Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
That serves me right for touting my "minimum 10-win slate" last week. Thankfully, I pointed out that my confidence level has if anything a negative correlation with my performance, so had you read between the lines you would have faded those picks and gone 13-3.
Normally, I'd be tearing my hair out after a week like that, but in this case I'm not. I only half-joked in East Coast Offense that "The Games Got Themselves Wrong," an opinion that was bolstered by comments in the free version of ECO that even the Yahoo! users killed it last week. Sometimes the sucker plays pan out - usually not all at once - but occasionally. The margin between winning and losing is often a backdoor cover, a pick-six on the final series and blowout on a double-digit spread on which you flipped a coin. Half the games come down to the last couple drives. Over the long haul, the luck evens out - and your record tells the tale. But in one week or even one month, those bounces can make a massive difference. The question one needs to ask is whether you bought into the hype, missed the flow of the action or were fundamentally wrong in your approach. I could be crazy saying this off a 3-13 week, but I don't think that was the case.
But in the end - no matter how much one philosophizes it away - like a conviction for sexual assault, one can't simply expunge poor results from the record. It is what it is, and the only thing I can do about it is buckle down and try to get it back.
Lions +10 at Bears
The Bears were lucky to win the last two weeks, thanks to opposing kickers obligingly missing field goals. They strike me as a 9-7 type team - at least at this stage, and I'm not sure 9-7 should lay 10 against anything better than 4-12. Can the Lions get to five this year? I give them an even-money chance. Back Detroit who hangs around.
Bears 30 - 21
Bengals -5.5 at Browns
The Bengals should be 3-0, despite playing Denver, who's undefeated, Green Bay, whose only loss was to them and Pittsburgh. In other words, I have to take them seriously as a good team. The Browns, on the other hand, have been annihilated in all three of their games and just today decided who their starting quarterback is. These facts are well known both by Vegas and the public, and this line ensures the herd will jump on Cincinnati. You should usually do the opposite - Vegas isn't giving money away, and laying substantially more than a field goal on the road in the NFL is always a tall order. Back the Browns.
Bengals 20 - 17
Raiders +9.5 at Texans
The Texans are capable of blowing Oakland out, but I don't see the game shaking out that way. In fact, the Raiders match up well against Houston - kind of like a poor man's New York Jets with their shutdown corner and competent running game. Unless JaMarcus Russell turns the ball over a couple times - something he's been decent at avoiding until last week - I think the Raiders will keep it close. Back Oakland.
Texans 24 - 20
Seahawks +10.5* at Colts
Peyton Manning has looked so in sync the last two games, it's hard to imagine any team slowing down the Colts, especially with rookie playmakers Pierre Garcon and Donald Brown giving last year's sluggish veteran offense a new dimension. Indy will miss Dwight Freeney, though that might be less of an issue against scrambling Seneca Wallace than it would were Matt Hasselbeck healthy. I could go either way here, but I'm rolling with the Colts who pull away even as Jim Mora tries to ugly it up. Back Indy.
Colts 28 - 10
*no line - made it up
Titans -3 at Jaguars
How often does an 0-3 team lay points on the road and yet 80 percent of the public still backs it? The Titans are the sucker side, for sure, but I'm going along with it this time. Back Tennessee.
Titans 27 - 13
Giants -9 at Chiefs
I'm a Giants fan, and I picked them to win the Super Bowl over the Ravens before the season. So I believe in the team and take no joy in going against them. But out of principle you have to go ugly with nine-point home dogs and accept not knowing *how* your pick will pan out. Trust in the oddsmakers here. Back the Chiefs.
Giants 20 - 13
Ravens +2 at Patriots
The Ravens have been the better team to date, so this is probably the right line. But Baltimore's pass defense is no longer elite, and I expect Tom Brady and Randy Moss to carve it up. Baltimore will dominate the line of scrimmage and gash the Patriots on the ground, but it'll have to settle for field goals too often. Back New England.
Patriots 27 - 23
Buccaneers +7 at Redskins
After backing the Redskins as big favorites against the Rams and Lions the last two weeks, it's unpleasant even to consider laying a touchdown with them this Sunday. Who does Washington have to blow it against to earn the derision from oddsmakers it deserves? But as sickening as it is, I can't help myself here - how often do you get to go against the public with the home team facing a quarterback making his first start? Hold your nose and lay the wood.
Redskins 24 - 13
Bills -2 at Dolphins
The Dolphins don't have a quarterback anymore, but it's not clear having one served them too well through the first three games anyway. This should be an ugly slugfest with Dick Jauron doing everything in his power to ensure the Bills don't pull away. Back the Dolphins who pull it out on a last-second field goal.
Dolphins 19 - 17
Jets +7 at Saints
I'm still not sure what I want to do here. On the one hand, the Jets strike me as somewhat overhyped. Yes, the win against New England was impressive, but the Titans were taking it to them in the second half last week before a muffed punt turned the tide. Sure, there was plenty of time left after that, and New York closed the deal. But that wasn't a particularly convincing win at home. The Saints have looked tremendous even on the road, and it will be interesting to see how Sean Payton, the most innovative offensive coach in the game, matches up with Rex Ryan's defensive looks. In the end, the surface, the venue and the matchup seem to favor the Saints, and I'll lay the seven even though on a neutral (grass) field, this line might only be one or two. Back New Orleans.
Saints 30 - 17
Cowboys -3 at Broncos
These teams strike me as rough equals so far, taking care of business against weak competition and struggling against stronger teams (Denver won in Cincinnati, but was very lucky to do so, and Dallas lost at home to the Giants). That Dallas is laying three on the road presumes otherwise, and I think that's jumping the gun. Back the Broncos.
Broncos 23 - 20
Rams +10 at 49ers
The Niners could obviously crush the Rams at home, but 10 is a big number for a team without any explosive weapons. It's just a question of how often the Rams turn it over. If that battle is even, I expect them to stay in the game. Back St. Louis.
49ers 13 - 6
Chargers +6.5 at Steelers
Philip Rivers is good enough to handle the Steelers defense to an extent. But probably not by the margin the Steelers' offense handles San Diego's average group. Back a desperate Pittsburgh squad at home.
Steelers 31 - 20
Packers +3.5 at Vikings
Thank God Tony Kornheiser isn't doing the Monday night game anymore because the storyline would be beaten like Apollo Creed in the Drago fight. Brett Favre did make an incredible throw to beat the 49ers last week, but this game is more about Aaron Rodgers' ability to throw downfield than Favre's to be a good caretaker while Adrian Peterson carries the load. Either way, this should be a close game, and we'll accept the extra half point in case the Vikings win by a field goal. That said, Packers outright.
Packers 28 - 27
We went 3-13 last week to go 18-30 on the season. 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 9/30/09