Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 5-11, undoing our 10-5-1 showing from Week 11, and dropping us to just one game over .500 with five weeks to go. But seeing the Patriots almost lose outright as 22-point favorites nearly made up for it. Not just because we went against them, but because it reminded us that this is the same old NFL where any given Sunday something shocking can happen. Actually, it was silly to think that the Patriots would have an easy time covering in the second half of the season because the lines get tougher as they keep winning and the public keeps backing them. And for all those people who think - "9-2 vs. the spread, how can you go against them?" - it's worth remembering what Bertrand Russell said about inductive reasoning: it's like a man who jumps off the Empire State Building, counting the windows as he falls. When he gets to 80, he says, "So far, so good." Only in this case, the Book has tied cement blocks to your feet.
Packers +6.5 at Cowboys
The Packers have been playing great football all year, and while Dallas might in fact be the better team, I don't see how six and a half wouldn't be enough. In other words, how many points could Green Bay possibly expect to get at 10-1? We're going to keep it simple and back the Pack.
Cowboys 27 - 23
Falcons +4.5 at Rams
This line is off the board in some places due to Marc Bulger's concussion, so it could change abruptly if Bulger can't go. In an event, we like Atlanta getting points against a team they can certainly play with. Back the Falcons.
Falcons 24 - 23
Bills +5.5 at Redskins
After the death of Sean Taylor, it's hard to know what to make of this game. Are the Redskins going to be so grief striken that they can't focus in practice or during the game? Or will they be inspired and put a beat-down on the Bills? We have no idea, but I told Damon I liked the Skins at home, and we'll stick with it.
Redskins 24 - 17
Lions +3.5 at Vikings
We went back and forth on this when the line was three, and Damon had a Vikings feeling. But at three and a half, I doubt we would have debated it quite so much - Minnesota seems to be on a roll, but they can't stop the pass, and Detroit can go down the field. Back the Lions.
Vikings 27 - 24
Texans +3.5 at Titans
The Titans might get Albert Haynesworth back, but we'd be surprised if he were 100 percent. Without him, the Titans' defense is nothing special, and the offense isn't efficient passing or running the ball. Houston's got more weapons with a healthy Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub. Back the Texans.
Titans 20 - 17
Jaguars +7 at Colts
I'm sorely tempted to switch this one because I have a strong Colts feeling, but we agreed on Jacksonville, and I'll keep it because Dwight Freeney isn't playing this time around. Back the Jaguars who keep it close.
Colts 20 - 19
Jets +1 at Dolphins
The question is whether you want to back the Jets getting less than three on the road, or the winless Dolphins as a favorite. We took the lesser of two evils, we think. Back the Jets who get better quarterback play from Kellen Clemens.
Jets 27 - 17
Chargers -5.5. at Chiefs
The Chargers beat up on the toothless Ravens last week, but we're not sold on them as a road favorite just yet - especially with a division rivalry and in a venue they haven't played well at in recent seasons. Back the Chiefs.
Chargers 19 - 17
Seahawks +3 at Eagles
Damon and I agreed on the Eagles, even though it's probably the sucker pick coming off the great showing Sunday night. Still, we don't like Seattle as much on the road, and the Eagles are fighting for their playoff lives. Back Philly.
Eagles 24 - 20
49ers +3 at Panthers
In a game between arguably the league's two worst teams, how can you not take the points? Back the 49ers who win outright.
49ers 16 - 14
Browns +1 at Cardinals
The Browns are one of the great stories of the NFL this year, while Arizona just lost at home to the 49ers. But that's what makes the Cardinals a good buy-low and the Browns a good sell-high. Back Arizona who shreds Cleveland's pass defense down the field.
Cardinals 27 - 20
Broncos -3.5 at Raiders
We really like the Broncos passing offense with Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley and now Javon Walker running routes for an improving Jay Cutler, but it's always tough to lay more than a field goal on the road against a division rival. Back the Raiders who keep it close.
Broncos 23 - 20
Buccaneers +3 at Saints
Obviously, this line will move if Jeff Garcia's unable to play, but the Bucs defense is playing well, and New Orleans is so Jekyll and Hyde that we're going to roll the dice and take the points. Back the Bucs.
Saints 19 - 17
Giants -1.5 at Bears
I was tempted to take the Bears, but Damon had a Giants feeling, and being a Giants fan, I wasn't going to argue him out of it. (Damon is a Dolphins fan, incidentally). The Bears pulled off a miracle last week, but as along as the Giants can limit Devin Hester, they should win this game. Back New York.
Giants 22 - 20
Bengals +7 at Steelers
We'll have to see what condition Heinz Field's in this week - laying 16 against Miami felt like laying 500 Monday night. Assuming it's not a slushy muddy slop, we like the Steelers to exploit Cincinnati's weak secondary down the field. Back Pittsburgh.
Steelers 26 - 17
Patriots -20.5 at Ravens
This is a great test of betting styles. The Patriots are 9-2 against the spread so far this year, while the Ravens are 1-10. Of course, beating the spread isn't like clearing a certain bar - the more you beat the spread, the higher the bar goes. And the more you fail to cover, the lower it drops. And that expains why Baltimore's getting more than 20 at home. Talk about a Monday night home dog! Back the Ravens.
Patriots 19 - 13
We went 5-11 against the spread in Week 12 to go 84-83-9 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 11/28/07