'Predictalator' Says Smith Is Key To Ravens' Season
By Bill Ordine
A computer program designed by a quantitative analyst with a track record for picking football outcomes found that the Ravens are winners of the next Super Bowl in 3,000 simulations of the 2012 season.
The not-so-good news for local fans is that's out of 50,000 total simulations.
The predicting computer known as the Predictalator figures the Ravens to win the Super Bowl about 6 percent of the time.
The Predictalator's algorithms rank the Ravens No. 8 overall in its NFL power rankings. But the daunting Super Bowl odds and the projection that Baltimore's chances of making the playoffs are 53 percent are rooted in some sobering realities.
"One of the major factors affecting the Ravens is the quality of their opponents," said Paul Bessire, who helps operate predictionmachine.com.
Bessire pointed out that eight of the Ravens' 2012 opponents made the 2011 playoffs. Also, the Ravens have just four games against teams that had losing seasons in 2011.
"We consider Baltimore to still be one of the best defenses in the NFL," Bessire said. "But the injury to Terrell Suggs is key, and that defense is a year older."
Suggs is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury and will miss much of the season. Defensive veterans Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are now 37 and 33, respectively.
Before beginning his current sports forecasting business, Bessire worked with Fox Sports Interactive on statistical research, mathematical modeling and simulations of hypothetical and real sports events.
Last season, with the Predictalator's algorithms identifying weekly top three games and the Monday game when it was deemed playable, Bessire's score was 49-28 against the spread. During the NFL playoffs, the computer program is 20-3 lifetime.
Like many other sports forecasting services, predictionmachine.com has a subscription fee. Past performance may not be an indicator of future results, but the numbers are attention-grabbing.
Bessire has also worked in financial analysis, and he talks about money management as key to the success of anyone that considers wagering on sports. He said the key when using his computer's number was to match a game's predicted outcome with a corresponding fraction of a bankroll. Differing outcome likelihoods correspondingly affect risk decisions.
Although Baltimore was 12-4 last season, Bessire and his 50,000 simulations peg the team for 9-7 this year, with a surprising player as the difference between a so-so record and winning enough games to get home-field advantage during the playoffs.
"Torrey Smith is the player who makes the biggest impact," Bessire said of the second-year wide receiver. "He can give the Ravens that explosive element in their offense they always seem to be missing. His gap in performance is huge in our projections. If he performs at the bottom of his range, they're at nine wins. If he's at the top of his range, then they can go 11-5, 12-4."
Micah Roberts, a handicapping expert who also ran casino sports books in Las Vegas, has a more conventional take on who will make the Ravens' season, both on the field and at the betting counter. He names quarterback Joe Flacco.
"Flacco plays steady and he doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Roberts said, "but he hasn't shown that he has what top quarterbacks have, and that's to say when the game is on the line, 'This is what we have to do to win, and I'm the one who's going make it happen.' "
The over-under on the Ravens' win total in Last Vegas has held steady since the open of 10. The odds for taking either side of the number vary, but a decent barometer has the under side of 10 wins at -125 -- betting that Baltimore will win nine or fewer games means risking 125 units to win 100. The over side of 10 wins is -105 -- betting that the Ravens will win more than 10 games means risking 105 units to win 100.
"The Ravens' biggest issue right now is Suggs," Roberts said. "The guy replacing him, Paul Kruger, is good, but we're talking about replacing the defensive MVP of the league."
A less challenging way to try to get lucky with the Ravens is with the Maryland Lottery's Ravens Cash Fantasy scratch-off ticket, which went on sale Aug. 6.
The game offers more than $11 million in instant cash prizes, and there's a second-chance feature for the scratch-off with a $1 million prize and several experiential prizes, including an opportunity to be the Fan of the Game.
The Ravens scratch-off is a $5 game, with five $250,000 instant top prizes. Some of the football-themed prizes are season tickets for life (20 years), season tickets in 2012 and 2013, gameday premium seats and an away trip with the team. The Fan of the Game receives $5,000 in cash and an additional $1,000 for each interception the Ravens defense makes.
Issue 176: August 2012