Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 4-10 last week to cap off a 9-19 two-week stretch - a great way to destroy what was through eight weeks a pretty solid record. Part of it is bad luck, of course, and you don't want to alter your style too much due to a small sample. But on the other hand, I think we've erred a little too much in the going-against-the-public/chasing the-sharp-money angle. That should be in your toolbox, but it shouldn't be the only tool. A good example was the Chargers-Chiefs game - we knew Kansas City had been playing well, and the Chargers hadn't done anything to prove themselves worthy of such a monstrous line (15.5), but that line opened at 14 and jumped to 15.5 even though the public was on the Chiefs. In that case, you take the bait. You say to the Book, "Okay, if you want me to take the Chiefs that badly, sure, I'll be the sucker." And that's what we'd normally do, but for some reason we've gotten away from that.
This week we've tried to have more balance - some games (big home dogs) are go-against-the public picks, but others like the 49ers and Falcons are based on our observations of the games. You have to walk the line between a healthy skepticism (of what you hear and even think) and a sense of trust (of what you observe and feel). We erred on the side of skepticism the last two weeks, and that can be just as bad as naively going with the obvious.
Jets +3 at Patriots
We've considered the Jets a fraud for most of the year, but they've played better of late, and you can't be too attached to your prior impressions. Still, with Matt Cassel improving, we think the Pats will be able to handle them at home. Back New England.
Patriots 24 - 16
Broncos +6.5 at Falcons
The Broncos were fortunate to win last Thursday, but we didn't see anything that made us feel they've turned a corner. The Falcons, on the other hand, have been consistent all season, and there's no reason to short them at this point. Back Atlanta.
Falcons 27 - 20
Lions +14.5 at Panthers
We rarely have a great feel on double-digit spreads, so this one is really 50/50 to us. Sure, Carolina could blow them out, but the Panthers don't always bring their "A" game, and Detroit has made the effort most weeks. And when in doubt, go with the dog. Back the Lions.
Panthers 23 - 10
Bears +4 at Packers
This line is off the board in a lot of places because we don't know whether Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton will start. (It will probably be closer to three if Orton can go, and closer to five or six if he can't). Either way, we think the Bears will give the Packers a tough game, and the four points look good to us.
Packers 24 - 23
Texans +9 at Colts
The Colts win over Pittsburgh was big, but really it was gift-wrapped by some bad interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger, i.e., we're not sold yet that Indy has truly turned the corner. And this line implies that they have. As long as Sage Rosenfels doesn't go turnover crazy (something he's more than capable of), we think Houston makes this a game. Back the Texans.
Colts 28 - 23
Saints -5.5 at Chiefs
Shame on us for laying the 15.5 against Herm Edwards' scrappy bunch. Tyler Thigpen is playing well, and this week they get Larry Johnson back. Sure, they can't stop anybody, but neither can the Saints. Back the Chiefs at home.
Saints 27 - 24
Raiders +11 at Dolphins
Who would have thought we'd see the Dolphins laying 11 this season? Miami's a solid team, and to be honest, we'd love to see them win the AFC East. But they don't strike us as a double-digit number-laying type of team just yet. Back Oakland.
Dolphins 20 - 13
Ravens +7 at Giants
We always get the Ravens wrong, and last week was no exception. Damon thinks Baltimore is probably a good value in this spot - the G-Men could be a little cocky after winning in Philly and Pittsburgh and might have a letdown. We're going with the Ravens here - and the good news is that if we're wrong, that means the Giants rolled. Back Baltimore.
Giants 20 - 16
Vikings +3.5 at Buccaneers
This game sets up well for Tampa, coming off the bye and facing Minnesota after an emotional win over Green Bay. And the Bucs are tough at home, while the Vikings haven't played well outside the dome this season. Back Tampa Bay.
Buccaneers 24 - 16
Eagles -9 at Bengals
We just don't take nine point road favorites, especially when the team laying the points is merely good and not great. And the Bengals are bad, but they've shown up more often than not. Back Cincy.
Eagles 20 - 17
Rams +6.5 at 49ers
Initially we were going to take the Rams out of some perverse obligation to back the teams that sicken us, but we changed our minds. The Monday night game in Arizona confirmed that Shaun Hill is an upgrade over J.T. O'Sullivan, and the team as a whole seems to play harder for Mike Singletary. Back San Francisco.
49ers 27 - 17
Cardinals -3 at Seahawks
Matt Hasselbeck could be a little rusty, but even so, he's major upgrade from Seneca Wallace. And the team played well last week in Miami. The Cardinals can move the ball against anyone, but this is a tough place to play, and they're laying points, to boot. Back Seattle.
Seahawks 23 - 20
Titans -3 at Jaguars
The Jaguars haven't been the same tough, physical squad so far this season, but we expect them to bring their best effort at home against a division rival that happens to be the league's only undefeated team. Back Jacksonville in a tight game from start to finish.
Titans 20 - 19
Chargers +5 at Steelers
The Chargers have the personnel to explode at any time, but we're beyond waiting for it to happen. The Steelers have played consistently good defense all season and just need Ben Roethlisberger to do a better job avoiding sacks and turnovers. Back Pittsburgh.
Steelers 30 - 17
Cowboys -1 at Redskins
Clinton Portis isn't looking likely to play, and Santana Moss could be less than 100 percent. But this line is getting ahead of itself - after all, the Redskins beat the full-strength Cowboys in Dallas earlier, and now the Cowboys are favored in Washington with a rusty Tony Romo who will be wearing a splint. Like San Diego, Dallas needs to prove that it's back. Back the Redskins.
Redskins 23 - 20
Browns +5 at Bills
These two teams annoy us - probably because we've bet on them far too often. At this point, they strike us as rough equals, and the five is more than enough compensation for the game being in Buffalo. Back Cleveland.
Browns 24 - 20
We were 4-10 in Week 10, to put us at 74-65-5 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 11/12/08