Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Last week was worse than the 7-9 record, as we lost some games we liked, namely the Chiefs at home vs. the Ravens, the Rams (home dog) not covering on Monday night and the Cowboys, our best bet, getting annihilated at home by the Saints. I guess if you're going to be wrong, it's better to be spectacularly so - there's no teeth gnashing over bad calls or fluke plays in that case. We did call the Dolphins and Bills, two other games that we liked, correctly.
This week is a rough slate - a lot of big home favorites playing bad teams, and a couple road favorites laying less than three. I'm still not sold on Seattle for the Thursday night game - there are reports of bad weather (the rain isn't the issue, it's the wind) which would make a double-digit spread harder to cover, so we might change that to the 49ers a few hours before game time.
One final note - in the comments area, do me a favor and stop listing picks without analysis. It clutters up the forum for people with interesting questions and feedback. If you want to pick a game or two, feel free, but just be sure to add some analysis so that other readers can debate it. Just listing a bunch of picks is a waste of space. Sure, you could hit the jackpot and go 12-4 this week, but without analysis, or a larger sample size, it means absolutely nothing. Say why you like a certain side, and give readers something to contemplate.
49ers +10 at Seahawks
This is a big number for the Seahawks to part with against all but the worst teams in the league, and the 49ers, while struggling of late, probably aren't in the same class as the Lions or Bucs. Still, Seattle's better at home, coming off a bad loss and catching the 49ers who travel (though not very far) on a short week. We think Seattle pulls away late. Back the Seahawks.
Seahawks 31 - 14
Cowboys -3 at Falcons
Normally, we like to back a team like Dallas coming off a bad loss - the line should be reduced to reflect that. But here, they're still laying three on the road to a team winning a winning record. Back Atlanta who's 50/50 to win this game at home.
Cowboys 20 - 19
Browns +11.5 at Ravens
We have to admit we've been slow to realize that the Ravens are one of the best teams in the league this season, but their win in Arrowhead in December (something that hasn't been done since 1996) convinced us. Still, this is a big number in what should be a low scoring game between two teams content to slug it out. Back the Browns.
Ravens 17 - 9
Lions +5 at Packers
This line could easily be 7.5 - the Packers aren't terrible, and they should be able to handle the Lions in a cold weather game at Lambeau Field. So we're backing the Lions on the grounds that it's all too sensible to go with the Pack.
Packers 23 - 20
Texans +11.5 at Patriots
Initially, we were going to take the Texans and the points - after all New England's playing poorly, and even the Lions gave them a good game at home a few weeks ago. But every time we write the Pats off, they blow out a lesser team like the Vikings and Packers, and coming off the bad loss to Miami, we expect New England to have its way with the Texans at home. Back the Pats who roll.
Patriots 31 - 13
Jaguars -3.5 at Titans
This line's too good to be true - a surging team getting more than a field goal at home? It's almost suspect. But we thought that about Miami getting 3.5 against New England last week, and there was no catch to it. Sometimes, you just have to take the obvious at face value. Back the Titans who make this a game.
Titans 24 - 23
Dolphins +1 at Bills
The Dolphins are the better team, but we don't like them travelling to Buffalo in December, especially after a convincing home win over the Patriots last week. Back the Bills who protect the home field.
Bills 20 - 16
Jets +3 at Vikings
I honestly had a Vikings lean on this one, but Damon felt very strongly about the Jets and insisted that we take them. My lean wasn't strong enough to override that, so I'm rolling with it. One thing the Jets have going for them besides the points is that Minnesota's passing offense is poor and mistake prone. Back the Jets.
Jets 24 - 17
Steelers -2.5 at Panthers
This line was off the board in a lot of places, but I have a feeling that Jake Delhomme won't play this Sunday - in part because I partially tore a thumb ligament once, and if he has a similar injury, there's no way he'll play this soon afterwards. We don't like taking road favorites, but with less than three, it's almost a pick 'em, and if Chris Weinke is starting, we're willing to say Pittsburgh wins the game. Back the Steelers.
Steelers 24 - 16
Buccaneers +13.5 at Bears
At first we wondered why this line wasn't 16 or 17 - the Bucs are that awful, and there's no way Bruce Gradkowkski won't get pounded into mistakes in Chicago. But then we realized that in a lower scoring game, 13.5 is a lot, and if the weather is a factor, that could reduce scoring even further. And the Bears can be run on, and they have a mistake prone quarterback. Back the Bucs who keep it close.
Bears 16 - 10
Redskins +10 at Saints
The Redskins aren't a doormat, and the Saints probably aren't as good as they played Sunday night in Dallas. Of course, the Redskins are dead last in YPA allowed, which doesn't bode well for a matchup with the league's top offense, but games aren't played on paper, and this line is too steep. Back the Redskins who keep it close.
Saints 27 - 23
Broncos -2.5 at Cardinals
Damon and I agreed on the Broncos, but I don't feel good about backing a road favorite with a rookie quarterback on a four-game losing streak against a team on a two-game winning streak. Still, I'm going to stick with it for now - the Broncos played a very tough schedule (at Arrowhead, two games against San Diego and one vs. Seattle), all while Jay Cutler was getting his first two starts. Cutler showed signs last week, and now they get an easier opponent, albeit on the road. Still, we see Denver reversing the trend. Back the Broncos even though it's totally contrary to how we pick games.
Broncos 27 - 17
Eagles +5.5 at Giants
We're not sure why this line isn't three. Both teams are 7-6 and fighting for their playoff lives, so why the extra two and a half? The perception must be that while the Giants have signficant injuries (Michael Strahan, Luke Petitgout, Amani Toomer, LaVar Arrington), they don't compare to the Eagles losing star quarterback Donovan McNabb. While that might be true, Jeff Garcia has played well in McNabb's place, showing excellent mobility and good decision-making, and he's a good fit for Andy Reid's West Coast offense. In short, we expect this to be a tough game for New York and as such the 5.5 seems overly generous. Back the Eagles.
Giants 27 - 24
Rams +2 at Raiders
The Raiders feel better as a dog than a favorite, but in this case, they've got a home game against a team whose defense and special teams seemed to mail it in on Monday night against the Bears. St. Louis might be the one team that the Raiders can generate some offense against, and Oakland's defense will gave the Rams a tough time. Back the Raiders.
Raiders 24 - 20
Chiefs +9 at Chargers
The Chiefs called LaDainian Tomlinson soft, but that bulletin-board type motivation pales in comparison to "win one for owner Lamar Hunt" who passed away on Wednesday. Expect Kansas City to bring its "A" game, and that's enough to cover this number and possibly win outright. Back the Chiefs.
Chiefs 27 - 24
Bengals +3 at Colts
On the one hand, this is a great opportunity for the Colts to slap down the upstart Bengals in front of national audience and remind everyone who's been the frontrunner for the last couple years. And they might pull it off. But given how banged up their secondary is, how poor they are at stopping the run and that Cincinnati might now have the more explosive offense, we're not betting on it. Back the Bengals who win in a shootout.
Bengals 34 - 27
We were 7-9 against the spread in Week 14, to put us at 110-89-9 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 12/13/06