Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 9-7 last week which isn't anything to throw a party about, but it's a start. I'm happy we didn't panic and were willing to back the Browns and Rams - even if losing with the Lions and Bengals was not an experience I'd wish on my worst enemy.
The thing about betting a lot of dogs is that when you lose, you often lose big like in the Thanksgiving games, and when you win, you barely win, like with the Rams and Browns. So psychologically, the Lions pick looks worse than, say, betting the Colts did. And if you bet the Colts or the Dolphins, you might even feel you got unlucky, but if you bet the Lions, you just got crushed. But at the end of the day, the Book doesn't pay out or charge more based on margin of victory. The Browns win is every bit as valuable as the Titans one. Just something to keep in mind when your courage gets shaky while contemplating an ugly pick.
Finally, there are two picks below I absolutely abhor but refuse to change because we agreed on them: the Cardinals and Redskins. I note this because it'll be a good test of how much I should trust my last minute misgivings about games going forward.
Raiders +9.5 at Chargers
We've been on the Chargers as unreasonable favorites for too many weeks now, and we're finally jumping ship. Sure it would have been smarter to sell in October - just like I wish I sold my SIRI stock in October of 2007 - but better late than never. (Thankfully, I dumped SIRI in September at 1.30). Back Oakland.
Chargers 20 - 16
Jaguars +7 at Bears
The Jaguars were horrendous last week in Houston, and the media narrative seems to be that they've given up. Maybe so, and maybe not. It's hard to say when you're talking about pure speculation. What's not speculation is that you get seven extra points if you take the Jaguars. Back Jacksonville.
Bears 24 - 20
Vikings -9.5 at Lions
We're going to back the Lions here, because no one else will, and that means it's time to buy. Don't expect me to explain how Detroit will pull it off - it's never about imagining the specific how - only knowing three things: (1) Past performance does not guarantee future results; (2) That even the Lions are a half-billion dollar organization filled with its share of the world's greatest atheletes lifting weights, playing and practicing every week; and (3) Vegas has millons of dollars riding on the Lions this week (they know the majority of the money will be on the Vikings), and they chose not to set this line higher. Finally, the suspensions to Kevin and Pat Williams are significant as that removes Minnesota's main strength on defense. Back Detroit... but don't watch the game (or if you must, warm up with some waterboarding first).
Vikings 23 - 16
Texans +6 at Packers
Both of these teams are 5-7, and this line strikes us as a little large. But the weather could be a factor, and Damon felt like this was a bounce back game for the Pack. Good enough for me. Back Green Bay.
Packers 33 - 17
Bengals +14 at Colts
The Bengals got annihilated at home by the Ravens last week, so their stock probably about as low as it can get - after all, Indy's not blowing out anyone, and the line here is 14. Take the Bengals.
Colts 23 - 10
Falcons +3 at Saints
The Falcons seem to get it done almost every week, but going into New Orleans should be a pretty good test. The Saints got a boost by losing Deuce McAllister to a suspension, but they could be thin on the defensive line after losing Charles Grant and Will Smith (neither player was having a big season, however). In the end, we like New Orleans at home in what should be an entertaining game. Back the Saints.
Saints 27 - 23
Eagles +7 at Giants
This game gave us the most trouble. We've been going against the Giants most weeks on the theory that it's hard to win decisively against good teams, especially on the road, and that New York would eventually play at less than its top level. Of course, that hasn't happened. Still, this week we were set to take the Eagles plus nine, but after Plaxico Burress was suspended for the year, and starting MLB Antonio Pierce was involved in the investigation (though he will play), the line went down to seven, and about half of the public took the Eagles - a high number for a seven point dog. This meant that people were docking the Giants due to the distraction factor (when the line opened at nine, there was never a chance that Burress, a perennial Eagles killer, would play anyway). But I cover the Giants, and while losing focus, or being divided is a possibility, it seems to me the opposite is happening and that the Giants, if anything, will come together around this incident. So we're laying the points here. Back the G-Men.
Giants 27 - 17
Browns +14 at Titans
The Titans looked great in Detroit, but that doesn't mean a whole lot, while the Browns played the Colts tough, but lost Derek Anderson for the year. The prospect of Ken Dorsey going into Tennessee is pretty ugly, but Cleveland should keep it just close enough. Back the Browns.
Titans 24 - 13
Dolphins pick 'em at Bills
We're not sure why Buffalo is giving up a home game in the cold against its South Florida rival for a dome game in Toronto (couldn't the Bills have squandered their home field weather advantage against a cold-weather team like New England or the Jets?). But we still see these teams as rough equals, and the Bills should have a slight edge due to the venue being closer to their home town. Back Buffalo who bounces back.
Bills 23 - 20
Chiefs +9.5 at Broncos
Denver is so Jekyll and Hyde, it's hard to know what to expect. Two weeks ago they get blown out at home by the Raiders, and last week they blow out the Jets on the road. Given all that volatility we tend to like them as a big dog but not so much as a big favorite. Back the Chiefs who haven't quit despite their losing record.
Broncos 27 - 20
Jets -4 at 49ers
After lighting up Tennessee's defense on the road, the Jets struggled at home against Denver's of all teams last week. We're not sure what that means exactly, but it does make us wary of laying more than a field goal on the road against a Niners team that might have turned a corner under Mike Singletary. Back San Francisco at home.
49ers 21 - 20
Patriots -4.5 at Seahawks
The Patriots were exposed last week in Pittsburgh - they're a good story, but their ceiling probably isn't that high this year (though what do I know - last year, I thought the Giants' ceiling was one playoff win). Either way, going into Seattle used to be tough at least, and it's still the same stadium. Back the Seahawks.
Patriots 20 - 17
Rams +14 at Cardinals
Damon and I agreed on the Cardinals here, but I'm having serious misgivings. The Rams have been much better with Steven Jackson in the lineup - not that a running back makes such a huge difference usually, but Jackson seems to give the offense a focal point which is totally lacking when he's out. We picked the Cards because they're much better at home, and after two bad losses, we expect them to take it out on a league doormat. I'll stay with the Cardinals because I don't want to switch an agreed-on pick, but just note that I hate it and have a strong Rams hunch. Back Arizona.
Cardinals 34 - 17
Cowboys +2.5 at Steelers
The Cowboys look like they're back, but this is the first top-tier team they've faced since Tony Romo returned. In our view, Dallas is still the team that needs to prove itself - especially in a rough, cold-weather environment like Pittsburgh. Back the Steelers who we think should be favored by about four at home.
Steelers 23 - 17
Redskins +5.5 at Ravens
The Ravens have been a spread-covering machine this year, but after backing them against the Eagles, we foolishly shorted them against the Bengals last week. This week, a reeling Redskins squad comes to town, and you'd think the Ravens defense would have its way with them. But we're going to back Washington since we can't imagine anyone else will. (I kind of hate this pick, too, but in a good way since everyone will hate it). Take the Redskins.
Ravens 13 - 10
Buccaneers +3 at Panthers
At the risk of oversimplifying it, these teams are far better at home than on the road, and so we'll take whichever one doesn't have to travel. In this case, it's Carolina.
Panthers 23 - 16
We were 9-7 in Week 13, to put us at 96-91-5 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 12/3/08