NFL Pick’em Advice Week 11: Tossups Galore

This is our weekly column that provides advice for NFL Pick’em contests. We will cover game winner and against the spread (ATS) contests, and touch on confidence points. If you are new to our advice columns, I’d suggest checking out our series on College Football Pick’em contests to get a flavor for our general strategy.

In short, we advise searching for value over the public consensus. This often means picking teams that are small win-odds favorites, but for whatever reason are not being chosen by the public. Or for a more aggressive player, it may mean taking underdogs that are severely undervalued by the public. It is vital to understand the dynamics of the pool you are in. Larger pools may require a more aggressive strategy.

Week  10 in Review:

Our highlighted conservative Game Winners picks went 1-2 last week. The Bears blew out the Lions, but the Jets were handled easily by the Patriots. The most excruciating game was Atlanta against New Orleans. Falcons coach Mike Smith made the decision to go for it on 4th and 1 on his own 30 in Overtime. While this probably was the correct decision, it did not ease the pain when the Saints stopped the run and went on to win the game with a short field goal.

Our aggressive pick, Cincinnati, played well but ultimately fell to Pittsburgh.

On the ATS side, our strategies managed to tread water. The Conservative and Aggressive strategies went 8 of 15, and the Very Aggressive strategy was 9 of 16.

Our strategies’ performance in’s Pick’em games is shown in the table below. As you can see, anyone who has been following our conservative Game Winner picks should be near the top of their pool:

 ESPN Game Winners PercentileESPN ATS Percentile
Conservative Strategy98.398.9
Aggressive Strategy97.496.5
Very Aggressive Strategy83.386.7

Week 11 Game Winners Advice:

This week, we will highlight three games our models see essentially as tossups that have public picking disparities that makes one side more attractive. Since these games are close, it probably makes sense to pick against the rest of your pool. Our full game winners picks for each of the three strategies are detailed on our NFL Office Pool Picks page.:

  • Miami vs. Buffalo: After going winless for their first seven games, the Dolphins have won two straight, including a blowout at Kansas City two weeks ago. The Bills are trending in the opposite direction, having lost their last two. Our model gives Miami the slight edge at home, but over 70 percent of the public are picking the Bills. This makes the Dolphins an attractive option at home.
  • Minnesota vs. Oakland: Oakland beat San Diego last week, but will likely be without star tailback Darren McFadden again. Minnesota looked bad on Monday Night Football, but playing the Packers will tend to do that to a team. Vegas (Minnesota +1) and our models (Minnesota 49% win odds) see this game as very even, but the public disagrees. 69 percent of the public are picking the Raiders to win on the road. You may want to wait for confirmation on McFadden’s status, but it looks like Minnesota is a value play here.
  • Jacksonville at Cleveland: This is a matchup few outside these two cities will see or care about. Cleveland has lost three straight without Peyton Hillis, and are the slight Vegas underdogs at home. Our models see this game as a 50-50 tossup. Nevertheless, 61 percent of the public is picking the Browns to win. This is not a huge advantage over the public, but if you are behind in your pool, it makes sense to try to gain some ground by taking the Jags.

Week 11 Against the Spread Picks:

Our Against the Spread picks for all three strategies can be found on our Office Pool ATS Picks page. Two big underdogs (Tampa Bay +14 at Green Bay and Kansas City +14.5 at New England) are seeing stunningly low action with only 7 percent of the public on each. These percentages may increase as the week continues, but if you at all subscribe to the belief that Vegas opening lines are relatively close to even odds on each side, this seems like an opportunity for increasing your expected value.