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TheStreet Open House

Against the Spread: 2011 NFL Picks: Week 2

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Crushed.

No, I'm not referring to the pathetic performance of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens last week, at least not directly. I'm crushed because my NFL picks against the spread in Week 1 were a miserable 1-4. The Green Bay Packers pick was my lone success, while the Steelers, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were massive disappointments, both on the field and for my overall record.

As it turns out, I wasn't alone in failing to pick well in Week 1. By my count, 80 participants in the Las Vegas Hilton's Super Contest fared as well or worse during Week 1. The rest of the 517 participants did better, although only three entrants were a perfect 5-0 last week. The Hilton's Super Contest is considered the top pool for sharp bettors, who put up $1,500 in order to win $200,000 by picking five games against the spread each week.

Some of those top bettors were fooled into picking several teams that failed to cover. The Baltimore Ravens crushed the Pittsburgh Steelers, the second most-picked team in Week 1 with 152 selections. The Atlanta Falcons (121), Tennessee Titans (124), Rams (145), Browns (106), and New York Jets (127) were among the teams selected most yet failed to beat the spread. Sadly, three of those teams lost for me in Week 1, too.

"People were paying far too much attention to the preseason to begin with, rather than where the teams should be," says Paul Bessire, the general manager and creator of the Web site PredictionMachine.com. His Prediction Machine is a quantitative way to break down NFL games as it simulates each contest 50,000 times to come up with a pick against the spread. "One needs to resist the urge to overcorrect. That bias to under- or overcorrect, we've always seen it historically throughout the NFL after Week 1."

A great example, Bessire says, is the way Cam Newton lit up the Arizona Cardinals for 423 passing yards in Week 1. People are lauding Newton's performance, but there's little mention that Carolina not only lost, they failed to cover the spread against a Cardinals team that had two brand-new cornerbacks for a defense that was already bad at stopping opponents' passing game. The entertaining performance by Newton as a rookie has a dramatic effect on the line of the game in Week 2 for the Panthers game against the Packers.

"Going into the season, this line might have been 15 or 16 points, but now it's only 10 points," Bessire says. "It's all because it appears Cam Newton knows how to throw a football. That's just one example, but in most people's mind, you need to resist the urge to change your view on any of these teams. The group who bets early is already wary of this, and they jump out ahead of the public."

"I'm just trying not to fall into the traps of overanalyzing Week 1 results," says Bryan Leonard, a professional sports handicapper with Pregame.com. Leonard is part of the Tuesday Group, a collection of professional bettors in Vegas who get together to handicap the games each week. "People have these preconceived ideas for all of these teams."

Briefly, here are some of the betting trends we saw from Week 1. For moneyline bets, favorites were 10-6, while underdogs were 9-7 against the spread. The most interesting stat pulled from those numbers, though, was the outperformance of road dogs, with four as actual outright winners ( Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, and Detroit Lions). Even more shocking was the amount of "over" bets that were winners. In fact, as a reaction to having over/under totals too low, Vegas has raised the totals for Week 2 almost across the board.

With that, let's get on to the picks for Week 2 of the NFL season. As I'll remind you through the entire season, these are for entertainment purposes only. Once again, I have enlisted the help of PredictionMachine.com's Paul Bessire, who offers analysis of the data his model provides for the games I've picked this week.

I've also collected commentary on each game from Pregame.com's Bryan Leonard. His analysis focuses on the spread movement by Vegas oddsmakers to determine where the public and professional money is moving on each game. These trends prove to be critical for bettors who are on the hunt for inefficiencies and value.

Click on to read the first game preview, the Baltimore Ravens against the Tennessee Titans.

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