Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
I went 7-8 last week, but still feel pretty good about how it went. The Seahawks blew a sure cover on a fluke play, the Bears lost the cover by one and were knocking on the door in the closing seconds, the Lions failed by half a point, my best bet, the Bengals, covered easily, and I lost a couple I was lukewarm on anyway like Indy and Oakland. Sometimes you miss your flush draws, but you know you had the odds to call. You should be hard on yourself regarding the quality of play, and as patient as possible with the results. Patience isn't my strong suit, but it's that or an eventual heart attack, so I'm working on it.
This week has a whopping seven home dogs, four of which are by nine or more, so as you might imagine I'm taking the points even more than usual - in 14 out of 16 games. I also came up with the "Liss rule" for when to ignore the points. While Mike Salfino says never take points unless you think a team will win outright, i.e., always ignore the points, and Mark Stopa says: Always ignore the points when the line is three or less, I say: "Always ignore the points when you think the dog will win outright."
Dolphins +3 at Panthers
The loss of Ronnie Brown hurts, but I think the Dolphins will match up well against Carolina in what should be a physical, smash-mouth game. Take the points.
Dolphins 20 - 19
Colts -1 at Ravens
The Colts should be able to move the ball on the Ravens, especially with Terrell Suggs out, but I can't help but think the Ravens, who desperately need the win, will be bring their "A" game this week. The Colts have struggled against the 49ers, Texans and Patriots, and I don't see why they wouldn't also have a hard time here against a Baltimore squad that lost on a missed FG in Minnesota and due to two bad roughing the passer calls in New England. I realize the Ravens pass defense isn't very good, but even if it were would it really matter that much against Manning? The Ravens have enough offense and the playmakers on defense to knock off Indy. Back Baltimore.
Ravens 27 - 23
Redskins +11 at Cowboys
This line is probably appropriate given the performances of the teams so far, but this is a rivarly in which the teams' prior records have meant little over the years, and Washington just played well last week against Denver. Back the Redskins who keep it close and possibly win outright.
Redskins 23 - 21
Browns +3.5 at Lions
The Browns are so terrible, I'd expect most people to back the Lions who offer at least a glimmer of hope for the future, but I'm going the other way, taking the points here and hoping Josh Cribbs - the only playmaker on the team - can suit up. It's not every day you get to bet against the Lions and go ugly at the same time. Back the Browns.
Lions 16 - 13
49ers +6.5 at Packers
The Packers got a big win over Dallas last week, but I'm still not sold on that squad as nearly a touchdown favorite against a team with a decent defense. Back the 49ers who keep it close.
Packers 20 - 16
Bills +8.5 at Jaguars
The Bills just got rid of the anchor on their offense, and while I don't expect a transformation overnight, the passing game has nowhere to go but up. The Jaguars played well last week against the Jets, but they're so Jekyll and Hyde I don't like them laying this kind of number. Maurice Jones-Drew should have a nice game, but Buffalo's good against the pass and could finally see Lee Evans or Terrell Owens make some plays downfield. Back Buffalo.
Bills 24 - 23
Steelers -10 at Chiefs
While I normally take the home dog in these situations almost reflexively, I'm torn here because the Steelers are coming off a loss and KC a win. Had it been the other way around, the line probably would be around 13 which means there's a rare buying window on the Steelers. Still, 10 points on the road is like 16 at home, and Troy Polamalu, the Steelers' most important defensive player, might be out. Back the Chiefs.
Steelers 23 - 14
Seahawks +10.5 at Vikings
I see the Vikings as the class of the NFC despite their spotty pass defense because I like their all around talent better than New Orleans'. The NFL's best running back, Pro Bowl linemen, dynamic weapons at receiver, an all-world pass rusher in Jared Allen. And Brett Favre playing out of his mind. Seattle on the other hand gave away a sure cover when Matt Hasselbeck, whose focus and accuracy seemed to come and go almost randomly last week, handed off an interception at the goal line because he spaced out during the snap. Why even suit up when you're going to do something like that with the cover on the line? So I want to say the Seahawks are a worthless team, and the Vikings should roll, but I'm not feeling it. Back Seattle.
Vikings 27 - 20
Falcons +6.5 at Giants
I really do expect the Giants to turn it around because they're a good team that's typically well coached, but every time I've expected it to happen, they've come out flat. Actually before the bye, they played a decent game against a solid Chargers squad, and they should be healthier and have a chance to reset after the bye. I think they'll cover this number against a Falcons team that could be without Michael Turner. Back the Giants.
Giants 33 - 17
Saints -11.5 at Buccaneers
This is another massive line on the road, and the Saints didn't come close to covering last week in St. Louis. Moreover, Josh Freeman has given the Bucs a shot in the arm with his playmaking ability. Back the Bucs who make it competitive.
Saints 30 - 24
Cardinals -9 at Rams
After a slow start, the Cardinals handled the Seahawks last week, but that game didn't show us anything new. The Rams, on the other hand, played a tight game with the Saints, and I think they're almost ready to join the rest of the NFL community as a normal below-average to average team. As such, nine points is too much. Back St. Louis.
Cardinals 24 - 20
*Chargers -3 at Broncos
This line is off the board due to the uncertainty of Kyle Orton's playing status (yes, you read that correctly), but three sounds about right. The Broncos beat up the Chargers in San Diego the first time around, but the Chargers have since played much better football, beating the Giants on the road and handling Philly last week at home. I hate backing the Chargers as a favorite, I hate laying points on the road when the public's doing the same, but I believe they've turned the corner. Back San Diego.
Chargers 22 - 10
* no line - made one up
Jets +10.5 at Patriots
The Patriots are much better now than when they lost to the Jets in Week 2, but this is a good time to buy low on New York and sell high on New England who despite last week's loss showed they're even money against any team in the league. The Jets will be up for this one and keep it close. Back New York.
Patriots 23 - 17
Bengals -9.5 at Raiders
This is one of those "take the home dog on blind faith" plays that I can't turn down. When you can't see who in their right mind would back a certain team, get out of your right mind and do it. Back the Raiders.
Bengals 16 - 10
Eagles -3 at Bears
The Bears have struggled of late, but I like them in this spot against an inconsistent Eagles team at home. Back Chicago who wins outright.
Bears 27 - 24
Titans +4.5 at Texans
This is the rare game where the public is on the dog but the line actually moved up. That means the sharps are all over Houston. I'm conflicted because if I didn't know that, I'd probably take the Titans who I expect to be a tough out for almost everyone the rest of the way. But those "in the know" are happy to take bets on Tennessee and apparently believe the difference in the passing games is too big, and the improvement in Houston's run defense is for real. But I'm still skeptical, and I think Jeff Fisher's group will show up Monday night. This might be like splitting 10s, but I'm taking the Titans.
Titans 23 - 20
We went 7-8 last week to go 69-74-1 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 11/18/09