Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
NOTE: TWO CHANGES
We switched from KC to Miami and Tampa to Carolina - see below.
Back to the 16-game slate, and we have 12 more underdogs, but that's been working for us this season to an extent. When in doubt, take the points, because points are certainty. There is always a lot of doubt when you're predicting NFL games, and it's important to grasp that. When you think it's obvious that Team A is so good they'll crush Team B, you're usually lost. Going from false assumptions to acceptance of doubt is a step in the right direction. Sometimes you have an inkling of something, a hunch, a lean, and it's worth following. But even a "lock" is only a 60 percent bet at best. And one person's lock is often another's sucker bet. Last week we went 9-5.
Ravens -7.5 at Titans
The Ravens defense should rough up Vince Young, but in Tennessee we wouldn't be surprised if this game were ugly enough to be close. Seven and a half is a lot on the road for an offense that doesn't use its wideouts much and relies on Jamal Lewis. Back the Titans who keep it close enough.
Ravens 17 - 13
Bills +12.5 at Colts
The Colts looked great winning two big games on the road, but we can't imagine they'll be as up for this easy home game against the Bills. The Bills on the other hand will be motivated to hand Indy it's first loss. The only worry we have here is that J.P. Losman is really terrible. Still, we're taking the points. Back Buffalo.
Colts 24 - 13
Browns +8 at Falcons
Damon liked the Falcons for some reason, and I was willing to roll with it. To me, the obvious play is the Browns whose defense isn't bad, and who hung around against a tough San Diego squad last week. But Atlanta is a strong running team, and the Browns run defense is poor. Chalk it up to the dome, the way the teams match up or the fact that Atlanta's coming off an embarrassing loss to Detroit, but we see the Falcons winning easily and covering. Back Atlanta.
Falcons 27 - 13
Packers +5.5 at Vikings
The Vikings are probably the contrarian choice - they just lost to the 49ers after getting crushed by the Pats on a Monday night game, so they're due for a bounce back at home against a beatable Packers squad. But Green Bay hasn't rolled over against most teams, and we need to see something from that Vikings passing game before we can lay five and a half with them. Back the Packers.
Vikings 20 - 17
Texans +10.5 at Jaguars
The Texans beat up on the Jaguars a few weeks ago in Houston, so this strikes us a an awfully big line. Of course, Jacksonville has blown out a couple teams at home (the Titans and Jets), but each matchup is different. Back Houston who hangs around.
Jaguars 24 - 19
Chiefs -1 at Dolphins*
*We're switching from Kansas City to Miami - I don't like my analysis below about run/pass balance for the Chiefs. That sounds like b.s - I was just trying to justify a pick we agreed on that I didn't like. The Chiefs are too obvious - take the Dolphins, who have moved the ball this year and played good defense, at home.
Dolphins 23 - 17
This is going to be a tough road game for the Chiefs against a Dolphins squad that's played better than its record. Still, all they have to do is win, and given their run/pass balance on offense and their improved defense, we think they can do that. Back Kansas City.
Chiefs 19 - 16
Jets +10.5 at Patriots
It's strange how the Pats could look so good against the Vikings on Monday night, and so bad six days later against the Colts. We expect the Pats to play better this week, but 10.5 is a lot in a division rivarly game that New York will almost certainly be up for. Back the Jets.
Patriots 28 - 19
Chargers -1.5 at Bengals
The Chargers are the far better team and the obvious play, but we think Cincy can hang with them, especially with Shawne Merriman out. If Carson Palmer has time to throw, he'll be able to beat San Diego's secondary and turn this into a shootout. Back the Bengals who get up for this one.
Bengals 30 - 28
49ers +6 at Lions
There's something wrong about the 2-6 Lions being six-point favorites against anyone, let alone the 49ers who have more wins and are at the same general level as Detroit. Sure, Detroit's offense has looked good of late, but this is a winnable game for the Niners, and we expect them to scrap and stay in it. Back San Francisco.
Lions 24 - 20
Redskins +7 at Eagles
Damon likes the Eagles, and I can't entirely disagree since they're catching Washington over a lucky win against Dallas last week. The Eagles are desperate for a win, and seven points is not that much to ask with that offense. Back the Eagles.
Eagles 27 - 17
Broncos -9 at Raiders
The Raiders defense actually played very well at Seattle, and we expect them to give the Broncos offense some problems. Denver's defense will shut down Oakland easily, but they're not a monstrous pass-rushing team, so Oakland should have a better shot at scoring points than they did last week, especially at home. Back the Raiders who make this a game.
Broncos 16 - 10
Saints +4 at Steelers
We loved the Steelers against Denver last week and were wrong, but if you watched the game, Pittsburgh dominated the first half, aside from some very costly fumbles. Denver played better in the second half, and Pittsburgh was done in by interceptions. At some point, the Steelers are going to take care of the ball, and when they do, they'll be an elite team again. It might be too late to make the playoffs, but they can still cover a few lines. Expect them to handle the Saints fairly easily at home.
Steelers 31 - 21
Cowboys -7 at Cardinals
Of course, we're taking the Cardinals. If we don't who else will, and you know Vegas isn't giving money away. Remember what Arizona did to Chicago at home, and that was without Larry Fitzgerald, who should play half the game. Back Arizona who keeps it close.
Cowboys 20 - 17
Rams +3.5 at Seahawks
We like the Rams for two reasons: (1) They're coming off a bad home loss to the Chiefs, while Seattle is coming off an easy home win against the Raiders; and (2) because they're getting more than a field goal against a team still missing it's star quarterback and tailback. The one issue here is the difficulty of playing in Seattle, but we can't turn down the value. Back the Rams.
Rams 24 - 23
Bears +1.5 at Giants
Damon wanted to take the Giants, but I just think they have too many injuries to beat what should be a very hungry Bears squad after last week. If Brian Urlacher can't go, that would help offset the loss of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, and the loss of Bernard Berrian likely more than offsets the loss of Amani Toomer. But Urlacher has a good chance to play, and in any event, Chicago will do a better job pressuring the quarterback, and they're better on pass defense as well. If the teams were fully loaded, I might take the Giants, but we're going with the Bears.
Bears 17 - 13
Buccaneers +9.5 at Panthers*
*We changed from Tampa to Carolina. As much as we like the contrarian play, Tampa has been so poor offensively, and we both have a big Carolina feeling coming out of the bye at 4-4 on Monday night. We like to go ugly, but we feel this one was a bit forced.
This is not a game we'd want to bet on. The Bucs can't move the ball to save their lives, but these teams played a very close game the first time around, and Carolina hasn't played well enough to be a 9.5-point favorite against a division rival. I have a big Panthers feeling - they should annihilate this awful Tampa team, but that's what everyone's got to be thinking, and Vegas isn't giving it away. Back Tampa who covers on God knows what basis.
Panthers 24 - 17
We were 9-5 against the spread in Week 9, to put us at 67-53-8 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 11/8/06