2017 Week 3, Game 1 – The Bad Beat

God bless the internet. Today I get to paraphrase one of my favorite lines of all-time, courtesy of Brian Murphy (now of, as best as I can tell, KNBR). I give you an O/U of 79 points before the Rams-49ers kickoff Thursday night.

“You wake up [Friday] morning wearing a barrel, and signing over your mortgage to me, thank you very much.”

I’m sure I’m not the only person who wonders whether their actions did, in fact, affect something totally out of their control, especially when it comes to football. By posting to Twitter the Crowd prediction (Rams by 4, total of 34) ahead of time before the Rams-49ers game, I am nearly convinced that it turned what people expected to be a low- to medium-scoring affair into a barnburner.

Nevertheless, there are two quick takeaways:

  1. Crowdsourcing the scores is about the percentages rather than any individual game.
  2. Crowdsourcing is hard to do for outliers.

Percentages

The crowdsourcing scores concept is in line with any other gambling strategy. Blackjack and craps strategies are both about maximizing odds against the house over a number of rounds. If you follow the strategy, over time the percentages will normalize, but it doesn’t apply on any given hand. If you’ve ever read “Bringing Down the House”, you’ll be familiar with the story of one of the players losing over $100,000 on one hand even though he followed perfect strategy. Over time, the team came out well ahead, but on that one hand, luck worked against them.

For a game like Thursday in which the 49ers hit on a backdoor cover when the spread is only 2.5 by scoring 19 in the 4th quarter, it can be doubly frustrating because the win for the crowd seemed well in hand, and to have can feel like a win is being snatched from your fingers. All we can say is that we expect the crowd to be right more over time, so stick with us.

Outliers

It would definitely be an understatement to say that Thursday night’s game was unexpected. The average score for all games through Week 2 was in the mid-40s, and the 49ers had scored a total of 12 points. Thursday’s game nearly doubled the average score, and the 49ers tripled their season points total in a single game.

In Week 2, the crowd went 6 for 9 on the Over/Under when the delta between the O/U line and the crowd prediction was greater than 5. Thursday was the first of 8 games with that kind of delta, so we’re hopeful that we can expect 5 of the remaining 7 to come through.

In the meantime, does anyone have a barrel I can borrow?

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