Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 13-3 last week and felt for a moment like conquering heroes... until we saw this nasty slate. You see, we'd love to follow last week's showing up with an 11-5 or a 12-4 week, but having gone over the games with Damon on three separate occasions, I simply don't have a strong feel for a lot of them. Maybe something will strike us in the next day or two, and we'll rush in to swap out a bad couple of picks. Or maybe we'll settle into acceptance of the picks we've chosen and trust them to carry us to a decent week.
Falcons +4 at Ravens
Ordinarily I'd like Atlanta coming off two bad losses - there's got to be some urgency, and you'd think some overreaction in the line. But for whatever reason, it's only four points, here - not much different from what you'd expect if Atlanta WON last week. Moreover, Atlanta's missing its two top defensive ends in Patrick Kerney and John Abraham. On the flip side, Baltimore's been throwing down the field more since Brian Billick took over the play calling, and should be able to score more points as a result. So why is this line only four? It feels like a trap. Back the Falcons who cover inexplicably.
Falcons 30 - 23
Bills +2.5 at Texans
These are roughly equal teams, so you'd expect the Bills to be getting three here, but they're getting shorted a very important half point. Still Damon and I have an odd Bills hunch, and we're going to roll with it. Houston's the value play, but we're backing the Bills.
Bills 24 - 20
Bears -7 at Jets
Seven strikes us as a lot for Chicago to be laying on the road. Sure, they beat the Giants by 18, but they were down for most of the first half, and they got one of their touchdowns on a 108-yard field goal return. Moreover, the Giants played without half their starting defense, including their two best defensive players, and lost their best cover corner and starting left tackle during the game. The Bears have struggled on the road at times, barely beating the Vikings and requiring a miracle to beat the Cardinals. This should be a tough road game against a Jets team with a smart quarterback and an improving offensive line. Back the Jets who keep it close.
Bears 20 - 19
Bengals +3.5 at Saints
We should give the Saints credit - they're 6-3 and went toe-to-toe with a hungry Steelers squad in Pittsburgh last week. And now they're giving just a half point more than standard home-field advantage against a team with no defense and a losing record. But Cincy should light up New Orleans as easily as the Saints will light them up, so we see this as a 50/50 game and like the 3.5 as a result. Back the Bengals.
Saints 23 - 20
Vikings +3.5 at Dolphins
The Vikings are an embarrassment of late, scoring just three points against the 49ers, then losing at home to Green Bay. The Dolphins, on the other hand, appear to have turned their season around with a road win over Chicago and home one over the Chiefs. So why is this line only 3.5? Because the Vikings still have a good defense, and the Dolphins offense is far from reliable. Back the Vikings who keep it close.
Dolphins 21 - 20
Patriots -6 at Packers
After losing two games in a row, the Patriots should bounce back here, but going into Green Bay and laying six is a lot to ask. The Packers have been running the ball well of late, and their defense hasn't been the doormat it was earlier in the year, thanks to an improved pass rush. We expect New England to come away with the win, but Green Bay should cover at home.
Patriots 20 - 17
Raiders +10 at Chiefs
The Raiders defense is underrated, and we typically like to back the ugly teams that no one wants a piece of, especially with double-digit points. But the Chiefs at Arrowhead are a different animal, and even with rusty Trent Green and no Tony Gonzalez, we're going to part with the points. Back Kansas City.
Chiefs 23 - 9
Steelers -3.5 at Browns
We like Pittsburgh as a tough second-half team, but laying more than a field goal in Cleveland is a lot to ask. The Browns are good against the pass, and we expect them to hang around in this game. Back Cleveland.
Steelers 19 - 16
Rams +7 at Panthers
The Rams are in trouble without Orlando Pace, but Carolina was so unimpressive Monday night that we're willing to take the points and expect St. Louis to hang around. Back the Rams who cover, but lose.
Panthers 23 - 17
Titans +13 at Eagles
The Eagles should roll at home against a Titans' squad that's shown flashes but no sustained quality play. Thirteen is a lot of points, but if this gets lopsided early, we're not sure Tennessee has the personnel to mount a big comeback. Back the Eagles.
Eagles 30 - 13
Redskins +3 at Buccaneers
You have to wonder who would watch this game if it weren't for gambling or fantasy sports, and in the latter case, only in deeper leagues, but it's on the slate, so we have to pick it. Jason Campbell is taking over for the Skins, but we don't see him being a huge downgrade over the very limited Mark Brunell, and he should at least be able to hang with Bruce Gradkowski at this stage of his career. This is anyone's game, so we're happy to have the three points as a backup. Back the Redskins.
Redskins 21 - 20
Lions +2 at Cardinals
The Lions are the better team so far (though not by much), but Arizona, who has lost eight in a row, finds itself with a winnable home game. In cases like this, we like to have the desperate home team, who we imagine will be up for the game. Back the Cardinals who handle the Lions at home.
Cardinals 27 - 23
Seahawks -4 at 49ers*
*Made up line
We're not sure at press time the extent to which Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander will be involved in this game, but either way, with the 49ers playing better defensively and hosting this game, we like San Fran and the points. Back the Niners who keep it close and possibly win outright.
49ers 24 - 23
Colts -1 at Cowboys
A one-point line is essentially a pick 'em, and so this game comes down to whether you think the Colts will get their first loss of the season in Dallas. We think they will, as the Cowboys have the right run-pass balance, as well as a good enough defense to pull off the feat at home. Back the Cowboys.
Cowboys 31 - 23
Chargers +2.5 at Broncos
All the numbers point to the Chargers, who blow other teams out, and lose by very small margins on rare occasions. So if you're wedded to YPA and other key stats, this is a no brainer. But we don't have confidence in Marty Schottenheimer to give Philip Rivers the free reign he needs to light up the Denver defense. As a result, we think this game will be close, and at Invesco, with no Shawne Merriman, we expect Denver to win. Back the Broncos.
Broncos 27 - 24
Giants +3.5 at Jaguars
Damon wants to take the Giants here, but I have trouble seeing them keep it close with injuries to both starting defensive ends, their starting left tackle, their best cover corner, two outside linebackers and their No. 2 receiver. Still, we agreed to take the Giants, and I'll stick with it, on the sole basis that Jacksonville is more Jeckyll and Hyde than any team in recent memory. Back the Giants who keep it close.
Jaguars 27 - 24
We were 13-3 against the spread in Week 10, to put us at 80-56-8 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 11/15/06