Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
It's 2:30 am, and I'm too tired to write a coherent intro. We went 9-3-2 last week which we're happy about. The one thing I'll say is that you have to keep a flexible mind to pick the games. And please, keep the comments negative like last week.
Cardinals +7 at Falcons
We won't read too much into the Falcons blowout loss at the hands of the Saints Monday night - the '85 Bears would have had a hard time playing in that environment. Atlanta is a team that runs the ball well, and if they get John Abraham (groin) back, this will be Kurt Warner's last game as a starter - either due to fumbling or injury. Even if Atlanta holds Abraham out until next week's bye, Pat Kerney and Rod Coleman should largely have their way with a weak Arizona offensive line. Back the Falcons who win easily.
Falcons 27 - 14
Cowboys -9.5 at Titans
It's impossible to say how the Terrell Owens incident will affect things here, but if he doesn't play or plays but isn't himself, we don't like Dallas as a big favorite on the road against anyone. And while Tennessee is a bad team, they went toe to toe with the Dolphins in Miami last week and easily could have won that game outright. Back the Titans who make this a game.
Cowboys 20 - 17
Colts -9 at Jets
It's tempting to take the Colts here as the Jets look to us like a scrappy team that can get by against mid-level competition, but aren't ready to handle the league's elite. But everyone's going to be thinking that, and so we're going to reverse course and take the Jets for God knows what reason. The book's not giving money away, and you can't take the Colts every week. Back New York.
Colts 24 - 20
Dolphins -3.5 at Texans
This is a lot like last week's game when the winless Redskins were road favorites, and we took Houston arguing that Washingon had to earn it first. Well, the same reasoning applies here - hopefully with different results this time around. Although many of us might think: "Of course, Houston's going to get blown out, that's what they do," we're pretty sure the Texans themselves aren't content to be a league doormat forever, and we expect them to play with some urgency. Back Houston who keeps it close.
Dolphins 23 - 20
Vikings +1 at Bills
This is an odd game between two teams that rarely have anything to do with each other. Minnesota has played better so far against tougher competition, but the Bills aren't a terrible team, and they're at home. This line is essentially a pick 'em, and Damon and I both have a hunch Buffalo will bounce back in their home stadium against a beatable opponent. Back the Bills.
Bills 19 - 17
Saints +7.5 at Panthers
A lot of people think the Saints are a fluke, and maybe they're right. But this line flat out assumes they are, and we think they should at least get some credit for their 3-0 start. Carolina, on the other hand, could very easily be 0-3 - don't forget they allowed Tampa to come back from a 17-0 deficit last week to take a 24-23 lead behind a quarterback that could hardly breathe in the huddle. Back the Saints who keep it close enough.
Panthers 23 - 17
Chargers -2.5 at Ravens
This game gave us trouble. On the one hand, I hate the Ravens, and I think they're overrated on both sides of the ball. Their offense is limited, and their defense, while good, shouldn't be confused with the 2000 version (apparently the public made that mistake last week). On the other, it's important to be flexible and be willing to take a team that you hated one week as a road favorite, the following week as a home dog. Damon is worried I'm trying to be too flexible, too unbiased against the Ravens, and so I'm biasing myself in favor of them this week. As a result, I'm tied up in knots over the pick. Let's go Baltimore because San Diego struggled last year against smashmouth teams like Denver and Miami, but beat up on finesse teams like Indy and the Pats (before their defensive resurgence in the second half). Back the Ravens.
Ravens 16 - 13
49ers +7 at Chiefs
The Chiefs are a team in transition this year with Trent Green hurt, and Herm Edwards remaking them as a more conservative and defensive-oriented bunch. The Niners looked okay at times last week despite losing pretty badly at home to the Eagles - Alex Smith showed good scrambling ability on some plays, and the team might have made it a game had Frank Gore's fumble at the one-yard line not been returned for a touchdown the other way. Still, and it might be idiotic, we're backing KC on a hunch. Larry Johnson is going to rush for a lot of yards, and Arrowhead is going to be hard on a young quarterback. Back Kansas City.
Chiefs 34 - 16
Lions +5.5 at Rams
The Lions are bad, to be sure, but at 0-3, and with a new coaching staff (including former Rams head coach Mike Martz), we expect them to play like a cornered animal against a St. Louis team that's merely so-so. This is roughly a 50-50 game in our opinion, and as such, we'll take the points. Back Detroit.
Lions 23 - 20
Browns -3 at Raiders
No one in his right mind wants to take the Raiders, especially against a Browns team that gave the Ravens all they could handle last week. But the book's not giving it away, Oakland is getting points at home, and they won't go 0-16. Andrew Walter looked poised enough to us in a hostile environment in Baltimore to be able to play serviceably at home against a lesser defense. Back Oakland who keeps it close enough.
Browns 20 - 19
Jaguars -3 at Redskins
The Jaguars have had a habit in recent years of playing tough against the league's elite teams, but also keeping mid-level and lesser teams in the game. Washington strikes us as one of those mid-level teams that will hang around, and they're getting points at home. Back Washington who keeps it close and possibly wins outright.
Redskins 17 - 16
Patriots +6 at Bengals
The Bengals have started out strong, but perhaps not as strong as it seems. They beat the Chiefs, largely without Trent Green, the Browns at home, and then the Steelers on the road thanks to a muffed punt and a fumble in the fourth quarter. Carson Palmer looks okay, but not as sharp as he did toward the end of last season, and we don't expect the Pats to come out flat two games in a row. We expect this to be a tough game, and could even see New England pulling out the win on the road. Back the Pats.
Patriots 24 - 20
Seahawks +3.5 at Bears
This line started at 1 and went up to 3.5 when Shaun Alexander was scratched. Seattle will have to adjust its game plan - using more three and four receiver sets, and going to the short pass instead of the run at times to control the clock. Still, this should be a defensive struggle between two very stout units, and given Matt Hasselbeck's edge in experience and the field goal-plus, we like Seattle. Back the Seahawks who keep it close enough.
Bears 16 - 13
Packers +11 at Eagles
We were torn here - we instinctively think the Eagles will roll over a Green Bay team that can't defend the pass, but that's what everyone probably thinks, and again, the book's not giving money away. The question is whether Brett Favre can keep playing at the level he's shown the last two games. While we've written him off in the past, we're open minded enough to consider the possibility. Back the Packers who make it a game.
Eagles 30 - 23
We were 9-3-2 against the spread in Week 3, to put us at 26-18-2 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 9/28/06