Last week was about the most disappointing 8-6 I've ever had, as I was 7-1 heading into the late games and hoping for a much-needed huge week. But the only other win I got was the Eagles, a game I very much wanted to lose. I really shouldn't be rooting so hard for my picks to cover - half of them aren't much better than coin flips, and you have to trust that over time luck will even out anyway. And why get bent out of shape over short-team results you can't control? I remember once being at a blackjack table and trying to enjoy as much bad luck as possible. I was actively hoping to get dealt fifteens and sixteens and that the dealer had a 10 or a quick blackjack. What difference did it make which way I was rooting as long as I was employing sound basic strategy? Why not enjoy the bad cards, too?
But when it comes to handicapping, I still labor under the possible delusion that I'm not only able to beat the book over the long haul, but that I can do so week-to-week. I still really expect to go on a run and have a strong year. And I'm not emotionally detached from it as if I'm just mechanically executing some mathematical system like basic strategy in blackjack. I actually live and die with every pick, even if I had only the flimsiest basis for making it. I could try to root for bad beats like I did at the tables or simply root for good luck and then wash my hands of it when it doesn't arrive, but where's the enjoyment in that? How can you watch the Rams-Cardinals game as if it weren't the final battle between Good and Evil that determined humanity's eternal destiny?
Packers -6 at Lions
The Packers got all they could handle from the Bucs last week, and that will likely be the case more often than not going forward, as teams take their best shots at the undefeated Super Bowl champs. The Lions also play good enough pass defense and finally have some balance in the running game. Back Detroit who keeps it close.
Packers 27 - 24
Dolphins +7 at Cowboys
The Dolphins have looked like a playoff team the last several weeks, thanks to improved play from their defense and quarterback Matt Moore. Dallas should have its hands full after a tough game with the Redskins last week. Back Miami.
Cowboys 19 - 17
49ers +3.5 at Ravens
The Niners have been the better team to date, but the Ravens have played tougher opponents, they're at home and they need this game more. Still, I think I have to go with San Francisco getting more than a field goal in what should be a low-scoring game. Back the Niners.
49ers 17 - 16
Vikings +9.5 at Falcons
The Falcons are a mediocre team that in my opinion lacks playoff upside, but they usually handle bad teams, especially at home. With Adrian Peterson unlikely to play, the Vikings qualify. Back the Falcons.
Falcons 24 - 13
Texans -3.5 at Jaguars
It's hard to know what to make of Matt Leinart here, especially with the Texans having so much success running the ball, but the story of this game might be the Houston defense having its way with Blaine Gabbert. Back the Texans who win fairly easily.
Texans 23 - 9
Buccaneers +3 at Titans
I despise the Titans right now as I backed them for a while when they were awful, then faded them for their win in Carolina (against my better judgment) and then again in Atlanta when they lucked into a backdoor cover thanks to a stupid Michael Turner fumble. I really want to root for Tampa, who looked good in their loss to Green Bay, but I'm going to hold my nose and go Tennessee because I think it's the sharp play. Back the Titans.
Titans 24 - 20
Cardinals +3 at Rams
I don't know what to make of this. The Rams have struggled to protect Sam Bradford, while Arizona might have Kevin Kolb back, not that that's necessarily a good thing. When in doubt, I suppose I'll take the points, though this is not a game I'd bet on if I had the choice. Back the Cardinals.
Cardinals 20 - 17
Browns +8 at Bengals
With Leon Hall out and A.J. Green iffy, I think eight points is sufficient in a game between these division rivals. Back the Browns.
Bengals 19 - 16
Bills +9 at Jets
The magnitude of the Bills collapse is a bit shocking, but this is a big number for a team like the Jets to cover against a division rival no matter how badly it's reeling. Except that the Jets destroyed the Bills in Buffalo a few weeks ago, and the Bills were healthier then. Back New York who rolls.
Jets 24 - 10
Panthers -3.5 at Colts
The Colts are the doormat of doormats, getting more than a field goal as home dogs to the Panthers, arguably the worst defensive team in the league. I really don't want to back them, but it's got to be the right thing to do. Right? Hold your nose and back the Colts.
Panthers 27 - 26
Redskins +3.5 at Seahawks
The Redskins showed some resilience against Dallas last week, but that was a home game, and Seattle's a tough place to play. I don't like backing the Seahawks as favorites, but their defense has been better of late, and I think they cause problems for Rex Grossman. Back Seattle.
Seahawks 21 - 13
Bears +4 at Raiders
I like the Raiders more as dogs than favorites, but it's hard to know what to make of the Bears with Caleb Hanie under center. My gut tells me this won't be an easy game for Oakland, and the points will be enough. Back the Bears.
Raiders 20 - 19
Patriots -3 at Eagles
The Eagles are as Jeckyll and Hyde as any team in the league, and we don't even know whether Michael Vick will play. But they should be able to exploit New England's porous secondary, and the Patriots have issues on the offensive line, too. Back Philly who wins outright.
Eagles 27 - 24
Broncos +7 at Chargers
Maybe I'm buying high and selling low here, but the Chargers have to show they're worthy of being seven-point favorites over anyone, let alone a resurgent Denver team that's won in Oakland and against the Jets of late. Maybe San Diego miraculously turns it around and rolls this week, but I don't see how anyone can count on that. Back Denver.
Broncos 24 - 23
Steelers -10.5 at Chiefs
The Chiefs looked like world-beaters in New England for about a quarter until the wheels came off. Still, this is a home game, and they should have an upgrade at quarterback with Kyle Orton (though it remains to be seen how ready he'll be). In any event, I'll take the points. Back the Chiefs.
Steelers 20 - 17
Giants +7 at Saints
The Giants are at their best in comeback mode at the end of games where there just isn't time to waste with running plays. That's why they play poorly as a favorite and well as a dog. They're a dog here, and I expect the passing game to keep pace as long as Eli Manning gets a modicum of protection. Back the Giants.
Giants 31 - 30
We were 8-6 last week to put us at 75-80-5 on the season. From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).
You can follow me on Twitter at @Chris_Liss