Last week I set aside six games I hated, and I went 1-5 on them. Did I know better and ignore my instincts, or was it just bad luck? Looked at up close, it was the former - I hated the Titans and Redskins especially, but those seemed like the sharp plays. Maybe I should have ignored the sharp/square rationale and just taken the team that was obviously better.
But looked at from a distance shouldn't one continue to go ugly out of principle, knowing that over the long haul those results must come in simply due to market forces, i.e., the squares drive up the price of the teams everyone wants until they're bad values?
On the one hand there's a debate between the general rule (go ugly, take dogs, fade the public) and the specific exceptions (this team has quit, Jim Caldwell is its head coach, I have a hunch, etc.) On the other, there's no need for debate because you can't get them all right anyway, and in fact you must get many of them wrong because the squares have to be right frequently, too. (Frequently, though less than half the time over the long haul).
Otherwise there would be no square bettors. And if there were no square bettors, there's no one to bet with because a bunch of sharps and bookies would not be able to make a profit off each other. The books exist as middlemen that take a cut to faciliate the transfer of money from the squares to the sharps. So let's just realize in advance that many of these will be wrong. And not just for a week or two. Maybe for half a season. Maybe for a whole one even. But if it cuts the other way - if your luck is good - and you have the advantage, you can really go on a nice run.
Nonetheless, I made some square picks this week: CAR and especially JAC as a road favorite. Do I really have a sound basis there for those? We'll see.
In addition to TEN-CAR, I also hated WAS-MIA and HOU-TB. I particularly like the Chiefs, Bills and Jets.
Raiders +7 at Chargers
The Raiders looked terrible against Denver, but I can't give San Diego seven-point favorite status against anyone but the dregs of the league at this point. Expect this to be a close game. Back the Raiders.
Raiders 24 - 23
Jaguars -3 at Colts
Backing Jacksonville as a road favorite is borderline insane, but I think I have to do it. The Colts are the worst team in the league by a wide margin, and I don't believe their coach has the ability to change that. Back the Jaguars who win easily.
Jaguars 20 - 10
Broncos +3 at Chiefs
I know I said a bunch of nice things about Tebow in East Coast Offense, but it's time to buy the Chiefs low off the blowout loss to the Dolphins and sell the Broncos high again. Tebow might get it done – and as I said I'm rooting for him – but Denver's defense isn't good, and Kansas City should be able to bounce back at home. Back the Chiefs who roll.
Chiefs 34 - 17
Steelers -3 at Bengals
The Bengals have been on a nice run, but now they're finally tested by a good team. The Steelers lost a tough game to the Ravens that could have gone either way, and I'm pretty sure they'll be up for this one. Still, this game should probably be more like a pick 'em than three. Back Cincy.
Steelers 20 - 19
Bills +5.5 at Cowboys
You could analyze this game a number of ways, but to me it comes down to the fact that I expect the Bills to show up, but I have no idea whether Dallas will. Back Buffalo who wins outright.
Bills 24 - 20
Saints pick 'em at Falcons
The Falcons play a lot better at home, and they have deep threat Julio Jones back. But I think the Saints are the better team, and I can't place much stock in a blowout win over the Colts. Back New Orleans.
Saints 27 - 23
Rams +2.5 at Browns
I don't know what to do with the dregs of the league. I suppose I have to take the Browns laying less than three at home. As useless as they are, they have to be as good as the Rams, right? Back Cleveland.
Browns 19 - 16
Redskins +4 at Dolphins
The Redskins actually showed up against the 49ers, but at this point, I'm not sure what their purpose is. I guess you have to buy them low and sell the Dolphins high, but it's hard to be enthusiastic about it. Back Washington.
Redskins 20 - 19
Texans -3 at Buccaneers
The Texans have been legitimately good of late, but with Andre Johnson's status in question, I don't think I can lay three on the road in Tampa. Back the Bucs who win this one outright.
Buccaneers 24 - 23
Titans +3 at Panthers
I truly hate the Titans, and I hate this game. You know the public will be all over the Panthers, but what can you do? Backing the Titans is beyond painful. Give me Carolina at home, though I'm positive this is the week Chris Johnson runs for 200 yards.
Panthers 27 - 20
Cardinals +14 at Eagles
Maybe the Eagles prove Monday night's embarrasingly bad showing was just a one-week hiccup, but I don't care if David Koresh is quarterbacking the Cardinals - I'm taking the points. Back Arizona.
Eagles 27 - 17
Ravens -7 at Seahawks
The Ravens won a thrilling game at Pittsburgh, but going into Seattle is tough, and I could easily see them having a letdown, especially if they try to force the run for too long against a stout front. Back the Seahawks who keep it close enough.
Ravens 16 - 10
Lions +2.5 at Bears
The Bears looked great on Monday night, and while there will probably be some regression to the mean, especially on defense, the protection of Jay Cutler makes a huge difference. Give me the home team laying less than the full three. Back Chicago.
Bears 23 - 20
Giants +3.5 at 49ers
I'd feel better if I knew Hakeem Nicks were going to play, but I'll take more than a field goal with Eli Manning against Alex Smith. Back the Giants who win outright.
Giants 20 - 17
Patriots +1 at Jets
The Jets defense was too good for the Bills last week, and it was too good for Tom Brady and the Pats last January. Until New England finds someone to stretch the field, I think they can be solved. Back the Jets.
Jets 20 - 16
Vikings +13.5 at Packers
This is probably the right line, but I have to go with Minnesota. Christian Ponder is already a significant upgrade over Donovan McNabb, and these are division rivals that know each other pretty well. Back the Vikings.
Packers 27 - 20
We were 5-9 last week to put us at 61-64-5 on the season. From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).
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