Beating the Book: Handicapping Week 1
Beating the Book: Handicapping Week 1

This article is part of our Beating the Book series.

This is the 20th season I've written the column. Picking every game, through 19 seasons from 1999-2017, I've gone 2,545-2,395 (51.5%), not including ties. That's actually decent on a 4,940-game sample, but my results have been considerably worse the last 10 years than the first nine, and you need to hit at a 52.38 percent clip to beat the standard -110 rake.

Not that I'm deterred. I enjoy picking the games and testing myself against the market. I mention my recent struggles only so that you go in eyes-open when reading this column. Nobody knows, not even the pros who are happy with winning 55 percent of the time. Put differently, there's a at least a 40 percent chance even the top bettors in the world are wrong about their best bets in a given week. The aim here is to stimulate and clarify thought, not to provide the master list for your picks each week.

(Incidentally, I've fared better on regular season best bets the last nine years - as far back as I could look up on the site - 85-65-3 (56.7%), though I would not bet those blindly either, given the much smaller sample.)

I took a first pass at the lines last week, making my own number, guessing what they'd be, then looking at the actual number, though some have moved. Most of my opinions are the same, though I've changed my mind on a couple.

Best bets are the Bengals, Saints, Ravens, Panthers and Chiefs. I'll pick one as a standalone best bet in Staff Picks and also put my five Supercontest picks in the comments.


If you're new to this column, or simply want to brush up on some key concepts, or check out other handicapping content on RotoWire, here are some useful links:

Glossary of Gambling Terms

ATS vs Parlays

Staff Picks

Interview with Professional Gambler Rufus Peabody

Real Man Would Handicapping Podcast


Falcons +2 at Eagles

This is a tough game to handicap - Super Bowl champs, missing their quarterback and top receiver, against the only team that nearly beat them in last year's playoffs.

I think this is a 50/50 game, and as such I'll take the Falcons.

Falcons 20 - 19


Steelers -4 at Browns

I set this line at 6.5. The Browns are on the rise, but they have a long way to go, and the Steelers are a veteran team that should be ready. Le'Veon Bell's presence would help somewhat, but it's not a major line-mover for me. Lay the wood.

Steelers 27 - 20

49ers +6 at Vikings

I set this line at seven. The Niners are a trendy sleeper and might well pan out given the coach and quarterback, but heading into Minnesota against that defense is a tall order for Week 1. Lay the wood.

Vikings 24 - 17

Bengals +3 at Colts

Andrew Luck is back, which means the Colts are no longer a doormat, but remove the QBs, and the Bengals are a much better team. Luck - assuming he's himself - is better than Andy Dalton, but not by such a margin that the line should treat these as equal teams (three-points on the road implies the teams are equal.) Take the Bengals.

Bengals 28 - 27

Bills +7 at Ravens

The Bills defense is good, but a road game against a tough Ravens defense with Nathan Peterman at QB is a bridge too far. Lay the wood.

Ravens 23 - 9

Jaguars -3 at Giants

I set this line at 2.5. The Jaguars are a nasty defense, but the Giants will run the ball and throw short, safe passes against them, and I expect the Giants defense to make some plays against Blake Bortles. Take the points.

Jaguars 19 - 17

Buccaneers +9.5 at Saints

The Saints are one of the best teams in the league, and the Bucs are forced to roll with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Lay the wood.

Saints 31 - 17

Texans +6.5 at Patriots

I made this line 7.5, but am having second thoughts. The Texans should have beaten the Patriots last year but for Bill O'Brien gifting the game via the punt, Deshaun Watson seems healthy and the Patriots finish seasons better than they start them. Take the points.

Patriots 24 - 23

Titans -1.5 at Dolphins

I made this a pick 'em, so I'll take the small edge of 1.5 points (worth far less than if it passed through a key number like three or seven.) Ryan Tannehill is much better than last year's version of Jay Cutler, and I'd like to see the new Titans offense in action before I buy in. Back the Dolphins at home.

Dolphins 23 - 20


Chiefs +3.5 at Chargers

All the stats guys love the Chargers, but they always disappoint, especially early in the year. Andy Reid knows how to prepare when given extra time too. Back the Chiefs.

Chiefs 27 - 23

Seahawks +3 at Broncos

The Seahawks are a shell of the team from the past few years, but Russell Wilson is still under center, so this is probably the right line. Total coin flip, but give me the Broncos who are probably the less public team.

Broncos 24 - 20

Cowboys +3 at Panthers

I don't see why this line is only three. The Panthers are the better team, in my opinion, and they're at home. Easy call to lay the wood.

Panthers 24 - 19

Redskins pick 'em at Cardinals

I thought the Redskins would be getting points on the road, but apparently the market thinks they're better than the Cardinals. Sam Bradford isn't great, but he's a pro, and I think this is enough value. Take Arizona.

Cardinals 21 - 20


Bears +7.5 at Packers

I set this line at 10, before the Khalil Mack signing, but Mack would only move the line by a point or so. Oddly, the Bears strike me as the value pick, but Aaron Rodgers owns the Bears, and is so good at home. I'm laying the wood.

Packers 31 - 20


Jets +6.5 at Lions

The Jets might be underrated this year, but this is Sam Darnold's first game, and the Lions should move the ball pretty easily. I made this line seven, so give me Detroit.

Lions 24 - 17

Rams -4 at Raiders

This line jumped after Mack signed with the Bears, and rightly so not only because the Raiders lost their best defensive player, but if feels like they're giving up. (Aaron Donald also signed with the Rams since then.) This is a big line on the road, but I'll lay the points.

Rams 28 - 23

Real Man Would Handicapping Podcast

Last year I went 117-125-14 on the season, 12-4-1 on best bets, 43-39-3 in the Supercontest. From 1999-2017, I've gone 2,545-2,395 (51.5%), not including ties.

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Chris Liss
Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.
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