Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
I had a lot of trouble with this slate - much agonizing, guessing, doing the opposite of what I think most would do, and sometimes doing the opposite of that. I really have no feel for a lot of these games and am worried I'm going to have a terrible week in part because I picked the games too boldly and randomly and also because my picks were timid and predictable. I'm not even sure which are which anymore. Even so, I take some solace in knowing the week I felt strongest I went 3-13, and last week, I went 10-3 after starting the article with the following sentence:
Mercifully the Redskins are off this week, but even so, I couldn't hate this slate more.
Still, I don't love any of the games, and the only distinction I can make in picking them is based on how long they took me to decide. Fast picks: Washington, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Carolina, New York Giants. Medium picks: Titans, Broncos. Slow Picks: Buccaneers, Patriots, Cowboys. Agonizing Picks: Lions, Jaguars.
Redskins +10 at Falcons
I've been burned by the Redskins a few times this year, but I like them in this spot off the bye and getting so many points. While Washington has played a soft schedule, they've given up the fewest points of any team in the NFC, and they actually played the Eagles very tough the last time out, the final score notwithstanding. (Washington got to Donovan McNabb in that game and more or less shut the Eagles down except for two big plays to DeSean Jackson). Atlanta should be able to pull this one out at home, but the Redskins keep it close enough. Back Washington.
Falcons 21 - 17
Cardinals +3 at Bears
This is the right line in a game between two teams that alternatively look like contenders or frauds depending what week you catch them. The Bears got destroyed in Cincinnati, but beat Pittsburgh at home. The Cardinals beat the Giants in the Meadowlands then laid an egg at home against the Panthers. Both teams struggle to run the ball and have big-name quarterbacks that aren't quite in sync. I think the Cardinals are slightly better on balance, but the Bears are in a far more competitive division and need the game more. Back Chicago who pulls it out.
Bears 27 - 23
Ravens -3 at Bengals
I think the Ravens are one of the league's elite teams, but laying three on the road in Cincy is a lot to ask, especially after the Bengals beat them outright last time they played. Yes, the Bengals are missing their best pass rusher, but I don't think Antwan Odom's worth six points all by himself. Back the Bengals.
Ravens 20 - 19
Texans +9 at Colts
My first instinct when I saw this line was to think: "Texans, obviously." That's a big number for the Colts to part with against an up and coming division rival. But I was suprised to see the public was (slightly) on Houston, too, so maybe Vegas is steering us in that direction. But it could also be that Vegas, wary of everyone hammering the favorites, made such a big line to preempt too many people jumping on the Colts, and overshot it ever so slightly. Either way, I can't imagine this line being any higher, and I think the Colts could actually lose this game outright. Back Houston.
Texans 24 - 21
Chiefs +6.5 at Jaguars
I've been back and forth on this a hundred times, and even went to each team's web site to see if I could get a feel for the atmosphere surrounding it. It's hard to know what to make of the coaching interviews and the local beat writer perception of a team, but sometimes I just surf around for any clue that will trigger a hunch. I didn't find much this time, though if you want a hilarous read, you should check out Vic Ketchman's Q & A. He's pretty good at taking apart the ridiculous assumptions the team's fans make... In any event, I was set to go with the Chiefs, but am switching to the Jaguars because the vibe on their site seems more hopeless. The Chiefs have a new head coach and front office, and the tone is more positive. Which probably means the Jags will play with more urgency. Back Jacksonville.
Jaguars 27 - 17
Packers -10 at Buccaneers
This line actually strikes me as small when you consider Josh Freeman will be starting for Tampa, and Green Bay has lit up league doormats all year. But the Packers are reeling from the home loss to the Brett-Favre led Vikings, and the Bucs are rested and at home. I have to take the home dog and count on the Bucs running effectively and uglying-up the game at home. Back Tampa.
Packers 24 - 16
Dolphins +10.5 at Patriots
This is another tough game. On the one hand, it's a huge line against a tough-as-nails Dolphins team that always seems to play the Patriots tough. On the other, there's little doubt Bill Belichick will have a good plan to attack Miami's unconventional offense, and Tom Brady said this week he feels healthier than he has in years. Even though it seems a bit crazy to me, I'm taking the Pats here. Back New England.
Patriots 33 - 19
Panthers +13.5 at Saints
Maybe the Saints roll here - it's a good spot for Jake Delhomme to cough up a couple pick sixes - but I don't see the value in laying this many points against a Carolina team that just played well in Arizona last week. Back the Panthers who keep it close enough.
Saints 27 - 20
Lions +10 at Seahawks
I so thoroughly disliked my initial writeup here - something about Calvin Johnson's availability enabling Detroit to move the ball - that I scrapped it completely. I don't know what to put in its place, though. And I'm not sure whether I should change the pick or not. I have a Seattle hunch, but I'm going to stick with Detroit as that's a big number for the Seahawks to lay no matter who the opponent is. Back the Lions.
Seahawks 30 - 21
Chargers +4.5 at Giants
The Giants have fallen apart the last three weeks, but San Diego's the right type of team for them to get healthy against. New York should be able to get pressure on Philip Rivers, and the offense should have an easier time getting in a groove than it did in Philly last week. Back the Giants.
Giants 31 - 20
Titans +4 at 49ers
Ordinarily I'd probably sell the Titans here off their win over Jacksonville, but this game is likely to be a slugfest which is good for the underdog and suits the Titans' style of play. Back Tennessee.
49ers 19 - 16
Cowboys +3 at Eagles
This is the right line. Both teams are playing better of late, and first place in the NFC East is on the line. The question is whether Tony Romo will play well in the face of the Eagles' constant blitzes, and whether the Eagles will continue to connect for big plays against a beatable Dallas secondary. This is a coin flip for me. My brain says Philly which seems like the obvious play, so I'm going to do the opposite and take Dallas who people don't quite believe in yet. Back the Cowboys.
Cowboys 31 - 30
Steelers -3 at Broncos
I don't want to take the Monday night home dog here reflexively - which is something I've often done in the past - it's always frustrating to lose a game because you were too cavalier in picking it. Do I want this particular home dog in this instance? On the one hand, the Steelers need this game more than the Broncos, and Kyle Orton could have trouble with Pittsburgh's aggressive defense. On the other, Denver beat New England and Dallas at home, so it's not as if this is its first test. In the end, I think it's time to buy Denver low off the Baltimore blowout and also challenge the assumption that just because Pittsburgh's a "good" team, they're somehow destined to win 10-11 games. It might not happen for them this year. Back the Broncos who win outright.
Broncos 20 - 16
We went 10-3 last week to go 56-59-1 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 11/04/09