Kentucky Derby 2011

NFL Picks – Against the Spread

BOSTON (TheStreet) — The Green Bay

Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV sounds like a dream come true. But before that can happen, those favored teams must win their respective conference championship games.

After a sweep in the wild card round, my picks against the spread were 2-2 last week. The Packers and the Steelers were successful picks, while my beloved New England Patriots didn’t even show up for their game against the New York Jets. I’m sure there’s a “foot in mouth” joke to be made, especially considering news that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is having foot surgery this week, but I haven’t yet gotten over that pathetic performance on Sunday to crack any jokes.

My overall column record is now 48-44 with one tie. My success rate is 51.6%, shy of the magical 53% threshold. A bettor typically needs to win 53% of his or her bets in order to profit, based on the idea that you have to wager 110 units in order to win 100 units. Including this Sunday’s championship games, I have three chances left to improve my overall record for the season.

Sadly, I’ve lost my shot at a perfect 11-0 run. The same cannot be said about Paul Bessire, the general manager and creator of the PredictionMachine.com, who is perfect in the playoffs so far.

The 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. So far, the model has gone 8-0 in the playoffs. Bessire, though, is modest in his reaction to his playoff success, arguing that luck has a lot to do with the outcome of each and every game.

“I was asked to what degree does luck play in the individual games, and I said that luck shows up in every single game,” Bessire says. “In the short term, especially with an investment strategy coming up with probabilities, luck could have a lot to do with whether we’re on one side of the pick or not. Luck means a lot in the short term. In the long term, we win out because we consistently find opportunity to wager when something is likely to occur 60% of the time.”

The problem that arises in this championship round of NFL playoffs games is that the spreads for the games make much more sense than in the last two weeks. Remember, the Bears were favored by 10 points last week, while the Patriots were nine-point favorites. In the wild card round, the New Orleans Saints were laying more than 10 points as they traveled to play in Seattle.

These smaller spreads this week means less opportunity to expose lopsided lines, and Bessire says neither of the two NFL conference championship games yields a probable win against the spread more than 57% of the time. That doesn’t bode well for someone like Bessire who is aiming to go 10-0.

“Based on our own confidence, we only have a 31% chance of hitting both sides on Sunday,” Bessire admits. “That’s still much better than throwing darts, yet not as likely as we have come to expect by exploiting invalid lines for two weeks.”

With that, it’s onto my picks for the two title games this Sunday. Once again, these are for entertainment purposes only. And as always, I’ve enlisted the help of PredictionMachine.com’s Paul Bessire.

I’ve also collected commentary on both games from bmaker.ag CEO Mickey Richardson. His analysis focuses on the spread movement by his oddsmakers and a look at where the public and professional money is moving on each game. These are necessary tools for bettors on the hunt for inefficiencies and value based on betting trends.

Read on for the first game preview, the early Sunday game with the Packers on the road again to play the Chicago Bears.