Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We're pretty sure there isn't a good way to go 5-9, but starting off 5-3 and then losing all four afternoon games plus Sunday and Monday night has to be one of the worst. Plus, we got crushed in the three games we felt best about - the Raiders, Bills and Seahawks. But we're not going to worry too much - sometimes the odd, ugly picks pan out nicely, and other times they get destroyed, and it can seem like you're lost.
But margin of loss doesn't affect the payout in this game, even though psychologically winning by two on a backdoor cover doesn't seem as right as losing by 40 seems wrong. I think that's another reason why the public is wrongly biased toward favorites. Actually, the margin matters more if you're picking based on YPA or WR-CB matchups, but if you're picking on a macro scale - going ugly, fading the public, Monday night home dogs, buy-low, sell-high, etc. then it's less important. Because you're not hanging your hat on what you know, but trusting in the unknown over the presumption of knowledge. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and so is the public - so sometimes you're going to take a hit. Usually when that happens, we rachet up the doubt even more, taking the points and questioning the perceived disparity between teams. As a result, we've got just five favorites and nine dogs.
Broncos +3 at Browns
Something's seriously wrong with the Broncos - after being embarrassed in front of a national audience in New England, they had an extra week to right the ship, but still got handled fairly easily at home by the Dolphins. On the other hand, the Browns coughed up a two-touchdown lead to the Ravens in Cleveland on Sunday and subsequently benched their Pro Bowl quarterback. We're torn between a buy-low on Denver, or a buy-low on Cleveland who gets a shot in the arm from Brady Quinn's debut at home. We'll go with the latter. Back the Browns.
Browns 27 - 23
Saints +1 at Falcons
The Saints have the name players, and they showcased their offense on an international stage last time they played. The Falcons have wildly exceeded expectations (the over/under on their win total for 2008 was 4!), and we've mistakenly expected them to regress to the mean a couple times. But in Week 10, the mean has to be moved, and while we've been slow to do that, the public is apparently even slower. Back Atlanta.
Falcons 23 - 20
Titans -3 at Bears
We'd feel a bit better about this if Kyle Orton were definitely playing, but even so, I think you have to take the tough home dog here against the league's sole remaining undefeated team. Back the Bears.
Bears 16 - 13
Jaguars -7 at Lions
The Jaguars just lost to one 0-8 team - can they go 2-for-2? We think the Jaguars will probably pull out the win, but the Lions have been playing tough of late, and they'll keep it close - even if they have to suit up Daunte Culpepper this week.
Jaguars 20 - 19
Seahawks +9.5 at Dolphins
We can't imagine who would take the Seahawks after last week's showing, especially on the road against a Dolphins team that's emerging as a playoff contender. So we will. Back Seattle.
Dolphins 23 - 16
Packers +2.5 at Vikings
We agreed on the Packers for some reason even though the Vikings strike us as the contrarian play. Maybe it's because we're sick of backing Brad Childress, his team's cover against the Texans notwithstanding. We're not going to overanalyze it - we both liked Green Bay and feel comfortable with it. Back the Packers.
Packers 24 - 23
Bills +4 at Patriots
The Bills strike us as a fraud after they lost at home to the Jets, and we'd love to go against them and root for the Pats to punish them further. But do we really have any basis for believing the Patriots are the better team? Back Buffalo who surprises with a road win.
Bills 24 - 17
Rams +8 at Jets
One might think the Jets had turned the corner after winning in Buffalo, and the Rams are back to doormat status after being blown out at home. But that would be thinking too much. As far as we're concerned, these are two mediocre teams, and one of them is getting eight points. Back St. Louis.
Jets 19 - 17
Ravens -1 at Texans
We always get the Ravens wrong, so be sure to do the opposite of what we say here. Both of us thought the Ravens were the obvious play against a Texans team with a mistake-prone backup quarterback, so we went the other way and took Houston who should be able to move the ball effectively through the air against a banged-up secondary. Back the Texans.
Texans 30 - 20
Panthers -9.5 at Raiders
The DeAngelo Hall situation shows beyond any doubt that the Raiders need to be put into receivership for the integrity of the league. (Let RotoWire run the team for a couple years until the NFL can find a new owner). In the meantime, morale has to be terrible, and we haven't even mentioned the offense - 77 total yards/zero points at home against the Falcons? Carolina is a good team, and it's shocking that they're laying just 9.5 after what Atlanta did last week. Still, and it pains us to do it, we have to back the Raiders. No one else will, and it's obvious that the public will hammer Carolina.
Panthers 20 - 12
Colts +2* at Steelers
This is a *made-up line because Ben Roethlisberger's uncertain status took this game off the board. I had actually checked out the opening lines for Week 10 before the Monday night game when Roethlisberger went down, and it was Colts +3, so I moved it down one on account of the injury. In any event, we were wrong last week on the Colts bouncing back against the spread, and we were right two weeks ago not to give them premature credit. I think we'll stick with the trend here - Indy's got to show the magic again before we equate them with a tough team like Pittsburgh. Back the Steelers.
Steelers 24 - 13
Chiefs +15.5 at Chargers
I would bet this is the biggest number in NFL history by which a 3-5 team has ever been favored. It really makes no sense at all, especially because Tyler Thigpen has played decently the last couple weeks, and Kansas City nearly took down the Jets and Bucs. But sense has nothing to do with it - San Diego has the weapons for a blowout, and coming off the bye and sniffing a chance to tie for the AFC West lead, we think they'll roll. Back San Diego.
Chargers 34 - 16
Giants +3 at Eagles
Damon and I both agreed the Book is begging us to take the Giants with this line, and we're going to resist. While the Giants are probably the better team, the Eagles should be extremely focused, and Eli Manning hasn't been particularly sharp lately. Back Philadelphia.
Eagles 24 - 19
49ers +10 at Cardinals
The Cardinals have looked like a contender of late, and the 49ers haven't won a game since Week 3. But this game sets up well for San Fran - Shaun Hill won't make as many mistakes as J.T. O'Sullivan, the Niners should be up for a Monday night game against the division leader and Arizona could very well have a letdown against a weaker team. Back the Niners.
Cardinals 21 - 17
We were 5-9 in Week 9, to put us at 70-55-5 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 11/5/08