Fighting irrationality with irrationality since 2006.

Monday, May 29, 2006

BM is a homer

This is always a dead time of year in the sports world. I mean, the NFL Draft is a month old, NFL training camps are a month and a half away, and the NFL Playoffs don't start for a whopping SEVEN months! Even NFL Europe is done for the season. But luckily BM was kind enough to throw us football junkies a small bone in today's column, written in a pointless Action/Reaction style:

Action: The MGM Mirage Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas releases updated odds to win the 2006 AFC East and Super Bowl XLI -- New England 5-to-2 and 9-to-2; Miami 6-to-1 and 12-to-1; Buffalo 30-to-1 and 50-to-1; New York Jets 35-to-1 and 75-to-1.

Reaction: When exactly did the Dolphins get so good?

Personal aside: In the interest of full disclosure, I must, before proceeding, mention that I am a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan in spite of my Western NY upbringing.

First off, a point about gambling odds. Too often, sportswriters misinterpret Vegas odds and pointspreads as predictions on the outcomes of sporting events. Las Vegas bookmakers are in the business of making money. That's it. Their odds reflect predictions on how people are going to bet and NOT on the actual outcomes of sporting events. When making pointspreads, for instance, oddsmakers attempt to set a pointspread such that 50% of bettors will take the favorite, and 50% will take the points. That way (except in the case of a push), the money Vegas keeps will exactly equal the money they pay out minus the vigs which they rake in as pure profit.

In talking about fractional odds, although the Dolphins are 6-to-1 odds to win the AFC East, Vegas is not declaring that they have a 16% chance of winning it. That's not how fractional odds work. For instance, although Barbaro was even money (1-to-1 odds) to win the Preakness, the oddsmakers were clearly not predicting that he had a 100% chance of winning the race (matter of fact, with a broken leg, Matty Y's bookkeeping service predicts he has a 0% chance of winning the Belmont).

Now, on to the actual football side of things. With his rhetorical question about when the Dolphins got "so good," BM is trying to do one of two things. One possibility is that he is trying to ridicule the professional Vegas oddsmakers for giving decent odds to a team that he clearly feels doesn't deserve them (BM is, after all, an unabashed homer). The other possibility is that he, as a "professional sportswriter" actually didn't realize how good a team the Dolphins might be. I'm going to assume his question reflected the latter possibility and benevolently bestow upon him my admittedly biased views on the current Miami Football Dolphins.

Let us first take a trip down memory lane to November and December of 2005 when the Dolphins closed the season with a 6-game winning streak (note that the only other team with an active 6-game win streak is the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers) to finish 9-7, the same record as the AFC East Champion New England Patriots (the Patriots won the division based on tiebreakers). Remember too that this win streak was orchestrated by a team with a first-time head coach, a whole lotta nothing in the secondary, and the two-headed QB monster of Gus Frerotte and Sage Rosenfels.

Now fast-forward to the present. The Dolphins have traded a whopping 2nd round draft pick for multi-time Pro Bowler and onetime Love Boat captain Daunte Culpepper. Even with his questionable defense-reading, poor 2005 season, and mending knee, he's a huge upgrade over the since-departed Frerosenfels (remember 2004 when he posted MVP-caliber numbers even with Randy Moss missing about 40% of the season?). Ricky Williams is enjoying Canada's finest lagers, weed, and danse contact due to yet another suspension, but luckily they have the number 2 overall pick in the 05 draft, Ronnie Brown, ready to carry the load. And, oh yeah, they have Nick Saban and Randy Mueller. The same Nick Saban whose 2005 Draft created starters out of his 1st, 3rd, and 4th round draft picks. The same Randy Mueller who fleeced Dave Wannstedt out of TWO first round draft picks for the aforementioned Ricky Williams. But I suppose they're no Dick Jauron & Marv Levy, right BM? (Donte Whitner at #8?? Really??) Oh and did I mention that their coordinators are Dom "4-3 defenses are for pussies" Capers and Mike "at least I'm a good coordinator" Mularkey?

Look, obviously I'm biased. But my point here is that the Dolphins proved in 2005 that they could compete with virtually any team in the league and went from 4-12 laughingstocks to 9-7 division contenders. Factor in the players having a year of experience in the Saban System under their belt, a new, albeit gimpy, franchise QB, and a very solid all-around offseason (How many other AFC East teams can claim that? Put your hand down Eric Mangini). The Dolphins might not win the AFC East. They might not even have a winning record. But at this point in the annual black hole of the sports world, they seem, on paper at least, to be a pretty good bet to be contenders.


Blogger Brian said...

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming after reading the paper this morning/early afternoon.

7:40 PM


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