Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
A 10-6 week was nice because now we're five games over .500 and as long as we don't completely screw up Week 17, (knock on wood), we'll keep our over .500 streak intact. Actually, I shouldn't say 'we' because Damon is in the Bahamas this week, and I didn't want to spend $3 a minute getting him on the phone. So these picks are mine and mine alone.
Without having Damon to bounce these off of, I looked at last year's picks from Week 17 (We went 11-5), and noticed that we picked 14 dogs on the theory that with so much uncertainty as to motivation, weather and playing time, it was better to grab onto the one thing you could count on: the points. Not surprisingly I went with 12 more dogs this year, and some strange favorites that seem totally wrong to me like Houston and New Orleans. But wrong in a good way. For what it's worth, I love the Giants and Dolphins this week.
Happy New Year.
Patriots -14 at Giants
While the Giants could rest all of their key players for at least some of the game because they have nothing to play for, the locker room attitude seems to be that taking on the challenge is arguably as beneficial as getting the week off. And if that's the case, then why not take a shot at knocking off the Pats? Coach Tom Coughlin hasn't tipped his hand yet as to whether Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress would play, but shockingly Burress practiced for the first time in four weeks on Wednesday. The bottom line, favoring the Pats by 14 on the road in what could be bad weather presupposes that the Giants won't try, and that's not a done deal yet. Back New York who keeps it close and possibly wins outright if the winds are strong (and key players suit up).
(The other reason they probably suit them up is that ultimately it's good for the game and the right thing to do. The Giants aren't the Colts or the Cowboys who could win it all. They're a first or second-round playoff loser that needs to catch a spark. For them to hand the Pats a bye in an historic game out of worry for their five seed is stupid. And even though they probably don't see it that way, deep down, they have to know. I think they'll come out and play - and they'll only sit players if the Pats go up big).
Giants 27 - 23
Bills +7.5 at Eagles
Tne Eagles have come on strong of late, taking care of the Cowboys in Dallas and then the Saints in New Orleans, while the Bills have fallen apart, losing to the Browns and Giants. For that reason, most people will be on Philly, and the Bills are probably a good buy-low team here. Back Buffalo who keeps it close enough.
Eagles 27 - 20
Panthers -2.5 at Buccaneers
We know the Bucs have nothing to play for, but we don't see Jon Gruden letting his team go into the playoffs with two straight losses, Luke McCown will do just fine and the Bucs are getting points at home. Back Tampa.
Buccaneers 27 - 10
Bengals -2.5 at Dolphins
Always bet the home dog, and always bet against the team that loses its starting center, in the Bengals' case, their second one of the season. For some reason losing a center is terrible - I think it's because the snap originates with him, and having a new center in there, throws off the rhythm of the entire offense. Or maybe there's some other reason. Either way, back Miami.
Dolphins 23 - 20
Lions +3.5 at Packers
This is an odd game with the team that has nothing to play for actually being favored. And we're going to back the Packers in spite of that because after their horrible loss to Chicago, they'll want to finish up on the right foot before the two-week layoff. Back Green Bay at home.
Packers 27 - 13
Jaguars +6.5 at Texans
This is a tough call because the Jaguars have nothing to play for, but everyone's going to be on them because they're playing so well and getting a lot of points. I think the Texans are the right play here - they're at home, and they're coming off a horrendous loss to the Colts. Back Houston.
Texans 27 - 17
Seahawks +2.5 at Falcons
The Seahawks seem like the obvious play here getting points against the Falcons, but Seattle has nothing to prove after winning big last week and could very well take it easy this week with the playoffs on the horizon. Back the Falcons who win by a field goal.
Falcons 20 - 17
49ers +10.5 at Browns
The bookies must really think the Browns are going to roll here because the line is so big you have to take the 49ers. But the problem is that the Browns, who will get into the playoffs if the Titans lose, have nothing to play for. Due to quirks in the NFL's tiebreaking system, the Titans will make the playoffs if both teams are 10-6, but the Browns will make it if both are 9-7. That means no matter what Cleveland does, it has no effect on whether the team qualifies for the playoffs. Of course, they'll still want to play well because in the event that Tennesee does lose, Cleveland will want to generate some positive momentum. Still, we have to take the Niners, who can slug it out on the ground if the weather's bad.
Browns 24 - 23
Saints -2 at Bears
The Saints are coming off a horrible home loss to the Eagles, while the Bears just crushed Green Bay in bad weather. This seems like a good buy-low opportunity on New Orleans who has a big advantage at the quarterback position and a very remote shot at the playoffs still. Back the Saints.
Saints 24 - 17
Cowboys +9 at Redskins
The Cowboys have nothing to play for, but they have a bye week coming up, so they might make more of an effort than a team that had to play next week. Moreover, even if they do take out Tony Romo, Brad Johnson is a capable backup. Nine points is too steep here. Back Dallas.
Redskins 20 - 17
Steelers -3.5 at Ravens
Talk about uglier than ugly, I think we have to go with the Ravens out of principle. And the Steelers actually need this game (assuming the Chargers lose) because that would put Pittsburgh against the Titans instead of Jaguars, a much easier matchup. This is one of those, don't try to figure out how Baltimore covers, just assume they do.
Steelers 19 - 16
Vikings -3 at Broncos
On paper, people will assume that the Vikings will run for 400 yards on this weak Broncos' defense, and maybe they will. But Denver is better than they've played the last two weeks, and I expect Mike Shanahan to get them to play hard during their last game for nine more months. Back the home dog.
Broncos 27 - 23
Chargers -8 at Raiders
The Chargers are covering every week, but they're not as good on the road, and someone's got to take the Raiders - might as well be us. San Diego definitely wants to win this game and avoid the Jaguars in Round 1, but winning on the road is always tough. Back the Raiders.
Chargers 24 - 17
Rams +6 at Cardinals
This is probably about the right line and could go either way, but we think that the Rams will be able to hang in this one. Back St. Louis who keeps it close enough.
Cardinals 27 - 23
Chiefs +6.5 at Jets
The Chiefs are bad, but the Jets don't sit well with us as 6.5-point favorites, especially if weather is a factor. Back Kansas City.
Jets 17 - 16
Titans -6.5 at Colts
We expect Tony Dungy to rest a lot of his players, while the Titans need to win this game to get into the playoffs. Still, given Tennessee's conservative style and Indy's quality depth that got a lot of run when the team was so banged up, we think this game will stay close. Back the Colts who cover.
Titans 20 - 16
We went 10-6 against the spread in Week 16 to go 118-113-9 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 12/27/07