September 15, 2017 - by Tom Federico
In this post, we’re going to highlight four games that need to be on your radar screen as you make your NFL Week 2 picks for pick’em and confidence pools.
But first, a quick primer on a key element of winning NFL pick’em pool strategy.
Editor’s Note: Our customized Week 2 picks for NFL pick’em and confidence pools are now available via our Football Pool Picks product.
Winning NFL pick’em pools involves balancing risks with potential rewards. If you follow the crowd all season long, only picking the most popular teams and trendiest upsets, you’re unlikely to be a long-term profitable player in football pools.
Among other things, increasing your odds to win an NFL pool requires taking advantage of attractive opportunities to differentiate your picks from the picks of your opponents. When good opportunities present themselves, you need to jump on them.
In the ideal situation, you can pick an unpopular team that’s actually favored to win its game. Sometimes, though, a pick is so unpopular that it’s worth taking on additional risk to make it.
Let’s highlight four matchups where it may (or may not) be worth it to buck the crowd with your NFL Week 2 picks.
Important Note: Breaking news, betting line movement, and shifts in public picking trends may have happened since this post was published, and changed the Week 2 landscape. If you want the latest numbers before you lock in your Week 2 picks, we update our football pool picks and tools multiple times per day.
A total of 8 teams in Week 2 are favored by 6 points or more, and all those teams are being picked by at least 90% of the public — except for Pittsburgh (78% picked). Recency bias is a likely reason, after the Steelers underperformed against the the Browns last week, while the Vikings covered the spread against the Saints. As a result, even if you take a significant risk and pick Minnesota, and the Vikings pull of the upset, the reward won’t be as great as it usually is for making such a bold call. You should think twice about making Minnesota your big upset pick of the week.
The public is enamored with the Chiefs after their Week 1 upset of New England. As a 5.5-point favorite against the Eagles, Kansas City has roughly 70% odds to win this game, but they are being picked by over 90% of pick’em pool entries nationwide. In addition, almost 80% of spread pick’em players on Yahoo! are picking the Chiefs to cover -4.5. The Chiefs are still a solid favorite, and they will probably win. But that’s a very strong public bias, so if you’re looking for a contrarian upset pick that’s not incredibly risky, Philadelphia would deliver a nice payoff if they win.
Atlanta is the favorite to win this game, currently by 3 points, and the point spread has also moved in the Falcons’ favor since opening at -1. But after Atlanta got a bit of a scare in Chicago and Green Bay beat Seattle, the majority of pick’em players are picking the Packers to win. That makes Atlanta a rare example of a Vegas favorite that the public is picking against, and opportunities like these typically need to be seized. If these win odds and pick popularity numbers reflect your pool, you’ll pick up a nice little expected value bump by going with Atlanta here.
As of Friday morning, the Giants have about 60% win odds as 3-point favorites at home, yet only half of the public is picking them. We’re a bit surprised New York’s popularity as a pick is even that high, given their woeful 3-point offensive output in Dallas in Week 1, coupled with Detroit’s upset win over Arizona. However, the Giants only allowed one touchdown, they didn’t benefit from any Dallas turnovers, and they’re at home. Meanwhile, Detroit probably got lucky with a plus-3 turnover margin against Arizona. The value here is with New York, and they’re also the safer pick.
Just remember that you can’t just look at NFL Week 2 picks in isolation. The most important goal is to make sure the risk/reward profile of all 16 picks you make this week, considered as a “portfolio” of picks, is a good fit for the characteristics of your pool.
For example, if you’re playing in a season-long game winner pool against only 6 other people, it may not be worth it to pick any upsets this week, especially since you’re already picking against the crowd — which is really how you should define an “upset” in a pick’em pool — if you go with Atlanta and the NY Giants. In a bigger pool that only awards weekly prizes, however, you should use a much more aggressive picking strategy
We built our Football Pool Picks product to do all this pick optimization work for you. It aggregates key data like Vegas spreads, win odds, and pick popularity, and automatically updates it multiple times per day. Then, after you tell us the characteristics of your pool (e.g. its size, prize structure, etc.), it does all the math required to give you the best chance to win a prize.
Enjoy NFL Week 2 and good luck in your pick’em pools. If you found this post valuable, please consider subscribing to one of our premium products:
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