Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 5-10-1 last week, but don't say you weren't forewarned. Some weeks we have a feel, and some we don't. Sometimes it has to do with the kind of games - home favorites, road dogs, teams we think are underrated playing each other, others we think are overrated playing each other - all of those factors make it harder to have a strong lean. We like a slate where underrated plays overrated and teams are getting points at home. Like, this slate for example. Not that it's our best, but certainly we feel better about it than last week.
Dolphins -3 at Lions
The Dolphins are in the midst of their second straight too little, too late second-half resurgence, while the Lions are coming off a home loss to the 49ers and a road one to the Cardinals. Which makes Detroit the ugly, unpopular and probably correct pick. The Joey Harrington story makes us hesitate a bit, but not enough to change the pick. Back Detroit who covers this number.
Dolphins 24 - 23
Buccaneers +11 at Cowboys
We'd love to go ugly here and back the Bucs, but the Cowboys usually put the wood to bad teams (Texans, Titans, Cardinals), and with Tony Romo clicking with Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn and Jason Witten, we're actually surprised this line isn't closer to 13. Back the Cowboys at home on Thanksgiving.
Cowboys 31 - 10
Broncos pick 'em at Chiefs
This is a big game for both teams, but Arrowhead's an awfully tough place to play, and now that Trent Green's had a game under his belt, we expect him to play more effectively. Kansas City's defense is good enough to slow down Jake Plummer and a banged-up Denver running game, and Larry Johnson should wear down the small Denver defenders by the second half. Back the Chiefs who win at home.
Chiefs 23 - 20
Cardinals +6.5 at Vikings
Normally we take the dogs to a fault, but backing the Cardinals on the road with less than a touchdown is asking for trouble. The Vikings are reeling right now, so it's probably as good a time as any to take them as favorites. Plus the Cardinals got a win last week which should soften their desperation a bit. Back Minnesota.
Vikings 24 - 13
Panthers -4 at Redskins
The Panthers have won two games in a row by an average of 14.5 points, but keep in mind those were home contests against the Bucs and Rams. Now they're parting with more than a field goal on the road, and we think Washington will make it a game. Back the Redskins.
Panthers 20 - 17
Bengals -3 at Browns
Cincinnati's offense has come to life of late, and it makes for good viewing, but the defense is still keeping them from being a reliable, top-tier team. As such, they shouldn't be laying three in Cleveland who knows how to defend the pass and stay in games. Back the Browns.
Browns 27 - 24
Texans +6 at Jets
We're not convinced the Jets can overpower Houston, and as such, we expect this to be a close game. Chad Pennington's not throwing downfield, and the Texans have played some tough games against Jacksonville, Buffalo, Tennessee and Miami - all of which are in the Jets general class. Back Houston.
Jets 23 - 20
Jaguars -3 at Bills
The Jaguars are way too Jeckyll and Hyde to back as a road favorite against a conservative Bills team that's a cut above total doormat status. Look for Dick Jauron to come up with a masterful gameplan that ensures a cover without ever threatening to win. Back the Bills.
Jaguars 17 - 16
Saints +3 at Falcons
The Saints rolled over Atlanta in New Orleans, but under the most favorable possible circumstances - a Monday night Superdome re-opening a year after Hurricane Katrina - so don't read too much into that. Atlanta's coming off three straight losses, and needs to win Sunday to keep any semblance of hope alive. We expect both offenses to move up and down the field, but in the end, Atlanta should pull this one out at home - out of desperation, if nothing else. Back the Falcons.
Falcons 30 - 23
Steelers +3 at Ravens
The Ravens are 8-2 and at home, but laying just three points to the 4-6 Steelers, so why does it feel like this line is too large? Because Baltimore's limited offensively, and the Steelers won't be intimidated by a physical game. The Steelers need this one more, and they're going to win it outright as long as Big Ben keeps the reckless throws to a minimum. Back Pittsburgh.
Steelers 27 - 17
49ers +5.5 at Rams
This line must be a trap, because last we checked San Francisco had just won three games in a row, and the Rams had lost five. Moreover, San Francisco beat the Rams in their first meeting. And that was when St. Louis had a healthy Orlando Pace. While we're big believers in bounce-back and change-of-momentum games, the value here is some heavily with the 49ers, we just have to take the bait. Back San Francisco who wins outright.
49ers 21 - 17
Raiders +13.5 at Chargers
San Diego might be the best team in the NFL right now, having posting big road comebacks in consecutive weeks against good teams. They've also annihilated the league's weaker teams including the Raiders in Week 1. So why are we taking the Raiders? Because Oakland's defense has improved a lot this season, the line is nearly 14 and Aaron Brooks can buy a little time behind a shaky line. Back the Raiders who make this a game.
Chargers 24 - 17
Bears +3 at Patriots
The Bears have won two straight games on the road, but we think they'll be exposed in New England, as Rex Grossman struggles more than most quarterbacks in the face of a rush, and Bill Belichick is likely to bring pressure unpredictably. Moreover, as good as Chicago's defense is, we think the Pats should be able to run on them, and Tom Brady will pick his spots. Back the Pats who win fairly easily.
Patriots 23 - 13
Giants -3 at Titans
The Giants defense is still without its two best players, and the loss of left tackle Luke Petitgout really hurt the offense during the last two games. After a good start, Eli Manning has regressed, missing open receivers, making poor decisions and throwing interceptions at the worst possible times. At this point, we don't think the Giants should be laying points on the road, especially against a Tennessee squad that's playing better in recent weeks. Back the Titans who win outright.
Titans 24 - 19
Eagles +9.5 at Colts
With Donovan McNabb out for the season, the Eagles are done, and no matter what they tell themselves, we suspect they know it. Fortunately, the Colts also know it, and given their habit of playing down to the level of the competition, we're inclined to take the points. Back the Eagles who keep it close enough.
Colts 24 - 16
Packers +9 at Seahawks
The Packers got annihilated at home by the Pats last week, but as long as Brett Favre plays, we expect them to stay in the game against a Seahawks squad still in the process of integrating its two offensive stars back into the offense. Back Green Bay who keeps it close.
Seahawks 20 - 19
We were 5-10-1 against the spread in Week 11, to put us at 85-66-9 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 11/22/06