Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Last week we went 5-9, which I don't have to explain is bad, but there were some bright spots. Some of the losses were on games we didn't have a big lean on one way or the other like DAL-MIN, SEA-STL or SD-OAK. We have to pick all of them, but some are more of a coin flip. And our best bet (Denver) and one of the other games we felt strongly on (Detroit) came through.
This week is just a brutal slate, and to be honest, we're a little lost. CLE-STL - had to take the Rams, but they're really bad. IND-CAR - had to take Carolina, but it's probably wrong. Just have to take the contrarian team there. Backing the jetlagged Giants in another country laying 9.5 is probably dumb, and I hate our Raiders and Vikings picks. Had trouble justifying them in the writeup. But we agreed on these, and we have to keep the faith in our method. For what it's worth, we like the Jets, Bears and Bengals in particular, though that's just because there's not a lot to choose from.
Browns -3 at Rams
We really should stay away from the Rams - after all they got drilled by both Baltimore and Seattle the last two weeks, and those are not particularly good teams. But we're pretty sure everyone feels that way, and at least the Rams are at home this week, and they're getting points, to boot. Back St. Louis who plays hard in a winnable game.
Rams 30 - 27
Lions +5 at Bears
The Lions handled Tampa Bay at home last week, but they've really struggled on the road, getting annihilated by the Eagles and Redskins over the last few weeks. The Bears have actually played better on the road, but we think they'll take care of business at Soldier Field this week. Jon Kitna's been sacked a league-leading 28 times, and we expect the Bears to add to that total and make some big plays off their pressure. Back Chicago who wins fairly easily.
Bears 27 - 17
Colts -6.5 at Panthers
This is a tough one because we really can't see why the line's not nine or 10. The Colts just went into Jacksonville, a much better team than the Panthers, and blew them out by 22. In other words, the Book is begging us to take Indy, and, even though we can't see it, we're going to resist. Back the Panthers.
Colts 24 - 20
Dolphins +9.5 vs. Giants
If it's impossible to imagine the Panthers playing a close game with the Colts, it's almost inconceivable to imagine the Dolphins, who are now missing Trent Green, Ronnie Brown and Chris Chambers (and reportedly Zach Thomas might also miss the game with a concussion), staying within range against the Giants. And to make matters worse, both teams have to fly to England, deal with the distraction of being out of their normal routines, (not to mention jet lag) and perform under the international spotlight. It's a tough game to handicap either way, but we'd expect the Giants to have an easier time keeping their focus, since they're not trying to break in new players, and the game's actually important to their season. Back New York.
Giants 27 - 16
Raiders +7.5 at Titans
Tennessee's a tough team, but the Raiders won't mind slugging it out with them on the ground. Of course, Oakland allows more than five yards a carry, but usually you don't pull away with the running game. As long as Daunte Culpepper doesn't have a disastrous turnover day, we think Oakland can keep it close. Back the Raiders.
Titans 20 - 16
Eagles -1 at Vikings
I wanted to take the Eagles for the same reason I imagine most people will take them: Because they're the Eagles, and they have Andy Reid and Jim Johnson coaching the team, Donovan McNabb at quarterback and Brian Westbrook at running back. This is a perennially good team that's well-coached and should be able to win a desperation game against Chester Taylor-loving Brad Childress and a Vikings team that can't pass or stop the pass to save its life. But maybe the Eagles are on the way down. It happens every year - some team that you thought would be good gets off ot a slow start and doesn't bounce back. We're going against the grain and taking the Vikings.
Vikings 21 - 20
Steelers -3.5 at Bengals
Pittsburgh should have no trouble running on Cincy this week, but unless Willie Parker breaks a couple 60-yarders, we don't see them pulling away on the road against a potent offensive team. Take the Bengals at home with the field-goal-plus.
Steelers 23 - 20
Bills +3 at Jets
The Bills have played better than the Jets so far this season, but New York is a desperate team, and this is a winnable game at home for them. Expect the Jets offense to move the ball reliably, while Buffalo struggles a bit on the road with its rookie quarterback. Back New York.
Jets 27 - 20
Texans +11.5 at Chargers
We did well going against the Chargers early on, but after a couple big wins, we're convinced that they're at least related to last season's juggernaut. Houston is banged up (Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are iffy), so San Diego should pull away even if the game is in Arizona or elsewhere due to the wildfires in Southern California. Back the Chargers who roll.
Chargers 34 - 17
Jaguars +3.5 at Buccaneers
We know Quinn Gray's starting at quarterback, but he'll have a full week of reps with the first team, and in any event, the Jaguars will probably keep it on the ground and get the ball into Maurice Jones-Drew's hands more - apparently his knee sprain is minor, and he'll play. Back Jacksonville.
Buccaneers 21 - 20
Saints -2.5 at 49ers
The Saints have turned it around of late, but they had plenty of trouble with the Falcons at home, so we're not quite ready to back them as road favorites. Plus the Niners might get Alex Smith back, which would be a modest upgrade at the quarterback position. Back San Francisco.
49ers 24 - 23
Redskins +16.5 at Patriots
We've been taking our lumps at the hands of the Pats, but we've got to stick to our guns and trust that the correction is coming soon. Washington's actually a decent team, and they're getting more than two TDs. Of course, the Redskins' offensive line is a mess, and that worries us some. Still, the Book isn't giving it away, and we're going to sell the Pats at their peak here. (If they blow out the Colts in Week 9, well then maybe there will be a new peak).
Patriots 27 - 17
Packers +3 at Broncos
We're not in love with Denver, but they were able to handle Pittsburgh at home on national TV last week, and they should do the same to Green Bay. Expect Brett Favre to throw a couple picks to that secondary as Denver pulls away late. Back the Broncos.
Broncos 27 - 20
We went 5-9 against the spread in Week 7 to go 51-44-8 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 10/24/07