Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 8-8 last week, but we really should have been 10-6. No, I'm not talking about bad luck - what we did was self-induced. In the Giants-Eagles game, we liked the Eagles all week (and had been shorting the Giants off their peak for the better part of the month), but changed our minds at the last minute after the line moved down to seven due to the Plaxico Burress debacle. Instead of sticking to our guns, we shot ourselves in the thigh, so to speak, by overthinking it, reasoning the Giants would have a newfound impetus to get up for the game - banding together and proving that they could win despite the circus going on around them. That was a reach - essentially after proving beyond doubt they were the top team in the league over the previous month, they were due for a letdown at home against the barely-over-.500 Eagles.
The other game we gave away was the Chargers-Raiders. We had laid the outsized wood with San Diego every week and gotten beat, and so we failed to stick to our guns one more time. We were like a Hold 'em player who bluffed the flop and the turn, but then checked the river, only to learn later that a final bluff would have taken down the pot.
This week, we went all-in without regard to the consequences, picking the teams we wanted even if they were traveling cross country for an early game, winless, playing out of their element or left for dead.
Saints +3 at Bears
The Saints have played well the last few weeks, beating Green Bay and Atlanta, and barely losing in Tampa Bay. But going to Chicago in December is a tall order for a finesse team that plays in a dome. Back the Bears.
Bears 24 - 20
Buccaneers +3 at Falcons
The Bucs have struggled away from home this year, managing just a 3-4 record (they're undefeated at home). Atlanta's not much different, with a 5-1 mark in the Georgia dome and a 3-4 road record as well. Because the game's in Atlanta, we should probably back the Falcons, but we're not. Call it a hunch, but we think Tampa bounces back after last week's loss. Back the Bucs.
Buccaneers 23 - 20
Redskins -7 at Bengals
It's hard to pick between two buy-low teams, but we've got to go with the cheaper one. Take the Bengals as home dogs.
Redskins 19 - 13
Titans -3 at Texans
The Titans are coming off two blowout wins, but both were against league doormats, so we don't place a whole lot of value on them. The Texans on the other hand just outplayed the Packers at Lambeau Field in December, and at this point look like they'd be a borderline playoff team had they not lost Matt Schaub and had Sage Rosenfels not absolutely donated the game against the Colts. Laying points on the road is always tough, and we think the quality of these teams is closer than their respective records. Back the Texans who win outright.
Texans 24 - 23
Lions +17.5 at Colts
The Lions are desperate for a win, and the Colts, aside from last week, haven't really been a blow-out team this year. Back the Lions who keep this one much closer than people expect.
Colts 20 - 16
Packers -1.5 at Jaguars
Damon and I went back and forth here. On its face, the Packers are the value play - they've just been far more competitive than the Jaguars, and this line is essentially a pick 'em. But the Jaguars are the contrarian play - a reeling team at home that has to be aware of all the pundits saying they've quit. It's a tough call, but when in doubt always fade the obvious. Back Jacksonville.
Jaguars 27 - 21
Chargers -5.5 at Chiefs
We're cowards for not sticking with the Chargers as stupidly big favorites for one more week. The Book was steering us to the Raiders, and we knew it, but San Diego had burnt us so many times we got skittish. You can't do that if you expect to have a good record against the spread, and we'll have to be more disciplined going forward. In any event, we don't like the Chargers as decent-sized road favorites at Arrowhead in December. Back the Chiefs.
Chargers 27 - 23
49ers +7 at Dolphins
The 49ers have turned the corner with Mike Singletary at the helm and Shaun Hill under center. Can they fly cross country for an early game and win on the road? They did it two weeks ago against Buffalo, but the Dolphins are a much tougher team. Expect San Francisco to come up just short - but cover. Back the 49ers.
Dolphins 21 - 17
Bills +8 at Jets
The Bills are abysmal, and we can't imagine anyone would want to back them in New York even with eight points. Except us, of course. Go ugly with Buffalo.
Jets 23 - 16
Seahawks -3 at Rams
The Seahawks looked pretty good against the Patriots last week, but Seattle's always been a far better team at home, and 2-11 road favorites are something we typically avoid. Back the Rams.
Rams 20 - 19
Vikings +3 at Cardinals
The Book seems to be steering us to the Cardinals, but this is one instance in which we'll take the bait. Arizona is far better at home, and we have little faith in Brad Childress to come up with a game plan adequate to the task. Back Arizona.
Cardinals 31 - 20
Steelers +1.5 at Ravens
You could almost argue the Ravens have the lesser defense, but steadier offense in this game. Either way, we think these teams are pretty evenly matched, and we'll take the home one laying just one and a half. Back the Ravens.
Ravens 16 - 13
Broncos +7.5 at Panthers
We almost reflexively decided on the Broncos, but then Damon had second thoughts and wanted to go Carolina at home. And I'm fine with it. Just because Denver beat the Jets after their big win against Tennessee doesn't mean Denver will cover at Carolina after its big win against Tampa. Back the Panthers who seem to be coming together on offense and who are very tough at home.
Panthers 31 - 17
Patriots -7.5 at Raiders
The Raiders looked terrible on Thursday night and are largely considered a laughingstock, so how can they not be a value? Back Oakland.
Patriots 17 - 13
Giants +3 at Cowboys
As a Giants fan, I recuse myself from making the final decision on their games - especially ones against teams I despise like the Cowboys. To be honest, I have a nagging fear about this game - the Giants just looked so flat last week. But they looked that way against Cleveland, too and came back even stronger, so maybe I'm reading too much into it. In any event, Damon liked the G-Men as three-point dogs, and we both felt the onus is on the Cowboys to prove they deserve to be treated as equals. Back the Giants.
Giants 21 - 20
Browns +14 at Eagles
Damon and I agreed on the Browns because we can't imagine anyone else taking them, but I'm having a hard time seeing how they'll stay within 14. But the how only matters in billiards and HORSE. Do the reverse bank and back the Browns.
Eagles 27 - 14
We were 8-8 in Week 14, to put us at 104-99-5 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 12/10/08