Against the Spread: 2011 NFL Picks: Week 11

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- After 10 weeks in this NFL season, you're be smarter to pick against me than with me.

At the halfway point of the season, my record now stands at 16-27 with two ties, good for a miserable winning percentage of 35.5% in the 45 games I've picked so far. If you picked against me, you're sitting with a lovely 60% winning record. I suppose it's a good thing I'm not a portfolio manager, although I still might be doing better with my NFL picks than some hedge fund managers are doing this year.

Speaking of picking stocks and picking NFL games, one of my weekly NFL picks sources made the interesting point of comparing Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow to K-cup maker Green Mountain Coffee Roasters ( GMCR), a company targeted by hedge fund manager David Einhorn as a short opportunity. Comparing an embattled speculative name to another embattled speculative name isn't hard to do, even if we're talking about quarterbacks and coffee makers.

"How can you evaluate Tebow one way and others evaluate him another?" asks 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.

"That is a type of product that never existed ever and how efficient it is," Bessire says of the Keurig maker. "But can they consistently produce results and it fades away? I think there are a lot of correlations there. It's identical to the Tebow situation right now. Will it work next year? Will people move on? It's been successful but it doesn't make sense to why it has been successful. You have to take it one game at a time."

Bessire's point in comparing the two is to show how picking NFL games is not about speculation and noise -- it's about focusing on the matchups between two teams and coming to a conclusion that way. That has been difficult for some to deal with, even seasoned professionals in the Vegas sports gambling world.

"It's been a very strange year," says 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.

"It used to be, if you took the better quarterback or better defense, you were pretty safe to cover," he says. "But in many instances, picking the better quarterback hasn't lived up to expectations." Leonard also brings up Tebow, who managed to lead his team to victory in Week 10 despite completing only two passes all game. "The team has rallied around the idea of playing a different type of ball," he says.

With that, let's get on to the picks for Week 11 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, whose 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 New York Jets travel to play Tebow's Denver Broncos tonight. And as always, I encourage you to leave comments below with your favorite picks against the spread this week. I'm always looking to share ideas. Besides, what's more fun than talking about football betting?

New York Jets at Denver Broncos (+6)

To be sure, any pick of the Denver Broncos this week should not be made because of a belief that Tim Tebow wins football games.

I don't like Tim Tebow and I certainly don't like the Denver Broncos. This team's style of "winning" is against everything that makes football exciting. I know that a win is as good as any other win in the NFL, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy watching games where Tebow throws fewer than 10 passes. I like watching accomplished offenses with solid running backs, legitimate deep threats in wide receivers, offensive lines that protect the quarterback, and quarterbacks who throw the ball for more than 200 yards per game.

What bothers me about this game revolves more around the Jets. I lost on my pick of the Jets last week against the Patriots. The Jets, who lost to the Patriots earlier this year in New England, had the opportunity to show their home crowd and the entire nation on Sunday Night Football that they could hang with the Patriots. Instead, they were sleepwalking through an important division game. If they can't get up for the Patriots, how can I expect them to travel on short rest to Denver to win against Tebow's awful style of play?

According to Vegas Insider, the Las Vegas Hilton posted a line of Jets -4.5 on Nov. 13. That line briefly dipped to -4 before jumping as high as Denver +6.5. The line looks to have settled now at Jets -6 going into tonight. To Prediction Machine's Bessire, that line is too high considering how competitive Denver is.

"I like the Broncos here. Denver is structured in a way that is not conducive to blowing teams out or being blown out," Bessire says. "The Jets are much better against the pass than against the run. So a team built around the run rather than the pass is more likely to be successful against a team built like the Jets. And with Tebow, it's like preparing for a knuckle ball pitcher."'s Leonard says he doesn't have anything on this game. "Guys who I respect like the Jets, but I can't lay the points," he says. "Denver has had success because they can take a lead and don't have to play from behind, which the exception of the Miami game. If the Jets get a lead in the game, Denver can't compete. The problem is that the Jets' offense is sluggish. I would instead take a look at the under in this game."

The Pick: Broncos +6. We've seen how well the Jets play on the road this season (3 losses in 4 games, for those counting at home). Sure, they have a solid chance to win, considering they have one of the best defenses in the entire league while Denver is ranked somewhere around 20th. But the short week to prepare for such a strange offense could give the Jets trouble.

San Diego Chargers at Chicago Bears (-3.5)

If you're like me (and I pray you're not), you have zero luck picking any game that involves the San Diego Chargers. Last week's loss on the Chargers in their Thursday night game against the Oakland Raiders is the latest proof. So why am I going back this week to pick another Chargers game?

The Chargers have to be the most disappointing team of this season, without a doubt. Philip Rivers was spoken of as an MVP candidate a few months ago. The only lead he holds now is in the interception category. We've all grown accustomed to waiting out a slow start for the Chargers in previous seasons. Halfway through this one, we now have to wonder if a better, stronger Chargers team that we've been waiting for will ever show up.

Meanwhile, nearly everyone complained last season that the Bears didn't deserve to win 13 games and that they'd most certainly regress this season. While Chicago looked rough around the edges to start this season, they've really turned the ship around. The offensive line troubles that plagued the Bears appear to have been fixed. Quarterback Jay Cutler isn't on his back as often and Matt Forte is rushing the ball more and with more success. Of course, they may still be the NFL's luckiest team as they seem to be playing opponents at the most opportune time (see: the Lions last week and Chargers this week), but you have to stop discounting the Bears as a bad team that only wins because of the benefit of fortunate bounces.

According to Vegas Insider, the Las Vegas Hilton posted the Bears as 3.5-point favorites and this line has barely moved, only briefly touching -4. The Chargers have had 10 days to rest and prepare for this matchup against the Bears, but Prediction Machine's Bessire says that bettors shouldn't be depending on the extra three days to benefit San Diego.

"It's hard to say the time off affects them. While the talent level is still the same this year, there are a lot of holes," Bessire says of the Chargers. "High interceptions can be one thing, but completion percentage lows and highs in sacks taken is more than just the ball bouncing the wrong way. This team just really isn't that good." While Chicago isn't an elite team, Bessire says Chicago "is a little more consistent with the new style of offense."'s Leonard says that Chicago is his top play of the week. "We know what we'll get out of San Diego," he says. "But since Chicago fixed their offensive line problems, they've been great. Chicago has a terrific defense and it has a decent offense. Cutler has played better. San Diego is disappointing every week."

Leonard says that if you put held your hand over the Chargers' logo and put San Diego's statistics on another team, like Washington or Cleveland, this line would be higher. "More like 5 points," Leonard says. "It's the name on the jerseys that brings the line down to 3.5 points."

The Pick: Bears -3.5. Be careful with this pick. As I said, I have the dilemma of picking every single Chargers game incorrectly. I think this is the right pick, however, considering how bad the Chargers play, especially on the road. Against this Bears team, Rivers' interception total should rise (and so should Chicago's win total).

Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings (+1)

Carson Palmer or Christian Ponder? Michael Bush or Adrian Peterson? As it turns out, choosing the right side of this game doesn't involve picking the correct the quarterback or the running back of these teams.

Instead, look at the defenses. Oakland ranks 26th using Football Outsiders' proprietary DVOA measure, which compares the defense-adjusted value over average. The Raiders defense stinks against the pass with a ranking of 20th, but they're even worse against the rush, ranked 27th out of 32 teams. Ask yourself, do you feel comfortable picking the team with the 27th ranked rushing defense against one of the league's most elite running backs in Adrian Peterson?

Minnesota isn't that great on defense either, to be sure. They're horrid against the pass (ranked 27th against the pass using DVOA). However, the Vikings are ranked 12th overall against the rush. In other words, the Vikings should be able to stop Michael Bush, who will once again start in place of the injured Darren McFadden. So I'll ask again, do you feel comfortable picking the team that will depend on Carson Palmer to throw the ball well?

According to Vegas Insider, the Las Vegas Hilton posted the Vikings originally as 1.5-point favorites on Nov. 13, but two days later the line swung in favor of the Raiders by 1.5 points. That has come down slightly to Raiders -1. Don't be fooled, though. Picking this game is picking who you think wins this game. For Prediction Machine's Bessire, it's about the defensive units.

"When healthy, these are the two best rushing offenses in the league. But there's a caveat: McFadden won't play," he says. "You have to remember Oakland is one of the worst teams in the NFL against the rush. Adrian Peterson should have a huge day against Oakland. Minnesota is much better against the run than against the pass. Palmer had an efficient game last week, but it's hard to count on him every week to be consistent. He's ultimately an average quarterback."'s Leonard isn't particularly interested in picking this game, although he'd look at Minnesota with a gun to his head.

"The only problem is that they're coming off a Monday night game against a team they don't see often," he says. "It comes down to who will make fewer mistakes in the quarterback spot. I don't know that I could trust either team in that case. Defensively, they're pretty comparable. We're catching a line that says Oakland is 4 points better on a neutral field, and I don't think they're that much better."

The Pick: Vikings +1. It's typically the wrong bet to pick the team coming off a Monday night game, since it means one fewer day to prepare. However, the Vikings were down 14 points to the Packers so quickly on Monday that Adrian Peterson carried the ball only 14 times. In my mind, he's rested enough despite the short week. Expect the Vikings to win this one at home thanks to their run defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns (PK)

I usually like to pick the most entertaining games of the week for this column. This game is not one of them.

According to Vegas Insider, the Las Vegas Hilton has kept this game as a pick 'em (PK) for nearly the entire week, only briefly favoring the Browns by 1 point. Vegas doesn't think much of either team. With a total of only 34 points, which you would typically see in a game involving a blizzard, oddsmakers aren't expecting much scoring.

I cannot come up with any scenario to explain how the Browns can win this game. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA ranking, the Cleveland defense is actually pretty good with a rank of 14th overall. But the wide split between pass (9th ranked) and rush (28th ranked) is startling. It also is not a good match up for the Browns who play a rookie quarterback like Blaine Gabbert who will be depending on running back Maurice Jones-Drew to run the ball more.

Oh, and by the way, the Jaguars have the third best defense in the entire NFL, according to DVOA rankings. As unbelievable as that sounds, it's true, and it's bad news for a Cleveland Browns offense that struggles to get first downs, let alone points. On offense, though, the Jaguars are dead last at 32, mostly due to how bad they are passing the ball. If MJD can run the ball, Jacksonville might be able to steal a game on the road.

"Defensively, that team is so good," Prediction Machine's Bessire says of the Jaguars. "But here, you're counting on them to win the game. My biggest concern isn't whether Jacksonville is the better team, but it's the weather conditions. It should be 40 degrees and rainy. It's hard to trust one team over another."'s Leonard says that Jacksonville took money early but now that's coming in on Cleveland. "The weather is the only drawback because we don't know how Jacksonville will do in terrible weather that they're not used to in Florida," he says. "But Jacksonville has a better defense and clearly the better running game. There's no way I'd want to back Cleveland here. The clear best unit on the field is Jacksonville's defense."

The Pick: Jaguars PK. MJD has a huge day running the ball against a bad defense in bad weather, and I'm not just saying that as wishful thinking because MJD is one of the starting running backs on my fantasy team this week. The Jaguars will have so few chances like this one this season to win games. Expect them to find some way to pull out a victory against a very bad Browns team.

Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams (-2)

Stop me if you're read this before: Two NFL teams with losing records, bad offenses and improving defenses are squaring off this week in a game few people will care to watch. If this game preview reads a lot like the Jacksonville/Cleveland game you just saw on the previous page, you're not mistaken.

Looking at DVOA, the Rams have the second worst offense in the league, mostly due to their weak passing game. That has improved with the pickup of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd from the Denver Broncos, but it's still ranked 31st out of 32 teams. Seattle, meanwhile, is ranked 25th in overall offense and is equally bad passing and running the ball.

On defense, though, the Rams rank 28th by DVOA mostly because they have trouble stopping running backs. The unit is good against the pass, ranking 16th. Seattle, though, is even more impressive, ranked 15th overall in the NFL. The Seahawks do well defending the pass, but they've even better stopping opposing teams' running back. Believe it or not, the Seahawks have a top 10 defense against the run.

According to Vegas Insider, the Las Vegas Hilton posted the Rams as 3-point favorites, and that line has slowly drifted to -2. At one point, oddsmakers had the Rams as only 1.5-point favorites. But without weather as a factor in the St. Louis dome stadium, bettors have to focus on which team is good enough to win this game outright.

Prediction Machine's Bessire says that not only are both of these defenses are improving, these two teams are pretty similar. "However, St. Louis doesn't have much of a home advantage," he says. "I thought St. Louis would win the game by 3 points, but our model has Seattle staying with St. Louis. Seattle just has to contain Steven Jackson."'s Leonard agrees that even though both teams are better at defending as of late, the Seattle defense is the best unit on the field. But "the St. Louis team is moving the ball better," he says. "I don't have a play on this game, but I would lean to St. Louis. Seattle is terrible on the road and is a dangerous home dog. I think St. Louis is flying under the radar."

The Pick: Seahawks +2. Sure, they're better at home than they are on the road, but the Seahawks did travel earlier this season and they beat the Giants a few weeks ago. Is Sam Bradford better than Eli Manning? Is Steven Jackson better than Ahmad Bradshaw? Seattle wins this division game, even if few NFL fans around the country care very much about the outcome.

Although I've given my five picks against the spread for Week 11, I thought I'd also add in my selections for the other games this week. I won't include these in my overall record, but instead I'm just merely adding them as a bonus. Again, please leave your comments below with your picks this week and why. Have a great weekend.

(Home teams in all caps)

  • Buffalo Bills +2 over MIAMI DOLPHINS
  • BALTIMORE RAVENS -7 over Cincinnati Bengals
  • Dallas Cowboys -7 over WASHINGTON REDSKINS
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers +14 over GREEN BAY PACKERS
  • SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS -9.5 over Arizona Cardinals
  • ATLANTA FALCONS -6 over Tennessee Titans
  • CAROLINA PANTERS +7 over Detroit Lions
  • NEW YORK GIANTS -4 over Philadelphia Eagles
  • NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -15 over Kansas City Chiefs

In looking for opportunities in this slate of games, Prediction Machine's Bessire says his model likes Buffalo to win outright against Miami. "Both teams have a last-two-week bias," he says. "Buffalo still seems better to me. Same with Arizona. That line should be in the double digits."'s Leonard, on the other hand, says that even though Miami wasn't winning earlier this year, "they were in a lot of the games earlier this season. Buffalo is starting to fade." Meanwhile, Leonard says that while Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman "has regressed this year and has thrown a lot of interceptions. If Tampa can stay close defensively, you might have this right. Green Bay does not get behind in games."

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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