Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Another 8-8 week for us, but it was nice to see nine of 15 dogs cover (10 if you count the Texans). Overall, it was a big comeback week for the bookies - the Cowboys, Patriots and Colts all failed to cover, while the 49ers, Dolphins, Raiders and Panthers succeeded. Of course, the public will probably pretend that it never happened and hope to get back on the favorites bandwagon again. Only if it occurs a couple times in a row will you really see the public jump ship - actually, it's happening with the Pats who have failed to cover against the Colts, Eagles, Ravens and Jets - four of their last six games. Consequently most people are betting Miami.
Steelers -8 at Rams
For the most part, the big home dogs came through last week - except for the Rams. But that was against the Packers, a team that's taken care of business routinely on the road all year. Not so with the Steelers, who lost to the Jets, Cardinals and Broncos. Take the Rams and the points.
Steelers 23 - 16
Cowboys -11 at Panthers
It's tempting to take Dallas off the loss against the Panthers off a win, but this is another big line for a home dog, Tony Romo's thumb is an issue and weather could even be a factor. Back the Panthers who keep it close enough.
Cowboys 23 - 14
Browns -3 at Bengals
Everyone's going to be on the Browns against the hapless Bengals, but getting three at home in what will likely be bad weather against a division rival is enough. Back Cincy who keeps it close.
Browns 24 - 23
Packers -9 at Bears
Home dogs apparently travel in packs, but this is a tough one to back because Green Bay is one of the few teams that's been consistent in the role of road favorite. Still, past performance does not equal future results, and turnovers, bad weather and general uncertainty favor the dogs. The Packers will avenge an unlucky early season loss, but it won't be easy. Back Chicago.
Packers 24 - 16
Texans +7 at Colts
The Texans aren't a doormat these days, but the Colts are too good on both sides of the ball. The issue here is that the Colts have locked up the two seed in the AFC and could rest their starters at any point. Whenever there's uncertainty and a fair amount of points, take the dog.
Colts 24 - 19
Chiefs +4.5 at Lions
The Lions play better at home generally - they even gave Dallas a lot of trouble and probably would have beaten them had Jason Hanson not missed an easy field goal. The Chiefs are falling apart of late, and we don't see them doing well in the dome. Back Detroit.
Lions 27 - 17
Giants -2.5 at Bills
I had already written this up as a Bills pick (it's a no-brainer home dog in bad weather), but Damon insisted we take the Giants, and the line moved to 2.5*, which is a lot more like a pick 'em. I still don't really like it, but it's contrarian, the Giants played much better on the road, and Damon stepped up for it, so it's our pick. Back the Giants.
*Our line is always the average of four lines on the Covers/USA Today site. We don't merely take the best line, but if there average is split, e.g., two three-point lines and two 2.5-point lines, we will take the line more advantageous to us. If there were three 3-point lines and one 2.5-point line, we'd be stuck with the 3 even if it put us at a disadvantage.
Giants 19 - 16
Raiders +13 at Jaguars
Double-digit home favorites are always the toughest games for us to handicap. We were going to take Jacksonville here - they've been playing so well of late, but I had trouble writing it up. Then I looked at it further, and they've covered six games in a row, so the public's all over them. The Raiders are terrible and missing Justin Fargas, but we think the right call is to take the points - it's just the right way to play it in a situation like this.
Jaguars 24 - 13
Eagles +3 at Saints
Both of these teams have confounded us all year, and really this is the right line for the game - it'll probably be a three-point margin, just like last year's playoff game. We're 50/50 on this, but when in doubt, take the dog. Back the Eagles.
Saints 24 - 23
Falcons +10 at Cardinals
We hate to lay 10 with the Cardinals, especially with their receivers so banged up, and Atlanta's probably the value bet here. But given how the Falcons laid down so completely in the face of their coach leaving, essentially validating Bobby Petrino's decision, we're not sure they have anything left. Back Arizona who rolls.
Cardinals 27 - 16
Buccaneers -7 at 49ers
We don't like the 49ers coming off a win, but the Bucs huge win ensures that there's still some value in taking San Francisco at home. I just don't see how you can turn down seven at home here. Back San Francisco.
Buccaneers 20 - 17
Dolphins +22 at Patriots
The Patriots have covered just two of their last six games, which shouldn't surprise anyone. Every time you cover, the bar gets raised, and every time you fail to cover, it gets lowered. For New England to keep covering, they would have had to play better than they did in the first half, and that wasn't going to happen. It's great to bet on real-life winning streaks, but where the line is concerned, it's better to bet the opposite. Take the Pats here - the public's on the Dolphins.
Patriots 37 - 13
Ravens +10 at Seahawks
The Ravens just lost to the Dolphins, so normally we'd be all over a team like that, but Seattle's stock also took a hit with a loss to Carolina, so this line is smaller than it might have been. In the end, we're going with Seattle because they play better at home and because Brian Billick's decision to kick the game-tying field-goal on 4th and goal from the one last week was so cowardly that we assume he's lost his bearings as a coach. Back the Seahawks.
Seahawks 27 - 10
Jets +8.5 at Titans
The Jets are pretty terrible, but the Titans aren't the type of team we like to lay big points with given their conservative run-first tendencies. Take the Jets.
Titans 20 - 13
Redskins +6.5 at Vikings
The Vikings are on a roll of late, but mostly against bad teams. The Redskins need this win to stay alive in the playoff hunt and aren't likely to go quietly. The Vikings are probably the better all around team, but this line's excessive. Back the Skins.
Vikings 19 - 17
Broncos +9 at Chargers
The Chargers have been rolling over people at home, but we like the Broncos to show up this week against their division rival, especially now that San Diego has clinched the division and is merely playing to be the three seed rather than the four. The Broncos should be able to throw on the Chargers, while San Diego should be able to run on Denver very easily. We'll take the better passing team and the points. Back Denver.
Chargers 31 - 27
We went 8-8 against the spread in Week 15 to go 108-107-9 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 12/19/07