Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
I went 7-9 last week, and unfortunately didn't take enough dogs which went 8-6. (Two games were pick 'ems, and I was on the wrong side of both). This week, I've got nine dogs and six favorites (with one pick 'em) - which is more or less my usual average. Some of you asked last week why I'm so partial to the points, and the answer is points are certain, but everything else is just perception. In other words, that the Steelers are better than the Browns is just a perception based on the past, and something that could change at any point. If you don't believe that, consider your perception of the Saints three months ago. So there's an idea that the Steelers are 13 points better than Cleveland on a neutral field (10 in Cleveland), and there's the reality of the 10 points that I get with the Browns no matter what. Maybe the perceptions about Cleveland and Pittsburgh are accurate, and maybe they aren't. But I've got my 10 points. That's why I'm partial to the dogs - because I doubt everyone's perceptions about the NFL - even if in many cases I share them. Of course, there are real differences between teams, and sometimes the market is slow to recognize emerging ones, or too quick to bury those in decline. In those cases, I'll take a favorite if need be. And sometimes there are situations that set up well - like the New England-Carolina game which could have bad weather (the Pats have thrived in it recently) and which features an inexperienced quarterback (Bill Belichick usually gets the better of them). But in most cases, I prefer the sure thing (points) to speculation (which team people believe is better).
Steelers -10 at Browns
The Steelers defense is nothing special without Troy Polamalu, and we're talking about a .500 team laying double-digit points on the road against a division rival in potentially bad weather conditions. Sure, the Steelers could turn it around, but they had their chance at home last week and didn't. Back Cleveland.
Steelers 20 - 17
Saints -10.5 at Falcons
This is a massive line on the road between two division rivals that actually played a fairly close game in New Orleans the first time around. Matt Ryan's status is unclear, but this line looks like it assumes he won't play - so consider it a bonus if he suits up. Back the Falcons.
Saints 27 - 21
Lions +13.5 at Ravens
If Matthew Stafford were playing, I'd take the Ravens in a heartbeat. But Daunte Culpepper can't be worse, and it's possible he's actually far better. Of course, Culpepper can't help that defense, which is easily the worst in the league. Still, I'm rolling with Detroit with the expectation that Calvin Johnson will make some big plays against that Ravens pass defense. Back the Lions.
Ravens 31 - 20
Packers -3 at Bears
The Packers look like the real thing these days as they're finally protecting Aaron Rodgers, and the defense is playing well, except for Tramon Williams. Still, in a cold weather game among division rivals, I'll go ugly with the home dog. Back Chicago.
Bears 20 - 19
Seahawks +6 at Texans
The Texans squandered what might have been a good season, but I think they're a decent value here coming off a loss to the Jaguars and getting a Seahawks team that doesn't travel well. Back Houston.
Texans 27 - 17
Broncos +7 at Colts
I've been back and forth on this one. It could be a close game where the Broncos ugly things up like the Ravens and Jaguars did earlier this year, or it could be one where Denver makes a costly mistake or two, like last week's Tennessee game, and the Colts pull away. My gut says the former, but my brain says the latter. Let's go with the brain. Back Indy.
Colts 27 - 17
Dolphins +2.5 at Jaguars
This is probably the right line as the Jaguars should be able to move the ball on the Dolphins consistently at home. But Miami strikes me as the meaner, more physical and more determined team, and they need this win to stay alive. Back the Dolphins.
Dolphins 30 - 27
Bills pick 'em at Chiefs
I want to take the Bills here because I think their passing game could get going against a bad Kansas City defense, but the savvy play is to go ugly with the Chiefs in Arrowhead who should be able to move the ball as well. Back the Chiefs.
Chiefs 24 - 23
Bengals +6.5 at Vikings
I want to take the Vikings off last week's bad loss, but the Bengals aren't an easy team to score points on, and like the Redskins, it usually pays to take the dog in games in which they're involved. Back Cincy.
Vikings 21 - 17
Panthers +13.5 at Patriots
This is an awfully big line for the Pats who were blown out against the Saints, then lost to the Dolphins, but I think they'll pull away from a Carolina team that can't generate any passing offense. Back New England.
Patriots 34 - 16
Jets -3.5 at Buccaneers
No matter how good Darrelle Revis is, I can't lay three and a half on the road with Kellen Clemens whose pocket awareness rivals that of an in-his-prime David Carr. Back the Bucs.
Buccaneers 19 - 16
Rams +13 at Titans
I backed the Rams for most of the year and suffered for it, but last week I took the Bears, and, of course, St. Louis covers by a point. The bottom line, St. Louis hasn't mailed it in yet, but I think the Titans will pull away late here. Back Tennessee.
Titans 30 - 13
Redskins -1 at Raiders
The rule is always back the underdog in any Redskins game, and I don't see any reason to make an exception here. Take the Raiders at home with the point.
Raiders 16 - 13
Chargers +3 at Cowboys
It's hard not to be a believer in the Chargers at this point, while Dallas' loss in New York has everyone talking about its annual December collapse. I hope I'm wrong here, but I've got to go against the grain and take the Cowboys. Back Dallas.
Cowboys 27 - 20
Eagles +1 at Giants
While the Giants let up a lot of passing yardage against the Cowboys, they stuffed the run and limited the big plays. That would be a recipe for success against the Eagles, too, and it seems the defense might finally be buying into defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan's schemes. Expect them to pull out the win at home. Back the Giants.
Giants 26 - 23
Cardinals -3.5 at 49ers
Just as it was time to sell the Saints high off their impressive demolition of the Pats last week, lets do the same with the Cardinals off their win against the Vikings. The 49ers are a tough team that usually stays in games, and the coaching staff has done a good job catering to its personnel by opening up the offense. Expect San Francisco to be up for a home game against a division rival on Monday night. Back the Niners who win outright.
49ers 24 - 20
We went 7-9 last week to go 96-95-1 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 12/9/09