Week 13 NFL Pick’em Strategy: Can The Redskins Rush To Victory?

posted in NFL, NFL Pick'ems

The New York Giants rush defense has been less than stellar in 2012, and they currently rank 22nd in the NFL in opponent yards per rush attempt (4.4). Given the competition this week, that could spell trouble.

Washington has two explosive rookies in their backfield that rank in the top 13 of the NFL in yards per rush attempt. Last year’s Heisman trophy winning QB, Robert Griffin III, has continued his success at the professional level, and is currently tied for first in the NFL with 6.7 yards/carry.

While RG3 was a household name coming into the season, rookie RB Alfred Morris has been a revelation. Morris currently ranks 13th in the NFL in rush yards/carry with 4.7.

This rookie tandem appears to pose matchup problems for the Giants, and our models see this game and as virtual tossup. With more than 70% of the public picking New York, Washington provides significant value as an upset pick.

Where We Stand After Week 12

Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (not confidence points based) heading into Week 13. All three strategies more or less held their positions, and our Conservative strategy continues to be a highlight, ranking in the top 7% nationally on ESPN:

  • Conservative: 93.8th percentile (-0.1 from last week)
  • Aggressive: 84.3rd percentile (+0.8)
  • Very Aggressive: 77.7th percentile (-0.3)

Our against the spread picks had an excellent week overall. After losing ground last week, two of the three strategies made significant improvement in Week 12. The Conservative strategy was 14-2 last week (with pick flips) and is now in the top 1% nationally on ESPN:

  • Conservative: 99.3rd percentile (+3.8 from last week)
  • Aggressive: 85.8th percentile (+8.4)
  • Very Aggressive: 75.3rd percentile (-1.2)

(Keep in mind that we “flip” picks if the point spread listed on ESPN is significantly different than the point spread listed on our site, as explained in the Against The Spread Pick’em Strategy section below.)

Week 12 Advice Recap

Last week there were three teams that our models favored to win while less than 50% of the public had picked them. Our favorite pick, the New York Giants, dominated Green Bay 38-10. Similarly, St. Louis cruised to a 14-point win over Arizona.

On the other hand, San Diego suffered a close 3-point overtime loss against Baltimore thanks mainly to some horrendous tackling and questionable spot on this 4th and 29 play.

For an upset pick we recommended Tampa Bay over Atlanta, but the Bucs fell 1-point short at home. We also noted that for riskier upsets, Detroit and Buffalo provided quite a bit of value, but both failed in their upset bids.

On the point spread side, we noted five picks in which 71% or more of the public was picking a particular side. The public had another strong showing last week, with four of the five covering and Houston-Detroit resulting in push.

Our Week 13 NFL Office Pool Picks

Here’s where you can find our computer generated picks for NFL office pools:

Also, if you haven’t read our NFL pick’em strategy series, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’ll ensure our choices here make a lot more sense.

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.

Week 13 Value Pick Highlights: Game Winners

TeamOpponentAdj Win OddsPublic %ValueSpreadValue Indicator
Washingtonvs New York Giants47.5%28%19.5%+1.0Low Risk Upset
Pittsburghat Baltimore43.0%8%35.0%--High Risk Upset
Kansas Cityvs Carolina43.6%21%22.6%+3.0High Risk Upset
Tennesseevs Houston31.0%4%27.0%+6.0Long Shot Upset

This week is a bit unusual in that there are no odds-on contrarian picks to recommend, which occur when a majority of the public picks against our (and often Vegas’s) projected winner.

Our models slightly favor Cleveland over Oakland as of publication time, while only 49.5% of the public has picked the Browns. However, we do not currently have a betting line for that game, which our models do consider. Consequently, we don’t have as much confidence in our models on this one. With the public seeing this game as a tossup, our models slightly favoring Cleveland, and some sports books slightly favoring Oakland, we just don’t see a lot of value here.

For those needing to roll the dice with an upset pick in order to make up some ground though, we do see some value this week.

We give Washington about a 50/50 shot to win, and Vegas has made the Redskins just a 1-point underdog. Only 28% of the public, though, has picked Washington to win. Consequently, unless you’re already at the top of the charts in a smaller pool, the Redskins are probably worth a play.

For riskier upset picks, both Pittsburgh (especially) and Kansas City provide a decent amount of value. We give both a 40%+ chance to win, while a small percentage of the public has picked either. Even though we don’t have a line from Pinnacle Sports for Pittsburgh-Baltimore at posting time, our model win odds seem to match fairly well with other sports book lines, and it’s probably worth taking advantage of that extreme public imbalance if you need to make picks and are looking for an upset.

Finally, while Tennessee provides value as an upset pick as 96% of the public as picked Houston, we wouldn’t recommend picking the Titans unless you’re almost out of contention and really need to pull out all the stops to make up ground. They’re a longshot. In confidence pools, though, you may want to lower the value of Houston unless you’re already defending a good lead.

Week 13 Against The Spread Pick’em Strategy

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.

Point Spread Movement Highlights

TeamOpponentOpening LineCurrent LineMovement
Cincinnatiat San Diego+1.0-1.02.0
Houstonat Tennessee-4.5-6.01.5

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:

Point Spread Pick Imbalance Highlights

TeamOpponentPublic Pick%TR Cover OddsCurrent Spread
Tennesseevs Houston15%52%+6.0
Seattleat Chicago20%46%+3.5
St. Louisvs San Francisco26%52%+7.0
Philadelphiaat Dallas27%59%+10.5
Kansas Cityvs Carolina28%57%+3.0

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.

For advice on other games in your spread-based pick’em pool this week, check out our NFL office pool spread picks page, or our NFL ATS picks page.

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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Keith-Waters/1286586925 Keith Waters

    My pool has Dallas -7.5, which would indicate the Cowbodys are a good pick, but aren’t the number of games decided by 8-9 points very low, making that half point not as significant as the difference between 3 and 4?

  • Sideshow Luiz

    Which games did you flip in week 12? Anyway to know which ones you’re flipping and which spreads you’ve used (to determine your “flip”) in the future?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dennis.natale.9 Dennis Natale

    I can give you an example of what I did.Last week TR had Oak as the pick at 9.5 and my league had them at 8.0 so I flipped that one.

    I used TR’s formula of 1 pt equaling 3% against their ats pick chart.So it went like this.

    Oak TR pick 9.5 vs my league 8.0 so a 1.5 pt differential.That converted to 4.5%.The ats chart had Oak willing that game at 53.3%.So since my league was giving Oak less pts I deducted the 4.5% from the 53.3%.Since that put Oak’s odds at 48.8% I flipped the picked and took Cinci.

    Hope this example helps.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com TeamRankings.com

    A one point difference in the spread is worth 2-3% in cover odds. In general, we tend to flip picks that are 1.5 points or more different from our spread, and also picks that are 1 point different if the confidence level is low.

    For our conservative picks on ESPN, we flipped Oakland +9.5 to Cincinnati -7.5, Pittsburgh -1 to Cleveland +3.5 and Minnesota +6 to Chicago -5.5.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com TeamRankings.com


  • http://www.teamrankings.com TeamRankings.com

    While it’s probable that the movement you mentioned is worth less, we typically stick with the 1 point = 2-3 confidence percentage points rule. In your case, it certainly wouldn’t be an unsound strategy to adjust that slightly, though.

    In short, you’re right, but we just don’t get that detailed simply because we wanted a simple rule that we could quickly apply.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com TeamRankings.com

    Next year we plan to have something much for refined for this kind of situation.

  • Sideshow Luiz

    Makes total sense. I hadn’t seen that 1 pt = 3% thing anywhere. Thanks for the info.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com TeamRankings.com

    Just remember that 3% rule of thumb is rough. See Keith Waters’ comment and our response for more info. For example, in football, the one free point involved in getting a -3.5 line for -2.5 is worth significantly more than getting a -12 line for -11. In the latter case, that extra point may only give you an extra 1.5% odds to cover, say, versus 3%.

    Again, next year we plan on having a much better solution for handling spread differences.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dennis.natale.9 Dennis Natale

    Yeah the strategy I used is by no means ironclad lol.Then again nothing is when it comes to this stuff.I just go with that formula and it pays of most of the time for me.

    Also when it comes to half points or the differential making the percentage pick still very close to 50/50 I just make a judgement call.

  • Sideshow Luiz

    Well, if it was a sure thing, it wouldn’t be a game anymore. thanks for the insight. I’m new here, but great site.

  • Sideshow Luiz

    A couple of days ago on your ATS picks page you had NE -9, now it’s NE -7.5 but the odds % hasn’t changed. Shouldn’t it have gone up?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Well, the exact details of why that happens are complicated, but the basic idea is that when the spread moves, that’s new information about a game, and the models take it into account.

    This is oversimplifying, but it’s kind of like the market has revised it’s estimate of how good the Patriots are. When the models saw the Pats as a “market value -9” team, the predicted cover odds for a -9 line were XX%. Now that the models see the Eagles as a “market value -7.5” team, the projected odds to cover -9 would be lower than XX%.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    You may want to check out these model descriptions. The Decision Tree model is the main driver of our NFL predictions:


  • Sideshow Luiz

    I see. The spread is an input, therefore the output changes (or doesn’t change) based on the spread changing. It just seems counter-intuitive to the 3% thing discussed earlier (pick flips). Out of curiosity, which picks did you “flip” this week? You also shorted yourself on the Vikes (office pool ATS), they covered 9.5.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com TeamRankings.com

    It’s not counter-intuitive really. We basically use the latest market line to establish cover percentages for both teams at that line. From there, we use the 2-3% rule to adjust for any differences in spreads. But if the market line moves, we just start over from square one. That’s just the way the model was designed, I’m sure we could look more into the effects of opening lines and line movement off the opening line in making predictions, which we probably will do in the future.

    Nice catch on the Vikes — we definitely seem to have an issue with the scoring of the games this week on the ATS office pool pages. Looking into it now.

    Looks like our pick flips were:

    Conservative – NYG -1 to Was +2.5, NE -9 to Mia +7.5
    Aggressive – none
    Very Aggressive – Min +9.5 to GB -8.5, TB +8 to Den -7

    Conservative – NYG -1 to Was +2.5, Chi -3.5 to Sea +4.5, NE -9 to Mia +7.5
    Aggressive – none
    Very Aggressive – none

  • Alan Tavener

    Why did the spread on Yahoo’s Pro Pick ‘Em for Thanksgivings games mysteriously close “off” when every other service showed something like Dallas -9, Detroit -6.2 and Baltimore -2.5?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Beats me. You’d have to ask Yahoo.