Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
What can I say, it was another awful week, the worst we've had all year. We knew the slate was bad news, but we also got a bit too fine with trying to sniff out the double-contrarian opposite-shade, read-between-the-lines play. We let ourselves get twisted around to the point where we tried to do the opposite of what we thought, but then we weren't sure if that opposite-thinking hadn't already been pre-factored into our original thoughts. It was like someone you know is a liar admitting that he's a liar - suddenly he's telling the truth which means he's lying which means he's telling the truth. You could go back and forth on that forever, and that's kind of how we felt about most of the games.
But this week is a little cleaner. We especially like the Colts - thank God our best bet is in a game that means something rather than garbage like the Jets-Bills that we convinced ourselves we had psychic insight about. We also like the Eagles at home getting points against Dallas. It just feels right to back a well-coached underachieving home dog playing its division rival on national TV.
Panthers +4 at Titans
The Panthers have struggled on offense since Jake Delhomme went down, but Tennessee plays better as a dog than a favorite, given their affinity for smashmouth football which tends to keep games close. Back the Panthers who lose but cover.
Titans 19 - 16
Bengals -1 at Bills
Cincy's got the big-name stars, but they've won just two games all year - a Week 1 home tilt over the Ravens, thanks to a phantom offensive pass interference on Todd Heap in the end zone, and another home contest against the Jets. So we're not buying them as a slight road favorite over a Bills team that's won two games in a row and has the better defense and running game. Back Buffalo.
Bills 24 - 23
Broncos +3 at Lions
The Broncos played okay on Monday night, and Jay Cutler's game-tying drive in the closing seconds shows he's maturing as a quarterback. But Denver can't stop the run at all, and its vaunted pass defense is slipping with Champ Bailey banged up and Dre Bly not quite living up to his reputation. The Lions are tougher at home, and their road win over the Bears last week makes us want to take them a little bit seriously at least. Denver's the contrarian play, but we're backing Detroit at home.
Lions 26 - 20
Packers +1.5 at Chiefs
Notwithstanding the public rim job given to Brett Favre and his wife on national television Monday night - truly it was beyond pornographic, unsuitable even for adults - Favre is having a Pro Bowl-level season, and the Packers deserve credit for winning on the road in places like New York and Denver. But going into Kansas City is always tough, and the Chiefs are playing well enough defensively to hold their ground here. Back the Chiefs who win a close one.
Chiefs 20 - 17
Jaguars +3 at Saints
We decided on Jacksonville when the line was three and a half, but by the time I went to write up the column it had slipped down to three. New Orleans is playing well of late, but Jacksonville's smash mouth style keeps them in the game against everyone but the Colts. In the end, we expect a close game and like the field goal, even though that extra half made it a lot more appealing. Back Jacksonville.
Saints 20 - 19
Chargers -7 at Vikings
Lot of favorites won last week, and the bookies no doubt got hammered. We expect the public to be all over San Diego here, but the smart money's got to be on the Vikings getting a touchdown in the dome. Back Minnesota.
Chargers 27 - 23
49ers +3 at Falcons
It's not entirely fair that a game this meaningless will go on our permanent record, but it is what it is, and we're backing Atlanta at home. As bad as they've played, the Niners have played worse. And at this point, Joey Harrington, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins and the rest of that passing offense look like the '98 Vikings compared to San Francisco. It would be one thing if the 49ers could run the ball, but Frank Gore's banged up and hadn't been effective even when healthy. Back Atlanta who wins at home.
Falcons 19 - 13
Redskins -3.5 at Jets
It's too bad these two teams are playing each other, because both are ones we'd like to back this week. The Redskins just lost by 45, so we'd expect them to be a good value, but that's just not possible against the Jets, whose doormat credentials at this point are unimpeachable. Look for Kellen Clemens to give New York a shot in the arm. Back the Jets who keep it close and possibly win outright.
Jets 23 - 20
Cardinals +3.5 at Buccaneers
We went back and forth on this, but never decided. Both of us had a mild "Tampa-at-home" feeling, but we could also see this game as one that would come down to the wire in the fourth quarter, in which case, it would be awfully nice to have the field-goal plus. In the end, I think the Cardinals are the right play - there's no real reason to think Tampa will blow them out (other than Kurt Warner getting hurt or fumbling a few times), but you can't bank on that. Back the Cardinals.
Buccaneers 24 - 23
Seahawks +1 at Browns
What have the Seahawks done to impress anyone this year? Any time they've played anyone good (Pittsburgh, New Orleans), they've gotten worked, and they don't play particularly well on the road. The Browns can't stop anyone, but they can certainly shoot it out. Matt Hasselbeck's best two receivers, D.J. Hackett and Deion Branch, are just getting back from injuries this week, and we don't think Seattle will be able to keep up. Back the Browns.
Browns 24 - 20
Texans +3 at Raiders
Last year when these two teams played, I wanted the Raiders, Damon wanted the Texans, we went with the Raiders, and Houston covered. This year, Damon wanted the points and the Texans, I wanted the Raiders, and I talked him into going back to the well. In the end, neither of us really know how this is going to turn out, but we think Oakland's aggressive defense should be able to make some plays at home against Sage Rosenfels and a banged up Houston offense. (Of course, Daunte Culpepper will probably turn it over five or six times, and it'll be Houston's D making the plays). But we're sticking by Oakland.
Raiders 27 - 20
Patriots -5.5. at Colts
Every week we go against the Patriots, and every week we get burned, but so have the bookies. Actually, they've gotten it even worse because we imagine every jackass with an account is doubling, tripling and quadrupling his bets on the Pats each week. So it's only a matter of time before the Book sets a line so absurd that all the blind-faith New England money comes back to it. This is that line.
Think about it - the Colts are the defending Super Bowl champs, they're undefeated, and they're blowing out teams with winning records like Carolina and Jacksonville on the road. That they would be getting this many points at home against anyone is insane. If you figure three points for home field advantage, that means this line would be 11.5 in New England. Can you imagine an 8-0 team coming off a Super Bowl win and looking better than ever getting 11.5? That's what this line is. Total madness. That doesn't mean the Pats can't cover - they could. But the odds are against it. Back the Colts.
Colts 30 - 27
Cowboys -3 at Eagles
We think the Cowboys are a bit overrated - after all, they should have lost to the Bills a few weeks back, and they've been blessed with a pretty easy schedule that included two 0-8 teams (Dolphins, Rams), the Vikings at home, the Bills and the Bears. The two tough games they had were at home - Week 1 against a Giants team with injuries and a confused defense (and Dallas still gave up 35 points) and a loss to the Patriots. As such, we don't like them laying points on the road against a desperate Philly team. Back the Eagles who win outright.
Eagles 27 - 23
Ravens +9.5 at Steelers
We're backing the Steelers in survivor so we hope they cover and don't make us sweat it out. But Pittsburgh still doesn't throw the ball enough, and if they try to slug it out on the ground against a stout Ravens front, this game will stay close. Back the Ravens who cover but (hopefully) lose.
Steelers 21 - 17
We went 3-10 against the spread in Week 8 to go 54-54-8 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 11/1/07