Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Okay, let's try that again. Unlike last week's games, I think this slate shakes out a little more clearly as we're not wrestling with the uncertainty of Week 17 rematches where it wasn't clear how much each team was trying. Incidentally, I didn't even look up what side the public was on until after making the picks, and it looks like I'm against it on three out of four. Of course, I don't think it matters much in the playoffs where the lines are tighter to begin with, and most of the home teams are favored.
Cardinals +7 at Saints
This spread strikes me as being based on aggregate season-long stats, and I'm usually not a big believer in counting anything that happened more than four or five weeks ago. The problem here is that the Saints look like a sub-.500 team over the last five weeks, barely beating the Redskins and Falcons (without Michael Turner or Matt Ryan), then losing at home to Dallas and Tampa before resting their starters in Carolina. You have to go back to November to find a convincing win - a home blowout of the Patriots. Can New Orleans simply play as if December never happened and once again look unbeatable at home the next couple weeks? Sure, it's possible. But this line treats it as a settled fact, and I have my doubts. Back the Cardinals who keep it close.
Saints 33 - 30
Ravens +6.5 at Colts
I have some concerns about the Joe Flacco's health - I don't think the Ravens will be able to stay in this game simply by running the ball. But I hate the way the Colts handed away their perfect season, and I especially don't like that it's been allowed to fester for so long between competitive games. Moreover, the Ravens played the Colts tough the first time around. Unless Peyton Manning brings his "A-plus" game, I expect the Ravens to hang around and possibly win outright.
Ravens 23 - 21
Cowboys +2.5 at Vikings
The Cowboys have looked awfully good against the Eagles this year, but keep in mind Philly was playing behind a makeshift offensive line with a backup center, something I should have given more attention to before backing them last week. This week Dallas goes into Minnesota against a well-rounded Vikings squad that's been very tough at home. The Cowboys will move the ball, but I don't think Dallas' defense will hold up, and I expect Tony Romo to be pressured into a couple mistakes. Back the Vikings.
Vikings 33 - 17
Jets +7.5 at Chargers
The "Jersey Necktie" played pretty well last week, but the real story was the immaculate play of Mark Sanchez in a cold-weather road playoff environment. Sanchez not only didn't make crucial mistakes, but he actually made key throws including a perfect bomb to Braylon Edwards that was dropped. Nonetheless, San Diego's been the best and most consistent team in the season's second half, and I don't think the Jets have enough on either side of the ball to keep up. The Chargers have too many weapons, and their defense will prove to be a tougher matchup than Cincinnati's. Back San Diego.
Chargers 30 - 13
I went 0-4 last week and 131-122-3 on the season. From 1999-2008, we were 1308-1140 - not including ties - (53.4 percent).
Article first appeared 1/13/10