East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
A Different Look
For 10 years, I've written Beating the Book for RotoWire, and over that time, it's influenced the way I think about football. In fact, when I look at each new slate of games on Tuesday morning (and sometimes even on Monday if I want to use some early lines), it's from a betting perspective first and foremost. I don't look at things from the fantasy angle until I set my lineups later in the week (I'll make free-agent pickups, of course, but that's usually with an eye on the long haul - not based on the matchups for the coming week). As a result, by the time I look at player matchups, I've already got an idea about how each game's going to play out. And while most people will look at the stats and try to start a receiver playing against a weak pass defense, I won't always do that because I might have decided that the bad-pass-defense team is going to bounce back. The Browns-Giants game was a good example of one where you could throw previous stats out the window. Cleveland was a desperate team with plenty of talent on offense, coming off a bye, and a big home dog in front of a national audience on Monday Night. They were a great bet to cover, and worth a shot on the money line. (Of course, I never thought they would dominate to that extent). So it didn't matter what the numbers said, Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards were good plays because that's how the game set up.
Looking at the Vegas lines, you can learn a lot. For example, the Titans are laying 8.5 in Arrowhead against the Chiefs. The Over/Under is 35. That means the Book is predicting a 22 - 13 win for the Titans - at least on its face. But we also know that the public will usually bet the favorite over a league doormat, and if we know it, Vegas knows it. And Vegas doesn't give money away. So we're going to take the Chiefs. So if 22-13 is the line, and we like the Chiefs, we think 21-14 is probably a bit closer to the reality. Maybe even 19 - 16. That means the Chiefs should be competitive, and I'd be more inclined to start Larry Johnson than some, even though the Titans allow just 3.7 yards per carry (10th). Also, both teams are coming off bye weeks, which reshuffles the deck, and Kansas City is coming off a 34-0 blowout loss, so it's likely they'll be desperate and focused. To me, this sets up well for Kansas City to cover, and for its offensive players to outperform expectations.
That might or might not happen, but it's a different way of looking at the games, and given how much NFL teams change week to week, I'd argue more realistic. Because the Giants were the top team in virtually every stat - until they weren't. And instead of basing your decisions solely on a team's past performance, you also can take into account the way the league fluctuates over the course of the year - every year. As Wayne Gretzky would say: "Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it's been."
Don't Overplay Matchups
I probably write about this every year, but it's worth mentioning again. Always play your superstars no matter what. If Peyton Manning's going against the Ravens, you cannot sit him for Jason Campbell (home vs. STL) or Gus Frerotte (home vs. DET). Once in a while it'll work out for you, but then again 8-6 offsuit will occasionally flop a straight.
The reason to trust your stars over mediocre players with favorable matchps is due to sample size. Manning's proven himself to be a great player over many years. The Ravens defense was great in 2006, mediocre last year (actually less than that against the pass) and very good for three games against an out-of-sync Derek Anderson, an out of sync Carson Palmer and Kerry Collins. (Ben Roethlisberger averaged 8.0 YPA against them). I happen to think the Ravens defense is pretty good, but I know Manning's good. Defenses like the Browns, Rams and Lions that are supposed to be terrible, I'm agnostic about. Obviously, their past performance hasn't been good, but things change quickly in the NFL. Consider the Giants defense which was torched for two weeks last year before turning it around completely. By the time the playoffs came around, they were the best unit in the NFL.
The bottom line: It's worth playing matchups when two players are close in value. Consider it a tiebreaker, but nothing more except in extreme cases, e.g., 40 mph winds, injuries to surrounding players, etc.
Most Hilarious Announcer Gaffe
I wanted to rip Kornheiser again, but I actually thought he was pretty good in the Monday night game, and that's saying a lot because I'm a Giants fan, so I was in a terrible mood while watching it. In fact, I thought Jaws unjustly got on his case for going on about the Giants taking forever to call plays down multiple scores in the red zone. Kornheiser was absolutely right to make a big deal of it - what were Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin thinking? And he was also right to point out that if Romeo Crennel and Derek Anderson had been doing that, they'd be on the chopping block.
So the best gaffe goes to the Tony Boselli/Ron Pitts team (pretty sure it was Boselli), who said after Chester Taylor caught a 15-yard pass: "Look at the way Adrian Peterson finishes runs, like a hammer to a nail." On replay, it not only showed it was Taylor who caught the pass - which Boselli corrected, but also the hit, in which Taylor was clearly the nail. Talk about being stuck in a narrative that has zero relationship to the facts!
Boneheaded call by Andy Reid
I've got the Niners +5.5, and the Eagles are up four. It's 4th and less than 1 from the Niners 11 yard line with 1.14 left, and what does Reid do? He kicks the field goal to go up seven. Not only does that screw me, but it was completely the wrong call. The Eagles have to kick off, and the Niners have time to score a game tying touchdown. If he goes for the first down and gets it, the game is over. The Eagles have about a 70 percent chance of making the first down. Even if they miss, the 49ers get the ball on the 11 yard line and still need a touchdown - far harder than getting a touchdown from wherever they'd get it after a kickoff. Between the sure win if they get it and the increased difficulty if they don't, going for it far outweighs the advantage of the Niners playing for the tie rather than the win.
Things to Take Away From Week 6
Beating the Book
The Seahawks didn't cover last week (though we didn't know Matt Hasselbeck would be out). That puts us at 5-1 against the spread in this forum so far this season. We're 50-35 overall.
Jets -3 at Raiders
The Raiders got annihilated last week in New Orleans, while the Jets won fairly easily at home against the Bengals. This is a good time to buy the Raiders low and sell the Jets high. Laying points on the road isn't easy, and we could see Brett Favre throwing a few picks in this game. Back Oakland.
Raiders 20 - 19
We were 6-10 in this forum last year, but 127-120 on the season overall. From 1999-2007 we're 1184-1018 (53.8%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Surviving Week 7
We went with the Redskins over the Vikings last week and lost, but having watched both of those games, I'd do the same thing all over again if the same teams were playing this week. Essentially Washington lost because guard Pete Kendall caught a batted ball, attempted to run with it, but fumbled, and the Rams returned it for a 75-yard touchdown. And the Vikings won because of a phantom pass interference call which set them up for the game-winning field goal. There was more to both of those games than that, but the disparity between the Redskins and Rams was greater than the one between the Lions and Vikings on Sunday... Of course, this is survivor, so having the "right side" is less important than actually winning.
This week, we like the Bucs at home against the Seahawks, with the Giants at home against the 49ers a close second. If you've used both of those teams, consider the Steelers in Cincinnati. We give the Bucs an 82 percent chance to win this game, and reserve the right to change our mind on Thursday when the full article comes out.
Article first appeared 10/15/08