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Beating the Book: Chris Liss Handicaps the Wild-Card Round

Chris Liss

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

I went 8-8 in Week 17, a fittingly mediocre end to a mediocre season. Once again, I went 2-2 on the games I liked and 3-2 on the games I found most difficult.

I don't know what else to say about it. I expected to go on a hot streak at some point, but it didn't happen. Here are my records (excluding ties) by week, starting in Week 1:

10-6, 7-9, 8-8, 4-11, 7-7, 10-4, 7-8, 6-6, 5-7, 5-9, 7-6, 7-9, 8-7, 10-6, 6-9, 8-8, 8-8

There weren't many extreme weeks, and in fact 11 of 17 were within two games of .500. Never did I get more than 10 wins, and I had only one double-digit loss week (4). I'm not sure there's anything to gain by analyzing it this way, but it validates my feeling that I was treading water the entire way.

And that's nothing new. Over the last 10 seasons, my record ATS has been 1248-1244 (50%). It's slightly worse since 2012 (616-630, but from 207-2011, it was 632-614, which isn't materially different over that large a sample.

From 1999-2006, I was 1057-898 (54%), i.e., I was killing it when I first started. There are a few possible explanations as to why I've fallen off since: regression to the mean, i.e., I was getting lucky, and I stopped, the lines got tighter as the public got more informed, I stopped bouncing my picks off my brother around then or maybe my methodology changed over the years.

But one overlooked factor is that when you get more experienced at something that doesn't require a whole lot of experience, you can lose the clarity of mind you had when you were a relative novice. I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) that intelligence consists not in seeing patterns others miss, but in not being fooled by patterns others purport to see. I wonder if back then I just called the games more cleanly without all the "knowledge" that's seeped in since about public/sharp, net-YPA and model-generated baseline values for teams.

In any event, it's something for me to chew on during the offseason. In the meantime, I didn't like this slate much. If I had to pick a best bet, it's between the Steelers and Seahawks. Texans-Raiders was a total coin flip.


Raiders +3.5 at Texans

I don't want to think about this game, let alone watch it, and I'm pretty sure few without a fantasy or gambling interest will. The Texans have the better defense and are at home, but in a game with such a low total (36) and two inept offenses, the 3.5 seems like enough. I'll take the Raiders.

Texans 16 - 13

Lions +8 at Seahawks

The Seahawks haven't played well the last month, but this is a dream matchup for them - a home game against a dink and dunk quarterback who does all his damage against weak defenses. Moreover, the Lions defense isn't especially good, either. On a pure value basis, the Lions might be defensible, but given the set-up and matchup, I'm laying the wood.

Seahawks 27 - 13


Dolphins +10 at Steelers

This is a massive line for a playoff game, but with Matt Moore likely to start and Ben Roethlisberger so much better at home, it makes sense. The Dolphins' secondary has been lit up of late by everyone from Tom Brady to Joe Flacco to Colin Kaepernick, and I'd expect that trend to continue. The Dolphins will probably try to run the ball and shorten the game, but that won't work if they get down a couple scores. Lay the points.

Steelers 38 - 17

Giants +4.5 at Packers

I'm a homer here, so I'm taking the Giants no matter what in a playoff game, especially one in which they're underdogs, i.e., one where they can't win without covering. But I think they're the right play given their massive edge on defense. While thwarting Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott isn't the same as stopping Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, they should slow the Packers enough to keep it close, so long as Ben McAdoo commits to getting the ball in the hands of Odell Beckham as often as possible. The Giants can win this game outright, but I won't go so far as to predict it, as Rodgers is playing out of his mind right now.

Packers 27 - 24

I went 8-8 in Week 17 to go 123-128-5 on the season. I'm 3-2 on best bets. I went 114-134-8 and 7-9-3 on best bets in 2015. From 1999-2015, I've gone 2,182-2,014 (52%), not including ties.