The Prediction Games: Share Your Secrets

Those of us who have been around the NinersNation block will remember that the prediction games all started as my personal baby when a meaningless little playoffs competition grabbed hold of a part of my brain and turned itself into a full-blown game. When I was unable to keep up with the administrative responsibilities, I handed the games over to bignerd, and I'm happy to say that he's done a far superior job with the thing than I ever did or likely would have.

But I'm writing this because somewhere down in my heart, these games are still my baby, and I still want to do my part to make them better. I do not think for a minute that I can improve on the internal changes bignerd has made, including the new rules designed to increase gameplay integrity, his clear improvements to the presentation of the scores and the leaderboard, and his additions of the awards, many of which I'm still only hoping to understand.

So, I can't make the way the games work any better than bignerd already has. But maybe I can help to advance the way that we, as players, take on the game. The idea came to me this week when I was struggling to decide what upsets, if any, I needed to pick. Last week, see, the Jets beat the Falcons. Going in, that game was a virtual lock for Atlanta, so much that only two people who participated in the predictions games dared risk the upset pick. In looking at possible upsets this week, I ended up deciding to pick San Diego over Indianapolis, less because I think they'll win (which I don't) than because I felt their chances of winning were far greater than the percentage of people who were picking them to win. In essence, I think San Diego has something like a 40% chance to win the game. But only, at a guess, 20% of people were picking them to win. So I asked myself, do I have a 40% or greater chance of picking a better Colts win than 80% of the other people here? And I didn't think so, so instead I took the 40% chance that San Diego wins the game, in order to try to increase my odds of getting any points off of it.

Now, this year, what I call "poaching upsets" is even trickier because bignerd has, intelligently, incentivized picking the right winners. So am I sacrificing bonus points for the possibility of scoring upset points? The balance is even trickier.

Today, well after I submitted my picks, I was going through the predictions thread and keyed in on the Cincinnati @ Buffalo matchup. Buffalo is in a LOT of trouble offensively, down two starting QBs, but can the home team looking for a spark to overcome their bad fortune upset an inconsistent Bengals squad? Only three people in the thread so far had the guts to play the upset.

And then I thought: How many of the other players actually even think stuff like this? Do we just create our predictions in a vacuum and ignore what anybody else does? Do we just fire scores out of our butts and hope? I know I, for one, do neither. I wait for predictions to come in before I make mine, so I can get a sense of the community tendencies. I look at standings and footballoutsiders to build my predictions--this year I've even started using a spreadsheet, for cripe's sake!

And, maybe, I thought, if we took some time out to actually talk strategy with each other, we could improve ourselves as players and create an even more competitive landscape. So let's talk:

  • Do you consider how others are predicting when you make your picks? What parts of their predictions do you take into account?
  • Do you look for tempting upsets to try to catch the benefits of correctly predicting a shocker? What makes an upset pick look good to you?
  • Do you look at resources to help inform your predictions? Which ones? How do they contribute to your overall process?
  • Do you have to balance your own irrationality against the benefits of playing rationally? This is the classic "do you pick against the 49ers when they're heavy dogs" question. Can you make the rational pick, even when it hurts/
  • What other methods do you apply to this madness?

I'll say more for my part in the comments.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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