November 21, 2018 - by Team Rankings
We’re back for NFL Week 12 with five picks that need to be on your radar screen if you want to win your NFL pick’em contest or confidence pool. For a quick primer on value-driven picking in football pools, see our article on NFL pick’em pool strategy.
Through NFL Week 11, TeamRankings subscribers have already reported nearly 1,200 weekly prize wins in football pick’em pools, a win rate 170% higher than expected. And last season, 81% of subscribers won a season or weekly prize in a football pick’em contest. How? They used our Football Pick’em Pool Picks.
The five NFL Week 12 picks listed below stand out based on their win odds and pick popularity. Deciding which way you want to go on these games should be top of mind when you make your NFL Week 12 pick decisions.
Keep in mind that we are not saying you should make all of these picks. The best picks for your specific football pick’em pool depend on multiple factors, such as the number of entries in your pool; whether it uses confidence points; and whether it offers season prizes, weekly prizes, or both. Our Football Pick’em Picks product figures out the best pick strategy for you.
Note: Win odds and projected pick popularity data quoted below may change between publication time and kickoff time. If you want to see the latest numbers, our product updates multiple times per day with the latest information.
NFL Week 12 looks like a bit of a wasteland in terms of finding value on teams that are favored to win. There aren’t really any surprising favorites, and several of the closer point spreads are in games where a big name team like Pittsburgh is on the road vs. a not-that-great opponent, and is still being overvalued as a result. At the same time, there are a number of big favorites (Chargers, Saints, Ravens, Patriots) that are simply too big of a risk to pick against in most pools.
As a result, pick’em strategy this week is more about understanding which upset picks don’t offer great value, and which upset picks (if any) may be worth the risk, given your pool’s rules.
Indianapolis Colts (vs Miami)
In Week 12, the Colts (7.5-point favorites at home) will play host to the Dolphins. Miami is coming off a bye week, while the Colts are coming off a 28-point victory over the Titans. Both the Colts and Dolphins are 5-5, with QB Ryan Tannehill set to return for Miami this week. The Colts have won four games in a row, while Miami has lost three of their last four games. In fact, our power rankings rate Miami as one of the weaker teams in the league, even below a number of teams with only three wins so far. The betting markets have the Colts at implied win odds of 77%, and it’s likely that an even higher percentage of your opponents than that will be picking them. Still, along with the Cowboys, the Colts should be pretty close to fairly valued this week, while other favorites in this general win odds range like Philadelphia and Tampa Bay should be significantly more overrated by the public.
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs Buffalo)
This is a column about value, so keep in mind that we’re not saying that the slumping Jaguars are going to dominate the Bills this week. We’re simply saying that as 3-point road favorites in the betting markets, the Jags aren’t being overrated. In other words, don’t think you’re getting cute and crafty by making the Bills your upset pick this week, because plenty of your opponents are already thinking the same thing. The Bills have about a 40% chance to win, and right around 40% of the nation is likely to pick them to win. As a result, there are a bunch of smarter upset picks in this risk range that you could make instead (keep reading).
Detroit Lions (vs. Chicago)
The Bears are on a roll, but are only 2.5-point favorites on the road against the Lions this week. For their part, the Lions are coming off an upset victory against Carolina, and Chicago will likely start backup QB Chase Daniel on Sunday in place of the injured Mitchell Trubisky. Based on the betting markets and our models, the Lions should have close to a 45% chance to pull off the upset here, while one pool hosting site is reporting that nearly 85% of players are picking the Bears. That’s a big disparity, and if it holds through Sunday, Detroit would have a nice risk/reward profile as an upset pick.
Cleveland Browns (at Cincinnati)
The Browns are 3-point underdogs on the road against in-state rival Cincinnati. Both teams have lost four out of their last five games, but people may still remember the Bengals’ hot start to the season. Cleveland has yet to win consecutive games, and their years of futility could be influencing how people see the Browns relative to the Bengals. With the Bengals cooling off after a good start, these two teams are much closer to each other than what the general public may think. The Vegas-implied win odds for the Browns are 40%, and with no more than 30% or so of the public likely to pick them, Cleveland looks like a solid upset pick for weekly prize pools.
Denver Broncos (vs. Pittsburgh)
Denver’s profile this week looks very similar to Cleveland’s, although the Broncos are at home against the better opponent, while Cleveland is away against the worse opponent. On balance, Denver is also a 3-point underdog with roughly a 40% chance to win, while a much higher percentage of the public’s picks is expected to be on Pittsburgh — over 80% at one site. Pittsburgh showed vulnerability on the road against Jacksonville last week, scoring two TD’s in the last 2:30 of the game (the last one with 5 seconds left in regulation) to eek out a victory, while Denver pulled off a road upset of the heavily favored Chargers.
Maybe all of them, maybe just some of them. We’re not dodging the question — the reality is that it takes a lot of math to get to the right answer.
For example, based on win probabilities, there’s about a 43% chance that only one of the Value Gambles listed above wins this week (the most likely outcome). There’s about a 38% chance that two or all three of them win, and about a 20% chance that none of them win.
If you’re in a weekly prize pool where differentiating your entry is key, making more than one of these upset picks probably makes a lot of sense. But in season prize pools, you may want to avoid all of them, especially if you’re close to the top of the standings. The extra risk probably isn’t worth it in that case.
We built our Football Pool Picks product to do all the number crunching for you, and figure out when it makes the most sense for you to go with the favorite vs. the underdog. You answer a few quick questions about your pool, and it will customize Week 12 pick recommendations to give you the biggest edge.
Here’s how it works:
The result? In our postseason survey last year, 81% of our subscribers reported winning a weekly or a season prize in a football pick’em contest, and over the long term our customers are winning pools at rates that blow away expectations.
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