November 7, 2012 - by Matt Woods
After a rough start to the season the Detroit Lions have won three of their last four. Minnesota, conversely has lost three of their last four, and we see the Lions as slight favorites this week.
Detroit could have an advantage on third downs in this match up, as the Vikings rank near the bottom of the league in opponent third down conversion percentage, at 43.2%. Conversely, Detroit ranks near the top of the league in third down conversion percentage, at 41.8%.
With the public backing Minnesota, the Lions look like an excellent game winner value pick.
Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (not confidence points based) heading into Week 10. Our game winner picks generally maintained their solid positions. Even with the Very Aggressive picks taking a drop, all three strategies remain in the top 10% nationally:
Our against the spread picks did not hold up as well. The Conservative strategy improved, while the more aggressive strategies did horribly. Those strategies generally make picks that are contrary to public sentiment, and this past Sunday was one of the worst Sundays for Vegas casinos of all time.
Still, when there’s great public imbalance it is typically better to be aligned with the sports books than with the public, despite Sunday’s debacle, so we just need to take our lumps and move on. Here’s where we stand now:
(Keep in mind that we occasionally “flip” picks if the point spread listed on ESPN is significantly different than the point spread listed on our site.)
Last week we highlighted two games in which we (and Vegas in this case) favored a team that less than 50% of the public had picked to win. As with most picks last Sunday, the public prevailed over Vegas and both Miami and Oakland lost.
While we didn’t recommend taking any of the risky upset picks last week other than in “swing for the fences” situations, we should note that Jacksonville, Dallas and Cincinnati all failed in their upset bids last week.
On the point spread side, we noted five picks in which 70% or more of the public was picking a particular side, and all five came through for the public. It was a downright brutal week for contrarian strategies.
Here’s where you can find our computer generated picks for NFL office pools:
OK, time for our handy Game Winner table, which summarizes a few teams that look like they could be smart picks for people that need to take some risks. It’s based on our detailed pick’em analysis page.
|Team||Opponent||Adj Win Odds||Public %||Value||Spread||Value Indicator|
|Detroit||at Minnesota||53.5%||49%||4.5%||-1.0||Odds-On Contrarian|
|Jacksonville||vs Indianapolis||42.1%||8%||34.1%||+3.0||High Risk Upset|
|Cincinnati||vs NY Giants||37.4%||7%||30.4%||+4.0||High Risk Upset|
|Tennessee||at Miami||31.4%||10%||21.4%||+6.0||Long Shot Upset|
|NY Jets||at Seattle||28.5%||8%||20.5%||+6.5||Long Shot Upset|
There is only one odds-on contrarian pick this week, which occurs when a majority of the public picks against our projected winner, providing a nice chance to gain ground against other pool competitors without even having to make an upset pick.
We see Detroit as slight favorites to win, and as of Wednesday evening Vegas sees the Lions as a toss-up pick to win outright; however, more than 50% of the public has picked Minnesota to win at home. Even though the value here is slight, it’s generally a good idea to take advantage against the public when possible, and we see Detroit as a solid pick for any pool size.
On the upsets side, both Jacksonville and Cincinnati provide a large amount of value. We give both about a 40% chance to win, while less than 10% of the public has picked either. Jacksonville is the safer of the two and provides a great chance to try to gain ground on your opponents if you want to make an upset play.
Finally, while both Tennessee and the New York Jets provide some value as upset picks, we wouldn’t recommend picking either unless you almost out of contention and really need to pull out all the stops to make up ground. In confidence pools, though, you may want to lower the value of their opponents, Seattle and Miami.
A lot of point spread based pick’em contests publish the games and associated point spreads at the beginning of the week, but give you until Sunday to submit your picks. This means a great strategy is to look for a game where the official spread in your contest is different from the current spread offered at most sports books, and take the “free points.”
In general, the edge you get from those free points is going to be stronger than any lean you have on who is favored to cover, especially if the difference is more than one point.
Below are the biggest line movements from earlier in the week, which could indicate “free points” opportunities in your pool. Highlights can also be found on on the right side of our NFL odds page.
|Team||Opponent||Opening Line||Current Line||Movement|
(For the second week in a row there has been very little line movement so far this week — just one game with more than a 1-point move as of publication time — which is unusual.)
The other major source of value in ATS pick’ems is finding teams that a huge majority of your opponents are picking, and then taking the other side. Most Vegas point spreads are pretty efficient, so if a large majority of your opponents are picking a certain team to beat the spread, that team is probably overvalued. And that means you’ve got roughly a 50/50 shot of pulling ahead of a huge chunk of your opponents by picking against them, no matter what your personal opinion is of that game.
Here are five teams where the lines for the Yahoo! ATS pick’em are the within half a point of those found at Pinnacle sports book on Wednesday afternoon (or better), yet only about 30% or less of the public is selecting them to cover:
|Team||Opponent||Public Pick%||TR Cover Odds||Current Spread|
|Cincinnati||vs NY Giants||19%||54%||+3.5|
|Buffalo||at New England||25%||60%||+4.0|
|Kansas City||at Pittsburgh||28%||57%||+10.0|
If the lines in your pick’em contest are the same or better as those shown above, and if you think your competitors will be picking teams in roughly the same manner as the general public (e.g., in line with the Yahoo! contest picking trends), we’d recommend playing all five of these teams, three of which are at home this week.
As always, please feel free to ask questions in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to answer as many as possible, and we look forward to a fun and interactive college football weekly pick’em advice column this season.
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