Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Historically we've always been partial to underdogs, but 15 has got to be an all-time record. And oddly enough, the only favorite we took was the biggest one on the board. Not that it was by design - usually we like to have more balance, maybe 9 dogs and seven favorites, or 10 and six, but this week the lines seemed so inflated by just one week of data that we had to take the points. Some of the teams will prove us wrong, we're sure, and we'll start to take them more seriously in subsequent weeks. But in Week 2, and laying big points, the burden's on the big favorite to show it's not a one-week wonder.
Bills +6.5 at Dolphins
We liked this line more when it was seven, but still, Buffalo played a tough game in New England, and we don't see them as doormats this year. Miami should be okay, too, but we expect a tough game between two division rivals wanting to avoid 0-2. Back the Bills who keep it close behind an improving J.P. Losman.
Dolphins 20 - 16
Panthers -1.5 at Vikings
The oddsmakers are giving a lot of respect to what the Panthers did last year these first two weeks - first they were six-point favorites over the Falcons without Steve Smith, and now they're parting with points on the road against a Vikings team that looked pretty good in Week 1. And Smith is looking iffy for this game as well, which means Carolina lacks the ability to stretch the field. Back the Vikings who seem more disciplined under new coach Brad Childress.
Vikings 23 - 17
Browns +10 at Bengals
That the Browns couldn't generate any offense against the Saints at home last week is disturbing, but some of that has to be chalked up to the loss of their starting center LeCharles Bentley, and the addition of an 11th hour replacement in Hank Fraley. I read somewhere that you never back a team that lost its center (almost worse than losing a quarterback) because the center initiates the entire offense, and if he's not in sync, the whole offense goes out of whack. At the time, I just made a skeptical note of it, but almost every time since then that a team has lost its center, that theory has turned out to be true. (This is anecdotal as I haven't made a study of it, but it's seemed to work out virtually every time). We didn't pay enough attention to that development last week - we knew about it, but for some reason, we didn't make much of it, and sure enough one of our six losses was with the Browns, who took six sacks from a below average Saints defense. This week, Fraley has had more time to get acclimated, and we expect the Browns to be a little more cohesive on offense. Cincinnati's too strong to drop this one, but Cleveland usually defends the pass pretty well, and we think they'll make it a game. Take the points.
Bengals 24 - 17
Lions +9 at Bears
The Lions front seven were awfully tough on the Seahawks last week, and we think they'll be up for slugging it out with the heavy favorite in their division. The Bears offense seemed to turn a corner in Week 1, but we'd like to see them duplicate that against a tougher opponent than Green Bay. Nine points is a lot for the Bears to manage. Back Detroit.
Bears 16 - 10
Texans +13.5 at Colts
Normally we liked to take underdogs with big spreads, figuring that the public doesn't, but the Colts are such a well-oiled machine on offense, we don't think a two-touchdown margin should be a lot to ask. Expect Indy's pass rush to get to David Carr, and Peyton Manning to be virtually untouched. Back Indy who rolls.
Colts 31 - 13
Saints -2 at Packers
One game, and suddenly the Saints are favored on the road? We know the Packers are bad, but that was Chicago's defense they were facing. Also, don't forget what happened last year when these two teams played at Lambeau - Green Bay won 52-3. Take the Packers and the points.
Packers 21 - 20
Giants +3 at Eagles
This should be a tough game between two bitter division rivals, and as such, we expect it to be close. The line is just right as we see the teams as rough equals, but we'll take the Giants who need it just a little bit more after opening with a home loss. Back New York.
Giants 24 - 23
Raiders +12 at Ravens
This line opened at nine and moved all the way up to 12. Apparently the public is reacting strongly to the performances of these teams in Week 1. As a rule, you should typically go the opposite way of the herd, and especially in a case like this where 10 days ago, the line probably would have been about six. The Ravens could blow them out, but the value is with the Raiders. Back Oakland.
Ravens 19 - 13
Buccaneers +5.5 at Falcons
The Bucs weren't ready for the start of the season last week, but there's no way Jon Gruden won't get a better effort out of the team in Week 2. John Abraham's groin injury leaves him questionable, and that could mute Atlanta's pass rush a bit. Back the Bucs who keep it close and have a chance to pull this one out.
Buccaneers 23 - 20
Cardinals +7 at Seahawks
We were torn on this - Seattle played poorly a week ago, but that was on the road, and Matt Hasselbeck should carve up a defense that Alex Smith has his way with last Sunday. That said, we expect Arizona to move the ball as well, and without Steve Hutchinson, we're not sold on the Seahawks being able to control games with the run quite as easily as they did last year. Back the Cardinals who keep it close enough.
Seahawks 27 - 23
Rams -3 at 49ers
The Rams played well against Denver last week, but they were aided by Jake Plummer's fumble and three picks, and in fact didn't get into the end zone. Part of that could be due to the loss of center Andy McCollum (note the Rams covered despite the loss of their starting center, but scored just six points in the second half). In any event, the 49ers don't look quite like the doormats they were the last couple seasons, and St. Louis isn't a team we're inclined to back as road favorites. Take the 49ers who cover and possibly win outright.
49ers 24 - 23
Chiefs +10.5 at Broncos
We expect the Broncos to play better this week, and the Chiefs should be in trouble without Trent Green, but this line started at nine but has been driven up since. Herm Edwards will have the Chiefs play better defense, and Larry Johnson will get his yards and shorten the game on the ground. Denver will win, but it won't be the cakewalk that the line presupposes. Back the Chiefs.
Broncos 20 - 19
Patriots -6 at Jets
The Titans made the Jets passing game look better than it is, but New York will compete against the Pats on its home turf, and given New England's lack of a proven downfield threat, we expect this contest to be close. New England will pull it out, but they won't cover. Back the Jets.
Patriots 20 - 16
Titans +11.5 at Chargers
The Raiders weren't much of a test for San Diego, and while Tennessee is another poor team, there's no way they'll play anywhere nearly as badly as the Raiders did Monday. This is another line that's gone up as the week's gone on, and we think it's a little too much with the untested Philip Rivers under center for the favorites. Back the Titans.
Chargers 27 - 17
Redskins +6 at Cowboys
The Cowboys defense looked awfully good this summer, but that shows us yet again how little the preseason means. It's funny because it will still be hard to ignore next year when some player or team looks great in August. In any event, we like the Redskins here because we think six is a lot in what should be a tough game between two evenly matched division rivals. Expect a close game decided by a last second field goal, more likely a missed one in this case. Back Washington.
Cowboys 20 - 17
Steelers -1.5 at Jaguars
With Ben Roethlisberger questionable and likely to be at less than 100 percent even if he does play, we don't like the Steelers on the road against a tough team that beat them in Pittsburgh last year. Back the Jaguars who should have no problem slugging it out with the Steelers.
Jaguars 23 - 21
We were 10-6 against the spread in Week 1. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 9/14/06