Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We went 8-4-1 last week, and won our best bet, the Chiefs. This week, it's a rough slate - there aren't any obvious contrarian plays that jump out at us like the Chiefs or Raiders last week, or the Cardinals two weeks ago. These picks are mostly slight leans that we hope collectively amount to a winning record. I will have to pick a best bet tomorrow for the Staff Picks, of course. If I had to pick some I like more than others now, I'd say Arizona, San Francisco and St. Louis. Counting it up, it looks like we have 12 underdogs, plus the Saints and the Titans. Not that having 12 dogs was a problem last week.
Cardinals +3.5 at Packers
The Cardinals are as beaten down as a team can possibly be. They've lost six games in a row, the last two of which involved a horrific fourth-quarter collapse against the Bears at home and a trashing by the winless Raiders. The Packers are coming off a win in Miami, and we don't think they'll be as hungry or desperate as Arizona this week. Take the Cardinals who win outright.
Cardinals 31 - 27
Falcons +4.5 at Bengals
We picked the Falcons, I initially switched this to Cincinnati on a hunch, but then thought better of it and switched back. These are roughly equal teams, so why are the Falcons getting that extra point and a half? Cincinnati could get the passing game going this week, but why not wait and see them do that first before parting with the field-goal plus. Back the Falcons who run the ball effectively and keep it close.
Bengals 27 - 23
Ravens +2 at Saints
I have misgivings about this game, too, but I'm not going to switch our agreed-upon pick. The Saints cover the spread almost every week, and the Ravens' defense is good, but not good enough to shut down the Saints in New Orleans. Back the home team.
Saints 20 - 17
Texans +3 at Titans
There's no basis for taking one team or the other here, but for some reason, Damon and I both had a Titans feeling. Maybe it's our image of Vince Young as a winner (he's won one NFL game, and now he's a winner), maybe it's Jeff Fisher looking fired up again and maybe it's Houston feeling a little too happy after throttling Jacksonville at home. In any case, we're taking Tennessee.
Titans 24 - 17
Jaguars +6.5 at Eagles
We'd ideally like to take both of these teams this week - Philly's coming off two very tough last second losses, and Jacksonville's going to be desperate after being embarrassed in Houston. There's no word yet whether Byron Leftwich or David Garrard will be starting at quarterback for the Jaguars, but does it really matter? Take Jacksonville who keeps it close.
Eagles 22 - 19
Seahawks +6 at Chiefs
The Seneca Wallace-Maurice Morris combo heads into Arrowhead to take on a team that's fresh off a big division win against the Chargers. We expect the Chiefs to play it fairly safe, and the Seahawks defense should keep this game close. We can't imagine too many people wanting this version of the Seahawks, so we're going to assume they're good value. Back Seattle.
Chiefs 17 - 13
49ers +16.5 at Bears
The Bears have played much better at home this season, but this 49ers squad won't be intimidated - last year they came into Chicago and held their own. Chicago should hit for a big play or two, but as long as San Francisco doesn't beat itself with preventable turnovers (muffed punts, fumbles, careless interceptions), we expect them to cover this number. Back the Niners.
Bears 27 - 14
Buccaneers +9 at Giants
The Giants are playing their best football right now, but after two road wins against tough teams, we see this as a letdown game. Tampa isn't great, but they're coming off of tight wins over the Eagles and Bengals, and they should at least be up for a fight. Back the Bucs who cover.
Giants 23 - 16
Rams +9 at Chargers
Damon and I both felt nine points was a lot for San Diego to part with against a St. Louis team that's been in every game this year. We're a little concerned that St. Louis isn't physical enough for this matchup, but the Rams should be able to attack the San Diego secondary if they give Marc Bulger a little time. Back the Rams who hang around.
Chargers 30 - 23
Colts +3 at Broncos
It's hard to turn down the Colts as underdogs, even in Invesco Field which is one of the toughest venues in the league for a road team to play. And we're not going to do it - back Indy in what we see as a 50/50 game.
Colts 24 - 23
Jets +2 at Browns
The Browns would be the contrarian play, and we're tempted to make it, but the Jets have played far better this season, and they're getting points. Do the obvious here - back the Jets.
Jets 21 - 20
Steelers -9 at Raiders
With Ben Roethlisberger's status up in the air due to his second concussion in the last few months, we're inclined to take the Raiders at home with the points. Charlie Batch has been the best quarterback in the league when he's played, but he won't keep that up with more exposure. Moreover, Pittsburgh's pass defense has been exposed by Michael Vick and Daunte Culpepper, so why not Andrew Walter? Back the Raiders who keep it close.
Steelers 23 - 17
Cowboys +5.5 at Panthers
With Tony Romo at the helm, anything's possible, but the Panthers haven't been blowing anyone out - their games against New Orleans, Tampa, Baltimore and Cincinnati were all close, and even their eight-point win over Cleveland was short of dominant. We expect the Cowboys to hang around, and five and a half should be enough. Back Dallas.
Panthers 20 - 19
Patriots -2 at Vikings
Monday night home dogs are money in the bank, but this one gives us pause as the Vikings are only getting two points, and the Patriots are the kind of team that confounds the established trends. Still, we'll stick with the Vikings because their defense has been strong, and the game should be close at the very least. Back Minnesota.
Vikings 23 - 20
We were 8-4-1 against the spread in Week 7, to put us at 52-40-8 on the season. From 1999-2005, we were 918-790 - not including ties - (53.7 percent).
Article first appeared 10/25/06