Week 8 NFL Pick’em Strategy: Rooting For The Eagles To Clip The Falcons

posted in NFL, NFL Pick'ems

After a relatively calm Week 7, this week presents a few more chances to gain ground on the public. Most notably, we see the Philly-Atlanta battle of the birds as a relatively even matchup. With a significant portion of the public on one side, we see significant value in that NFC showdown.

Where We Stand After Week 7

Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (not confidence points based) heading into Week 8. Our game winner picks maintained their solid positions, with all three strategies remaining fairly consistent in the standings. All three are now in the top 10% nationally, and two of our strategies are now in the top 3%:

  • Conservative: 97.5th percentile (+2.6 from last week)
  • Aggressive: 91.0th percentile (-3.9)
  • Very Aggressive: 97.5th percentile (-2.2)

Our against the spread picks enjoyed a similarly solid week, buoyed by an impressive 10-2-1 record for our official ATS picks, which were reflected the most in our Conservative strategy — although not perfectly because we currently “freeze” our weekly office pool picks on Thursday, but our official site predictions continue to update until about an hour before kickoff. We’re working on changing that in the future.

Like the game winner picks, all three of our ATS strategies currently rank in the top 10% nationally. Our Aggressive strategy has excelled, and currently ranks in the top 3% in the country despite a very slight slide this past week:

  • Conservative: 90.0th percentile (+2.3 from last week)
  • Aggressive: 97.2nd percentile (-1.1)
  • Very Aggressive: 92.5th percentile (-1.9)

(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.)

Week 7 Advice Recap

Unfortunately, on the game winner side our three highlighted upset picks all fell just a bit short, as favorites dominated the week. There were no games last week in which we disagreed with the public as to who would win, so it did not come as much of a surprise when “chalk” ruled. We saw Cleveland, Jacksonville and St. Louis as upset picks with value, and all three lost competitive games.

Our biggest public imbalance point spread value picks didn’t have a distinguishing week either. Jacksonville covered the spread in an overtime game against Oakland, but St. Louis and Tampa Bay failed to cover.

Our Week 8 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 8 Value Pick Highlights: Game Winners

TeamOpponentAdj Win OddsPublic %ValueSpreadValue Indicator
Philadelphiavs Atlanta54.1%28.0%26.1%-1.0Odds-On Contrarian
Miamiat New York Jets50.9%26.0%24.9%-1.0Odds-On Contrarian
Clevelandvs San Diego49.3%13.0%36.3%+1.0Low Risk Upset
Dallasvs New York Giants45.9%21.0%24.9%+1.0Low Risk Upset
Arizonavs San Francisco28.9%8.0%21.9%+6.5Long Shot Upset

After a week with no odds-on contrarian picks, this week we have two. These occur 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 both Philadelphia and Miami as slight favorites to win, and Vegas sees both of these teams as relative toss-ups to win outright. However, less than 30% of the public has picked the Eagles or Dolphins in pools this week. Consequently, we see both of these teams as solid picks for any pool size.

This week also presents a couple of great upset picks without too much risk. We give Cleveland and Dallas close to even odds to win their respective games, and each is only a 1 point underdog in Vegas. Yet, just 13% and 21% of the public, respectively, has picked the Browns and Cowboys so far. Both are great selections for anyone looking to take on a bit more risk this week to try to gain ground in a pool.

Finally, for those in bigger pools or looking to make up some ground, Arizona is undervalued since such a high percentage of the public is picking them to lose. Still, with the number of other contrarian picks available, we wouldn’t recommend taking the Cardinals unless you feel like you’re extremely close to having no chance to finish in the money in your pool this year, and have a ton of ground to make up.

Week 8 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
New York Giantsat Dallas+1-1 or -22 or 3
Denvervs New Orleans-4.5-61.5

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 one-third or less of the public is selecting them to cover:

Point Spread Pick Imbalance Highlights

TeamOpponentPublic Pick%TR Cover OddsCurrent Spread
Jacksonvilleat Green Bay5%53%+16
Dallasvs New York Giants24%46%+1 or +2
Clevelandvs San Diego26%53%+1
Philadelphiavs Atlanta29%54%-1
St. Louisvs New England (neutral)31%50%+7

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, only one of which is playing a true road game 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.

  • geddy1001

    Hi guys
    So last week I decided to get back into my weekly Pick em game, not in it for the season but in it to try to win each week. I chose the Very Aggressive picks and finished dead last. Our pool on average is about 25 people. (The winner had a perfect week which really doesnt havent too often) That being said, should I maybe go for the semi conservative picks this week or should I still go for the very Aggressive Picks? Definitely hoping for a better result this week. Thanks guys!

  • ulysses

    so im in a weekly spread based pickem usually needing to only get 1 wrong to win the pot. when you say the spread is better, if philly is -2.5 and you show about its -1, i should not be taking them because I am getting less than the actual, right?

  • http://couchable.co Tyler Herman

    The favored team won every game but one last week. That happens pretty rarely.

    Expect at least 4 upsets this week as that’s about average. If you’re only playing to win a week, go aggressive every week, your chances of hitting a home run are greater.

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

    I’d stick with Very Aggressive.

    Last week was very unusual in that 12 of 13 favorites won. In my pool of about 50 people, that resulted in an 8-way tie that was broken by the final score tiebreaker. In other words, even if you had a great week, you probably didn’t win anything.

    The point of the Very Aggressive picks is that they take a few gambles on *unpopular* teams. So if those gamble come through, you’re likely one of the only people to get those games right. Then in the other games, you just run with the crowd. When those picks have a good week, most other people probably had a bad one, so your odds to win the week when Very Aggressive does well are high.

    When you do well with Conservative, you run into situations like last week, where you score a lot of points, but end up with nothing to show for it.

    Conservative maximizes your average wins. Very Aggressive attempts to maximize the percent of the time that you win the week in a decent sized pool.

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

    Yeah, the “home run” analogy is a good one. You’ll accept more strikeouts in exchange for more home runs.

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

    Yep, you have the concept exactly right.

  • Cuss

    Hey their, love your website.
    Just a quick question about point spread movements and how you can take advantage of this within a point spread pick’em pool.
    So this week the pool I’m in has the following spreads which don’t match the current line or what you have listed within your site.
    Phi -2.5
    Min -6.5
    G.B -12.5
    Car. +7.5
    Sea. +2.5
    Mia +2.5
    NYG -0.5
    K.C -1.5
    N.O +6.5
    As of right now those are also my picks. From what I got from your earlier response I shouldn’t be taking Phi, Min, Sea, Mia. Is this correct? What about my other picks? Are they ok, based on spread movement strategy. Or should I change them as well?
    As you can see I’m a little confused…Sorry!!!
    Maybe you can explain it to me in layman’s terms. Or provide me with an example using my pool spreads.
    Any response would be appreaciated..
    Thank you

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

    The basic idea is that if your pool line differs from the current consensus line by a point or more, then you should generally take the team where you’re getting the “free points.” So, for example, the current lines for GB are in the -15.5 to -16.5 range. You have GB -12.5, so you’re getting 3 to 4 free points with Green Bay (your line is easier for them to cover, by 3 to 4 points). So you should choose Green Bay. I usually look for consensus lines here, trying to find the average line for each game (looking only at games with even odds, like -110/-110, on both sides of the spread): http://www.sbrforum.com/betting-odds/nfl-football/

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

    With ATS leagues, I don’t think there’s any way to tell whether it will be a good week to go aggressive or not. With game winner leagues, you can make a guess based on how many games have low spreads, but that shouldn’t make a difference in ATS pools.

    In general, yes, the 3% rule works for Conservative picks. But for Aggressive and Very Aggressive, sometimes we suggest choosing a team mainly because they are unpopular, and not really because of their cover odds. My rule of thumb for those is that for teams in the bottom half of the list, I’ll flip anything where the line has moved a point or more against out pick. For teams in the top half of the list, I’ll flip if the line has moved 1.5 or more points against our pick.

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

    So if I read that correctly if I am going conservative I should flip to both Atlanta and Chicago and stick with Jax?

  • Mark in Jax

    Dave, love your column (and how accessible you are to your fans). I am in a straight up game winner pool ranking, and am currently in 3rd. The guy in first has lucked into it by just happening to hit the major upsets so far. Historically, he has done horrible and I expect him to fall. The girl in second, however, I noticed that she uses your conservative rankings exactly to the pick every single week. I obviously frequent your site and use most of your strategies (I tweak here and there to make the picks feel a bit more like “mine”). This girl is 10 points up on me. Any strategy adjustment as to how do I catch her if I generally agree with your strategies in the first place? What a pickle I am in!

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

    Based on the info in your comment, yeah, that seems reasonable.

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

    Haha, check out the byline above — Matt Woods wrote this, not me, so he deserves some love!

    Just so I am clear, this is a confidence points pool? So 10 points down means you’re basically down by one above-average-confidence pick?

    In that case, you’re in fine shape generally. But you’re right that her making very similar picks presents a problem. You’re going to need to purposely make some picks that are less likely to win, and hope that luck breaks your way. But it sounds like that is basically what you are doing.

    I’d continue what you are doing for now, as there’s a lot of season left. If you drop further back, or haven’t caught up more after a few more weeks, then reevaluate your strategy and we can start getting a little riskier.

  • Mark in Jax

    Gotcha! Nice work, Mr. Woods! Your whole staff does a fantastic job! Yes, it’s a confidence points pool. On bye weeks, scores go 16 down to 3, for example. The great thing about this is I know exactly what her picks are every week before they lock! Knowledge is power! If she’s reading this, maybe she will know that I am on to her and will recklessly change her picks!

  • JR

    Tried to find an explanation of how Adjusted Win Odds are calculated on this site and struck out. Miami is 55.4% in the Game Predictions but has an AWO of 50.9% in this article. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

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

    Top of this page: http://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/office-pool-picks/game-winner/detailed-analysis/

    We should make it clearer, though.

    In short, for office pools we average implied win odds from the Vegas lines with our model win odds. It’s mainly an adjustment we make to help out in the early season, to provide a measure of insurance against our models having a much different opinion than Vegas on a very early season game. But in general, it helps moderate extreme cases.

    The Miami example is a good one — and it’s about as complex as they get. Our three game winner prediction models (Similar Games, Decision Tree, and Power Ratings) actually like the Jets, as you can see here:


    However, our point spread prediction models really like Miami as a 1-point dog. (Disagreements between models like that can happen.)

    To come up with our final TR Win Odds for a game, we have logic that looks over all of our underlying model results, including both game winner and point spread, and makes a final “call” on the game. In this case, the Miami +1 call from the point spread models was so strong that it “overruled” the win odds models, and we’re saying our TR pick is Miami pulls off the upset — with final projected win odds of 55.4%.

    Obviously, that’s a bit of a stand, and differs from implied Vegas win odds — Vegas sees Miami as a dog (+1 spread, +112 money line), so their Vegas implied win odds are obviously below 50%.

    Our office pool logic then takes both of these into account, and the net result is adjusted win odds of 50.9% for Miami. Still an expected upset, but moderated a bit from what our models say.

    Whether Miami wins or not, we’ve actually improved the logic behind our game winner prediction logic quite a bit in the past few years, and we’ll probably take a look this offseason at whether this “average with Vegas implied win odds adjustment” is still worth doing.

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

    Haha, pretty funny situation. Reminds me of this:


  • JR

    contrarian picks may not help in conservative leagues (bc conservative players picks favorites). obviously you’ve recommended miami and dallas, but do the seatles, oaklands, and atlantas of the world have upside when the “contrarian” label doesn’t apply to your league?

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

    Well, the basic concept is that teams whose win odds are higher than their pick percentage are the generally the best upsets to pick, if you need to take some risks (as in large pools, or when you’re behind and need to roll the dice to catch up).

    If your pool is very conservative, then pick percentages are probably heavily skewed towards the favorites. So a team that is a small underdog, like Oakland this week, is probably still a decent upset pick, as most of your opponents probably went with the favored home team (KC), while the game is basically a toss up.

    Of course, this assumes your “conservative” opponents are looking at the Vegas lines or some other good judge of who the favorites are. If you have some reason to believe that your opponents will favor OAK (maybe you live in the bay area), then KC becomes the “contrarian” pick.