Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
This is a strange week with the public oddly backing some big dogs like the Raiders and Browns, while nearly splitting the action on the Eagles-Redskins, Chargers-Chiefs and Broncos-Giants (the public was on the Broncos when I started writing, but it switched to NY in the last few hours). What I think is happening is there were some terrible performances early in the season by a lot of the dogs (Tampa, Oakland, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City), and the public cleaned up by betting the favorites. Vegas adjusted by making huge lines and won some of the money back as the dregs reverted to normal rather than historic badness. Still, those horrible early-season performances are still affecting the year-to-date stats, and the book is still churning out bigger-than-usual lines. But the public seems to be betting some of the big dogs because in recent weeks things have been business as usual with them. The question is whether Vegas/the sharps are screwing up by considering the early season data too heavily, or whether the return to business-as-usual by the previously terrible teams is actually the anomaly, and the big spreads are justified. Obviously, we have to take it case by case, but I can't remember seeing this dynamic before.
Have a good Thanksgiving.
Packers -11.5 at Lions
I know the Packers killed them the first time around, but 11.5 on the road? That's like 17.5 at home, and Green Bay isn't even that good. And that was before it lost Aaron Kampman and Al Harris. It would be better if Calvin Johnson can play, but we probably won't know that until just before game time. Back the Lions who hang around.
Packers 27 - 20
Raiders +13.5 at Cowboys
You have to wonder what this line would have been had the Cowboys not scored 14 points in their last two games combined and the Raiders not won last week. I want to say this is a buying opportunity on Dallas, but with a merely decent team that's out of sync to be laying nearly two TDs, it's hard to frame it that way. Oddly, the public is slightly on Oakland, but the line remains large which means the sharps at the very least aren't jumping on the dog. The contrarian in me wants to fade the public which focuses too much on recent results and take the Cowboys to roll. But common sense says the Raiders are the right play getting ample points and having played close games in four of their past five including wins over the Eagles and Bengals. My brain says Oakland, my gut says Dallas. I'm going with my gut. Back the Cowboys.
Cowboys 31 - 13
Giants -6.5 at Broncos
I've been betting the elusive bounce-back on the Giants, and it just hasn't come. They lost to the Cardinals at home, then the Chargers and barely beat the Falcons after the bye. And while normally Denver as a big home dog would be a no-brainer, the public is (was) actually on the Broncos but the line moved up. That means sharp money hit the Giants. The same rare scenario occurred on Monday night with the Texans-Titans, and the sharps were wrong, but I think they'll make their money back here. Back the Giants who roll.
Giants 27 - 16
Buccaneers +12 at Falcons
The Falcons somehow managed to score 31 points against the Giants despite getting just one turnover, 5.8 YPA from Matt Ryan and 3.0 YPC from Jason Snelling. This is an average team and shouldn't be laying 12 against anyone but the absolute dregs of the league. Maybe Tampa's that, but in two of three games with Josh Freeman, it hasn't been. Back the Bucs.
Falcons 27 - 21
Dolphins -3.5 at Bills
The Dolphins are the better team, but travelling to Buffalo and laying more than a field goal is a tall order, especially against the new-look Bills that will actually attempt to exploit Miami's pass defense. Back Buffalo in a game that goes down to the wire.
Dolphins 24 - 21
Browns +14 at Bengals
The public's on the Browns here, and I can't see fit to argue with them. A divisional game that was close the first time around, and Cleveland's coming off a game where it opened up its offense at least. Maybe Cincy rolls, but two touchdowns is enough to make me take that chance. Back the Browns.
Bengals 24 - 13
Colts -3.5 at Texans
The Colts have been lucky to squeak out the last three games, thanks to a missed field-goal, a bobbled pass and a pick. They're still an elite team, but unless Gary Kubiak insists on pounding the ball with Chris Brown again (a stupid strategy against any team, but even more so against the Colts), I expect this to be a close game. Back the Texans.
Colts 24 - 23
Panthers +3 at Jets
These teams are awfully similar with good ground games, quarterbacks they'd like to hide and good numbers against the pass. I'll lean with the Jets to bounce back at home, but it's a coin toss. Back New York.
Jets 20 - 16
Redskins +9 at Eagles
This strikes me as a big line against a pretty good Redskins defense in a division game. Back the Redskins who keep it close.
Eagles 19 - 17
Seahawks -3 at Rams
The Rams covered at home against the Saints and Cardinals the last two weeks, so what's one more against the Seahawks? I don't like that Kyle Boller's taking over, but I'll hold my nose and take the home dog anyway. Back St. Louis.
Seahawks 23 - 21
Chiefs +14 at Chargers
In the past whenever I became a Chargers believer, they'd lay an egg just as soon as I bet on them. But the last two weeks they came through as home favorites against the Eagles and road ones against the Broncos. Now that I'm playing with house money, I won't feel so betrayed if it happens this week. Back the Chargers who are hitting on all cylinders.
Chargers 33 - 16
Jaguars +3 at 49ers
If the season ended today, the Jaguars would make the playoffs, believe it or not. That said, they strike me as an average team on the level of the Jets, Bills, Panthers and 49ers, so this is the right line. I have a 49ers feeling here - they've played better at home, and I think they'll move the ball on the Jaguars defense. Back San Francisco.
49ers 24 - 17
Bears +11 at Vikings
Despite their one loss, I think the Vikings are the class of the NFL, given their offensive balance and defensive playmakers. The Bears, on the other hand, have fallen out of contention, largely due to Jay Cutler's sloppiness with the ball two weeks ago and over-correction last week where he missed wide open receivers rather than chance an interception. But this is a big number for a division rivarly game, and I expect the Bears to play hard as they did against both the Niners and Eagles. If Cutler plays decently, (and I think he might relax a bit in a game the Bears are supposed to lose) this a close game. Back Chicago.
Vikings 24 - 20
Cardinals +2 at Titans
This is a fair line given the quality of the teams, but the Titans are serious about breaking into the playoff picture after an 0-6 start, and that makes this and every game a must-win. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have the NFC West locked up, and therefore have a lot less at stake. Back Tennessee.
Titans 26 - 20
Steelers +2 at Ravens
A few weeks ago, it would have been hard to believe this game would have these two teams fighting for their playoff lives. The Ravens especially have to win here, and I think they'll get it done at home, as Pittsburgh's defense is not the same without Troy Polamalu. (I'm assuming Ben Roethlisberger's going to play). Back the Ravens, though I'm nervous about the possibility of a one-point win. (Going with the Stopa rule on the two-point line, which I'm afraid I'll regret).
Ravens 20 - 17
Patriots +3 at Saints
Without even looking, I expect the public to be all over the Pats here in much the way it was against the Colts two weeks ago. I went with the Colts in that game as they had proved they were elite, whereas the Pats had been up and down. But after watching that game which New England should have won, I'm sold. In fact, more sold on New England than I am on New Orleans. Back the Patriots who win outright.
Patriots 27 - 23
We went 10-6 last week to go 79-80-1 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 11/25/09