December 10, 2019 - by Jason Lisk
Dad Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys need a big win in Week 15 (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire)
There are just three weeks to go in the NFL season, and the value picks continue to roll in. Of the 16 Week 15 games, seven feature favorites with win odds of 65% or less, so there are plenty of swing games to make a move in your pool on this week’s schedule. The public is varied in their preferences for those favorites, and there are several value opportunities.
But before we get to this week, let’s recap last week’s results.
The five games we highlighted last week included three value favorites (teams being picked less frequently than their win odds), another favorite at a reasonable value, and a value gamble. The value favorites went 2-1, with Dallas losing and the Chargers and Titans both rolling to big wins on the road. Tampa Bay also overcame three interceptions from Jameis Winston to rally back and beat the Colts, making the favorites here 3-1. The public, meanwhile, averaged 2.1 wins in those games.
The only underdog highlighted did not hit, as Arizona lost a close one at home to Pittsburgh.
One game that was not part of the write-up early last week, but did become a key value for our subscribers by Sunday based on pick popularity, was the Rams-Seahawks game. The public was heavily on Seattle but the Rams were the betting favorite by Sunday. With 77% of the public on the wrong side, that was a big result for our subscribers as well.
As a result of most of those values hitting, the public averaged 10.1 wins in Week 14, versus 12 wins for our projected win odds favorites.
That 1.9-game edge over the public is the largest difference for any single week this season. Over the last four weeks, our projected win odds favorites have gained more than five games in the standings versus the average public pool picker, based on our public pick data for each game.
Using Vegas odds, data-driven predictions, and pick popularity data from national football pick’em contests, we’ve analyzed the entire NFL Week 15 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 15 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. (And if you are also getting ready to participate in some college bowl pools, our Bowl Picks product can also provide customized recommendations for you).
What we are saying is that the teams mentioned in this post either offer some of the best opportunities to differentiate your Week 15 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.
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. We say “usually” because that strategy could differ if you are leading your pool late and want to cover the most likely pick your opponents will make. So for our subscribers, make sure you use your customized advice that takes into account your place in the standings when deciding on these kind of plays.
The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most public and popular teams. So when they lose two games in a row in stand-alone spots, the reaction is going to be even more severe than most teams. Dallas has lost three in a row and four of their last five games, so they appear to be trending in the wrong direction.
Here’s a crazy but true stat, though. The Dallas Cowboys still have a better point differential than the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams. The perception may be that the Cowboys have performed far worse than all those teams, but the reality is that they are not really all that different from those playoff contenders.
That’s why the point spread in this one is pretty much a toss-up. The Rams are currently favored by one point, but it would not be surprising to see this one bounce around throughout the week. Our projections are even more bullish on the Cowboys, giving them a 56% chance of victory. The public, meanwhile, is taking the Rams 70% of the time so far. That means that the Cowboys present some good value as a near-toss-up play that the public is picking against.
Week 15 features two favorites 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.
Tennessee was in this spot as a value favorite just a week ago, and rolled to a win over Oakland. The public still seems slow in responding to the Titans, who are now 6-1 since Ryan Tannehill took over as starting quarterback. Houston, on the other hand, is coming off a poor performance at home against Denver. It’s Tennessee who has a +63 point differential on the year (versus +8 for Houston).
Tennessee is a 3-point home favorite in this key AFC South showdown, and our projections give them a 63% chance of winning. The public is picking Tennessee at a 60% rate, but that means they are actually a good value. Consider that Minnesota (2.5-point favorite) is being picked 84% of the time at the Chargers, or the Browns (2-point favorite) are being picked 71% of the time at Arizona. That’s why Tennessee looks like a pretty good value this week, allowing you to take the favorite and gain on a good chunk of your pool if they win.
Pittsburgh has won 7 of their last 8 games, giving up only 16 points per game over that span. But the public is taking Buffalo 65% of the time in this one, despite the game being in Pittsburgh. So you can get a team that has played great defense for two months, and looked like a playoff team, at home as the 1.5-point favorite. If Pittsburgh prevails, you gain a win on nearly two-thirds of your pool, so this is likely to be a key swing game in weekly pools.
Most favorites are overrated by the public, but the team below looks more fairly valued in Week 15. 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.
The Giants showed some signs of life with a competitive performance on Monday Night Football, losing in overtime. Miami is coming off a close road loss to the Jets, and returns to New York again. The Giants are a 3.5-point favorite this week with 64% win odds. The public is taking the Giants 69% of the time. Relatively, that’s still a solid value on New York. The Eagles, with only slightly higher win odds than the Giants this week, are being picked 88% of the time, for example.
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 pick below is not appropriate for all pools. This is an ideal pick in a single-week pool with a larger number of entries, and also can be the type of choice 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 Chargers have had a crazy season. They are out of playoff contention at 5-8. However, they are 3-0 in games decided by more than 8 points (including last week’s blowout win at Jacksonville). They have a positive point differential. It would be very Chargers-like to go on a winning streak after their playoff hopes were dashed.
Los Angeles is only a 2.5-point home underdog, and our models give them a reasonable chance at the upset at 46% win odds. Only 17% of the public is taking the Chargers in this one. That makes them a reasonable gamble to take in weekly contests, or if you need to take a calculated risk to try to catch the leader in your pool.
If you are a pick’em subscriber, you have access to the customized pick’em picks for your specific pools. Remember that we write this pick’em advice for NFL Week 15 early in the week. Some information could be outdated by Sunday. 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. It is also a more general summary of the week that may not be applicable to your pool rules.
So don’t forget to visit our Football Pick’em Picks before your pick deadline in order to see your customized pick advice, as well as our NFL Survivor Picks and NFL Betting Picks. For those who are participating in college football bowl pools, also check out our Bowl Picks product for customized advice on all the college bowl games.
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