Friday, January 17, 2014

Oh, Yeah, the Game

The AFC Championship Game offers a striking contrast between what Wall Street calls "retail" and "institutional" investors and what bookies call "public" and "smart" money. Among the commentariat and assorted experts around the U.S., more people are picking the Patriots to win than the Broncos. Yet out in Las Vegas, where trading volume rules, the Broncos remain 4 1/2 point favorites.

Given the very weird nature of the teams' regular season meeting, you'd think pick 'em would be the line. Allow Denver three points for its very real home field advantage and we're still left with 1 1/2 inexplicable points. I attribute that spread to the fact that Peyton Manning appears in advertisements for mass market products while Tom Brady's endorsements are most for luxuries.

The alleged expert consensus for New England would appear to rest on the history of the matchup of the two quarterbacks, ignoring the fact all but one game of it involved a different than the Broncos, and the general feeling, which I share, that picking against the Pats is an inherently risky business. Hardly scientific football analysis, that.

My own analysis is a model of cowardly vacillation. Fifty-one percent of my football brain sees the Pats winning on the belief they have a 1-2 percent better chance of hindering the Broncos' offense than vice versa. But the range of plausible scenarios runs the spectrum from five touchdown routs by either team and everything in between.

I will note the following two facts. The chance to bet the Pats getting more than four points is a rare one (eight times in the last 11 seasons, to be specific). And "retail investor" is a Wall Street euphemism for "sucker."


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