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Against the Spread: 2011 NFL Picks: Week 5

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Perhaps now that he's on the unemployment line, I could get Hank Williams Jr. to sing about his rowdy friends for my NFL picks against the spread column. After all, I need something to help mask my weak record so far this season.

My picks against the spread went 2-3 last week, with wins thanks to covers by the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. Losses came on the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills.

I'm now 7-13 on the season, which is a tough record to swallow now that we're roughly a quarter of the way through the season. With hockey now back in full swing, I'm already starting to cringe at the thought of the end of the NFL season. Luckily, we have plenty of weeks to right this ship and get a respectable record against the spread.

Unfortunately, the task doesn't get much easier this week. We have a slimmer slate of games as this is the first weekend select teams take off. The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins, and the Dallas Cowboys, who certainly need a week off after last week's late-game collapse against the Detroit Lions.

Given that so many bad teams are off this week, we're left with a schedule that features a lot of mediocre teams with no identities. Take, for example, the Kansas City Chiefs visiting the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs are coming off a big win against the Vikings and are two weeks removed from playing well against the Chargers, and yet they're getting points as the team goes on the road against an Indianapolis, which hasn't yet shown it can win a game this season. This isn't a new phenomenon, though, where home teams are giving a low number of points.

"We saw a lot of 1-point lines last week, which I was really surprised with. There was an overvaluation of the home teams last week," says Paul Bessire, the general manager and creator of the Web site 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.

"While that's not nearly the case this week, but there are teams in the NFL where, if they are favored at home by anything less than 4 points, we'll be picking them no matter who they are playing. Specifically, the Packers or the Patriots," Bessire adds.

With that, let's get on to the picks for Week 5 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's Paul Bessire, who offers analysis of the data his model provides for the games I've picked this week.

I have also collected commentary from Bryan Leonard, a professional sports handicapper with who is also part of the Tuesday Group, a collection of professional bettors in Las Vegas who get together to handicap the games each week.

Leonard's 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.

Read on for the first game pick, where the Cincinnati Bengals travel to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. And as always, I encourage you to leave comments below with your favorite picks against the spread this week. We had a great discussion last week on how terribly wrong my picks were, so I'm looking for more thoughts this week.
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