Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 10-5-1 last week which is what we needed to do, our monstrously wrong Patriots call notwithstanding. We even won with two road favorites - the Giants and Rams - something we usually avoid like the plague, but we had hunches, even though I later denounced the Rams one in the intro only to defend it half-heartedly in the comments. It goes to show that you need to be flexible. Going with underdogs and against the public is the right strategy overall, but if you went all dogs, or all against the public (which is almost the same thing), you'd probably be better than 50 percent, but not good enough to beat the vig. So you have to mix it up. This week we have 11 dogs and five favorites which is about how we like it.
THANKSGIVING DAY GAMES
Packers -3.5 at Lions
The Packers have been covering lines like this in places like Kansas City and Denver, but on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit and laying more than a field goal, we like the Lions to stay with them. Back Detroit.
Lions 27 - 23
Jets +14 at Cowboys
The Jets shocked Pittsburgh in the Meadowlands last week, generating seven sacks after switching up their defense. It'll get harder on the road against Dallas Thursday, but two touchdowns should be enough, as long as the Jets keep a closer eye on Terrell Owens than the Redskins did. Back New York.
Cowboys 27 - 16
Colts -12 at Falcons
The Colts might prove us wrong, but a team that banged up and going on the road shouldn't be laying 12 points against anyone. It won't be as close as the Chiefs game, but Atlanta should cover.
Colts 24 - 13
Bills +7.5 at Jaguars
The Jaguars are great as a dog because they physically beat up opponents and keep the game ugly and close. But for that same reason, they're not so great as anything more than a small favorite, and Buffalo's no doormat, last week's annihilation notwithstanding. Back the Bills.
Jaguars 20 - 17
Texans +3.5 at Browns
The Browns are a feel-good story, and I'm not immune - hell, I own Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow in my biggest money league. But the Texans with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson healthy are also a legitimate team, and we like getting more than a field goal in a close game. Back Houston.
Texans 27 - 24
Vikings +7.5 at Giants
The Vikings feel like the right play here. Maybe it's because they run the ball and stop the run so well, and that counters the Giants' strengths. Until Plaxico Burress can get back to being a downfield playmaker, the Giants are going to have a hard time pulling away from anyone. Back the Vikings who keep it close.
Giants 19 - 13
Saints -3 at Panthers
The Panthers are about as ugly as it gets right now, but the Saints, after winning four in a row, have lost decisively to the Rams and Texans and can't stop the pass at all. In this case, we'd rather take the home field advantage and the points. Back the Panthers who could have Steve Smith back.
Panthers 24 - 23
Raiders +5.5 at Chiefs
This was another hunch play - the Chiefs play good defense, and the Raiders seem to be playing out the string, now that coach Lane Kiffin announced that he has no intention of using JaMarcus Russell this year. While Russell would probably be worse than Daunte Culpepper in the short run, that Kiffin isn't moving the franchise toward its ultimate goal because he's worried Russell might take a few hits seems defeatist. Back Kansas City.
Chiefs 21 - 10
Seahawks -3 at Rams
Normally we like the home dogs, but it's time to sell the Rams after their face-saving two-game winning streak. The Rams struggled terribly against the 49ers in pass protection, and Seattle's second in the league behind the Giants in sacks. Plus we like the new Shaun-Alexander-less Seahawks offense. Back Seattle.
Seahawks 26 - 20
Titans -1 at Bengals
The Titans are probably the sucker play - another road favorite, albeit a slight one. But we like what we saw from Vince Young in Denver, and Cincinnati was just soundly beaten at home by Arizona last week. Back the Titans who might even get Albert Haynesworth back.
Titans 24 - 20
Redskins +3 at Buccaneers
This is the right line between two decent but unspectacular teams. We expect this game to be close, in which case we'll be glad we took the points. Back Washington.
Buccaneers 21 - 20
49ers +10.5 at Cardinals
The Niners are the league's worst team right now, and the Cardinals, who won in Cincinnati last week, play better at home. Even so, we expect San Francisco to play hard out of desperation, and in any event, this is a lot of points for a middling team to part with against anyone. Back the 49ers.
Cardinals 20 - 10
Broncos +1.5 at Bears
The Broncos are playing well, and Jay Cutler is getting better as the season goes along, but we're going to do something odd here and take the Bears because this line makes no sense. Sure the Bears put up a good fight in Seattle, and Rex Grossman is playing a little better, but honestly we'd expect this game to be a pick or the Broncos to be mildly favored. It feels like we being steered to Denver, and we'll resist. Back Chicago.
Bears 19 - 16
Ravens +9.5 at Chargers
This is too obvious, so it makes us a little nervous, but the Chargers are terrible and should absolutely not be laying nine and a half against anyone. The Ravens might be even worse, but they can still stop the run, and Philip Rivers hasn't been able to win games with his arm this season. Back the Ravens who keep it close.
Chargers 20 - 16
Eagles +22 at Patriots
If we were Vegas, we'd have set this line at 28 or even 30 in an effort to split the action 50/50, because you know, even at 22, everyone's going to be on the Pats. And, of course, the Pats could win by more than 22, so the bookies are exposing themselves to a ton of risk. If the line were 28, then even if the Pats rolled, enough people would have the Eagles to balance it out. Maybe I'm wrong, and 22 will drive enough people to Philly, but I don't think it will. In which case, the book knows that, too. In which case, the book wants people to bet the Pats. They have millions of dollars riding on this, so I'm going to trust them. Of course, it's possible they haven't caught on yet to the magnitude of the Pats' greatness, but I doubt it. Just because the Pats are winning in some blowouts doesn't mean the line wasn't right - there are blowouts around the league every week for a number of reasons, and there was no way the line could reflect that margin in advance. In any event, we're backing Philly.
Patriots 33 - 13
Dolphins +16 at Steelers
I talked Damon into taking the Steelers here, and now I'm having cold feet. Sixteen is a lot of points for a team other than the Pats. I suppose it's because the Dolphins are sending rookie John Beck into a very hostile environment for his second start, and after losing to the Jets last week, the Steelers won't take even the winless Dolphins lightly. Back Pittsburgh who's been very strong at home this year.
Steelers 31 - 13
We went 10-5-1 against the spread in Week 11 to go 79-72-9 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 11/21/07