Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
What an odd week. We were 2-8 through the morning games, and it looked like a disaster, but then we won all four of the afternoon ones, and both the Sunday and Monday night contests to go 8-8. So we're on a roll of sorts, but it's not really true since we picked all 16 games at the same time. But it feels like one, and maybe that's enough. The Ravens cover was particularly satisfying, and all the people who questioned our sanity for going against the Pats the last four weeks probably wish they quit while they were ahead - though few have the discipline to get out when a stock is peaking. This week, I hate our Ravens, Chiefs, Rams and Packers picks, so we'll probably go 2-2 on those. I particularly like the Titans, Dolphins, Niners, Falcons, Lions and Patriots, so we'll probably go 3-3 on those. I'm also starting to like the Redskins pick, which is ridiculous considering how we arrived at it - see below.
Bears +3 at Redskins
The Thursday night games just kill us. Not only do we have to get the article written on shorter notice, but we tend to lose miserably on Thursday for God knows what reason. We lost all three Thanksgiving Day games, and last week's Packers game. We did the same thing last year, too, and I'm sick of starting off the weekend 0-1. It just pisses us off after awhile to have the handicap every single week. So we resolved to win this one, but unfortunately, I liked the Redskins, and Damon liked the Bears. And neither of us felt that strongly. So we intended strongly to pick a winner and flipped a coin. Heads for Redskins, tails for Bears. It came up heads. Then it didn't sit right. "Screw the coin," I told Damon. "It doesn't mean anything." He says, "Now we're really screwed." So I said, to hell with it, we'll take the Redskins - I liked them from the beginning when I first looked at the line. They're a bit more organized than Chicago which relies on special teams and occasional flashes of brilliance from Rex Grossman in a midnight of ineptitude. Then we checked the betting trends: 70 percent had Chicago. That sealed it. Washington it is. (We refuse to permit another Thursday loss, so this is a lock).
Redskins 24 - 20
Panthers +10.5 at Jaguars
When I went down the list initially on Monday night, I thought "Jaguars." Maybe it's because Carolina's coming off a meaningless win over the 49ers, and maybe it's because Jacksonville should be hard on the immobile Vinny Testaverde. Usually I'll take the dog with a big line, facing an unexceptional passing game, but Damon agreed here, so we're backing the Jaguars.
Jaguars 27 - 13
Cowboys -11 at Lions
This is one of those games where you have to take the home dog. Everyone's on the Cowboys, and no, the Book's not giving it away. If Dallas blows them out, fine with me. But if I had Dallas, and Detroit covered - it's defenestration and refenestration - 10 times each. Not sure I could survive it, so we're backing the Lions.
Cowboys 31 - 23
Dolphins +7 at Bills
The Dolphins are the right play here - coming off a blowout loss to the Jets, and the Bills winning in Washington - all the money's going to be on Buffalo. But Miami played them tough the first time around, and John Beck should be getting a lot better with each successive start. Back Miami.
Bills 19 - 13
Giants +3 at Eagles
This line seems to be steering people to the Giants - I mean they annihilated Philly the first time around, and they're 8-4, while the Eagles are 5-7. But actually a slim majority's backing Philly, possibly off the great showing in New England, and possibly because Donovan McNabb is likely to play. I was leaning Philly, but Damon likes the Giants, and I'll roll with that - there's value here. Back the Giants.
Giants 20 - 19
Raiders +10.5 at Packers
Brett Favre should be back, and we expect him to play more intelligently than he did last week against the Cowboys when he bombed the ball down the field every play whether or not his receivers were open. If that happens, and the Packers defense plays its usual game, they should be able to cover this number at home. Back Green Bay.
Packers 26 - 13
Chargers pick 'em at Titans
Albert Haynesworth's back, and that makes a big difference, especially against a run-heavy team like the Chargers. Also, Vince Young's been throwing the ball better of late and seems to have found a consistent target in Justin Gage. People are back on the Chargers bandwagon after they've pulled off a couple decisive wins, but we're not buying it yet. Back the Titans who win at home.
Titans 24 - 16
Rams +7 at Bengals
Marc Bulger's uncertain status puts this line in doubt, but we saw it at seven, and that sounds close enough. With Gus Frerotte also out, we might be looking at Brock Berlin or Todd Bouman, and we're stuck with it either way. Back the Rams who are playing serviceable football of late and should hang with Cincinnati.
Bengals 27 - 23
Buccaneers -3 at Texans
There's no official line with Jeff Garcia's status in doubt, but we saw minus-3 somewhere, so we're rolling with it. As such, we'll back the Texans - Sage Rosenfels is competent, and it's hard to win on the road in the NFL.
Texans 23 - 16
Cardinals +7 at Seahawks
For some reason, Damon had a Seahawks feeling. I was undecided and probably would have taken the points, but the Seahawks are tougher at home, and Arizona is considerably worse on the road, so I'm going to roll with it. Back the Seahawks.
Seahawks 28 - 20
Vikings -8.5 at 49ers
No one wants to back the Niners, but they're at home, and let's not kid ourselves about the Vikings who aren't good at passing or stopping the pass. Of course, their pass rush has been better of late, and Tarvaris Jackson is improving, but not so much that they should be laying this many points on the road. Back San Francisco who keeps it close.
Vikings 20 - 16
Steelers +10.5 at Patriots
We've been going against the Patriots all year, and until the last few weeks, had been taking a pretty severe beating. We knew the bookies would get some of that mindless money back - every bubble has to burst at some point. But after two close calls against mediocre teams, the Patriots still opened this week as 13-point favorites over the very solid Pittsburgh Steelers. Of all the madness - including a 20.5-point line on the road - this had to be the most insane. And even the Pats-worshipping public was on to it as 92 percent of the money went on Pittsburgh. After all, if the Pats can barely beat Philly at home, surely Pittsburgh's going to stay in the game against them. As a result, the line quickly dropped to 10.5 - (and probably someone in Vegas was fired, if not killed). And crazy as it sounds, we're going to lay it. The worry here is that the Pats are tight, but I think playing one of the top teams in the league will actually be a good thing for them - a chance to re-establish themselves after losing standing in the public eye. After New England blows out Pittsburgh, it'll be time to take the Jets plus-30 - and with the money line - in Week 15.
Patriots 33 - 17
Browns -3.5 at Jets
The feel-good story got derailed last week, though it wouldn't have if the refs had gotten the Kellen Winslow-force-out call right at the end of the game. Still, the Browns strike us as a team that plays well in spurts and doesn't pull away from a lot of teams. As such we like the Jets at home getting more than a field goal. Back New York.
Browns 23 - 20
Chiefs +7 at Broncos
The Chiefs have been dreadful of late, while the Broncos are harder to figure with all their offensive weapons and big names in the secondary. We're going to plead ignorance here and bank on the Chiefs' desperation to play a decent game and the Broncos' inability to play consistently on either side of the ball. Back Kansas City
Broncos 23 - 17
Colts -9.5 at Ravens
Damon and I almost reflexively picked the Ravens as a large home dog, but it would be contrarian in a way to take the Colts a week after New England had problems in Baltimore. In fact, a small majority of the public's backing the Ravens. Still, I'm not going to switch any more picks - we agreed on the Ravens, and home dogs are usually the right call. Back Baltimore.
Colts 21 - 17
Saints -4.5 at Falcons
The 5-7 Saints are probably the better team, but we can't in good conscience lay more than a field goal on the road with them in front of a national audience. Back the Falcons who keep it close and possibly win outright.
Falcons 27 - 24
We went 8-8 against the spread in Week 13 to go 92-91-9 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 12/5/07