Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 8-8 last week, and aside from the Giants debacle (our best bet), we did better than our record. Consider that Green Bay won by two, but didn't cover the three and a half point spread because they threw a pick for a touchdown (Minnesota's only points), missed two field goals and fumbled at the one-yard line. The Redskins were underdogs who played to a regulation tie but didn't cover. The Lions had the cover all game before a costly fumble saw them lose by half a point. Even Denver would have had a 50/50 chance for a push in overtime had the Bengals not botched the extra point snap. In other words, a lot of the games we lost were 50/50 and merely didn't break our way, while most of the ones we won (Philly, Baltimore, New England, Houston, Carolina, Seattle, Arizona) were solid all game. We're not complaining - it cuts both ways (though no one rememebers the lucky wins as well as the bad beats), but merely pointing out that we're happy with last week's picks - except the Giants.
This week, we're closing out the regular season with 14 dogs, the Chiefs and the Panthers. It's a little overboard probably, but we didn't design it that way - it's just who we liked in a week with a lot of uncertainty. There are a lot of assumptions about which teams will rest their players, and which will try their best to win, and rather than speculate on all that, we feel better taking something we know has value - points.
Thanks for reading all season. We're continuing through the playoffs, of course.
Giants -2.5 at Redskins
We both have a Giants feeling in this one, but we had a Giants feeling last week, and look where it got us. The Giants might turn it around - humiliation sometimes breeds renewed focus - but we're not going to bet on it. As for the angle that the Giants really need this game so they'll play better, they really needed last week's game (they didn't know Atlanta would lose), and they played one of the worst games by any team in any sport at any level. It's insane that the Giants are giving points on the road to a division rival. (The only thing that gives me pause is that one of the know-it-all commentors from last week's article spoke so definitively about how the Redskins will roll, and that worries us). The more definitive the comment, the more likely that the opposite will happen. That's why we love it when people pan our picks. Still, we have to take the Skins here.
Redskins 23 - 17
Panthers -3 at Saints
The Saints have made us look bad a couple times this year, crushing the Cowboys and Giants which were both best bets. Still, they've locked up the No. 2 playoff spot, so they might even sit their starters early, and there's a chance that Jake Delhomme will play for the Panthers. Moreover, and it's not that likely or important, Carolina has an outside chance at the last Wild Card spot. Back the Panthers.
Panthers 24 - 16
Browns +4 at Texans
We love this type of game - uppity doormat (the Texans) starts getting more than the traditional three points for home field against downtrodden doormat (the Browns). As if the Texans aren't cut from the same cloth. Expect the Browns to seize the chance at a winnable game. Back Cleveland.
Browns 23 - 20
Lions +13 at Cowboys
We never know what to do with these double-digit spreads because the value is usually with the dog, but it doesn't really matter because the margins are rarely right on as the line gets bigger. In the end, we went with Detroit (who has absolutely murdered us all season with last minute collapses that cost them the cover in close games) because they've kept most of their games reasonably close - at least within 13. Expect Detroit to be driving down 10 with a minute left, and throw the pick for the touchdown. Still, we're backing the Lions.
Cowboys 27 - 17
Jaguars +2 at Chiefs
The Jaguars have played very well at times this season, but mostly at home, and it's hard to tell which opponents they'll get up for. The Chiefs, on the other hand, usually play pretty well at Arrowhead, especially in December, so we expect them to cover. Back Kansas City.
Chiefs 24 - 19
Patriots +3 at Titans
The Patriots have a little bit to play for - if the Colts lose to Miami, and the Pats win, then New England gets the third seed. That would mean (1) they'd draw the six seed rather than the five in the first round; (2) they'd go to Baltimore the following week rather than San Diego; and (3) if both the Pats and the Colts made the AFC Title game, it would be in New England. Of course, if the Colts win at home against Miami, this game means nothing. All that said, between having some incentive to win, with Bill Belichick's tendency to play his starters deep into blowouts and after they've had their playoff seed locked up, we like taking the points here. Vince Young's a great young player, but Belichick's defenses give young quarterbacks a lot of trouble. Back New England.
Patriots 23 - 13
Raiders +13 at Jets
Another double-digit dog, that we don't love but have to take. The Jets will make the playoffs, but we have a feeling they won't make it easy against a tough (albeit dispirited) Raiders defense.
Jets 17 - 9
Steelers +6 at Bengals
Both of these teams are good, but disappointing this year, and we think they're roughly at the same level as long as Pittsburgh doesn't decide to shut down Ben Roethlisberger early. The six points should be enough. Back the Steelers.
Steelers 31 - 23
Seahawks +3.5 at Buccaneers
Seattle has nothing to play for, but we'd be surprised if they want to go into the playoffs with four straight losses. Expect them to try at least a little bit. And that should be enough to cover. Back Seattle.
Buccaneers 24 - 23
Rams -2 at Vikings
The Rams have played well of late while the Vikings have fallen apart. We don't like that Minnesota's starting rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, either. But we imagine everyone will be taking the Rams here, and in those cases it's usually better to cut against the grain and take the team that no one wants. Back the Vikings.
Vikings 19 - 16
Falcons +8.5 at Eagles
The Eagles have played very well of late and at this point, it wouldn't shock us if they represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. Still, after winning three huge division games on the road in a row, we could see them having a letdown here against the Falcons. Back Atlanta who will play hard to try and save Jim Mora, Jr.'s job.
Eagles 27 - 23
Bills +9.5 at Ravens
The Bills are an improving team, and while going into Baltimore is no easy task (the Ravens still need this one because if San Diego were to lose, a Baltimore win could give them home field advantage throughout the playoffs), nine and a half strikes us as a lot for a game that's likely to be low scoring. Back Buffalo. (This could be a good moneyline play, too).
Ravens 20 - 19
Dolphins +9 at Colts
The Colts have shown an ability to turn it on after a tough loss (look what they did to the Eagles a few weeks back) and then more recently the Bengals. Still, after they lost to the Texans, it's hard to part with nine points against a flawed but not horrendous Miami squad. Back the Dolphins and start Ronnie Brown if your fantasy league's still going in Week 17.
Colts 23 - 20
Cardinals +13.5 at Chargers
The Cardinals lost Matt Leinart this past week, but Kurt Warner is still capable of leading the offense. We're a little worried about how he'll deal with the San Diego pass rush, but we'll still take the points. Back the Cards.
Chargers 31 - 20
49ers +11 at Broncos
Jay Cutler has played better of late, but the 49ers aren't a doormat, and we expect them to show up for the season's final game. Playing in Mile High is no picnic, but 11 should be enough. Back San Francisco.
Broncos 19 - 17
Packers +3 at Bears
The Bears have nothing to play for while the Packers have a decent chance to make the playoffs if they win - they only need the Giants to lose (we think). As such, we expect Green Bay to stay in this game, and the three points is enough to sway us. Back the Packers.
Packers 17 - 16
We were 8-8 against the spread in Week 16, to put us at 128-103-9 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 12/27/06