November 16, 2011 - by John Ezekowitz
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.
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 ESPN.com’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 Percentile||ESPN ATS Percentile|
|Very Aggressive Strategy||83.3||86.7|
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.:
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.
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