Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 1-3 during the first round, but that doesn't surprise me - I didn't have a great feel for those games. Still, our best bet, the Colts, covered easily, and that was the only truly lopsided game (the Pats-Jets had a bigger margin, but the spread was nine, and whether NY covered was about 50/50 until halfway through the fourth quarter. (The Indy game, on the other hand, wasn't as close as the score).
This week, we have a better feel about these games - we'll see if that means anything.
Enjoy the games
Colts +4 at Ravens
This is a great game on a couple levels. First off, you have the preeminent offensive player of our era (at least in the regular season) matched up against the best defense in the NFL. Secondly, you have the old Baltimore franchise, which owner Robert Irsay snuck out of town under cover of night and moved to Indianapolis, coming back to Baltimore to face the citizens it abandoned. Given that the Colts were just 4-4 on the road this season and really struggled in the second half, losing even to the Texans, we think this is an awfully steep mountain for Peyton Manning to climb. And we're not swayed by last week's strong defensive showing at home against the Chiefs, either - that was a team on the road off a short week, having played a nasty Jaguars squad the previous week and barely qualifying for the playoffs. This is a rested Baltimore team at home who should exploit Indy's weak run defense as teams have all season. But that's not where the game will be won - instead, the Ravens defense will dominate, and the offense will merely have to do what it's done all year.
Payback's a bitch. Back the Ravens who roll.
Ravens 33 - 7
Eagles +5.5 at Saints
This game seems a bit too obvious for us, but we're going to take the bait and back the Eagles with the points. In our view, these are two roughly equal teams that are well coached and know how to spread the ball around effectively. The Eagles lost by three in New Orleans earlier this year, and even though that was with Donovan McNabb at the helm, we haven't seen a steep dropoff with Jeff Garcia. Back the Eagles in what we see as a 50/50 game.
Saints 27 - 24
Seahawks +8.5 at Bears
The Bears aren't what they were earlier in the year when legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate Tommie Harris was stuffing the run and getting a good push up the middle on passing downs, and Rex Grossman still had the confidence of a quarterback who had forgotten what it was like to fail. Now Harris is out, the Bears defense has been exploited by teams like Detroit and Tampa Bay, and Grossman is coming off one of the worst performances by a quarterback in league history (albeit in a meaningless game). Initially, I liked the Seahawks and the points, while Damon liked the Bears, but after giving it more thought, I'm going to switch to Chicago with some confidence. Seattle wasn't good enough to slow Dallas down on that final drive, and essentially shouldn't even be here but for a fumbled snap. And that was at home against a Cowboys squad that had just lost a meaningful home game to Detroit. Teams rarely limp into the postseason and then turn it on to win games on the road in January. Back the Bears despite their flaws - they'll win this one easily.
Bears 30 - 13
Patriots +5 at Chargers
As intriguing as the Colts-Ravens game is, this one might even be more so. The best team in the NFL draws perhaps its most feared team come playoff time. You have the league MVP on one side, and the greatest clutch quarterback since Joe Montana on the other. You have the NFL's sack leader (in 12 games, no less), and a Patriots defense that's allowed less points on the year than at any time during its 2001-2004 dynasty. You have the long overdue Marty Schottenheimer, who can do no right come playoff time, versus the coaching genius who can do no wrong. The Chargers look strong in almost every area this season, but Philip Rivers' late season slump is worrisome given coach Bill Belichick's track record against young quarterbacks. The two keys will be whether the Patriots can keep Merriman and the other Chargers pass rushers out of the backfield, and whether Rivers will make mistakes against Belichick's tricky defenses. Two more things worry us about the Pats: (1) Belichick was uncharacteristically emotional after the win over the Jets (you never want the previous game to be as significant as the current one); and (2) The Chargers, despite their No. 1 seed, are probably the contrarian play - how many people are really going to lay five against Belichick and Brady? Still, we agreed on the Pats, and we're going to stick with it. Back New England.
Patriots 24 - 23
We were 1-3 in the Wild Card games. We went 139-108-9 on the regular season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 1/10/07