Week 17 NFL Pick’em Strategy: One Last Shot At Glory?

posted in NFL, NFL Pick'ems

It’s the final week of the regular season, so you need to assess your position and act accordingly. If you’re not near the very top of your pool, you’re almost certainly not going to win it. If the contest awards weekly prizes, though, should try to maximize your odds of winning this week’s prize by rolling the dice with very aggressive, unpopular picks.

In smaller pools, if you’ve been using our Conservative game winner picks, you may be finding yourself around 5th place in a 100-person pool, or even better if you’re in a spread based pool. In that case, your pool’s prize structure is the most important factor at this point.

If you’re in position to win some money (or only 1-2 wins out of the money) and are happy with that, you should probably play it conservatively. In that case, you should look to pick teams that you think many of your close competitors will also pick, regardless of which team you think will win, in order to minimize opportunities for opponents to gain ground on you. Making a risky, unpopular pick isn’t a good way to defend a lead.

If you’re more than a few games behind the money positions then you need to take some risks. How much risk depends on how far out of the money you are, so feel free to ask questions about your specific situation in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer.

Where We Stand After Week 16

Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (not confidence points based) heading into Week 17. While the more aggressive strategies basically held their positions, our Conservative strategy dropped slightly, yet still continues to rank in the top 5% nationally on ESPN:

  • Conservative: 95th percentile (-1.4 from last week)
  • Aggressive: 87th percentile (+0.2)
  • Very Aggressive: 81.5th percentile (-0.2)

Our against the spread picks similarly more or less held their positions last week. Notably, the Conservative strategy continues to rank in the top 1.1% nationally:

  • Conservative: 98.9th percentile (-0.6 from last week)
  • Aggressive: 85.3rd percentile (-1.2)
  • Very Aggressive: 74.4th percentile (+0.4)

(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 16 Advice Recap

Last week there were three odds-on contrarian picks. While Dallas and the New York Jets fell short, Seattle dominated the 49ers 42-13.

There were no low risk upset picks last week, but there were three high risk upset picks that we recommended for those needing to take some chances late in the season. Detroit and Buffalo both lost on Sunday, but St. Louis upset Tampa Bay 28-13. With one win, the high risk upset picks performed about as well as expected, but it obviously wasn’t the good luck week likely needed to bring home a weekly prize.

Finally, while we didn’t recommend taking a shot with a long shot upset pick except for those almost out of contention in a big pool, we should note that Kansas City, Arizona and Philadelphia all lost.

Our Week 17 NFL Office Pool Picks

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

Note: If you notice any mis-graded games on the point spread pick’em picks page, sorry about that. There’s an error and we’ll make sure to fix it by next season.

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 17 Value Pick Highlights: Game Winners

TeamOpponentAdj Win OddsPublic %ValueSpreadValue Indicator
Cincinnativs Baltimore51.6%44%7.6%-1.0Odds-On Contrarian
New York Jetsat Buffalo39.2%16%23.2%+3.5High Risk Upset
Jacksonvilleat Tennessee36.2%17%19.2%+4.0High Risk Upset
Carolinaat New Orleans33.5%7%26.5%+5.0Long Shot Upset
Philadelphiaat New York Giants29.4%7%22.4%+7.0Long Shot Upset

This week there is one odds-on contrarian pick, which occurs when our models (and in this case Vegas) favor a team that less than 50% of the public is picking. We see Cincinnati as slight favorites and the Bengals are a 1-point favorite in Vegas. Yet, just 44% of the public has picked them to win. That’s not a ton of value though; if you’re defending a lead and the majority of your close competitors are going to pick Baltimore, you should go Ravens too.

There are no low risk upset picks to recommend this week, but there are several high risk and long shot upsets. We give the New York Jets and Jacksonville about 35-40% win odds, and only 17% of the public or less has picked each.

For those needing to take some chances, it’s worth taking a serious look at the New York Jets and Jacksonville. Carolina also provides solid value, but is a little risker still.

Although the Eagles are a value pick, given the alternatives, we wouldn’t recommend picking them unless you’re almost out of contention in a big pool 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 New Orleans and the New York Giants, who are playing against Carolina and Philly.

Week 17 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
Houstonat Indianapolis-4.0-7.03.0
Philadelphiaat New York Giants+9.5+7.02.5
Baltimoreat Cincinnati-3.5-1.02.5

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 30% or less of the public is selecting them to cover:

Point Spread Pick Imbalance Highlights

TeamOpponentPublic Pick%TR Cover OddsCurrent Spread
Carolinaat New Orleans21%51%+5.0
St. Louisat Seattle22%53%+10.5
Miamiat New England26%54%+10.0
New York Jetsat Buffalo27%54%+3.5
Dallasat Washington30%53%+3.5

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.

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.