Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
I went 6-7 last week, but took a couple bad beats with Detroit and Jacksonville, so overall I don't feel too bad about how it turned out. I was also on the fence about Miami and New England, and the former covered by half a point. Sometimes, the lines are too good, and you can't worry too much about not being clairvoyant. This week I found pretty tough also and found myself making some uncharacteristic plays like Indy, the Chargers and the Seahawks on the road. Sometimes I see the logic of the game a certain way, and I try to imagine it happening as such. Either the picture looks okay to me, or it feels false, and I'll stick with it or adjust accordingly. I don't have a great explanation why these mental images/hunches should be considered so seriously except that I see them as a possible distillation of what I've learned over the years. It's not always possible to articulate verbally all the factors and precedents that go into how I see a game, so sometimes a general, almost aesthetic sense is the best I can do. I'm not sure I can ask anyone else to trust such a vague and unscientific explanation, so only go with these picks to the extent they resonate with your own sense of things.
Bears +3 at 49ers
This is probably the right line for two teams that started the season with promise but have struggled of late. I think the 49ers probably make more logical sense, since their performances have been a little more even, and they're better defensively, but I have a Bears hunch - maybe they make a play on special teams, or maybe the judicious Jay Cutler shows up. Back Chicago.
Bears 20 - 19
Falcons -1.5 at Panthers
The Falcons seemed like the better team early on, but there's something not quite crisp enough about the passing offense, and Carolina should have no problem were this to become a slugfest on the ground. I'll take the home dog in this division rivalry. Back Carolina.
Panthers 21 - 20
Buccaneers +10 at Dolphins
This is a pretty big line for the Dolphins to part with, especially after Tampa just beat Green Bay. But Miami is a tough matchup for teams that can't beat them downfield, and I expect them to wear the Bucs down and pull away. Back the Dolphins.
Dolphins 27 - 13
Lions +16.5 at Vikings
The Lions played Seattle tough for most of last week's game, despite Matthew Stafford's five interceptions, and Detroit actually gave Minnesota two close games last year. And while normally coming off a bye is an advantage, I'm not so sure when a team's been rolling like Minnesota had been. Take the Lions and the points.
Vikings 23 - 17
Jaguars +7 at Jets
I don't know how to read the Jets at this point - with Kris Jenkins out, they're no longer a great bet to shut down the run, and Mark Sanchez is still learning as he goes. But Jacksonville strikes me as a soft, finesse-type team, and I expect the Jets to run on them at will which should open up some plays in the passing game. Unless David Garrard plays a great game, I think the Jets will pull away. Back New York.
Jets 30 - 16
Bengals +7 at Steelers
I had assumed the public would be on Pittsbrugh because of their name brand, but actually it's slightly on Cincy - at least as I type this. Still, at some point, I don't really care what the sharps and squares are doing, and this is one such instance. The Bengals beat the Steelers earlier and swept the Ravens, so seven is plenty even for a tough game in Pittsburgh. Back the Bengals.
Steelers 23 - 20
Saints -14 at Rams
Like the 2007 Patriots, the Saints not only remain undefeated, but after a string of easy covers to open the season, they've started to give back some of their early profits. I expect this trend to continue as a 14-point road line is like 20 at home, and the Rams have actually played better of late, beating the Lions and taking the Jaguars to overtime in two of their last three. Back St. Louis.
Saints 27 - 19
Bills +6.5 at Titans
This is an awfully big line for a 2-6 team to part with, but the Titans look a lot more like last year's version the last two weeks, and on paper they seem to match up well with the Bills given Tennessee's reliance on the run and stout run defense. I'm going back to the well here and laying the wood. Back the Titans.
Titans 24 - 13
Broncos -4 at Redskins
This strikes me as an awfully big line for Denver to lay on the road in what should be a low-scoring, defensive-minded game. Yes, I know Washington is pretty bad, but it would have covered last week were it not for a pick six, and I don't think the downgrade from Clinton Portis to Ladell Betts matters at all. Back the Redskins.
Redskins 17 - 16
Chiefs +2 at Raiders
The Chiefs dominated the yardage stats but lost in the first game, and now they're getting credit for being slightly better as the line is only two despite the venue. The Raiders are coming off a bye, which is hard to evaluate - my image of Tom Cable during an off week is him getting drunk, brawling with men and women alike and then soaking up the booze with a couple steaks. But who knows? Maybe he locked himself in the film room and watched endless footage of the Chiefs horrendous backdoor cover against the Jaguars. In any event, I've got a Raiders hunch here. Back Oakland.
Raiders 20 - 16
Seahawks +9 at Cardinals
I want to take the Cardinals here - I really do. They almost look as if they can join the Vikings and Saints as serious contenders in the NFC. And I don't put much stock into their struggling at home and playing better on the road. And I think very little of Seattle. But I have a nagging hunch that it's time to go ugly on this one whether it's because of the division rivalry, overconfidence on Arizona's part or a boost in confidence for Seattle after the Detroit game even though they don't deserve one. Back the Seahawks.
Cardinals 24 - 21
Cowboys - 3 at Packers
The Cowboys are on a roll of late, with an impressive win in Philly, while the Packers were not only embarrassed at home by the face of their franchise, but then laid an egg against winless Tampa Bay. I think this is a good time to buy low now that they're getting points at home. Back Green Bay.
Packers 27 - 23
Eagles +2 at Chargers
I've gone back and forth on this a bunch of times - the Eagles seem logical to me because they're the better rounded team, and they're coming off a loss. But the Chargers got a lot of pressure on Eli Manning last week, and Philip Rivers has a nice variety of weapons to beat the blitz. Plus, the Eagles oddly struggled in their last trip to the west coast, a surprising loss to the Raiders. I want to pick Philly, but I have a Chargers hunch. (And I'm almost always wrong about the Chargers). Back San Diego.
Chargers 23 - 20
Patriots +3 at Colts
I want to take the Pats here because I like the idea of Belichick the genius and Tom Brady the master being the ones to solve the undefeated Colts. But Peyton Manning is playing out of his mind this year, and the Pats defense isn't as good as Indy's. All the injuries to the Colts' secondary give me some pause, but I expect them to double Randy Moss and let Wes Welker run wild - a game plan that should yield a win if Manning continues to play at his current level. Back the Colts.
Colts 31 - 24
Ravens -11 at Browns
The Monday night home dog didn't work out last week, but I'm going back to the well here as Vegas knows the public's going to be all over Baltimore. The switch to Brady Quinn might or might not help, but it certainly won't be worse, and Cleveland's had two weeks to prepare for a division rival. Back the Browns.
Ravens 24 - 19
We went 6-7 last week to go 62-66-1 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 11/11/09