Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Last week I picked 12 dogs, and it was two too few as I went 7-7, but overall they were 9-5. The biggest dog, Oakland, won outright, the second biggest, the Browns, covered, the fourth biggest, the Rams, took the Jaguars to overtime, and the fifth biggest, the Bills, also went to overtime and won. Among the double-digit favorites, only the Packers covered. As a result, we might expect the public jump on more dogs this week, and the lines to be more balanced. But they don't look that way to me. I took eight dogs and five favorites this week, and four of the favorites (Cowboys, Giants, Bengals and Panthers) are the picks I feel most shaky on, i.e., I'd happily accept 2-2 on those and take my chances with the rest of the slate. In fact the only favorite I feel strongly about is the Steelers, and I could easily have taken dogs in all the remaining games.
49ers +3 at Texans
The Niners stock took a big hit in a blowout loss to the Falcons, while the Texans are coming off a big win in Cincinnati. It's time to buy San Francisco low coming off the bye and getting Frank Gore back. Back the 49ers.
49ers 20 - 17
Chargers -4.5 at Chiefs
That I backed the Chargers last week as six point favorites is shameful. Going forward, I'm betting against them until one of two things happens (1) they stop being tabbed as road favorites against anyone; or (2) They actually play a good game. Back the Chiefs who win outright.
Chiefs 30 - 27
Colts -13.5 at Rams
The Colts might be the best team in the NFL, but the Rams have shown up the last two weeks, and in any event, the value has to be with St. Louis here. Back the Rams.
Colts 30 - 17
Patriots -15 at* Bucs
The Patriots showed they can cover a big spread last week, while people are already speculating on the Bucs following in the 2008 Lions' footsteps. Of course, that means the Bucs are the value here, and that the game's in London just makes it more likely something odd happens. Back the Bucs.
Patriots 30 - 16
* game is in London
Vikings +4 at Steelers
The Vikings escaped with home wins against the Ravens and 49ers, but the degree of difficulty goes up in Pittsburgh this week. The four-point line is steering us to Minnesota, but I'm not going to take the bait. Back the Steelers who win fairly easily.
Steelers 27 - 19
Packers -7 at Browns
The Browns played Cincy tough, beat the Bills in Buffalo and then lost, but did not get blown out in Pittsburgh. The Packers are coming off a shutout against the Lions, but that was in Green Bay and without Detroit's best player. The bottom line, the Packers shouldn't be laying seven on the road against anyone except a total doormat, and the Browns have been better than that of late. Back Cleveland at home.
Browns 23 - 20
Bills +7.5 at Panthers
This is a tough call considering we don't know whether Trent Edwards or which Jake Delhomme will play. The Bills have been shredded on the ground, but I'd imagine they'll sell out to stop the run against the Panthers, so this game might not play out as expected. In the end, this line's probably too big, but I've got a Panthers hunch, so I'm laying the wood. Back Carolina.
Panthers 27 - 16
Jets -6.5 at Raiders
The Jets have lost three in a row, their quarterback is playing like a rookie and they lost Pro Bowl nose tackle Kris Jenkins for the season. Maybe I'm missing something here, but this game should be a pick 'em. Back the Raiders.
Jets 16 - 13
Bears +1.5 at Bengals
The Bears are a solid team - they had a lot of chances to win in Atlanta last week - but the Bengals are 4-2, despite a tough early schedule. Maybe the oddsmakers are down on Cincy after the home loss to the Texans and Antwan Odom's injury, but this line should be closer to three in Cincinnati. Back the Bengals.
Bengals 21 - 17
Falcons +4 at Cowboys
I hate the Cowboys - they're poorly coached, and they tend to come up small when the stakes are high. That Atlanta - the better team - would be getting more than a field goal feels like a gift. But everyone thinks that, so what's the catch? I don't know, but it feels like there is one. I'll hate myself if Atlanta covers, but I'm going Dallas.
Cowboys 27 - 20
Saints -7 at Dolphins
The Saints' stock got a nice boost after the win over the Giants, but New York played a sloppy game, and the poor refereeing didn't help. New Orleans is a good team, but probably not as good as the public perceives. On the other hand, the Dolphins are confident, coming off a bye, at home, unconventional, desperate to get back into the hunt and undoubtedly up for a game against one of the league's undefeated teams. This line should probably be closer to three, and if the Saints have a letdown, we think Miami could win outright. Back the Dolphins.
Dolphins 27 - 23
Cardinals +7 at Giants
I was initially leaning toward the Cardinals - seven is a decent-sized line, and the Giants' safeties are useless in coverage. But with Anquan Boldin banged up, and Arizona lacking a viable tight end, I don't think Kurt Warner will carve them up the way Drew Brees did, especially in the Meadowlands. Back the Giants.
Giants 30 - 21
Eagles -7 at Redskins
It pains me to take the Redskins here, but as a seven-point Monday night home dog against a division rival they play tough against, I have to. If ever "buy at the moment of maximum pessimism" were to apply, it's here. Back Washington.
Eagles 23 - 19
We went 7-7 last week to go 43-47 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 10/21/09