Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We asked for 8-6 last week, so we'll settle for 9-4-1. But if Week 4 was Glass Joe, and Week 5 Piston Hurricane, Week 6 is the Sandman himself. This is a tough slate and we found ourselves taking a lot of ugly picks that don't sit well with me at all. The Packers and Bucs in particular make me uncomfortable, and the Ravens, Jaguars and Seahawks are favorites that normally we'd shy away from. But I'm learning to love the dissonance I feel in my gut as I write up some of these. The pleasing pick, the one that rubs you the right way might be too saccharine - it tastes good initially, but it's not nutritious or fulfilling. It's always a fine balance between trusting your instincts and rejecting your habits, and we'll find out if we walked it this Sunday.
Bengals -3 at Chiefs
Like everyone else, we get the feeling that Cincinnati will bounce back this week and do what it needs to salvage its season. But that's only because we have it in our heads that this isn't a dismal team. How can a team with Carson Palmer and two great receivers be this bad? But that assumption is based on what - their showing in 2005? It's Week 5 in 2007, and to date, Cincy has done nothing to warrant three-point road favorite status against a non-doormat. Moreover, now that KC got crushed by the Jaguars last week, it's time to buy low again. Back the Chiefs.
Chiefs 23 - 20
Texans +6.5 at Jaguars
The Texans swept the Jaguars last year, and Houston's significantly better in 2007, so normally we'd be inclined to take the points here. But we've been riding Jacksonville with success the last couple weeks, and so we're going to hold onto this stock for one more matchup. Six and a half isn't a lot for the home team to part with, and the Texans are still missing their best playmaker in Andre Johnson. Back Jacksonville.
Jaguars 27 - 16
Dolphins +4.5 at Browns
The Dolphins remind me of a joke I overuse at various farmer's markets around L.A whenever I buy lemons. "You're not selling me a lemon, are you?" or "I believe you sold me a lemon last week." Never ceases to crack me up, though it rarely induces more than a smirk from anyone else. In that spirit Cleo Lemon will take over at quarterback for the Dolphins now that Trent Green's brain has swished around in his skull one too many times. It doesn't matter (for our purposes, though it's no doubt of grave concern to the Greens) - this desperate, winless Miami team will do what it takes to stay in the game, just as they did in Houston last week. You know what to do when life gives you lemons. Back the Dolphins who keep it close.
Browns 20 - 17
Vikings +5.5 at Bears
I truly hate the Vikings - what a dumb, senselessly managed franchise. On a Sunday when we were 12-1 two weeks ago, our only loss was with them as a home dog, thanks to their retarded head coach giving the best player on his team just two carries in the second half of that game - this after Adrian Peterson torched Green Bay in the first. Got to get Chester Taylor his touches because he's the starter. Never mind that he's the third best back on the team and would be the fourth if Onterrio Smith didn't drug himself out of the league. That said, we have to back them here, as much as we hate doing it. Chicago's win at Green Bay was beyond fraudulent - the Packers could not have handed them that win any more obviously than if the game were fixed. The Bears defense is nothing special, and the offense is bottom-seven in the league. There's a chance Chicago gets riled up at home and Mark Anderson or Tommie Harris gets a couple sacks. Maybe Brian Urlacher will make a play for the first time this year (and sorry, he doesn't get credit for Brett Favre throwing a pass right into his hands - my rule about credit in the NFL is if I could make the play, you don't deserve it). But more likely this will be a tight game between two teams that will miss the playoffs. Back the Vikings.
Bears 19 - 16
Eagles -3 at Jets
The Eagles are another team that everyone expects to turn it around, and they might. But they've done nothing this year to merit road-favorite status, and the Jets are pretty desperate as well. Expect a close game where you're glad you have the points. Back the Jets.
Eagles 24 - 23
Rams +9.5 at Ravens
What a weird game. The Ravens are probably the most fraudulent consistently favored team in the league, while the Rams are a soft squad with no heart and tons of significant injuries. Normally, we like to back the desperate, winless team against a fraud, but what's stranger still is that the public is all over the Rams on this one. It seems the Ravens are such a sucker play, that even the public sees through it. Which is why we're backing them.
Ravens 24 - 10
Titans +3 at Buccaneers
We love the Titans - they're a nasty bunch led by a rising star at quarterback and one of the league's great underrated coaches. But Tampa Bay has for the most part played well, especially at home, and this line feels like a steering job by the Book - who isn't going to take Tennessee getting the full three? Back the equally well-coached Bucs and their savvy veteran quarterback who does a great job of minimizing mistakes.
Buccaneers 20 - 16
Redskins +3 at Packers
I had wanted to take the Redskins initially, because I was so disgusted with what the Packers did on Sunday night - absolutely handing a game away in the fourth quarter as if a showdown with your divisional rival and defending NFC Champion were a preseason game. Could Nick Barnett, who made a horrendous facemask penalty, or Brett Favre, who handed Brian Urlacher the ball, or Mike McCarthy who just oozes moronity lose focus any more completely? On the other hand, the Packers absolutely outplayed the Bears, and Favre, when he's not forcing John Madden to make excuses for him, has thrown the ball very well this season. So I'm going to put my personal feeling aside and go with Damon here. Sell the Redskins high after their blowout win over the Lions and back the Packers. Even though I hate this pick because I like Jason Campbell and Joe Gibbs and detest McCarthy.
Packers 24 - 20
Panthers +4 at Cardinals
Normally, we love to go ugly, and it doesn't get much uglier than the 43-year old Vinny Testaverde possibly taking over. But this line is only four, and Arizona plays much better at home. Even if Jake Delhomme were healthy, it should probably be three, so the Cardinals are the easy choice here. Which means we should probably take Carolina, but just this once, we're permitting ourselves to do the obvious. Back Arizona.
Cardinals 27 - 20
Patriots -6 at Cowboys
I wanted to back the Pats because the Cowboys are average at best defensively, and I'm not sure how the horrendous game in Buffalo will affect Tony Romo. But as Damon pointed out, that Monday night game made Dallas a buy-low here, and as good as the Pats are, this line is incredibly disrespectful to the Cowboys - six point dogs at 5-0 on their home turf? Back Dallas who will be up for this one and keep it close enough.
Patriots 31 - 30
Raiders +10 at Chargers
Maybe the Chargers have finally woken up with the savage beating they put on Denver at Invesco Field, but it's just one game, so who knows. Oakland's been pretty solid all year, and the Chargers need to do it more than once to re-earn 10-point favorite status. Sell high here off the Denver win and back the Raiders.
Chargers 27 - 23
Saints +6.5 at Seahawks
Normally we almost reflexively take the dog in games like this where the favorite is so unimpressive, and the dog is desperate, but Seattle's a different team at home, and six and a half really isn't much for a home favorite. Back Seattle.
Seahawks 23 - 16
Giants -3.5 at Falcons
The Giants are playing well defensively of late - two of the Jets scores last week came on defense and special teams - and the Falcons could be in trouble now that they've lost both of their starting tackles to injuries. Undrafted rookie Renardo Foster and undrafted second-year man Tyson Clabo will be charged with blocking Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan. Still, Atlanta's defense has been playing well, and they're getting more than a field goal as a Monday Night home dog. Back the Falcons who somehow get it done.
Giants 20- 17
We went 9-4-1 against the spread in Week 5 to go 42-28-6 on the season. We were 139-108-9 last season. From 1999-2006, we were 1057-898 - not including ties - (54.1 percent).
Article first appeared 10/10/07