by Chris Corbellini
Week 16 Picks: The Ballerina Affect
When the money is real — millions of dollars real, life-changing real — and can realistically be won in a manner of eight hours, you will go through some things.
The week before my World Fantasy Football Championship, with a grand prize of $500,000 and the possibility of winning an additional $1 million, I quietly went about my schedule, stubbornly pushed through the doubt and the jags of nervousness/joy, and stuck to the analytics-heavy strategy that allowed me to qualify for it (a first-place finish out of thousands of entries). I ignored the fact that everyone else in the competition was a millionaire pro, or David Portnoy. I ignored a job rejection email I received Sunday morning as I was setting my lineup (an old application, from months ago, and out of nowhere). I ignored the B- I had just received in an accounting course, ending my bid at graduating from an Ivy League institution with a 4.0 GPA. I ignored the commonly-held thought amongst NFL talking-heads and columnists and people close to me that Week 15 was a shit-show week for fantasy football purposes. I ignored my own belief that your life is the choices that you make, and that the nine open slots in my fantasy lineup was the latest and perhaps most absolute example of that belief.
I ignored the loud bells, whistles and alarms of what that money COULD do for me.
And I focused.
And when that lineup was set and my mind was fully fixed and locked in on my choices, I then experienced the wildest, nuttiest, like-huh-what-the-fuck mood swing … from insecurity to ridiculous overconfidence. I’d like to write “in my entire life” to end that sentence, but that would be a falsehood. I had never felt that, such a see-saw swing, and may never again. I did the research. Exactly like before. So, I’m good. Am I good?
I needed to step out of my hotel room and go for a run (the daily fantasy sports company set me up with a Times Square-area hotel room for the competition), but alas, freezing rain. So, I went to the hotel gym, stepped up on a treadmill for a 20-minute burn, and about three minutes in, the oddest thing happened. Across the street on 44th, eye level with me, were four ballerinas and their young instructor, working through a morning practice. I remember one of them wore a red top. I also remember all of them being exactly what you would expect: Precise, elegant, and just about perfect. At one point, “Clair De Lune” was playing in my headphones, a pure of heart piece, and as they danced and spun on their toes I no longer heard my own breath, or felt the labor of my run, or the stress of a competition. I was just … leveled. Truly in the moment. Afterward, I felt no nervousness on the bus ride over to a Hoboken bar for the competition, and at no point as the NFL games played out was I especially up or down.
Perhaps a good “put it all in perspective” moment was exactly what I needed. Some might even call it a blessing — because I finished 69th out of 75 qualifiers. There is no sugarcoating this: It was the second time playing daily fantasy sports that I closed in on a cool million only to watch the house of cards not only fall down, but burn to ashes.
I won’t go over the logic of my lineup, or defend it, or explain what went wrong out there on an NFL Sunday. And I won’t shrug it all away as bad luck. Degenerate gamblers do that – always complaining about bad beats and how close they came to life-changing money and success — and then they continue to use the same system over and over until the house beats them again. No, I recognize that my base of pro football research needs to be expanded. It’ll be the only way I get there — if I still want to get there. And I know enough about the analytics of the game, and that beautiful bounce-back from the body blows of life, to recognize that every Sunday I’m inching closer to these pros who have a much larger bankroll. I’m doing more with much less.
And I’m good with that.
Oh, and I won $8,000 and had more than a few whiskey shots.
Now on to my Week 16 picks. As always, home team in caps, with William Hill odds. I also added some percentages to correspond with my picks – they represent the probabilities calculated by The Quant Edge that my picks will actually happen. Full disclosure: I work at TQE as an advisor.
O/U Bet: PATRIOTS vs. Bills go OVER 44.5 (70.5%)
As long as Bill and Tom have been in New England and winning Super Bowls, the Patriots have found their success through exceptional game planning, and it must be said … vindictiveness. They want to get back at the lot of us. When SpyGate happened, 18-0 happened. When DeflateGate happened, Tom won another Super Bowl, and the Patriots also convinced offensive coordinator Josh Daniels to stay in New England instead of being the head coach of Indianapolis (the org that “ratted” them out). Last year, I edited together a Super Bowl pregame piece with Al Michaels and Bob Kraft, and the Patriots owner said something very telling: “Jealously is an incurable disease.” I think that’s the team’s mindset — not unlike a teen music sensation reading the comment section from her latest Instagram post:
EVERYBODY IS JUST JEALOUS. WE’LL SHOW THEM.
And yeah, vindictiveness works in pro sports. Just ask Michael Jordan.
So, I respectfully submit the Pats are going to show us all that their reign in the AFC is not yet over, that Gronk and Brady don’t look slow, that Josh Gordon didn’t actually matter … and as a result the team will splatter the Bills at home and clinch their 10th straight division title. If they don’t, then there are some real problems at Patriot Place.
Bengals (+9.5) beat BROWNS (65.2%)
Cincinnati should give Joe Mixon 35+ touches — in open space and between the tackles — and muscle out a close victory. No way Cleveland is a 9.5-point favorite against anyone.
O/U Bet: Broncos vs. RAIDERS go UNDER 43 (64.4%)
There’s a heaping helping of offensive ugliness going on here. Like most suckers, my inclination is to always take the over (“People like scoring!”), but this one has 14-10 Broncos all over it.
Falcons (-3) beat PANTHERS (63%)
As a producer I’d definitely want Panthers QB Taylor Heinicke to pull a Rocky here and maybe knock down the Falcons early, and then cut away to cameras in his hometown bar somewhere in Suwanee, Georgia, capturing the locals losing their minds over it. It’d be a nice story. But no, I think Atlanta’s Julio Jones has a monster game left in him this season, and this one will be it.
Last week: 1-3