November 23, 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.
Last week, we highlighted three games that were tossups according to our model odds, but had some public picking disparity that made one side attractive. Unfortunately, after we posted on Wednesday, the public percentages on the Cleveland-Jacksonville game shifted so as to make any advantage negligible. Regardless, our picks went 1-2, with Miami dominating the Bills at home while Minnesota and Jacksonville both lost.
Overall, our strategies did well on the Game Winner side last week, with the Conservative strategy going 11 for 14, and the Aggressive and Very Aggressive strategies going 10 for 14.
On the Against the Spread side, we highlighted Tampa Bay as a team getting two touchdowns with almost no public support. The Bucs covered, and if you picked them, you would have picked up a game on almost 90 percent of your pool. All three of our ATS strategies went 9 for 14 last week.
Our performance in ESPN.com’s Pick’em contests is summarized below. Our Conservative Against the Spread strategy jumped up to the 92nd percentile this week and has trended upward for two weeks:
|ESPN Game Winners Percentile||ESPN ATS Percentile|
|Very Aggressive Strategy||83.3||86.7|
This week again features quite a few games that our model has a strong preference in–eight of the sixteen games have TR model win odds of at least 65 percent. Usually, the public percentage is at or above that level on games such as those, eliminating them from consideration for our value picks. There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding injuries this week, and we are writing this post ahead of the Thanksgiving Day games on Thursday. Two of these picks are fairly contingent on injured quarterbacks playing. If you can hold off on making picks until closer to game time, wait for injury status updates. All of our picks for this week’s Game Winners pool can be found at our NFL Office Pool Page:
Our Against the Spread picks for all three strategies can be found on our Office Pool ATS Picks page. Just like last week, we see two big underdogs getting ignored by the public. Both the Chiefs (+10.5 at home vs. Pittsburgh) and the Vikings (+9.5 at Atlanta) are getting less than 15 percent of the public action. Again, if you subscribe to the belief that the Vegas spread represents close to even odds on both sides, you should consider taking these large public underdogs.
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