November 26, 2019 - by Jason Lisk
The Cleveland Browns have rebounded and have a chance to move into the playoff picture in Week 13 (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
Thanksgiving week is here. A time for family, food, lots of Thursday football, and no more teams on a bye week. It’s also the week where we switch into endgame strategy mode, with five regular season weeks remaining (and 80 games left in a pool that requires picking every game).
For our subscribers, starting this week you may start to see some bigger differences across our pick sets for pools with season prizes (Maximize Profit, Win Something, Avoid Bad Finish).
If you’re currently “in the money,” you’ll most likely want to play it safe to try to defend your position over the last five weeks. The system’s recommendations will have you covered there, as they’ll lean toward popular picks so opponents are less likely to gain on you.
However, if you’re currently “out of the money,” you likely need to make a decision either to save face or go for broke over the last few weeks — and live with the risks and likely consequences.
Please read our article on Early Season versus Endgame Strategy in office pools for a more in-depth explanation. The bottom line is, now is the time to make an assessment of where you stand in your pools, and potentially shift your strategy to maximize your chance of winning.
Overall, our higher win odds teams had another positive week. The team we had with the higher odds of winning finished 11-3, compared to the public on average earning 9.5 wins in Week 12.
Our first highlighted game, San Francisco as a value favorite where nearly half the public was taking the Packers, worked out well. The Eagles were also highlighted as a value early in the week. By Sunday, though, with injury news they had shifted to the underdog. So if you’re a subscriber, always remember to update your picks as late as possible to get the most current “best picks.”
The other favorite we highlighted, Atlanta, lost to Tampa Bay at home in the biggest upset of the week (by point spread). Only 21% of the public picked the Buccaneers in that one.
Finally, we mentioned two potential value gambles to consider. One of them won handily (the Jets over the Raiders) while the other lost handily (Jacksonville to Tennessee).
Using Vegas odds, data-driven predictions, and pick popularity data from national football pick’em contests, we’ve analyzed the entire NFL Week 13 slate and identified the best value picking opportunities. This week, early pick popularity numbers show several games where the public is strongly on one side in matchups that the oddsmakers think are far closer to even.
Keep in mind that we are not saying that you should make all five of the picks below. The best Week 13 picks for your NFL pool depend on characteristics such as its size, rules, and prize structure; our Football Pick’em Picks product will recommend weekly picks for you based on all those factors.
What we are saying is that the teams mentioned in this post either offer some of the best opportunities to differentiate your Week 13 picks from your pool opponents, or they serve as prime examples of when picking against the crowd is most likely a bad idea.
Note: Win odds and pick popularity estimates below may change between publication time and kickoff time. If you want to see the latest numbers, our product updates multiple times per day.
Week 13 features a favorite that the public is picking at a lower rate than their chance to win. These types of teams are as close as you can get to “no brainer picks” in NFL pick’em contests, since both win odds and value are on your side.
Just two weeks ago, the Browns whipped up on the Pittsburgh Steelers, in a game famous for what happened at the end of it. It appears that the public is expecting a revenge game for the Steelers against their former punching bag, the Browns. But Cleveland is the slight betting favorite in this one, while the public is taking the Steelers 64% of the time.
Pittsburgh just announced that Devlin Hodges is starting instead of Mason Rudolph for this one. Keep in mind that this is a division game of the type that has shown reduced home field advantage: outdoor rivals in close proximity to each other. Cleveland can tie Pittsburgh in the standings and be right in the wildcard mix in the AFC with a win.
When a matchup is pretty much a 50/50 proposition, it usually makes sense to pick the less popular team. To win an NFL pick’em pool, you’re probably going to need some luck in these “coin flip” games, and when you get it, you want to maximize the upside by scoring points the majority of your opponents miss.
Beware, though. The “usually” here may not apply if you have a big lead in the pool standings and are trying to hold off others.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a big road win at Atlanta last week, an will try again at Jacksonville. The Jaguars have not won in the month of November, and have lost each of their last three games by at least 20 points.
The public, though, still likes the Jaguars in this one, picking them 66% of the time. The betting markets have the Bucs as the slight 1-point underdog, while our models really like Tampa this week and put them as the favorite with 56% win odds.
With this game as a near-toss-up, and one our models love, getting Tampa Bay here where only about a third of the public is going with them is great value.
Most favorites are overrated by the public, but the team below looks more fairly valued in Week 13. You should think twice about picking against them, not because we think they are a lock to win (we certainly don’t), but because other games offer more compelling upset pick opportunities.
Baltimore is coming off another very impressive prime time showing in blowing out the Rams. It’s a little surprising, then, they are still coming at good value this week against San Francisco. The 49ers, though, are 10-1 and coming off a great win of their own against Green Bay.
The public is taking Baltimore 76% of the time, but that is nearly in line with their win odds (75% in our projections), and is a relative value. For some comparison, Green Bay is favored by a similar amount as Baltimore (Green Bay is favored by 6 and Baltimore by 5.5), yet is being picked 89% of the time.
So if you are looking at upsets, the value is not in going against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
The same rationale also applies to Dallas playing against Buffalo at home on Thanksgiving, as they have win odds of 75% and a pick popularity of 78%, which is below several other teams that have lower win odds.
If you’re going to make a gamble on an underdog, you need to make sure that the potential reward (that is, how much your odds to win your pool will increase if your gamble pays off) is as big as possible. Take a bunch of extra risk on a super trendy upset pick, and the joke is on you.
The picks below are not appropriate for all pools. These are ideal picks in a single-week pool with a larger number of entries, and also can be the type of choices you need to start making if you are trailing or just outside the money and need to gain some ground by zigging when the leaders are probably zagging.
The Tennessee Titans lost at home to the Colts back in Week 2, but there is some value in playing for Tennessee to return the favor this time around. Indianapolis is being selected 76% of the time (identical to Baltimore), but are just a 2.5-point favorite against the Titans.
Tennessee has been an inconsistent team this year, but is surging following the move to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Tannehill is averaging 9.2 yards per attempt and the Titans are 4-1 since the switch. The Colts, meanwhile, have seen their close game luck dry up, and now sit at 6-5 after the 5-2 start.
The Titans are a slight dog here, but since you can gain ground on three-quarters of your pool with a win, it might be an option worth considering.
One team whose close game luck hasn’t dried up (yet) is Seattle. The Seahawks are now 8-1 in games decided by 8 points or less. That extreme record, though, is also driving their popularity up. Seattle is being picked 84% of the time against Minnesota.
The Vikings are only a 3-point underdog here, and we put their win odds at 39%. This is a little riskier proposition, but also one with a bigger reward in terms of payoff because the public is so heavily on Seattle. It’s not like Minnesota (8-3) are bums here, and they’ve been out-of-sight-out-of-mind with the bye week. A win for Minnesota puts the Vikings in the top wildcard spot in the NFC, and keeps them at least tied with Green Bay in the NFC North.
If you are a pick’em subscriber, you have access to the customized pick’em picks for your specific pools. Remember that the information here is written earlier in the week, is a more general summary of the week that may not be applicable to your pool rules, and some information could be outdated by Sunday (as we saw this week with the Philadelphia-Seattle game). Pick popularity can change over the course of a week, and injury news and line movements can alter which picks are the best for your pool. So don’t forget to visit our Football Pick’em Picks before your deadline to submit picks and see your customized pick advice, and also visit the NFL Survivor Picks and NFL Betting Picks.
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