Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 10-4-1 last week, which we're happy about, of course, but the Week 3 slate is particularly brutal. I even changed two picks (Panthers to Vikings and Jets to Chargers) which is always a bad idea, but sometimes I have trouble writing up my reasons, and I always take that as a bad sign. It's not that my reasons would be right, but that my inability to come up with a heartfelt explanation - even a "take this on faith" one, tells me that intuitively the pick is wrong. Or at least wrong for me.
We have no monopoly on intuition, and often our sense of things has nothing to do with how the games actually play out. But you have to trust your instincts even if they're right only some of the time. Because what else is there? Each side is as plausible as the other, and while you should never forget that, you can't give into nihilistic randomness, either, where it's all just a coin flip, so who cares which side you take? The key is to reject dim-witted certainty and random chance, both. And then see what's left.
Chiefs +6 at Falcons
The Chiefs lost at home to the Raiders, and now they're already breaking out Coastal Carolina product Tyler Thigpen to helm the offense. On the bright side, he won't do any worse than Brodie Croyle. The Falcons have looked okay so far, even remaining competitive with the Bucs for much of last week's game. Based on what's transpired so far, we'd probably back Atlanta, but NFL teams have a way of bouncing back after bad weeks, and we expect the Chiefs to show up. Back Kansas City.
Chiefs 20 - 19
Cardinals +3 at Redskins
The Cardinals are 2-0, but they've had an easy schedule so far. Contrast that with the Skins who played the Super Bowl champs to a scoreless draw on the road in the second half and then beat the Saints at home. Bottom line, Washington was a playoff team last year, and the Cardinals haven't proving anything. Take the Redskins.
Redskins 27 - 19
Texans +5 at Titans
Games between these two division rivals are usually pretty close, and we think the Texans will bounce back from their poor showing against Pittsbugh in Week 1. Back Houston.
Texans 23 - 20
Raiders +10 at Bills
The Bills have looked good early on, and we don't really know what to make of the Raiders who rallied last week after we left them for dead. On the one hand, we'd expect Oakland to revert back to being terrible, but on the other, the Bills are likely to play conservatively against a 10-point dog. When we're unclear, it's usually better to take the points. Back the Raiders.
Bills 20 - 13
Buccaneers +3 at Bears
This is the right line between two defensive-minded teams who like to slug it out on the ground, but in a game like this, three points means a bit more than it would between two shoot-it-out squads. We also think Kyle Orton could have some problems with the Bucs defense. Back Tampa.
Buccaneers 19 - 17
Panthers +3.5 at Vikings
This line is ridiculous - the Panthers are 2-0, the Vikings 0-2, and now Carolina gets Steve Smith back. And lest you think that the Vikings tough schedule (@GB, IND) sets them apart from the Panthers, recall that Carolina played @SD and then hosted the Bears team that beat Indy on the road. Everyone's going to be taking Carolina in this spot, so why not take the overhyped Vikings - maybe Adrian Peterson runs wild, or Jake Delhomme tries to thread the needle a few too many times. We'll go against the grain and back Minnesota.
Vikings 27 - 20
Bengals +14 at Giants
These big home favorites give us the most trouble - there's no riddle to solve here, just a struggling team trying to right the ship in bad circumstances. We'll go with the Bengals because they're desperate, and last week's windy conditions made it tough on their passing offense. Back Cincy.
Giants 23 - 16
Dolphins +13 at Patriots
No one is his right mind would back the Dolphins in Foxboro after their abysmal showing in Arizona, so we have to do it. Don't analyze it - just trust in the unknown and take the leap.
Patriots 20 - 13
Saints +5.5 at Broncos
This one gave us a lot of trouble. On the surface it seems like Denver will roll, and it's hard not to love its passing game against New Orleans' secondary. On the other hand, Denver was very lucky to win against San Diego last week, and San Diego in turn lost to the Panthers at home the week before. In other words, Denver's been an exciting team so far, but have they shown they're good enough as a team to lay 5.5 against the Saints? Go against the grain and take New Orleans.
Saints 27 - 24
Lions +4 at 49ers
Damon and I agreed on the Lions getting more than a field goal as the savvy play, given that the market will probably overreact from last week. I'm having second thoughts as I think San Francisco actually has some upside with a competent quarterback and some stars on defense, but I'm going to leave it alone. Detroit's desperate and they hung around with Green Bay for most of the game last week. Back Detroit.
49ers 27 - 24
Rams +10 at Seahawks
Damon and I wanted to take the Rams here, because they're desperate and the Seahawks' receivers are so banged up, but that's a tough stadium to right the ship in (even though the 49ers did it last week), and the Seahawks are desperate as well. Back Seattle who rolls.
Seahawks 31 - 16
Browns +2 at Ravens
Another game we had trouble seeing. The Browns should be the better team, but it's usually smarter to take the defensive team at home laying less than three than the glamour team with all the on-paper firepower. That said, we're going to be suckers and actually count on a Cleveland bounce-back. (Probably better to make them earn it first, but Baltimore's pass defense wasn't good last year, and Cleveland should move the ball on them). Back the Browns.
Browns 20 - 17
Steelers +3 at Eagles
Damon liked the Eagles laying the obligatory home three, and I can't argue too much. Philly is one of the best coached teams in the league, and they shredded Dallas' defense on the road. Pittsburgh's looked good, but the Willie Parker/Hines Ward show won't play well against better teams. Back the Eagles.
Eagles 23 - 17
Jaguars +5.5 at Colts
Both teams are hurting badly, on the offensive line in particular, and now Indy will be without its best defensive player, Bob Sanders. As such, we think Jacksonville's a good value getting more than a field goal in a tough division rivalry game. Back the Jaguars.
Colts 20 - 17
Cowboys -3 at Packers
I don't mean to keep picking on Tony Kornheiser, but "How bout them Cowboys!" Yep, Jerry Jones is doing a great job because even though Dallas hasn't won a playoff game in 10 years, he's grown the brand to new heights. Honestly, who gives a s***. Maybe instead of watching the game, we should be watching Jerry Jones at a staff meeting, talking about how they're going to sell more Tony Romo jerseys... But that Kornheiser brought it up and repeated it is a sign that Dallas is once again America's franchise, and that's got to factor into these lines. And when you consider how badly the Eagles exposed Dallas' defense, I'm not sure that Green Bay isn't the better all-around team. Plus they're at home and getting points. Take the Packers.
Packers 27- 24
Jets +10 at Chargers
We initially agreed on the Jets, but we did so reflexively, just assuming that this team which looks good on paper should hang in San Diego. But the more I think about it, it's probably wise to go against the Brett Favre team - Vegas is steering us to the Jets, and we'll go in the other direction. Back the Chargers who prove too physical for New York.
Chargers 31 - 17
We were 10-4-1 in Week 2, to put us at 20-10-1 on the season. We were 127-120-9 last season. From 1999-2007, we were 1184-1018 - not including ties - (53.8 percent).
Article first appeared 9/17/08