what this model says about Russell Wilson. Kevin also discusses why Kansas City might be better this season than during their Super Bowl run in 2019. Finally, he provides two surprising teams that might make the playoffs.
Nick Saban and Alabama have won 5 national championships over the past 11 seasons. How does a team get through Alabama to win a title? A quick look through history reveals the one thing a team needs. However, it might not be enough anymore.
Rob Pizzola, who uses analytics as a professional sports bettor, joins me to talk about the 2020 NFL season. He describes how he combines the objective and subjective in this work, and how this applies to the New York Jets. Then he talks about his research into the increased scoring this NFL season. We then discuss Super Bowl contenders from both conferences before Rob gives us a game he likes for week 8.
Michigan opens their season at Minnesota in a prime time game. Host Ed Feng looks at Jim Harbaugh's tenure at Michigan and how that impacts his prediction for this game. Then he projects Michigan for the 2020 season.
Offense has surged in the 2020 NFL, as teams have averaged 50.8 points per game the first 6 weeks of the season. This is a significant increase from the 45.7 points per game in 2019. Host Ed Feng looks at how the markets have responded and whether the increased scoring will continue.
Spencer Hall of Moon Crew and the Shutdown Fullcast joins me to talk college football. He tells us about starting the blog Every Day Should Be Saturday, and how he approaches writing about college football. Spencer talks about whether Florida can make the leap onto the national stage in 2020 or whether the defense will continue to struggle. He then breaks down the titantic Georgia vs Alabama game. We end by talking westerns and backyard flames.
Bill Connelly of ESPN joins me to discuss college football analytics and the 2020 season. He describes his predictive model, which leads into a discussion of why these models are doing so well this season. He enlightens us on college football playoff, and the team that should get a look (but won't) in 2020. We touch on Oklahoma, Mississippi State, and Ohio State among other teams before ending with some enthusiasm for the US men's national team.
Josh Allen got the headlines after the Bills beat the Rams in week 3. But the underlying numbers suggest we should be paying more attention to Jared Goff. Host Ed Feng looks at Goff's success and how the Rams project for 2020.
Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight joins me to discuss the NFL. He describes his study receiver separation from defenders and what this means for receiver skill. Josh also breaks down the early season performance of Josh Allen and Drew Brees and what aspects are predictive of the future. We discuss Green Bay, Seattle and New England before Josh surprises everyone with his bold prediction for the 2020 season.
Atlanta may not have the best defense, but they have two assets that make them competitive in any NFL game. Host Ed Feng breaks down this team and their prospects for 2020.
Dr. Eric Eager, the Executive Director of Research and Development at Pro Football Focus (PFF), joins me to talk about football analytics and the NFL. He tells us how PFF assigns player grades, and then he gets into their newest research based on this data. Eric also gets into insights from the PFF QB Annual. Then we break down the NFL after week 1, which includes Green Bay, the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, Philadelphia among other teams.
Is Carson Wentz skilled at not throwing interceptions? To answer this, we first acknowledge that past interception rate is a poor predictor of future interception rate. Then we ask about skill versus luck in interceptions. Finally, we consult a hidden variable that helps to predict interceptions and what this variable says about Wentz.
Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic joins the show to discuss his 32 NFL team previews. He tells us about his process for writing each of these analytics based previews. Then Sheil tells us his most overrated team and most intriguing, high variance team. Along the way, we discuss important trends in the NFL.
JJ Zachariason of FanDuel joins the show for a conversation on season long fantasy football analytics. He describes how he builds his models from the team to player level, and how his modeling uses science and art. JJ then explains whether his strategy to draft a QB in late rounds still holds or whether Lamar Jackson single handedly broke it. He ends with some basic tips to crush your fantasy football draft.
Kelly Stewart of Bleacher Report and the Kelly and Murray Show joins me for a wide ranging conversation on football betting. She starts with how she moved from Manhattan, Kansas to Las Vegas to start a sports betting career. Then Kelly describes how analytics informs her betting. Finally, we dig into the NFL and win totals.
In making sports predictions, we look for variables that are predictive. For example, we ask whether this variable has a strong correlation from season to season. Usually, this relates to an underlying skill. However, some variables, such as a player's 3 point shooting percentage, do not follow the usual rules. This episode explores predictability vs skill and provides a framework to study the latter.
Michael Caley, soccer analytics expert and co-host of the Double Pivot podcast, joins me to talk about the beautiful game. His writing has appeared in FiveThirtyEight, The Athletic and SB Nation. He explains expected goals (xG) and the arduous process the data companies go through to calculate this quantity. He compares the current and long term prospects of big clubs like Bayern Munich and Liverpool. He also tells us whether the US men's national team has any hope.