Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 9-7 last week to finish at 127-120 on the season. That loses money with the vig, but we're happy to keep our streak of breaking .500 alive for another season. It's the sixth in a row and the ninth in 10 since we started. Of course, you need to be at 52.5 to break even.
We haven't been very good in the playoffs in years past, and that could be due to the smaller sample size, i.e., bad luck, or it could be because we root too heavily for teams we like when it matters, and that infiltrates our picking. It could also be because the playoffs are fundamentally different in some way. We're not entirely sure, so we're sticking with our usual methods for now.
Redskins +3.5 at Seahawks
The Redskins won four games in a row to get into the playoffs, but the competition wasn't all that stiff. Kyle Orton, Eli Manning in terrible conditions, Tarvaris Jackson and a Dallas team that was mailing it in make the streak and their level of play less impressive. Seattle limped down the stretch, losing two of three games to bad teams (Carolina and Atlanta), but both losses were on the road. In fact, Seattle was 7-1 at home this season, their only loss coming to the Saints in mid-October. As such, we think they'll be a good value because the public will dock them for their irrelevant road losses, both of which occurred after their playoff seed was largely wrapped up (the NFC West was in the bag even against Carolina). Back the Seahawks.
Seahawks 27 - 19
Jaguars pick 'em at Steelers
The Jaguars have been the better team during the second half of the year as David Garrard has taken his game to a star level, and the defense and running game have been pretty good. They were able to handle Pittsburgh on the road a few weeks ago, but that was when the Steelers main playmaker, Santonio Holmes, was still struggling to get healthy. Since the Jacksonville game, Holmes has been a big factor, and Pittsburgh should be able to spread out the Jacksonville defense more this time around. Pittsburgh is also tougher against the pass than the Jaguars. The bottom line is that most people will bet the Jaguars as a pick because they've been more impressive lately, but it's hard to win on the road in the playoffs, and Pittsburgh can match up here. Back the Steelers who win a tight one.
Steelers 24 - 23
Giants +2.5 at Buccaneers
I wanted to take the Bucs for value - after all, the Giants probably got too much credit for their showing against the Pats - but Damon, who's nailed the Giants just about every week, insisted we take them. As a Giants fan, I'm not going to fight him on that, and in any event, New York plays better on the road. Of course, Tampa's pass defense could give Manning a lot of trouble. And the Giants could be missing center Shaun O'Hara (knee), but Grey Ruegamer is a serviceable backup if that happens. Back the Giants.
Giants 23 - 20
Titans +9.5 at Chargers
I wrote this up for the Chargers, had trouble, switched it to the Titans, wasn't feeling it and switched it back again. Damon and I agreed on the Chargers because they play so much better at home - like Seattle they had just one loss, and that was in September. But Tennessee's net YPA is better, and they tend to stay in the game regardless of the quality of competition. Still, the Titans barely skated by a lot of weak teams this year, and even though they dominated San Diego early in the head to head game, they fell apart down the stretch. And that was at home. Back the Chargers who roll.
Chargers 34 - 17
We went 9-7 against the spread in Week 17 to go 127-120-9 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 1/3/08