October 8, 2019 - by Jason Lisk
Christian McCaffrey and the Carolina Panthers get a great matchup in Survivor in Week 13 (Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire)
The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Colts as a double-digit favorite on Sunday, and the Bears lost in London to Oakland as the fourth-largest favorite of the week.
The most notable result from last week, though, might have come on Monday Night Football, when the San Francisco 49ers planted Baker Mayfield to the turf over and over, winning 31-3. As a result, the Browns are very unpopular this week, as we will get to further below in our analysis of value picks for Week 6.
But first, let’s recap our highlighted games from a week ago.
Last week was one for value favorites as the public leaned slightly toward a few more underdogs. We highlighted three value favorites whose odds of winning were actually higher than how frequently the favorite was being selected. San Francisco was one, where the public seemingly slept on the 49ers after a 3-0 start and a bye week.
Another was Minnesota going to New York, after the Vikings had played poorly on the road at Chicago in Week 4, while the Giants had won two straight. The final one was the favored Titans, who were being picked only about half the time against the Bills.
The 49ers and Vikings rolled to easy wins, but the Titans missed four field goals and lost a close, low-scoring affair with Buffalo.
Altogether, the public would be expected to get 1.89 wins out of those games based on pick popularity estimates, compared to 2 wins for our picks, with the Titans’ result keeping it from being an even more successful week.
We also highlighted Dallas as a favorite at a reasonable price. Dallas out-gained Green Bay in yards 563 to 335 and had an incredible 32 first downs, but shot themselves in the foot with early turnovers and miscues and lost at home. Meanwhile, the best value play as an underdog in weekly prize pools, Tampa Bay, could not pull off the upset at New Orleans.
Overall, if you took every favorite last week, you would have gotten 9 wins. The public averaged 8.6 wins, in a week where they leaned a little heavier on some underdogs than has been typical. It would have been an even bigger week for playing favorites but for a couple of toss-up results (Arizona and Buffalo) going the public’s way, but still, a very conservative strategy would have resulted in an above-average week in most season prize pools.
Using Vegas odds, data-driven predictions, and pick popularity data from national football pick’em contests, we’ve analyzed the entire NFL Week 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 features several teams 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. Here are two of them:
The Carolina Panthers have won three straight games, and go to London where they will get a rematch with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Carolina is a 2-point favorite. Our power ratings are in agreement with that on a neutral field, with Carolina 2.3 points better than Tampa Bay, and our models give the Panthers a 54% chance of winning the game. The public, though, is slightly on the side of the Buccaneers in this one, taking Tampa Bay 52% of the time.
Maybe that’s because the Buccaneers won the first matchup back in Week 2. It’s also possible that some people do not realize this is a neutral site game since it is technically one of Tampa Bay’s home slots. But whatever the reason, you are getting a Carolina team at some value here as the slight favorite based on early pick popularity numbers.
In what looks like a battle for the top overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Washington travels to Miami in a game between winless teams. While Washington’s season has started as a disaster, it has been less of one than how Miami has started. Of course, Washington just fired their head coach, and the public may also be reacting to Miami having a bye week, under some theory that the Dolphins have a slight advantage with extra rest and Washington changing coaches.
(For the record, teams with exactly one extra week of rest who are playing at home coming off a bye are 48-56-3 ATS in the regular season over the last decade, and there does not appear to be any actionable trend).
Whatever the reason, the public is picking Miami 42% of the time at home. Washington is an early 3.5-point favorite, and our models give them a 64% chance of victory. If you can get Washington in a situation where the public is picking them less than their actual chance of victory against a team that has set the record for worst point differential in the first four games of a season, it’s definitely worth a look.
Most favorites are overrated by the public, but the team below looks more fairly valued in Week 6. 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.
Minnesota is a 3-point favorite at home against Philadelphia. Our models give them a 59% chance of victory. That is virtually in line with their 59.6% pick popularity to start the week. Minnesota also came at a reasonable price last week as a favorite, and rolled to the win, but maybe the public is still harboring some ill will based on how the Vikings played against the Bears and Packers (both on the road) in their two losses.
The Eagles are certainly a solid team that can win this one on the road, but Minnesota does have home field advantage, and enough people are picking the upset that staying with the favorite makes sense here from a value perspective. For contrast on why Minnesota is a relative value, compare the pick percentage here for the Vikings to the two games below, where the public is heavily on two teams that are not favored by as much as Minnesota.
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.
Minshew Mania or Bridgewater Buzz? At least for one week, it seems like the public is more enamored with how the Saints have responded to the Brees injury. Last week was the first week with Minshew starting that the Jaguars failed to cover the spread. It was through no fault of his, though, as the Jaguars offense had over 500 yards; Minshew was efficient in throwing for 374 yards and two touchdowns. The problem, for one week, was the rush defense as Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey exploded for a big game.
This one is on the road for the Saints. As a result, the Jacksonville Jaguars are actually a slight 1-point favorite in the betting markets, and the implied win odds from early money lines put Jacksonville at 51.5% to win. Our models are a bit more pessimistic, and give Jacksonville a 47.9% chance of winning. Either way, it’s close to a toss-up, and the public is picking the Saints heavily here (85% pick popularity).
Cleveland laid an absolute egg in San Francisco last week. How much of that is Cleveland, and how much of it is because the 49ers are really good? Our predictive ratings have San Francisco as the third-best team in the NFL entering Week 6, and Cleveland at slightly below average.
Seattle has not been a powerhouse, so just looking at their record likely causes some public overconfidence here. Seattle beat the Bengals and Steelers by a combined three points, and just survived against the Rams on a late missed field goal. Our power ratings have Seattle at +1.1 points over average and Cleveland at -0.9 points below average, so factoring in home field advantage, this one is close to a toss-up.
The early point spread has Seattle favored by 1.5 points, making it the second-smallest line of the week so far. But the public is going with the Seahawks 81% of the time. Our models give Cleveland a 49% chance of winning at home, so the Browns are attractive as a toss-up or value underdog play in weekly prize pool formats. They also could be a consideration in seasonal prize pools depending on size and scoring.
Once you know the best value opportunities of NFL Week 6, you can typically increase your odds to win your pool by making educated gambles on them. Perhaps you bump up the number of confidence points you assign to a pick like Washington or Carolina. Maybe you take even more risk and pick a team like Cleveland or Jacksonville to win when the public is strongly going the other way. There are a lot of decisions to make, but not all of them make sense for you.
Our solution was to build technology to do all the data gathering and math required to identify the best possible picks for your pool. We developed a product that uses research-based algorithms to customize weekly pick recommendations based on key strategy factors like your pick’em contest’s size, rules, and prize structure. It even covers game winner or spread-based contests; confidence pools; and pools with end-of-season prizes, weekly prizes, or both.
In fact, it’s so advanced that we had to come up with an appropriately technical, massively creative name for it: Football Pick’em Picks.
If you learned something from this article, we encourage you to check it out.
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