Sunday, February 04, 2007

Levitt: the Super Bowl betting line is wrong

I think Steven Levitt is joking with us.

In this
blog post, Levitt argues that the Super Bowl oddsmakers have it wrong. Indianapolis was favored by 6.5 points. Levitt wonders why that could be, considering the Bears defeated their opponents by a much higher margin than the Colts did theirs:

"A good rule of thumb during the regular season is the spread is equal to half of the gap between the two teams point differentials in games so far, adjusted for the home field advantage. During the regular season, Indianapolis outscored its opponents by 67 points. Chicago outscored its opponents by 172 points. During the playoffs both teams outscored their opponents by 28 points (Indy in 3 games, Chicago in 2 games). By this usually reliable rule of thumb, Chicago should be favored by 2 or 3 points ...

"So I’ve got my money on the Bears ..."

It’s unusual for an economist to discount the opinion of a market, even in the best of times with the best of analysis. To casually dismiss the market’s opinion based on such a simple rule of thumb, without even trying to figure out what other factors are being taken into account – quality of opposition, and so forth – would be virtually unheard of.

So I suspect Levitt is just having a little fun with us here.

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At Friday, February 09, 2007 9:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember, the odds are set based on how "they" expect the betting to go, not on which team is expected to win. That is, oddsmakers are trying to set the line to get the same money on both sides of the bet...they want the losers to pay the winners in a sense, they don't want to have to pay anyone. In this case, the Colts were a heavy fan favorite which flipped the "real" odds to their favor. Levitt is right that the Bears should have been favored to win, but he is wrong that the "odds" were wrong.

At Monday, February 12, 2007 8:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm a big levitt fan, but unfortuantely, levitt isn't just having fun with us here. levitt often makes such mistakes when discussing sports, one example would be his posts on moneyball/beane/the a's. readers will write 50 comments correcting him, and finally he'll admit he doesn't know much about sports. he's a good guy, though, and very smart. and he's not the only one who was thinking like this, many baseball statheads made similar arguments (for example, on baseball prospectus).


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