When picking winners in an office pool, I'd guess that most people start with the point spreads, or at least look at the records of each opponent, when making their predictions. Most people have some sort of baseline even if it's not Sagarin, DVOA, or the regression-based predictions on this site.
So I thought it would be interesting to look at the spreads, and how often they're correct in identifying winners. If someone needs to correctly pick a few upsets to win a pool, it might be good to know that some weeks are less predictable than others. You'd ideally want to pick upsets in weeks where the spread is less accurate.
In this installment I'll look at how well the spread does in picking winners by week. My theory was that the spread would be relatively less accurate in the early weeks of the the season when there is less information about team performance. There may also be a high degree of bias towards teams expected to be strong in the pre-season. Week 17 may be inaccurate too, due to the uncertainty of some playoff-bound teams resting their better players. Additionally, late season weather may also contribute to higher uncertainty and less predictability.
Using point spread data from the 2002-2007 seasons obtained here, I analyzed how often the spread was correct. Overall, the point spread favorites win 66.2% of the time. Weekly accuracy ranges from 59.0% in weeks 4 and 9 to 72.6% in week 12. The graph and table below list the weekly averages.
Although there appears to be substantial differences between some weeks, they are most likely random. The only statistically significant difference between any one week and the season average of 66.2% was week 12 with p=0.04. However, there are 17 weeks, so we should not be surprised to see a week or even two appear significant when there really is no systematic connection (a type I error).
The bottom line here is that no week can be viewed as particularly favorable for picking upsets. If you're behind in your office pool toward the end of the season and need to pick some upsets to make up ground, one week is as good as any other to start getting aggressive.
Next, I'll look at point spreads from a different angle and see how accurate they are at picking winners by the size of the spread. I'll also break it down into two types of games, home-underdogs and home-favorites, to see if there are any inefficiencies in how the spread accounts for home field advantage.