Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Backing the Titans last week, I appreciated why people like to bet favorites. It's so enjoyable to have the better team, watch them demolish some total doormat and have not a care in the world. Man, that was nice. Usually, I'm on the other side of it, holding on to some false hope the dog can make up nine of the 22-point deficit in the second half and backdoor the 14-point spread. It doesn't happen too often. Even when I do win, it's usually precarious - holding onto a slim lead, hoping the favorite doesn't finally wake up and flex its muscles. It's four quarters of misery, and a win is less glory than relief.
I've been at this 11 years, and watching all the games every Sunday is taxing. I feel like I'm constantly fighting an uphill battle, losing most of the time. The Bucs, the Rams, the Lions, the Chiefs - adopting these teams week in and week out - it's like being a Bills, Bengals and Cubs fan all at once.
But somehow I've had a winning record ATS every year since 1999 except one - 2001, when I went 118-119 (I'm similarly a game under .500 this year). So for all the anxiety and suffering, I've actually won 167 more games than I've lost. But due to my dog-heavy style it doesn't feel that way. So I can see why no one wants to do it, and why the lines skew toward underdogs. In the end, you have to decide whether to make yourself feel better, or to give yourself the best chance to win. It's particularly bad in a favorite-heavy year like this one, but I don't see a way around it. Picked another 12 dogs this week, as Vegas took a beating last Sunday, and the lines are huge.
Colts -3 at Jaguars
This is a bigger line than it appears - it would be nine in Indy, and the Colts have locked up the No. 1 seed while the Jaguars are fighting for their playoff lives. But coach Jim Caldwell said the team is treating this like a normal game, and while Jacksonville often plays the Colts tough, this is a softer, more finesse-oriented bunch than in seasons past. Back the Colts.
Colts 27 - 17
Cowboys +7.5 at Saints
Maybe the Cowboys annual December collapse will continue, but the Saints defense has fallen apart the last couple weeks, giving up big numbers to both Washington and Atlanta. New Orleans is a lot tougher at home, but I expect a desperate Dallas team to hang around. Back the Cowboys.
Saints 30 - 27
Bears +11 at Ravens
I'm at my wits end with the Bears, backing them every week hoping for some value. I badly want to abandon ship, but Chicago has to be the value here after last week. Back the Bears.
Ravens 24 - 20
Patriots -7 at Bills
Laying seven in a December game in Buffalo seems excessive for a Pats team that hasn't been impressive of late. Take the Bills at home who keep it close.
Patriots 20 - 17
Cardinals -12 at Lions
The Lions are 3-12 ATS in their last 15 home games and 3-9-1 ATS on the year. Conversely, the Cardinals are 6-2 ATS in their last eight road games and 8-5 ATS on the year. That means everyone's predisposed to bet the Cardinals - both because they're the better team and because betting on the Cardinals and against the Lions has worked in recent memory. But all of that is priced into this line - Vegas doesn't want the whole world treating it like an ATM, so it must set a punitive spread. Twelve on the road is like 18 at home, and you never see 18 except in the rare case when an all-time team faces an total doormat. The Lions fit the bill, but the Cards do not. Back Detroit.
Cardinals 27 - 20
Browns +2 at Chiefs
The Browns beat the Steelers last week, but lately beating the Steelers is like ****ing Tiger Woods - everyone's done it, including the Chiefs. I don't see why the Browns aren't getting the full three, if not four, in Arrowhead. Back Kansas City.
Chiefs 17 - 13
Falcons +6 at Jets
The Jets have looked good of late, but they've been playing some weak teams like the Bills, Bucs and Panthers. The Falcons (even if Matt Ryan doesn't play) are probably better than that, and I expect this to be a close game. Back Atlanta.
Jets 19 - 17
49ers +9 at Eagles
Almost half the public is on the 49ers which gives me pause - usually a big favorite gets at least a 2:1 ratio from the average Joe. But I see San Francisco as a tough, scrappy team that's not easy to pull away from, and I think they'll hang around. Back the Niners.
Eagles 24 - 21
Texans -12.5 at Rams
Just like the Cards-Lions game, this is an astounding line. The Texans have a losing record and are laying double-digits on the road. That's 18.5 at home, an unheard of number in a case like this. Vegas knows the public will hammer the Texans anyway, so it's pushed this number up as high as the sharps will let it. Back the Rams.
Texans 24 - 17
Dolphins +4 at Titans
No one's enjoyed the Titans resurgence more than I have as I've bet them almost every week. But this line should probably be three as the Dolphins don't roll over for anyone and are still in the playoff hunt. Back Miami.
Dolphins 27 - 24
Raiders +14 at Broncos
This is a massive line in a game where the O/U is just 37. If it were 50, it would be like 17.5. And why? The Raiders have won four games this year, and keep in mind they beat the Eagles with JaMarcus Russell under center - Charlie Frye can hardly be worse. Back the Raiders.
Broncos 20 - 13
Bengals +6.5 at Chargers
This is a big game as it could very well determine the No. 2 seed in the AFC. The Chargers defense has played a lot better of late, and its passing attack is among the best in the league. But the Bengals are stout defensively, and I think they make a good buy-low coming off the blowout loss in Minnesota. Back Cincy.
Bengals 20 - 19
Packers +2 at Steelers
The Packers are the better team by more than the one-point margin this line implies (plus-3 in Pittsburgh would imply equal teams), but that doesn't mean they'll win in Pittsburgh against a desperate Steelers team that's had 10 days to mull over a loss to Cleveland. Back the Steelers.
Steelers 28 - 23
Buccaneers +6.5 a Seahawks
The Seahawks got annihilated in Houston last week, so now's probably a good time to buy them low at home where they're a much better team. Tampa showed signs for a couple weeks, beating Green Bay and nearly winning in Miami, but has been disappointing since. Back Seattle.
Seahawks 28 - 13
Vikings -9 at Panthers
The Panthers can defend the pass at least, and outdoors on the grass field, should be able to hang if this becomes a slugfest on the ground. This is a big number on the road for Minnesota. Back the Panthers.
Panthers 21 - 20
Giants -3 at Redskins
I really hope the Giants win because with a Dallas loss in New Orleans, it puts them in the sixth slot for the playoffs. But the Redskins have played well of late, and there's no reason to believe the Giants should be laying three on the road here. Back the Redskins in a 50/50 game.
Giants 24 - 23
We went 7-9 last week to go 103-104-1 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 12/16/09