Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Mercifully the Redskins are off this week, but even so, I couldn't hate this slate more. There's only one home dog in the bunch, and a lot of games where the lines more or less match the disparity between the teams. At one point, I changed my Browns pick to the Bears because I think Chicago will roll, and I decided that taking the dog in cases like that was timid, a way to lose but feel like I did the savvy thing, and that going forward, I was going to stop paying attention to sucker and savvy and just take the team I want. But I changed it back because as terrible as the Browns offense is, I decided it would be a low scoring game, and Cleveland would cover even if it scored only nine or 10 points against a shaky defense. I'm still not happy with it, but I think that's mostly because I'm just so sick of seeing the dogs I'm backing down 24 in the second quarter. Give me a bad beat over a blowout any day - there's nothing more dispiriting than not only being wrong but losing interest in a game.
I also went back and forth on the Jets-Dolphins, Giants-Eagles, Jaguars-Titans and Vikings-Packers. I hate all those games, and felt like I could get stuck in an infinite back and forth on any of them, but just had to pick a side and give some reason for it. The basis for the Titans and Dolphins picks now feels particularly strained as I write this, and I place the over/under on wins in those two at .5.
Broncos +3 at Ravens
Never mind their record, the Ravens are an elite team, losing in Minnesota on a missed field goal, losing to the Bengals on the last play of the game and losing to New England due to some ticky-tack roughing the passer calls. Of course, Denver hasnŐt needed to explain away any losses, but the point is BaltimoreŐs an equal and needs the game far more. Back the Ravens.
Ravens 24 - 17
Texans -3.5 at Bills
The Texans might have turned the corner with wins in Cincinnati and over San Francisco, but what about the Bills? Despite playing with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback and having Dick Jauron as their head coach, they've won two straight road games, and would be 4-3 were it not for the collapse against New England in Week 1. Yes, the loss to the Browns and the blowout loss to Miami look bad on the resume, but they also played New Orleans tough for most of that game as well. The bottom line, I like getting more than a field-goal at home here. Back Buffalo.
Texans 24 - 23
Browns +13.5 at Bears
I hate these huge lines because there's no angle to play. I'd expect the Bears to be hungry after getting destroyed in Cincinnati last week, and the Browns have been so inept offensively that it's very easy to see a 20 or 30-point margin. But Vegas got hammered so badly last week and knows the public will be all over the Bears, so why not make the line 17? Because the sharps would jump all over Cleveland. So this must be the highest they think they can push it. Vegas has been wrong all year, but I don't think anything's fundamentally different about the league, so I expect another correction. Back the Browns.
Bears 20 - 9
Seahawks +10 at Cowboys
I don't like this game much, either. The Seahawks have fallen apart the last few weeks, but how can anyone trust Dallas to be consistent? I backed them against the Falcons last week - one of the few things I did right - but it's easy to imagine them having a letdown against a lesser team. On the other hand, Dallas has always struck me as a team that struts when the going is easy and falls apart when the stakes get high, so maybe they're the ideal team to lay the points with in this situation. But how do you explain them nearly losing in Kansas City a few weeks ago then? There is no perfect precedent for any game, but I think I'm going to lay the points here - the Seahawks have problems on the offensive line and on defense, and they can't run the ball at all. Back the Cowboys.
Cowboys 27 - 13
Rams +4* at Lions
As of late Wednesday night Pacific Time Covers.com which tracks about 20 books, had this game off the board in every one except two: the Las Vegas Hilton (Rams +3.5) and SBGGlobal.com (Rams +9.5). The former sounds a lot more reasonable to me - I don't see how anyone could even consider laying 9.5 with the Lions - especially with Calvin Johnson's status in doubt. I was initially going to split the difference at 6.5, but even that seemed off, so I made up one that's closer to what I think it should - and eventually will - be. Of course, in making the line, I've made it hard for me to pick a side, but I have to go with the Rams and take the points - this is their big chance for a win, and I think they'll show up. Back St. Louis.
* made-up line
Rams 23 - 20
49ers +13 at Colts
Once again, I think the Colts are the class of the NFL, but when does a 49ers-level team ever get 13 points? Yes, Alex Smith will be starting his first game in a long time, but he's been around, so it's not like he's an overwhelmed rookie. Back the Niners who make this is a very tight game.
Colts 20 - 19
Dolphins +3.5 at Jets
The Jets might be the better all around team on account of their pass defense, but Miami matches up well if the game turns into a slugfest, especially with Kris Jenkins out. Take the three and a half and back the Dolphins.
Dolphins 19 - 17
Giants pick 'em at Eagles
I used to have Damon handicap the Giants games last year because I'm conflicted every time. If I pick against them, I'm miserable, and if I never pick against them, I'm not really doing my job. The Giants really need a bounce back here, but is Philly the place they're going to do it? Eli Manning has had big games there before, and the Giants have no problem winning on the road in recent seasons. But their playcalling and quarterback play have been poor, and their safeties have been abysmal. Moreover, this line started at three and moved all the way down to a pick. Are the Giants really that much better than Philly given what we've seen the last two weeks? I hope I'm wrong here, but I have to back the Eagles SU at home.
Eagles 24 - 20
Jaguars +3 at Titans
I vowed to take the Titans "in the dark" after they lost 59-0 two weeks ago, but when I said that I had no idea they'd be favorites! On the one hand, I can't but think they'll be focused coming off that loss after a bye week. On the other, how can you bet an 0-6 team that just lost 59-0 as a favorite against anyone? To make matters worse, the public's split roughly 50/50 on it as well. I'll stick to my guns. Back Tennessee.
Titans 27 - 20
Raiders +17 at Chargers
The Chargers are a league average team with some upside, and league average teams don't lay 17, period. It's only in this environment where the public's cleaning up, and Vegas is going broke that something like this could happen. While the Chargers are surely capable of winning this game by that margin, don't forget the Raiders almost beat them in Week 1, and also that Oakland is aware of the number, too. In other words, the public's historic lack of respect for them as professionals should serve as extra motivation. The Chargers always screw me no matter what I do, so you might want to fade this one, but I have to take the Raiders.
Chargers 30 - 17
Vikings +3 at Packers
I can't decide what I think of this game, either. There's so much noise surrounding Brett Favre's return it obscures what's really going on - a crucial divsion matchup that the Packers need to win. On paper, the Vikings are better - they have a better pass rush, a much better offensive line and an explosive running back. The Packers are stronger in the secondary, especially with the Vikings missing Antoine Winfield. But it's hard not to boil the whole contest down to whether Brett Favre rises to the occasion, or whether the Packers ride the emotion at Lambeau and blow the Vikings out of the water. I honestly don't know, but I'm taking the Packers on a hunch. Back Green Bay.
Packers 34 - 23
Panthers +10 at Cardinals
The Cardinals outplayed the Giants last week in the Meadowlands while Carolina got beat up at home by the Bills. Now the Panthers have to travel to Arizona, and you'd think this one could get ugly, especially after Arizona sent the Panthers on their downward spiral in the divisional round of last year's playoffs. But past performance does not guarantee future results, and I have a strange Carolina hunch here - I'm honestly not sure why. Back the Panthers.
Cardinals 23 - 19
Falcons +10 at Saints
Maybe I'm just bitter about the Giants loss and the bad beat cover New Orleans had against Miami, but I don't think the Saints are as good as advertised. The Jets made mistakes against them, the Giants made mistakes and got some bad calls and Miami had them on the ropes. Of course, that's nitpicking if the worst I can say is they won games against teams not playing their very best. But my point is they don't look dominant to me, just good. And I expect the Falcons to bring their "A" game against an undefeated division rival on national television. Back Atlanta.
Falcons 31 - 27
We went 3-9-1 last week to go 46-56-1 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 10/28/09