September 21, 2017 - by Tom Federico
In this post, we’re going to highlight several games that need to be on your radar screen as you make your NFL Week 3 picks for pick’em and confidence pools.
Editor’s Note: Our customized Week 3 picks for NFL pools are now available via our Football Pool Picks product.
Based on Vegas odds at post time, we can group this week’s favorites into 3 basic tiers. Point spreads are listed in parentheses:
There are a total of 9 games in Tier 3, in which the underdog has a 35% chance or better of winning. Last week there were only six games expected to be that close, so one would expect more upsets to happen this week.
This week we’ll highlight five matchups where it may (or may not) be worth bucking the crowd with your NFL Week 3 picks. Just remember that breaking news, betting line movement, and shifts in public picking trends may have happened since this post was published, and changed the Week 3 landscape.
If you want the latest numbers before you lock in your Week 3 picks, we update our football pick’em picks and tools multiple times per day.
Week 3 Pick: Carolina vs. New Orleans
Out of the six teams favored by at least 6 points this week, Carolina is the least popular pick by a wide margin, only getting picked by about 75% of pick’em players. The other five larger favorites are all 85%+ picked. With those numbers, if your goal is to make an upset pick to differentiate your entry from opponents, it makes little sense to make a play on New Orleans this week. You could take the same risk by picking the Giants or Jets (both of which are also 6-point underdogs), and reap a bigger reward if either of those teams wins.
Week 3 Pick: New England vs. Houston
New England’s win odds are so high this week (roughly 87% as 13.5-point favorites) that the risk/reward profile of picking Houston as a huge upset play would rarely make any sense in a season-long pool. Also, you need to be careful not to read too much into the results of one game, i.e. the Patriots’ season-opening loss in Foxboro to Kansas City. Over the long term, Vegas lines are much more trustworthy predictors. If you want to get crazy, again, the Jets offer nearly the same reward with significantly less (although still very high) risk.
Week 3 Pick: Tennessee vs. Seattle
Whether you agree or not, Tennessee is a 3-point favorite at home vs. Seattle as of post time, and the point spread has moved from -2.5 to -3 in the Titans’ favor. That gives Tennessee roughly 60% win odds in this game, yet only around 40% of the public is currently picking the Titans. Based on the numbers, this matchup presents an opportunity to fade Seattle’s “brand value” and make a contrarian pick with the odds in your favor.
Week 3 Pick: Indianapolis vs. Cleveland
This game is close to a toss-up, though our models like Cleveland’s odds to win slightly more than the Vegas line at post time (Browns by 1.5) implied. Perhaps inspired by Indy’s near-win over 7-point favorite Arizona in Week 2, about 65% of pick’em pool players are currently taking the Colts in this one. If you need to flip a coin on a game, it’s usually the better call to pick the side with the better payoff if you’re right. That side is Cleveland this week.
Week 3 Pick: Buffalo vs. Denver
Picking the Bills here is a risk and probably isn’t the best decision in most season-long pools. However, it’s a fantastic play if your only goal is to win a weekly prize, because we rarely see a team with a legitimate chance of winning being so underrated by the public. The Bills are only 3-point underdogs at home, giving them around a 40% win odds. But with public opinion about the Broncos sky high after their 2-0 start, almost 95% of pick’em players are on Denver. That makes Buffalo a high leverage bet. Get it right, you’ll gain on nearly all of your opponents. Get it wrong, it will hurt.
We’ve highlighted five games of interest above, but remember that you can’t look at NFL Week 3 picks in isolation. More importantly, you need to make sure the risk/reward profile of all 16 picks you make this week, aka your “portfolio” of picks, is a good fit for the characteristics of your pool.
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, rules, prize structure, etc.), it does all the math required to identify the specific picks that give you the best chance to win a prize.
Finally, if you’re curious about how we apply data-driven strategies to maximize your edge in football pools, here’s a quick primer.
You’ll notice from our analysis above that in addition to considering how likely each team is to win its game this week, we pay just as much attention to how likely your opponents are to pick each team. Here’s why.
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. 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.
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 some additional risk to make it.
Enjoy another week of football and good luck with your NFL Week 3 picks. If you found this post valuable, please consider subscribing to one of our premium products:
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