Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We were 3-1 last week, and would have been 4-0 had we waited another few hours to write the column - as the Pitt-Jax line moved to 2.5. But a loss is a loss, because had we picked the Jaguars and won, we certainly wouldn't be giving the win back. As for our picks being slightly different than what some would expect, that's a good thing. You have to be nimble and abandon rigid rules about how to pick. Sometimes you play hunches, sometimes you take what seems like a sucker pick and sometimes you stick to your guns and do the usual thing even if it's been losing. We don't have one method per se - we rotate several methods that we apply based on the type of game we sense it is. Only when we're truly lost and have no feel for the game would we finally hang our hat on a particular stat. Sometimes that's all that's left. But most of the time we trust ourselves to synthesize the various information and come up with a pick that strikes us as right.
This week, we love the Colts - we just think they're a wholly different class than San Diego who we expect to be overmatched on the road. Green Bay's our other clear choice, while the other two games are more difficult.
Enjoy the games.
Seahawks +8 at Packers
The Seahawks did the job at home last week, but it wasn't without a significant fourth-quarter hiccup, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck got dinged up in the process. Moreover the Seahawks were just 3-5 on the road this season, and Green Bay 7-1 in Lambeau. On paper these two teams seem comparable, but under the circumstances, we expect the Packers to roll. Back Green Bay.
Packers 33 - 13
Jaguars +13 at Patriots
This game gave us the most trouble. On the one hand, 54 percent of the public backed Jacksonville early on (according to one source which I'm not even sure is reliable), but on the other, the line kept moving up, signifying that more money's on the Pats. Is it "sharp" money? We don't know. What we do know is that the Patriots haven't covered in five of six games, and Jacksonville had covered seven in a row before pulling its starters against Houston and having the line change against Pittsburgh. That means the Jaguars are probably a good sell-high, and the Pats a buy-low. But how can that be when the line is 13? Well, remember, that the Pats were laying 20-plus a few weeks ago, and even 14 on the road against the Giants. And they covered as 13-point favorites at home against Pittsburgh.
As for the Jaguars, they were looking great with David Garrard and Reggie Williams giving them a vertical passing game to go along with the smash-mouth foundation they've had. But Garrard looked shaky against Pittsburgh last week, throwing three picks, and he'll have to play a lot better than that to keep this game close in New England. Bottom line, the Pats are probably the savvier play, but Damon and I agreed on Jacksonville because the line gives full credit to all of the above. If Garrard plays like he did in December, then the Jaguars should cover. New England's defense isn't as good as Pittsburgh's, and we think that'll happen. Back Jacksonville.
Patriots 30 - 20
Chargers +8.5 at Colts
Even without Antonio Gates, the Chargers were able to get the passing game going last week when the Titans bottled up LaDainian Tomlinson. But that was at home, where they've been far better this year, and it wasn't against the Colts, who are one of the toughest teams to throw against in the NFL. So from San Diego's perspective we don't like the matchup here at all, and that's without even mentioning Peyton Manning. Expect the Colts to win easily against a Chargers team that doesn't play well on the road.
Colts 37 - 13
Giants +7.5 at Cowboys
The Giants are coming in with a lot of momentum after a decisive win in Tampa last week, while Dallas limped into the postseason with losses to the Eagles and then the Redskins, albeit with little to play for in the latter game. As a Giants fan, I'm going to be rooting heavily for another win, and with Terrell Owens' status uncertain, it's actually possible. Still, the public's on the Giants this week, and at this point, they're a great "sell-high," while Dallas is a good "buy-low." I hope we're wrong, but we think the Cowboys are the right play.
Cowboys 33 - 21
We went 3-1 against the spread on the Wild Card games last week. We were 127-120-9 on the regular season. We were 139-108-9 last season. From 1999-2006, we were 1057-898 - not including ties - (54.1 percent).
Article first appeared 1/9/08