Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 11-5 last week to put us at 31-15 on the year (67 percent), and we're obviously happy with how things have gone so far. But please be aware that this pace is not remotely sustainable for a full season. We're like a .400 hitter in early May - the fast start will surely help our overall record, but the chances of us being over 60 percent come December are slim. We hope and wish it were otherwise, but the rude awakening is coming one of these weeks. Our task is to push it back as far as possible.
Falcons +7 at Panthers
Damon and I went back and forth on this one - usually we like to take the dog that's playing decently, and the Falcons fit the bill. But on the other hand, seven isn't a huge line for the home team, and both of Atlanta's wins came against doormats (Detroit, Kansas City). Back Carolina who should be focused coming off a loss in Minnesota.
Panthers 24 - 13
Broncos -10 at Chiefs
Ugly double-digit home dog or glamorous road favorite in a long-standing division rivalry? Is there even a need to ask? Back the Chiefs.
Broncos 20 - 19
49ers +5.5 at Saints
Seventy-five percent of people are betting New Orleans, so why did the line go from 6.5 to 5.5? Because the sharp money is taking the Niners. Why? It must be the net YPA - the Niners' (+3.6) is off the charts, the Saints' (+1.4) merely good. We're not big on picking based on stats (especially over just a three-game sample), but these jump out. Back San Francisco.
Saints 24 - 23
Cardinals +1 at Jets
The Cardinals don't seem much different than in seasons past - good passing game, poor running game, average defense. We don't like them on the road against a Jets squad that will be desperate to get on track after bad losses to New England and San Diego. Back the Jets who cover easily.
Jets 27 - 19
Vikings +3 at Titans
These teams are incredibly similar - both just jettisoned young running QBs for veteran journeymen pocket passers. Both teams have young running backs who dropped jaws shortly after their debuts. Both are run-heavy with excellent offensive lines, and both are stout up front and tough to run on. And the line is three, which is par for the course between equal teams. In the end, we'll take the points for two reasons: (1) It could be a low scoring game in which case the three points would make up a greater portion of the scoring and therefore carry more weight; and (2) because the Titans are 3-0, and the Vikings at 1-2, badly need this win. Back Minnesota.
Vikings 19 - 17
Packers +1 at Buccaneers
Perhaps we overestimated the Packers last week, picking them to win outright against Dallas, but even those with a direct line to the Lord need to change our views in light of new evidence. The Bucs are a solid, well coached team that plays good defense, they're at home and laying only a point, and Green Bay is missing Al Harris and possibly Atari Bigby, two key members of its secondary. Back Tampa.
Buccaneers 23 - 20
Texans +8 at Jaguars
The Texans have cost us twice this year, and probably would have cost us a third time had that Ravens game been played in Week 2. But Houston was knocking on the door in Tennessee last week for a backdoor cover before Cortland Finnegan returned an interception 99 yards, and there's no reason why they shouldn't be in at least as good a position against Jacksonville. Back Houston.
Texans 24 - 23
Browns +3.5 at Bengals
We went back and forth on this game a bunch of times. On the one hand, the Bengals played a good game last week in the Meadowlands and deserve more respect than the Browns right now. But that extra respect is the reason the line's 3.5 and not merely three, so it's already priced in. In the end, this should be a hard-fought game between two desperate division rivals, and we'd rather have the field goal-plus. Back Cleveland.
Browns 27 - 24
Chargers -8 at Raiders
We believe in the Chargers who rival the Cowboys in terms of talent on both sides of the ball, and that's without Shawne Merriman. But Oakland has played hard for two straight games, and they're getting more than a touchdown at home. Back the Raiders.
Chargers 24 - 17
Bills -8.5 at Rams
The Rams have rolled over three weeks in a row, but this is a professional football team, and we have to think they'll be up for a home game against an undefeated team. Plus the line is inflated because the Book knows everyone will be backing Buffalo. Take the Rams.
Bills 17 - 13
Redskins +11.5 at Cowboys
Initially we were going to take the Redskins reflexively - big underdog with a winning record going against a hated division rival. But then Damon asked, "What if Washington is really the sucker side here?" I thought about that for a second, then looked up the betting splits, and sure enough two thirds of the public bet on the Redskins. It's always rare when the public sides with a big underdog - I guess the conventional wisdom is that the Redskins always play the Cowboys tough. As usual we'll fade it. Back Dallas who rolls.
Cowboys 31 - 13
Eagles -3 at Bears
The Eagles are playing fantastic ball, nearly beating the Cowboys in Dallas and handling the Steelers at home, but they might be without Brian Westbrook, and they're laying points on the road. The Bears have lost two straight after beating the Colts, but both were to quality teams (Tampa, Carolina) and by only three points. Back Chicago who keeps it close.
Eagles 17 - 16
Ravens +7 at Steelers
We had trouble with this one as well. Ben Roethlisberger looked like a deer in headlights at times against the Eagles, and he's likely to face more of the same against an aggressive Ravens defense. Moreover, even though Willie Parker's running ability won't be particularly missed now that Rashard Mendenhall's in the fold, the loss could hurt in blitz pickup, as rookie backs often struggle in that department. But that's just the standard conventional analysis b.s. that eight times out of 10 means nothing when the game actually starts. The Steelers are tough at home, and the Ravens have beaten up on two out-of-sync teams from Ohio. Back Pittsburgh.
Steelers 20 - 7
We were 11-5 in Week 3, to put us at 31-15-1 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 9/24/08