Another solid week, and it's a wonder after this four-week run I'm still two games under .500 - it just goes to show the depths of the hole I dug early on. Maybe it's dumb luck, but to the extent there is skill involved, you should tend to do better with more information rather than less. Last week's best bets went 2-0-1, the coin flips went 2-1.
This week's slate struck me as pretty tough again. I particularly like the Texans. And the Bucs, Browns, Saints and Panthers all came to me pretty easily, but I wouldn't call them best bets. Jaguars-Cardinals, Ravens-Bears, Vikings-Seahawks and Colts-Titans were all coin flips.
Colts -3 at Titans
This is a tough one. I want to buy the Colts low after their implosion at home against the Rams, but they're laying three on the road on a short week. Moreover, the Titans are also coming off a bad loss, and they should be focused for a game against the division leaders at home. I hate fading the Colts with small spreads, but I'm doing it here. Back the Titans.
Titans 23 - 20
Falcons -1.5 at Buccaneers
Maybe Matt Ryan and Roddy White will find something, but the Bucs have a good defense, and the Falcons defense is among the league's worst. Give me the home dog. Back the Bucs.
Buccaneers 21 - 17
Jets +1 at Bills
The Bills got destroyed in Pittsburgh, but this team dominated the Chiefs with Jeff Tuel two weeks ago, and EJ Manuel is likely to shake off some of the rust. I think this line should be closer to three. Back Buffalo.
Bills 13 - 10
Lions -2.5 at Steelers
The Lions should have covered as a road favorite in Chicago last week, and they're laying the same number here in Pittsburgh. But I have a hunch the Steelers will show up and win. Lay the points.
Steelers 26 - 23
Redskins +3.5 at Eagles
I had a Redskins lean here as I expected a close game against a beatable division rival, and they're getting the hook. But if you look at sabermetric sites like Advanced NFL Stats, who have the Eagles at No. 5 overall, while Washington is No. 24, or FootballOutsiders, who have Philly at 15, but Washington at 30, you get the feeling the true line should be about seven. A third site, Massey-Peabody, has Philly as league average and the Redskins roughly two points below league average, which is about in line with the current spread. That said, all those sites are backward looking, i.e., they're using past data to rank teams, and I think RGIII is likely to get better down the stretch, and Nick Foles is likely to regress - or at the very least throw a pick or two. Back the Redskins.
Redskins 27 - 24
Chargers -1.5 at Dolphins
I like the Dolphins as a buy-low off the loss to the winless Bucs. The Dolphins can't protect Ryan Tannehill, but they can get after Philip Rivers who's a sitting duck. Back Miami.
Dolphins 24 - 23
Ravens +3 at Bears
Like the Washington-Philly game, I liked one side (the Ravens), but some of the stats sites, notably Football Outsiders love the other. (FO has the Bears at No. 5, ahead of the Niners and Pats, while the Ravens are 23rd. Advanced NFL Stats has the Bears at No. 13 and the Ravens at No. 29, while Massey-Peabody has the two teams as rough equals - the spread reflected in the line.) I'll heed my instincts and fade the stats consensus. The Ravens are tough defensively, and they should be able to move the ball against a weak Bears defense. Back Baltimore.
Ravens 20 - 19
Browns +6 at Bengals
I have a bit of a Bengals hunch, but I'm going to ignore it. Cleveland has the better defense right now, an equal quarterback and a big-play receiver of its own in Josh Gordon. I could see 3.5 here, but six seems like a lot without Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. Back Cleveland.
Bengals 17 - 16
Raiders +7 at Texans
This seems like the game where the Texans show how annoyed they are at how the season's gone and destroy the Raiders at home. Case Keenum looks competent, and the Houston defense could shut Oakland down. Back the Texans.
Texans 31 - 7
Cardinals -7 at Jaguars
I'm torn here. I actually think the Cardinals are pretty good, and the Jaguars have been historically bad. But just like the Broncos weren't likely to be historically good all year, the Jaguars should experience some regression - and for them that's a positive. Moreover, the Cardinals have been a lot better at home, and it's easy to see them not being up for this game. But I can also easily see Arizona blowing them out and having to sit through a guaranteed loss. That's not a good reason, but I had to get it out of my system. Never worry about the "how" when you take the ugly dog. Back the Jaguars.
Cardinals 21 - 16
Vikings +12.5 at Seahawks
I'd prefer it if Christian Ponder were playing, but that's at the margins. The Seahawks worked the hapless Falcons last week, but were life and death with the Bucs and Rams the two weeks prior. Maybe those two teams have turned the corner, or maybe the Seahawks can be challenged with teams playing physical football. Hopefully, the Vikings go that route and hand the ball to Adrian Peterson 30 times because I'm taking the points. Back Minnesota.
Seahawks 21 - 13
49ers +3 at Saints
I must be missing something here - why are the Saints only three-point favorites at home against the Niners? This implies these are equal teams, but there's a bigger disparity between the offenses than the defenses. Back the Saints who are especially tough at home.
Saints 27 - 20
Packers +5.5 at Giants
I'd love to see the Giants roll here, but unless Eli Manning snaps out of an 18-game fog, or Scott Tolzien completely falls apart, it should be a reasonably close game. Back Green Bay.
Giants 23 - 20
Chiefs +8 at Broncos
Peyton Manning's ankle is the only thing that gives me pause. Assuming he's nearly 100 percent, the Chiefs only hope is to knock him around - easier said than done as Manning gets rid of the ball quickly and knows where to go with it. Back the Broncos.
Broncos 34 - 23
Patriots +2.5 at Panthers
This line presumes the Patriots are a slightly better team, and I have trouble seeing that. At best they're equals, so I'll lay the points. Back Carolina.
Panthers 27 - 24
Last week we went 8-5-1 to go 70-72-5 on the year. Last year we went 121-129-6 on the regular season. From 1999-2012 we've gone 1,810-1,641 (52.4%), not including ties.