Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 8-8 last week, and we should probably be happy about it because we picked just five favorites, and overdogs went 12-3 (there was one pick 'em). When favorites come in en masse, the public wins big, and beating the book seems easy - you just pick the "good" teams, and you're all set. Of course, that doesn't help us because we're usually doing the exact opposite of the public, and we usually win big when the bookies do. So what do we do now when the bookies are having a tough stretch and haven't seemed to fully adjust to the league's disparity? We double-down on more underdogs. The correction is coming - whether it's this season or next - the bubble has to burst, and the public will give its winnings and then some back eventually. We could try to "time the market" and guess when it'll happen, but we honestly don't know, and we're not even sure it's knowable.
Broncos pick 'em at Texans
We expect most people to back Denver, but Houston strikes us as the savvier play - they're at home, have a competent backup quarterback in Sage Rosenfels and some rising young stars on defense. Back the Texans.
Texans 27 - 24
Bengals -8.5 at 49ers
The Niners are abysmal, but we can't see laying big points with Cincy on the road. Not only should San Francisco be able to move the ball on the Bengals, but even Cincy's offense hasn't been operating on all cylinders. Back the Niners who win outright.
49ers 24 - 21
Cardinals +3.5 at Saints
We've had trouble reading the Saints this year - one week they're killing the Seahawks in Seattle and another they're losing to the Rams at home. At this point, we feel their unreliable stock is on the uptick, and it's time to sell - especially against a Kurt Warner-led team that can exploit their weak pass defense. Back the Cardinals.
Saints 23 - 20
Falcons +12.5 at Buccaneers
It's hilarious that Bobby Petrino quit less than 24 hours after Falcons owners Arthur Blank publicly supported him on Monday Night Football, and this line went up as a result. But that makes us like the Falcons even more - suddenly they have a reason to care - to show up the asshole coach who quit on them. Back Atlanta.
Buccaneers 20 - 16
Ravens -3.5 at Dolphins
I was all set to take the Dolphins, but two developments disturb me: (1) That a Vegas Oddsmaker was going to install the Ravens as six-point favorites and only knocked this line down to 3.5 after Baltimore got destroyed at home by Indy. Which means that both of these teams are buy-low candidates; and (2) That Cam Cameron hasn't yet decided between John Beck and Cleo Lemon at quarterback. Lemon has a much better chance of keeping the Dolphins in the game. All that aside, we're going to stick with the Dolphins - it's better than backing the Ravens as road favorites.
Ravens 13 - 12
Bills +5.5 at Browns
This is essentially a playoff game for the Bills who need to win to have realistic hopes of qualifying for the postseason. As such, we expect them to play hard and keep the game reasonably close. Back Buffalo.
Browns 27 - 23
Packers -10.5 at Rams
The Packers have been handling their business both at home and on the road, but the prospect of laying more than 10 in a dome is unpleasant to us. But there's a good chance the Rams will be without Marc Bulger, so there's not a lot to like on the St. Louis side, either. In the end, we think the Rams are probably the better value, given Green Bay's big win last week, and St. Louis' loss to Cincy on the road. Back the double-digit home dog here.
Packers 24 - 20
Jaguars +4 at Steelers
The Jaguars are the value in my opinion - just playing solid football of late and likely to stay in the game against almost anyone. But Pittsburgh defends the pass very well (last week, notwithstanding), and they play a lot better at home. We're going to go contrarian here and back the Steelers coming off a bad loss.
Steelers 23 - 16
Jets +23.5 at Patriots
There's a lot of talk about how the Patriots are going to win by 50 as payback for the Spygate scandal, and if they do that's fine. After all, we don't lose extra because the margin was so large. And on the flip side, the Jets hate the Pats every bit as much as the Pats hate them, and motivation isn't going to be a problem for New York as they'd like nothing better than to be the team that killed the perfect season. We don't like seeing young quarterbacks face Bill Belichick defenses, but in truth, this is one of the older and weaker Pats' defenses in recent seasons. Back the Jets who keep it close, and throw $10 on the moneyline (about +1500) for the hell of it.
Patriots 27 - 20
Seahawks -7.5 at Panthers
Talk about ugly. Can we really take the Panthers and the points? Carolina is one of the true doormats of the league, and Seattle is just hitting its stride. I don't have an explanation as to how the Panthers will cover, but we have to do it. Back Carolina.
Seahawks 20 - 13
Titans -4 at Chiefs
The Chiefs are another atrocious team, and I'd be shocked if Brodie Croyle ever becomes a serviceable quarterback in the NFL. That said, getting four at home against a Titans team whose main weapon is LenDale White and whose best defensive player is banged up again is too good to pass up. Back the Chiefs.
Titans 16 - 13
Colts -10.5 at Raiders
Initally we were going to back the Colts, but something didn't feel right, so I held off until Wednesday. This version of the Colts is one of the really elite teams in the last several years, so it's tempting to back them, but Oakland's coming off a horrendous blowout loss in Green Bay last week and Indy off an easy blowout win on the road in Baltimore. Any sucker with a TV is going to be on the Colts, and as a result, I think the value has to be with the Raiders at home. Back Oakland.
Colts 24 - 16
Lions +10 at Chargers
Damon wanted the Chargers here, and I went with it. I hate San Diego and Shawne Merriman, and those awful Vizio commercials are making me sick of the fake LT. (The real LT is Lawrence Taylor who was a far more important player than Tomlinson will ever be). But Detroit is coming off a heartbreaking loss, and the season could be getting away from them. (I actually don't believe that, but I agreed to this pick, and I had to come up with some kind of explanation). Back the Chargers.
Chargers 27 - 16
Eagles +10.5 at Cowboys
This one we were really torn on. Do we go with the obvious play, the one we know everyone's going to be on, or do we shift gears and take Philly, comfortable in the knowledge that the Book is steering everyone toward Dallas? In this case, we're backing the Cowboys - as Damon pointed out, with the NFL evolving toward more of a passing-oriented league, there are more big plays and more volatility. This means that things are likely to get out of hand more quickly, especially for inferior teams on the road. Plus, Donovan McNabb's probably not going to be in Philly next year, and we could see them mailing it in. And even if Philly plays well for a half, Dallas can still easily cover. Back Dallas at home.
Cowboys 31 - 20
Redskins +4.5 at Giants
Damon's been right about the Giants the past two weeks, so I deferred to him again this week. He wanted to back the Skins even with Todd Collins at quarterback, and I agreed in part because the Giants have struggled at home the past two seasons - maybe all the heckling's getting to Eli. Back Washington.
Giants 20 - 19
Bears +10 at Vikings
As much as we hate laying the big points with a merely decent team like the Vikings, Minnesota's at home, the Bears have Kyle Orton at quarterback, and Chicago's defense is no longer good. If this game were in Chicago, it would be a different story, but in Minnesota on Monday night, we're doing the obvious. Take the Vikings.
Vikings 33 - 12
We went 8-8 against the spread in Week 14 to go 100-99-9 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 12/12/07