Week 3 NFL Pick’em Strategy: Two Value-Driven No-Brainers On The Board

Week 2 featured a few outstanding performances for our NFL pick’em strategies, along with one area where we took it on the chin. It’s still too early to pay much too attention to where we’re ranked at this point, but as of right now:

  • 5 of our 6 pick strategies (non-confidence points) are in the top 20% of ESPN
  • 3 of 6 are in the top 10% of ESPN
  • 2 of 6 (our Aggressive and Very Aggressive game winner picks) are in the top 1% of ESPN

So overall, we’re off to a solid start. The best news was an absolutely dominant performance by our Very Agressive and Aggressive game winner picks, which both currently sit in the 99.6th percentile of ESPN. These pick sets went 14-2 and 13-3 respectively last week, including the Patriots loss that almost nobody picked, and did amazingly well with confidence points too.

We’ve already received multiple reports of people winning “best score of the week” prizes by playing those pick sets last week, which is great. These strategies are more boom-and-bust, higher-variance approaches for larger pools, and they are fantastic options to increase your odds to win weekly prizes. One or two spectacular weeks a season is what we want those picks to deliver, and they’ve already come through early.

In other areas, our Conservative game winner picks jumped up from the 77th to the 93rd percentile of ESPN, and our Agressive and Very Aggressive against the spread picks pretty much held steady in the 88th percentile after going 8-8. In our comments, we highlighted the Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Rams, and Seahawks all as strong value picks last week — and all five of those teams won.

The one pain point of Week 2 was our Conservative against the spread picks, which pretty much crapped the bed on ESPN, getting only 4 of 12 right. That’s an uncommonly poor result for us, but some of that performance resulted from getting victimized by slight differences between ESPN spreads and actual spreads. For example, the real Browns line was +7. ESPN decided to make it +6.5 in their contest, instead of +7.5; ESPN makes all lines .5’s so there can be no pushes. A half-point difference is usually not enough to make us change a pick to the other side, and of course, the Browns ended up losing by 7 points and we lost the ESPN pick.

The good news is if you are using our conservative picks and following our advice, you should be in a fairly small pool, and one bad week by no means kills your chances overall. I can’t remember a year where our conservative NFL picks finished lower than the 85th percentile or so on ESPN, so the advice at this point is just to hang in there.

Our Week 3 NFL Office Pool Picks

Just a friendly reminder; here’s where you can find our computer generated picks for NFL office pools:

Also, if you haven’t checked out 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 2 Value Pick Highlights: Game Winners

TeamOpponentAdj Win OddsPublic %ValueSpreadValue Indicator
San Diegovs. Atlanta62%~30%32%-3Odds-On Contrarian
Carolinavs. NY Giants58%~30%28%-2.5Odds-On Contrarian
Houstonat Denver52%~50%2%-1Odds-On Value
Miamivs. New York Jets48%~25%23%+1Low Risk Upset
Jacksonvilleat Indianapolis43%~10%33%+3High Risk Upset
Oaklandvs. Pittsburgh38%~5%33%+4High Risk Upset
Minnesotavs San Francisco29%<5%25%+6.5Long Shot Upset
Kansas Cityat New Orleans23%~5%18%+9Long Shot Upset

There are again a couple great value opportunities this week.

The first thing to point out is tonight’s game. There was a big swing in the odds for this game recently on account of some New York Giants injury news, which very quickly moved the Panthers from one-point underdogs to 2.5 point favorites. You need to jump on that. It’s still a close game that could go either way, but odds are a bunch of your opponents chose the Giants earlier in the week and won’t go back and update this pick to the new favorite. So the value is clearly all Carolina’s right now.

With San Diego at home, and the memory of the Falcons’ win on Monday Night Football fresh in many peoples’ minds, the Chargers are also no-brainer. Atlanta is very over-picked.

Getting into riskier picks for midsize and large pools, taking Miami vs. the Jets looks good. The game’s a tossup, Miami’s at home, yet only 1 in 4 people are picking them.

We’re not overly enthused by either of the high-risk upsets this week, with Jacksonville on the road and Oakland having under 40% win odds. There is significant value on both teams though, so if you feel strongly on either upset, you’ve got a case for picking it.

Neither of the long shot upsets looks worth playing, given safer alternatives that are only a whisker more popular. If you want to take a few educated gambles in a very large pool, which is usually your best strategy, focus on Jacksonville and Oakland instead.

Week 3 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 the end of the week (or close to it) 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. Highlights can also be found on on the right side of our NFL odds page.

Point Spread Movement Highlights

TeamOpponentOpening LineCurrent LineMovement
Carolina PanthersNew York Giants+1-2.53.5
Miami DolphinsNew York Jets+3+12
Oakland RaidersPittsburgh Steelers+5+3.51.5

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 85% of your opponents are picking a certain team to beat the spread, that team is probably incredibly 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, yet under 20% of the public is selecting them to cover:

Point Spread Pick Imbalance Highlights

TeamOpponentPublic Pick%TR Cover OddsCurrent Line Spread
Seattlevs. Green Bay~20%48.2%+3
Oaklandvs. Pittsburgh~15%55.0%+3.5
Minnesotavs. San Francisco~15%49.7%+6.5
Tennesseevs. Detroit~15%50.6%+3.5
Jacksonvilleat Indianapolis~20%54.8%+3

If the lines in your pick’em contest are the same 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. Four of them are the classic home underdog situation.

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.