Week 9 NFL Pick’em Strategy: Time to Start Believing in the Dolphins?

Miami and Indianapolis may have identical records, but we see the Dolphins as a stronger team overall. In fact, we give Miami a better than even chance to make the playoffs while the Colts are more of a long shot. Even after the Dolphins dismantled the Jets last week, a majority of the public has picked Indy to prevail at home. Consequently, Miami looks like one of the stronger game winner picks this week.

Where We Stand After Week 8

Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (not confidence points based) heading into Week 9. 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 (no change from last week)
  • Aggressive: 91.5th percentile (+0.5)
  • Very Aggressive: 97.5th percentile (no change)

Our against the spread picks did not fair quite as well, as all three strategies dipped slightly from last week. Our Aggressive strategy has excelled this season, and currently ranks in the top 4% in the country despite a very slight slide this past week:

  • Conservative: 87.9th percentile (-2.1 from last week)
  • Aggressive: 96.1st percentile (-1.1)
  • Very Aggressive: 87.9th percentile (-4.6)

(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 8 Advice Recap

Last week we highlighted that we (and Vegas, at points during the week) saw Miami as slight favorites over New York even though about 75% of the public had picked the Jets. The Dolphins jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 30-9 victory. Unfortunately, a pick we liked for similar reasons, Philadelphia, fell to the undefeated Falcons.

We also noted that Cleveland provided the best value of any pick last week. We saw the game as a relative tossup with about 87% of the public picking San Diego. Thankfully, one Trent Richardson TD was enough to secure a 7-6 Browns victory. We also liked Dallas as a solid upset pick, but that one came up a few Dez Bryant fingertips short.

Our biggest public imbalance point spread value pick was Jacksonville by far, with only 5% (!) picking the Jags to cover the 16 point spread. Jacksonville actually outgained the Packers by over 100 yards and lost by only 9, making 95% of ATS pool players quite unhappy.

Our Week 9 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 9 Value Pick Highlights: Game Winners

TeamOpponentAdj Win OddsPublic %ValueSpreadValue Indicator
Miamiat Indianapolis52.6%42%10.6%-1.0Odds-On Contrarian
Oaklandvs. Tampa Bay51.6%%38%13.6%-1.0Odds-On Contrarian
Jacksonvillevs Detroit39.8%8%31.8%+3.5High Risk Upset
Dallasat Atlanta39.2%11%28.2%+4.0High Risk Upset
Cincinnativs Denver34.7%10%24.7%+3.5Long Shot Upset

For the second week in a row we have two odds-on contrarian picks. 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 Miami and Oakland as slight favorites to win, and as of Wednesday mid-day Vegas sees both of these teams as toss-up picks to win outright. However, only about 40% of the public has picked the Dolphins or Raiders in pools this week. Consequently, we see both of these teams as solid picks for any pool size.

On the upsets side, we don’t see any solid picks this week that don’t also come with a significant amount of risk. For those in bigger pools or looking to make up some ground, though, both Jacksonville and Dallas provide a large amount of value. We give both about a 40% chance to win, while only about 10% of the public has picked either.

We wouldn’t recommend either the Jags or Cowboys for most strategies, but if you are looking to swing for the fences these two should receive very high confidence points.

Finally, while Cincinnati provides high value as an upset pick, we wouldn’t recommend picking the Bengals in any sized pool, especially with the other more viable contrarian picks available. What you may want to do in confidence pools, however, is lower the point value of their opponent, Denver.

Week 9 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
Seattlevs Minnesota-3.5-51.5

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

Point Spread Pick Imbalance Highlights

TeamOpponentPublic Pick%TR Cover OddsCurrent Spread
Cincinnativs Denver20%45%+3.5
Jacksonvillevs Detroit22%56%+3.5
Tennesseevs Chicago26%49%+3.5
Dallasat Atlanta27%58%+4.0
Buffaloat Houston28%58%+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.

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.