What does a handicapper do when the going gets ugly?
You go even uglier.
If you've followed any of the Throwing Darts series at Yahoo! since it began in 2010, you know there's an underdog lean to the column. Many of the picks will be contrarian plays, and many of the picks will be "hold your nose" selections on teams only a mother could love. We live in a world of favorite chasers and bandwagon riders, and more often than not you're going to get a better value if you take the points.
At least, that's the general theory here. You're most welcome to disagree.
In the meantime, we're 33-23 against the number this year (58.9 percent) and 123-95 (56.4 percent) since the series began. If you knew you could take down the number 56 percent of the time, you'd never have to work again. It's not easy, amigos. Ask Ace Rothstein, he'll tell you.
Sometimes the dog picks are going to be just that - dogs. The Jets were promoted in this space Thursday and they lost by about 597 points. It was a beat the traffic special, the issue decided before halftime. That said, it only goes down as one loss. There's no reason to flip out over a singular result; let's try to stay focused on the big picture.
There will be plenty of losing games and losing weeks in this column; it's a difficult game. Eventually there will be a losing season. Heck, it could be 2012 if things don't straighten out. Anyone who predicts the NFL for a living will be humbled on a regular basis. It comes with the territory.
But I'm not going to switch to public teams and favorite leans just to gain favor with the peanut gallery. I'll trust the process and try to stay as grounded as possible. I don't need the four picks below to be popular on Saturday night; I just want some of them to have the pretty W next to them when the results are in.
Your pre-game disagreement is always welcome. After the game? We all know what the scores are then. Save your post-game energy and angst for Week 13.
All of the lines, as usual, are drawn from Yahoo! Pro Football Pickem. Only games with a posted number are eligible to be selected. We're taking three underdogs this week, some of them true ugly ducklings.
Chargers +1 vs. Ravens: Is there a hangover to playing the Steelers? Sign me up for that one. Over the last seven years, teams are 40-59 straight up (and 37-61-1 ATS) the week after playing Pittsburgh. And any team that just beat the Steelers is 11-24 ATS in the following week. Here's a vote that says the Ravens are flatter than a pancake after dismissing their division rival in a physical game last week.
Giants -2.5 vs. Packers: Big Blue needed the off week like plasma. And the injury report also plays nicely for the Giants here: while Hakeem Nicks is (presumably) getting healthy, the Packers will be without Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson. I'm throwing Eli Manning's recent form in the shredder; that's not who he is. Give him two strong receiving options and lets see how he looks. This is the type of spot where I expect a Tom Coughlin team to have a strong effort.
Raiders +8 at Bengals: Oakland's defense is a nightmare, everyone can see that. But I expect the Raiders to move the ball on offense - Marcel Reece has been a surprise star, and Carson Palmer is working with some useful targets. Cincinnati's pass defense is nothing special; 91.1 rating allowed, just seven picks. Even if Oakland is blown out early, the back door will stay open.
Chiefs +10.5 vs. Broncos: Everyone knows Denver is a juggernaut and everyone knows Kansas City stinks. That's not news. Maybe the Broncos waltz into Arrowhead with full focus and romp 56-0. I'm taking the Chiefs for two basic reasons: I have respect for the KC defense (a unit that did work in the Monday night loss at Pittsburgh), and anytime the line jumps over 10 in the NFL, my ears perk up. If you simply took every NFL dog getting 10.5 points or more since 1978, you'd be 429-350-13. This year, 8-4.
If the favorites covered all of the time, Vegas wouldn't have all those sports books on the strip.
This Week: 0-1