Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
You didn't expect us not to have a losing week all season, did you?
After a terrible morning, we wound up at 4-8-2, thanks in part to my idiotically switching the Giants to the Seahawks at the last minute, and also to Sage Rosenfels forgetting what planet he was on during the last few minutes of Sunday's game. The Texans collapse was one of the worst bad beats I've seen in the last couple years, and in cases like that, you just have to hope the gift is returned at some point. (If not in this lifetime, then perhaps when you're reincarnated as a roach, you'll find some extra crumbs in someone's kitchen).
This week, we went with a lot of dogs - 10 in fact, and just four favorites. We tend to hunker down and play it a bit safer after our vision fogs up like it did last week. We pick more from a macro level - home dogs, fade the public, don't make too many assumptions, rather than rolling the dice on individual hunches on particular games.
Bears -3 at Falcons
The Bears are playing well on both sides of the ball, but they're laying points on the road against an improved Falcons team that's shown up every week. We expect Atlanta to hang around and have a feeling the points will come in handy. Back the Falcons.
Bears 20 - 19
Raiders +8 at Saints
It's always tough handicapping teams coming off a bye week, and it's even worse when that team has a new head coach. If Oakland plays as hard under Tom Cable as it did under Lane Kiffin, we're happy to take the points. No idea if that will happen, but we do have to make a pick. Back Oakland.
Saints 23 - 20
Panthers +1 at Buccaneers
We seem to take the Bucs every week, and why not? They're well coached and usually undervalued because no one on the team has any star power to speak of. Carolina looks like a solid team so far, but they haven't convinced us they shouldn't be getting the full three points here. Back the Bucs.
Buccaneers 20 - 17
Rams +13.5 at Redskins
Huge lines are usually crapshoots, but we're going to have to back St. Louis here. Washington's coming off two hugely impressive wins, so its stock couldn't possibly be more inflated. The Rams, like the Raiders, are coming off a bye with a new coach, so it's hard to read them. Except that Scott Linehan didn't seem too popular in his last days, and the team could rally around quarterback Marc Bulger again now that he's got his job back. Back St. Louis.
Redskins 24 - 17
Bengals +6 at Jets
Carson Palmer's health is a big issue here, but since he played last week, we're guessing he'll be able to go. Despite being winless, the Bengals gave the Giants and Cowboys all they could handle on the road, so this team is far from an embarrassment. The Jets are a work in progress, and we don't think they've played much better than Cincy despite their two wins. Back the Bengals.
Bengals 30 - 27
Lions +13 at Vikings
The Lions have been absymal so far this season, but 13 is a lot of points for a mediocre team like Minnesota to part with against a division rival that's used to playing in a dome. Detroit might be forced to give Drew Stanton his first career start, but we won't know for sure until closer to game time, and in any event, we'd rather take the points. Back the Lions.
Vikings 24 - 13
Dolphins +3 at Texans
The Dolphins are the NFL's great mystery this year, going from 1-15 to beating the two AFC Championship Game teams in back-to-back contests. The Texans have played well the last two weeks against the Jaguars and Colts, but still have nothing to show for it. We think Houston's urgency will overcome Miami's enthusiasm, assuming the Texans can get over last week's horrific collapse. Back Houston.
Texans 27 - 17
Ravens +4.5 at Colts
The Ravens might have beaten Tennessee last week had the refs not made a terrible roughing-the-passer call on Terrell Suggs late in the game, and Baltimore more than held its own against Pittsburgh two weeks ago. On the other hand, Indy's lucky to have any wins at all. It's possible the Colts will get it going on all cylinders this week, but in 2008 Baltimore's proven more than they have. Back the Ravens.
Ravens 17 - 16
Jaguars +3.5 at Broncos
The Jaguars strike us as a team that plays close games, win or lose. And given that Denver hasn't pulled away from anyone since Week 1, we like getting the field-goal plus. Back Jacksonville.
Jaguars 24 - 23
Cowboys -5 at Cardinals
Damon and I both had a Cowboys feeling here. After two bad weeks (one loss, and one tight game against the Bengals), this is the one where they flex their muscles and remind everyone how much talent they have. But then why didn't that happen last week? Wasn't the Redskins loss enough of a wakeup call? In the end, Arizona is tough at home, and the Cowboys need to re-prove that they're as good as the sum of their parts. Back the Cardinals.
Cardinals 31 - 30
Eagles -5 at 49ers
Damon and I both wanted to take the Eagles here, too. And if we were on a big winning streak, we might. But when our vision clouds even temporarily, we hunker down, fade the public and back the home dog. Take the 49ers.
Eagles 21 - 20
Packers +2 at Seahawks
This is a good time to take Seattle coming off a horrendous loss in New York and heading back home where they play much better. Plus, Matt Hasselbeck gets another week to work with his top target, Bobby Engram. The Packers' stock has been beaten down lately too, but not as much as Seattle's - Green Bay's only getting two and not the full three points to make up for having to travel. Back the Seahawks.
Seahawks 24 - 20
Patriots +5.5 at Chargers
We went back and forth on this a bit. On the one hand, the Dolphins beat the Patriots. On the other, the Dolphins beat the Chargers. On balance, despite their worse record, the Chargers have played better, barely losing two games early on and, unlike New England, suffering the Miami loss on the road. After getting knocked out of the playoffs by New England the last two years, we think San Diego will be motivated and on its game. Back the Chargers.
Chargers 31 - 17
Giants -8.5 at Browns
As well as the Giants played last week at home, this is a pretty big number to part with on the road against a team that still has a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Take the Monday Night home dog in a close, hard-fought contest.
Giants 24 - 21
We were 4-8-2 in Week 5, to put us at 42-29-3 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 10/8/08