Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Six wins doesn't pay the bills in a 16-game slate, but it's Week 1 which is almost like Week 17 in terms of maximum uncertainty. The slate really went bad on Sunday and Monday night (a little bad luck on what I considered a 50/50 game with the Bears) and two wrong calls on the Pats and Chargers who were never close to covering. That's one of those cases where what you think is a hunch is actually the conventional wisdom tugging at your sleeve. Like the voice of Satan imploring you to kill and eat your neighbor, it must be resisted at all costs.
Panthers +6 at Falcons
This is a difficult game because it's impossible to know which Jake Delhomme will show up. Is this the game he turns it around en route to a solid season, or is this the beginning of the end and a rebuilding year in Carolina? Hard to know. But even if Delhomme plays decently, and the game is close, Atlanta could still win by a touchdown at home. And if Delhomme plays like he has in his last two contests, this line might as well be 20. Back the Falcons.
Falcons 27 - 20
Rams +10 at Redskins
I hate to pick against the doormats, but I have to do it here. The Redskins took a beating from the Giants last week (nevermind the score, it wasn't that close), but Albert Haynesworth was a presence against the run, and the Rams don't have much of a passing game if that option's cut off. Washington should move the ball more easily, and barring a few turnovers/special teams disasters should win big. Back the Redskins.
Redskins 27 - 10
Texans +6.5 at Titans
I was going to take Houston here almost reflexively, but Tennessee will be hungry for a win at home after losing the opener in Pittsburgh, and I expect them to bring their "A" game this week. As for the Texans, I have no idea. If Matt Schaub is sharp, and the team gives him time to throw, they'll probably cover, but I don't see them stopping Tennessee, and I'm not sure what kind of cohesion we'll see in a hostile environment. Back the Titans.
Titans 31 - 16
Saints pick 'em at Eagles
Donovan McNabb's not likely to play, but is he really worth the four points this line surely would have been all by himself? Maybe, but the Eagles were one of the league's best teams last year, and did nothing to dispel that perception in Carolina Week 1. The Saints have been a fun team to watch the last few years, but beating up on the Lions at home doesn't mean they turned over a new leaf and suddenly become good. Back Philly.
Eagles 27 - 24
Patriots -3.5 at Jets
I'd like to buy the Pats low and sell the Jets high, but this line simply doesn't permit me to do that as it assumes the Pats are still the 11-12 win team we thought they'd be, and the Jets are the 7-8 win one oddsmakers pegged them for before the season. But what if the Jets are the 9-10 win team they looked like in Houston? In that case, this line should be a pick. Moreover, not only did the Pats trade Richard Seymour two weeks ago, but their other star defensive player, Jerod Mayo, is out, too. Back the Jets.
Patriots 24 - 23
Raiders +3 at Chiefs
The Chiefs played okay last week under the circumstances, but they were dominated in the final stats. Still, they didn't fall apart in a tough environment, and Baltimore actually had to execute a perfect deep pass to put them away. The Raiders also played better than expected, but JaMarcus Russell's erratic throws, and the team's predictable fold down the stretch makes it hard not to associate the 2009 incarnation with the ongoing organizational ineptitude that's plagued them for more than half a decade. Bottom line, Kansas City has a better chance to get better, and for that reason we like them this week. Back the Chiefs.
Chiefs 23 - 16
Cardinals +3 at Jaguars
This is a strange game between two teams coming off seasons that defied expectations - postively for Arizona and negatively for Jacksonville. Both were rightfully expected to regress (or progress) to the mean, and here they are, meeting halfway in Jacksonville with a three-point spread. This is the right line, so it's just a hunch, but I'm going with Arizona.
Cardinals 27 - 23
Bengals +9 at Packers
If the Bengals were 1-0, and the Packers were 0-1, what would this line be - six, at most? That it's the other way around has little to do with the quality of the teams and a lot to do with the way some bounces went in Week 1 (quite literally in Cincy's case). Maybe the Packers are this good, but they have to prove it first. Back the Bengals.
Packers 20 - 19
Vikings -10 at Lions
Ten on the road is something like 16 at home. That assumes the Lions are still the NFL's worst team (it's possible, but things change every year) and the Vikings are one of its best (also possible, but far from established). As such, we think Detroit is the value here. Back the Lions.
Vikings 24 - 20
Buccaneers +5 at Bills
I have no idea about this game. The Bills are coming off a heartbreaking loss, but showed they could hang in New England, albeit against an initially rusty Tom Brady and a defense missing its veteran leaders and also its biggest star. Tampa's a tougher read with its new coach, quarterback and defensive scheme. I could honestly flip a coin here, and I will. Tails. Back the Bucs.
Bills 23 - 20
Seahawks +1.5 at 49ers
The Seahawks might be back to their perennial NFC West winning ways, but I don't think we should conclude that based on a home win against the Rams. The Niners won in Arizona last week and merit three-point home favorite status until proven otherwise. Back San Fran.
49ers 16 - 13
Steelers -3 at Bears
This is one of those unpopular home dogs I have a lot of trouble passing up. You simply must go against the defending Super Bowl champs laying points on the road early on. Unless you think Brian Urlacher made a huge difference, which I don't - at least not in the last three years. Back the Bears who lose on a last second field-goal.
Steelers 19 - 17
Browns +3 at Broncos
With the Broncos hosting Cleveland and the Bears having to take on the Steelers this week, it's easy to envision the Broncos starting off 2-0 while Jay Cutler's new team falls to 0-2. While I'm not usually a fan of a team coming off one of the luckiest wins in recent memory, it was a road game, and I have very little faith in Eric Mangini or Brady Quinn who lacks the downfield game to exploit Cleveland's biggest (and only) weapon. Back the Broncos.
Broncos 20 - 16
Ravens +3 at Chargers
The Chargers are arguably the league's best team on paper, as long as you cross off the name of their coach. San Diego played such a uninspired game against the Raiders that I have a hard time getting behind them at this point. The Ravens struggled against the Chiefs, too, but only because of fluke plays like a blocked punt for a touchdown and a 50-yard interception return to set up another easy score. In the end, this game should be close, and I want the team getting rather than giving the field goal. Back the Ravens.
Ravens 20 - 17
Giants +3 at Cowboys
I love the way this game sets up for the Giants with Dallas coming off an ostensibly impressive win filled with downfield highlights and big numbers from Tony Romo. The Giants, despite being the No. 1 seed in the NFC last year, and getting Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora back, are under the radar - getting the full three against a Cowboys team that didn't even make the playoffs. Expect the Giants to control the clock on offense, and pressure Romo on defense en route to an easy win. Back New York.
Giants 27 - 19
Colts -3 at Dolphins
The Dolphins looked terrible in Atlanta last week, but I'll give them a mulligan as a home dog against one of the league's perennial favorites. The value has to be on Miami here. Back the Dolphins.
Dolphins 23 - 21
We went 6-10 last week. We were 124-122-10 on the regular season last year. From 1999-2008, we are 1308-1140 - not including ties - (53.4 percent).
Article first appeared 9/16/09