Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 10-6 last week, but really it was stronger than that as we singled out five games, the Titans, Browns, Bills, Steelers and Giants as our best bets, and all of them covered. Of the losses, only the Dolphins one bothers us because it was obvious, and we were too cavalier about picking it. This week, I like the Chiefs, Dolphins and Rams in particular, and even though we struggled with it, I've come around on the Cowboys. I don't feel as strongly about those three as I did the five last week, though we feel pretty good about the slate over all. Some weeks, you wish you only had to pick two or three games, and others you like the diversification of risk. This falls into the latter category.
One note: a lot of you have asked about having this article come out earlier due to the Thursday game, and I will do my best. There are two factors that complicate this, however, one - that I go to ESPNews every other Wednesday to tape fantasy segments, and that and the XM radio show take up the entire day. On weeks where Jeff Erickson goes to ESPN (like this week), there's sometimes a two or three hour window to get this done, but even then, it depends on whether my brother Damon has enough time to go over the picks a second time before noon PT on Wednesday... If he doesn't until the afternoon, then the article will have to go up late Wednesday night PT as usual... We want the picks to be the best we have to offer rather than a rush job, but as I said, when possible, we'll get it up earlier. But you also might want to lobby the office pool manager to set the deadline to Thursday at noon - I can't think of a good reason why you'd want to make the deadline earlier than that.
Browns +7.5 at Steelers
This was one of the two games we struggled the most with. Normally we reflexively take the underdog in situations like this, but Charlie Frye could be out, and the Browns would then be forced to go with untested Derek Anderson in Pittsburgh. Still, Cleveland usually makes the game ugly, and the Steelers haven't been consistent enough to part with more than a touchdown here, especially with two of their best players, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu out. Back the Browns.
Steelers 24 - 20
Falcons -3 at Buccaneers
You've got to take what the oddsmakers give you, and here the Bucs, possibly the worst team in the league, are the right play. Getting three at home against a mediocre division rival coming off a road win is about as good as it gets. And don't try to figure out how the Bucs will cover this number. Just have faith in the oddsmakers and realize they know most of the money will be on the Falcons. Back Tampa.
Buccaneers 20 - 19
Ravens +3 at Chiefs
The Ravens are pretty good, but even the Chargers couldn't go into Arrowhead and come out with the win. Now that Trent Green seems all the way back from his concussion, we think the Chiefs have enough balance to move the ball even against a tough defense at home. Back Kansas City.
Chiefs 19 - 13
Colts -1.5 at Jaguars
Damon initially wanted to take the Colts coming off the loss to Tennessee, but I talked him out of it. Indy's just not a very well rounded team at this point, and the Jaguars are at home and desperate to improve their chances for a playoff berth. This should be a close game, and as such, we like Jacksonville getting a point and a half at home.
Colts 20 - 19
Vikings +2 at Lions
This game was easier when the line was three, but with Shaun Rogers out for the season, it moved down slightly. The Vikings still haven't decided who will start at quarterback, but their defense is pretty good, and besides, we can't in good conscience take Detroit as a favorite. Back the Vikings.
Vikings 20 - 17
Patriots -3.5 at Dolphins
The Dolphins always play the Patriots tough, and getting more than a field goal at home makes this a no-brainer. Unless we're missing something and falling into a trap. Which is possible, but doubtful in this case, since Miami's coming off a bad home loss to Jacksonville. Back the Dolphins.
Patriots 24 - 21
Giants +3 at Panthers
Damon wanted to take the Giants, and I'll rarely talk him out of it so that I end up betting against my own team. (I should have against Jacksonville on the Monday night game because I knew better, but I did against Tennessee, and we won that, at least). I think the Giants are catching the Panthers in a tough spot - they'll be like a caged animal after losing two straight, but then again, so will the Giants after losing four in a row. If Michael Strahan can return, or Jake Delhomme can't play, I like New York even better. Back the Giants.
Giants 27 - 23
Raiders +11.5 at Bengals
The Bengals are coming off three impressive wins in a row, two against good teams, and one a road blowout against Cleveland. And that makes the Raiders, coming off a home loss to the Texans, a good value with the double-digit spread. Back the Raiders whose defense keeps this one close.
Bengals 20 - 13
Eagles -1 at Redskins
Jeff Garcia looked awfully comfortable running Andy Reid's West Coast offense Monday night, and we think that has probably skewed this line a bit. The Panthers have had trouble scoring all year, but moved the ball very easily in Philadelphia, and probably would have won that game, had Lito Sheppard not read Jake Delhomme's call for the fade. As such, we think Washington's a good value getting a point at home. Back the Redskins.
Redskins 24 - 23
Titans +1 at Texans
The Titans are coming off back to back wins against the Giants and Colts, but the Giants had that game won before they fell apart, and Indy was bound to lose a close one to a lesser team at some point. We think everyone will be backing Tennessee, and the oddsmakers know it. Take Houston at home.
Texans 23 - 20
Packers +4.5 at 49ers
Maybe the wheels are coming off for Green Bay, but these essentially look like even teams to us, and that 4.5 is excessive in that case. Back the Packers who keep it close and possibly win outright.
Packers 24 - 20
Seahawks -3.5 at Cardinals
The Seahawks look good to us with Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck back, and even the defense should improve now that they won't have to spend as much time on the field. But we rarely like to take road favorites parting with more than a field goal against league doormats that no one else wants to bet on. The smart play is Arizona.
Seahawks 27 - 24
Bills +3.5 at Jets
The Jets are coming off two impressive blowout wins, but Buffalo should be able to hang around with them in a December game in the Meadowlands. In fact, this is the type of letdown game that New York might lose outright. Back the Bills.
Bills 24 - 19
Broncos +8 at Chargers
Jay Cutler made some mistakes last week, and we expect people to flock to the Chargers as a result. But Denver's defense is still good, and if Marty Schottenheimer doesn't open it up, eight is a big number to cover. Take the Broncos and the points.
Chargers 20 - 16
Saints +7 at Cowboys
This was the other game we really struggled with. The Saints are pretty good, and seven is a lot for Dallas to part with here, but it feels like a trap, as if the line is pushing us to take New Orleans. We're going to go the other way and back Dallas, hype and all, as a big favorite at home against another playoff team. Take the Cowboys.
Cowboys 30 - 17
Bears -6.5 at Rams
Monday night home dogs are money in the bank, even if the Eagles got away with one on the interception two days ago. We like it even better when the favorite is one of the league's best teams, and the dog is playing like one of the league's worst. This feels a little bit like the Bears-Cardinals game a few weeks ago, and we expect St. Louis to want to rise the occasion at home and in front of a national audience. Take the Rams who keep this one close and lose on a last second interception.
Bears 24 - 23
We were 10-6 against the spread in Week 13, to put us at 103-80-9 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 12/6/06