Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
I'm not going to complain too much after an 11-5 week, but a couple of the games were annoying - first off, Minnesota as our best bet was stupid - but it wasn't us, it was the line. The Rams were the obvious play, and that line should have been Rams minus seven to steer people to the Vikings. Rams minus two did the opposite, so the oddsmakers screwed that up. And we screwed up reading the oddsmakers instead of the game. When you read the game, you should only screw up by a little. When you read the line, you can really get it wrong. Tarvaris Jackson's just a rookie, so I suppose we should cut him some slack, but even for a rookie he made some awfully stupid throws. The Browns were annoying, too, because they would have covered were it not for a Charlie Frye fumble touchdown - but that's par for the course when you're backing horrendous teams with bad players on the road. And anyway, I was banking on Ken Dorsey getting the nod. The Bills also had the cover in hand - first and goal from the five yard line, down 12 and getting nine and a half. Then J.P. Losman throws a pick. It's one thing to do that out of desperation on third or fourth down, but there's no excuse to give away a cover on first down. Jets-Raiders, I didn't watch it, but those double digit spreads are probably the toughest, and anyway, the Cardinals, Lions and Niners panned out, so we can't gripe about that. And then there was the Giants - I warned you that whoever in the previous week's comments was so sure that you could go against the Giants every week was very likely wrong... When I hear certainty like that, it's as if God himself is speaking to me in code through that person, but saying the opposite... And anyway, I'm glad we were wrong about the Giants - after all, they're my team, and they're in the playoffs.
As for this week, I'm not going to lie to you, it's a mess. Damon's on vacation in Mexico, and he sent me the following email:
1 i like it the least, 10 the most
That's all I got to work with here. So bear with me. The playoffs are a different bird - rarely ever a home dog - our bread and butter - and not too many obvious sucker plays, i.e., I'm not sure what the angle is on too many of these. And even if we were to read it right, the sample size is so small, it's hard to sort out good capping from luck. With those caveats aside, here's who we're going with.
Chiefs +7 at Colts
I'm torn here. I want the Chiefs to win because I don't like Peyton Manning, I think Tony Dungy's an overrated coach, and I like Larry Johnson and Herm Edwards. And I think the Colts losing to the Chiefs is more interesting (in and of itself) though clearly a Ravens-Colts game next week is much more exciting than Chiefs-Chargers. And on the one hand, Johnson should be able to run all over a terrible Colts run defense. But on the other, Indy's undefeated at home, and Manning should have his way with that KC defense on the speedy turf. But for our purposes, it doesn't matter who will win, only who covers. Will this be like the Cincy/Indy game where the Colts flex their muscles and make us think once again that they're an elite team capable of winning the Super Bowl? Or will it be like the Dolphins-Colts - a close game that the Chiefs cover? I don't know - I think this is the right line in terms of the disparity between the teams in Indy, but it will come down to which team shows up. Is there some telltale indicator for which squad will play with more emotion? I don't see one - it's not New Orleans re-opening the Superdome a year after Katrina, it's not a Monday night home dog or a team coming off an emotional win. Or is it? KC beat Jacksonville and had to have a lot of help to get into the playoffs - they must have felt pretty lucky to see San Fran beat Denver. I'm thinking they're happy just to be there. And isn't Kansas City the type of low-quality playoff team that routinely gets blown out in the first round? This isn't last year's Pittsburgh Steelers or Cincinnati Bengals. This is a team with virtually no upside that barely got in. Back the Colts, Damon's Chiefs '6' notwithstanding.
Colts 30 - 17
Cowboys +3 at Seahawks
I really wish Seattle cornerback Kelly Herndon didn't break his ankle this past week because this would be a no-brainer for me given the way Dallas has played of late. But with Herndon and most likely Marcus Trufant out, it's hard to see how the Seahawks are going to match up with Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn and Patrick Crayton. Still, I'm not going to concern myself with the 'how' here. Damon gave Seattle an '8,' and my first instinct was to take them at home, too, so I'm not going to second guess it. Back the Seahawks.
Seahawks 27 - 23
Jets +9 at Patriots
The Sunday games are more boring because both are the third games between the two teams this season. In this case, the nine-point line is a little surprising since the Jets split with the Pats this year, even winning one at New England. The easy call is the Jets - nine points, division game, Mangini-Belichick rivarly, over-under just 37.5, so nine is a lot, etc., etc. I have a slight Pats feeling, but I'm going to suppress it and go with what strikes us as obvious. Take the Jets who keep it close.
Patriots 19 - 16
Giants +7 at Eagles
Damon likes the Giants, but that's of hardly any guidance because he rated the game a '2'. And he should know better than to leave me in the lurch here because this is my team, and it's hard to see them straight even in the regular season, let alone in the playoffs. I think the Giants are in trouble - their defense hasn't stopped anyone, Jeremy Shockey's iffy for the game, which means they might not have another major threat in the passing game besides Plaxico Burress, who himself can disappear without notice, Eli Manning can't be counted on, and you can be sure the Eagles will put eight in the box to shut down Tiki Barber. When they do that, will new offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride make Philly pay down the field? Will Manning execute the throws to make it happen? And will the Giants be able to slow the Eagles down at all - Jeff Garcia has been running Andy Reid's offense efficiently, and he has a lot of different weapons at his disposal. Of course, this is basically the conventional wisdom - what every pundit will tell you, so maybe it's all wrong. At least I hope so. But I don't see it. Like the Chiefs, the Giants are a low quality playoff team fit to be bounced like a belligerent drunk from a New Year's party... actually if Manning showed some anger every now and then, maybe the Giants would have a chance. Back the Eagles.
Eagles 31 - 20
We were 11-5 against the spread in Week 17, to finish the season at 139-108-9. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 1/3/07