Against the Spread: 2010 NFL Picks: Week 10

NFL games against the spread through nine weeks of this NFL season, andonly nine games had a line of 10 points or higher. Six of thosedouble-digit spread games came in the first four weeks of the season.Through nine weeks in 2009, 27 games had spreads in the double digits.Maybe I’m not so crazy after all.

So why, then, haven’t lines been higher this year when compared to last year? The logical answer is parity.

“There is definitely parity, and that comes through in the fact thatthere aren’t a whole lot of big lines,” say Paul Bessire, the generalmanager and creator of the Web site PredictionMachine.com. ThePrediction Machine is a quantitative way to break down matchups as itsimulates each game 50,000 times to come up with a pick against thespread.

Bessire notes that in Week 10, there is only one line above sevenpoints right now, as the New York Giants are laying 14 points to theDallas Cowboys, who fired Coach Wade Phillips this week. By comparison,four games in Week 10 of the 2009 season had spreads above 10 points.While the matchups are certainly different week to week and year toyear, the other explanation is how balanced many NFL teams are this yearcompared to years past.

“The spread right now has more to do with parity,” Bessire says.”Week in and week out, we saw several big lines over the last severalyears. In 2007, the Patriots were consistently favored by double digitswhile some of the NFL’s worst teams, like Detroit and St. Louis, wereconsistently underdogs by double digits.”

There may be some truth to the notion that the NFL doesn’t have thosereally elite teams or those really bad teams. Bessire says the Giantsare the most balanced and should be a double-digit favorite wheneverthey play at home. On the other hand, an 0-8 team like the Buffalo Billsis giving three points at home this week to the Detroit Lions.

It has been harder to gauge which teams to bet on with the lowerspreads. One game that I had waffled on last week and elected not toinclude in my weekly column was the one between the Cleveland Browns asthe underdog at home and theNew England Patriots.

At the start of the season, it wouldn’t have been outrageous to thinkthis Week 9 game would be a double-digit spread. Ultimately, though,the spread was only 4.5 points and I reluctantly picked the Browns inTheStreet’s Yahoo! Pick ‘Em pool. Cleveland didn’t just cover thespread; they shellacked Tom Brady and a Patriots team on a five-gamewinning streak.

It’s a shame I didn’t include that pick. Instead, my record afternine weeks is 25-20, as I went 2-3 in my against-the-spread picks lastweek. My losing picks of the Kansas City Chiefs and the PhiladelphiaEagles nearly won until late-game scores by the Oakland Raiders and theIndianapolis Colts.

Without further ado, it’s on to my picks for the slate of games inWeek 10. Once again, these are for entertainment purposes only. And asalways, I’ve enlisted the help of PredictionMachine.com’s Paul Bessire.

I’ve also collected commentary on each game from Bookmaker.com CEO Mickey Richardson.His analysis focuses on the spread movement by his oddsmakers and alook at where the public and professional money is moving on each game.These are necessary tools for bettors who are on the hunt forinefficiencies and value based on betting trends.

Read on for the first game preview, the Thursday night meeting between the Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons.