Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We had a lousy week, going 3-8-3, but it could have been worse. We were 0-6-2 in the early games, and at one point (near halftime) in the afternoon games, we were staring down 0-10. Of course, San Francisco came back to win comfortably, Philly took over the game late and the Chiefs rallied back for the push. (The Jets unfortunately fell just short).
It also could have been better. The Lions lost on a desperation fourth down heave as Jon Kitna was being sacked that went about two feet, right into the hands of a defender who ran it back for a meaningless touchdown - meaningless, presuming you didn't bet on the game. If Kitna does anything else - fumbles, throws an incomplete pass, runs with the ball, takes a sack, completes the pass, punts, whatever - the Lions cover. How about the Carolina game? That could have gone either way, but at the end they were up 11, and the Browns, driving in garbage time, decide with eight seconds left at Carolina's 20 to try the field goal because they need two scores anyway. With 45 seconds left, okay, makes sense. But you can't kick a field goal and recover an onside kick and have time for a play with eight seconds. So why not take a shot or two at the end zone to build confidence in your offense? If Cleveland had scored a touchdown (I'd give them a 20 percent chance), okay fair enough, we lost on a backdoor cover. But the field goal! Are you kidding me? The line was eight and a half, and the Browns cut it to eight, just as time expired. Reminds me of the time I bet on the Knicks over the Bulls in the mid-90s. The line was Knicks -5.5. (Jordan was sitting out that year), and the Knicks are up eight with five seconds left, but Horace Grant decides to heave a shot from half court just for the hell of it, AND IT GOES IN.
But enough complaining - I'm not going to give back the lucky wins we get, so I can't have it both ways and not count the losses.
This week, we'll be recording our three top bets in our Thursday afternoon Podcast (which might go up on the site on Friday). We don't like to pick three best ones - we'd rather diversify our holdings across the league, but since we have to record these and pick three anyway, I figured I'd put the link in here. I plan to go with the Bucs, the Redskins and the Cardinals this week, for what it's worth.
Bills -1 at Lions
We went back and forth on this a couple times, originally backing the Lions who find new ways each week to lose against the spread - Sunday's fourth down pick touchdown on the last play of the game took the art to new heights. But in the end, we like the Bills coming off a blowout in Chicago and getting Detroit with three starting offensive lineman out. Back Buffalo.
Bills 23 - 20
Panthers +3 at Ravens
I've made it well known I hate this team (Damon likes them, actually), but we've been right about them the last three weeks, so my bad feeling toward them hasn't yet affected our judgment. This week they draw Carolina in what should be a physical game, and as little as I think of Baltimore's offense, the Ravens as a whole have played better than the Panthers so far and probably should be getting another point or so at home. Back Baltimore.
Ravens 20 - 16
Bengals -5.5 at Buccaneers
Despite having just one loss, Cincinnati hasn't played well this year. Carson Palmer looks a little off, and the defense has trouble stopping the run. Going into Tampa against a desperate, winless Bucs team that nearly beat the Panthers at home and the Saints in New Orleans in consecutive weeks, won't be easy. Back the Bucs who keep it close and possibly win outright.
Buccaneers 23 - 19
Texans +13 at Cowboys
We went back and forth on this a couple times. Damon had a Dallas feeling, but we both agreed Houston was probably the value play given that their quarterback has played well this year, and Dallas hasn't yet proven to be anything special. If he had stepped up and demanded we take Dallas, I would have rolled with it, but he didn't, so we're backing Houston.
Cowboys 27 - 17
Giants +3 at Falcons
I knew better about the Giants last week, but I felt almost obligated to take Washington which was the clear value play getting four and a half. It's hard to go with a hunch when you're a fan of the team, because you need to make an extra effort to stay detached. This week, the three-point line is about right, and the Giants actually match up well against the Falcons on paper (strong run defense, fast defensive ends), but this game will turn on how well Eli Manning handles a fierce pass rush on the road, especially if John Abraham plays. We're comfortable taking New York because we think Manning has turned the corner enough to handle the hostile environment. Back the Giants.
Giants 24 - 21
Eagles -3 at Saints
We picked the Saints because home dogs are usually good value plays, and we expect most people to fall in love with the Eagles and the huge numbers that passing game is putting up. But Philly has had an easy schedule so far - with games in Houston and San Francisco to go along with home games against Dallas, the Giants and Green Bay. They have yet to play a great team at home or even a good one on the road. Back the Saints.
Eagles 24 - 23
Seahawks -3 at Rams
The Rams aren't very good, but getting three at home against the Seahawks without Shaun Alexander is good value in our opinion as we don't see Seattle blowing them out. Expect a close game, and as such, take the Rams and the points.
Seahawks 21 - 20
Titans +10 at Redskins
The Titans nearly took down the Colts in Indy, and now they're getting 10 in Washington. Still we like the Redskins who will come out focused after getting beaten up badly in New York. Travis Henry and LenDale White won't have nearly as much room to run in Washington, and Vince Young will make plenty of mistakes when he's forced to make plays through the air. Back the Redskins who roll.
Redskins 27 - 10
Chiefs +7 at Steelers
The book is begging us to take the Chiefs here as the Steelers have done nothing since last January to earn this number against a team that's playing well defensively. It might be a trap, but we're going to take the bait because in Week 6, last year's Super Bowl run is starting to lose relevance. Back Kansas City.
Steelers 19 - 16
Dolphins +3 at Jets
The Jets got badly exposed in Jacksonville last Sunday, and we think they'll have trouble against a desperate Miami team again this week. Look for the Dolphins not only to cover but win outright. Back Miami.
Dolphins 20 - 17
Chargers -10 at 49ers
Philip Rivers looked good when Marty Schottenheimer finally turned him loose, and the Chargers were able to take down the Steelers in the process. But this line is too big for them to part with on the road against a 49ers team that has a pulse. Back San Francisco who makes it a game.
Chargers 27 - 20
Raiders +15 at Broncos
We're almost always 50/50 on these big lines with no strong lean either way - last week, I made the mistake of switching the Titans for the Colts and lost, but had we chosen the Colts initially, who knows, I might have had a sudden urge to switch to the Titans. We feel the same way about this game, but we're backing a desperate Oakland team in a division rivarly. Back the Raiders.
Broncos 27 - 13
Bears -10.5 at Cardinals
The Bears are not only 5-0, they've scored the most points in the NFL AND have allowed the fewest. But our COO Tim Schuler told me he saw a study going back several years that home dogs on Monday night are money in the bank, and that was right before the New Orleans-Atlanta game in Week 3. For Arizona, this is their Super Bowl, while for Chicago, it's just a trip to the desert. Back the Cardinals who make this a game.
Bears 16 - 9
We were 3-8-3 against the spread in Week 5, to put us at 38-30-6 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 10/11/06