Week 14 Football Pick’em Strategy & Advice (2021)

The Week 14 Pick'em value picks include plenty of favorites where the public is more split than it should be.

NFL Pickem Pools Week 14

The Browns look to leap over the Ravens in Week 14 (Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

Here, we’ll track Week 14 news and discuss the implications for maximizing your edge in NFL and college football pick’em contests. We’ll also provide some of the rationale behind picks potentially recommended by our Football Pick’em Picks product.

Week 14 Pick’em Updates

We will continue to add to this post until Sunday of NFL Week 14, so check back for daily updates. Here’s what’s available now:

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Tuesday 12/7

Week 14 Is the Start of Pick Strategy Changes in Some Pools

With five weeks to go, this is the week where your pick strategy may change in season-prize pools depending on which goal you selected (Avoid Bad Finish versus Max Profit).

We are now about 70 percent of the way through the season, which means we’re entering the endgame. It’s time to try to make a move if you are outside the money in season-long contests. (You can read more about endgame strategy and how it might impact your picks here.)

You should evaluate whether you want to go for Max Profit or Avoid a Bad Finish. The most common result when you become a little riskier with picks is that you drop in the standings.

The best way to come back and get in the money in a pool is also to take those chances when there is a relative payoff, so you have to risk something to get something.

If where you finish—even if it isn’t in the money—is important to you for other reasons, such as finishing above your coworker or family member, now is the time to adjust your pick goals by editing your pool.


Tuesday 12/7

Week 14 Early Value Picks Outlook

Here’s our early look at some potential value plays in NFL pick’em pools for Week 14.

Cleveland Browns (vs. Baltimore Ravens)

Line: -2.5
TR Win Odds: 55%
Popularity: 46%

The Browns were a wreck right before their bye, and they still have some issues. But it’s not like Baltimore is trending upward.

The Ravens offense and Lamar Jackson have been struggling for the last month, and they just lost star cornerback Marlon Humphrey from a secondary that already had multiple injuries.

With the Browns as a slight favorite but the public on the team with the better W-L record, Cleveland has some value here.

Dallas Cowboys (at Washington Football Team)

Line: -4.0
TR Win Odds: 65%
Popularity: 65%

Washington has won four in a row, and the public is giving it a decent chance here. While some of that is better play (the win over Tampa Bay), it’s also a product of schedule, close wins and endgame plays.

Meanwhile, Dallas went through a tough stretch with injuries and COVID-19, but it is coming out of it and has nine days to prepare. The Cowboys are a better team than they were a few weeks ago just because they now have key players available, so stick with the favorites as a value play here.

New Orleans Saints (at New York Jets)

Line: -5.5
TR Win Odds: 73%
Popularity: 80%

While the Saints aren’t a huge value this week, they are a solid enough play as a moderate favorite where a decent chunk of the public is still picking the upset.

The Saints are on a five-game losing streak, but they should be getting some key players back after a difficult injury stretch. Star RB Alvin Kamara has missed the last four games, and both offensive tackles have also been out.

Kamara practiced last week but was ruled out late for the early Thursday night game. With another week, he should return, and he’s vital for a team that is otherwise lacking playmakers.

Stick with the favored Saints and look for upsets elsewhere.

San Francisco 49ers (at Cincinnati Bengals)

Line: +1.0
TR Win Odds: 49%
Popularity: 36%

Both of these teams are coming off upset losses, but the public is sticking with the Bengals more in what looks like the tightest matchup of the week.

With nearly two-thirds of the public going with the Bengals, differentiate your entry with the 49ers.

Seattle Seahawks (at Houston Texans)

Line: -7.5
TR Win Odds: 76%
Popularity: 87%

It’s looking like Russell Wilson might have come back from his finger injury too early. However, he finally had a good game last week, and Seattle had its best offensive game in a while.

Meanwhile, Houston is coming off another disastrous performance, and there are now questions about who will start at quarterback.

The Seahawks are a larger favorite, but they might be worth bumping up in confidence pools. They are one of six teams favored by more than a touchdown. The others all have much higher popularity, so Seattle has some value despite the high pick rate.


Tuesday 12/7

Week 13 Results Summary

In Week 13, the heavy favorites won, and covered. The smaller favorites, not so much. Teams favored by four points or less went 0-5 in Week 13.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 8.7 wins in Week 13.

Most of the larger favorites won (except for the Vikings), and most pool entries picked them.

With all five smaller favorites losing, though, a lot of higher-leverage results came down to some close games. Washington was one that worked out for us, as it was our most frequent value play in both season-long and weekly pools. Some of our weekly entries got the Chargers’ upset correct, and a smaller subset (larger pools) got Seattle.

Overall, the season-long “Max Profit” picks (8.1.wins) fell below the public because all of those shorter favorites lost, while the weekly picks (9.3 wins on average) were above the public average thanks to hitting on some of those upsets.

Spread Pools

The public was at 7.6 wins in 14 games, its best mark in a while. While there wasn’t a hugely popular public choice, the five most popular ATS picks this week all covered.

In a week where the bigger favorites all cover and the public’s top picks hit, our weekly pick recommendations aren’t going to do as well since they play contrarian. That’s what we see with a 6.4 win average across weekly.

The season-long recommendations did outperform the public, averaging 7.9 wins. Detroit was the top model play, and several line-move values hit (even if they were somewhat popular). That included Miami, Dallas, and Indianapolis covering.


FYI

Important Notes About Picks We Highlight

Keep in mind three things about picks we highlight in this article:

  1. Optimal pick strategy balances risk and potential reward.
    Maximizing your odds to win a pick’em pool generally requires identifying the best opportunities to differentiate your picks. You want to fade the public while taking on minimal risk to do so. For example, taking a favorite being picked by less than 50% of your opponents is usually a great opportunity.
  2. Not all of the picks we highlight are suitable for all pools.
    Don’t be surprised if our Football Pick’em Picks product doesn’t recommend several of the picks we mention in this post—especially the upset picks. The best pick strategy for your pool depends on a number of factors such as your pool’s size, rules, and prize structure (a concept that’s covered in part by our article on season vs. weekly prize strategy).
  3. Picks we highlight may no longer look compelling by game day.
    We analyze and write about picks using data (e.g. win odds and pick popularity), but that data can change up until kickoff. A key player being ruled out or a shift in public sentiment about a team can erase the differentiation value that a pick initially offered.

We’ll provide periodic updates in this post if major data changes occur for picks we’ve mentioned, so make sure to check back. However, there’s a much better way to stay on top of changing data trends throughout a week, which all sharp players need to do.

Our Football Pick’em Picks product automatically imports the latest win odds and pick popularity data multiple times per day. You can see the latest information in the Data Grid.

After you generate customized picks for your pool, you can also update those pick recommendations whenever you want via the My Pool Picks screen. The updated picks will incorporate the most recent data we have.


FYI

About Our Pick’em Pool Advice

What makes our football pick’em advice different from other sites is that it isn’t generic.

In any given week, the best picks for your football pool depend on a number of variables. Your pool’s size, rules, and prize structure all influence strategy, as do factors like your place in the standings and how many weeks are left.

So many different scenarios exist that it’s impossible to give pick advice that makes sense for every one. An underrated six-point underdog could be a great pick in a big weekly prize pool and a terrible pick for a small season-long pool where you’re currently in the money.

Technology to the rescue

Other sites don’t understand this stuff, or they just ignore it because it’s complicated and hard. We’re the only site that has built algorithms to evaluate these strategy factors and provide you with customized pick recommendations every week.

The result? Every year, an average of 71% of our subscribers win a prize in a football pick’em contest.

So if you want to see all the Week 1 picks we recommend for your football pool, you need to use our Football Pick’em Picks product.

Why we write this column

At the same time, we know our subscribers like to understand the rationale behind picks the product may recommend, especially when those picks go against the grain. So over the years, we’ve started to write more about the “whys” behind our approach.

We also utilize this column to help educate our readers about pick’em pool strategy. We highlight tactics proven to result in more pick’em pool wins over the long term and point out common pitfalls to avoid.

Our goal with these articles is to dig deeper into pick’em pools than anyone else by using an objective, data-driven lens. We’ll recap key results from the previous week, identify the most compelling value picks of the current week, and evaluate the implications of breaking news on pick’em strategy.

We hope you enjoy reading, and we encourage you to check out more of our football pick’em strategy articles.

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Wednesday 12/8

Tennessee Is Most Popular Spread Pick

Tennessee is the most popular spread pick so far this week, with 73 percent taking the Titans. It’s the only game where the public is currently picking one side more than 68 percent of the time.

However, the line has already moved in the opposite direction, down to Tennessee -8.5.

Jacksonville was highlighted as one of our three upset picks in today’s BetIQ Daily article, where we highlight NFL upset picks each Wednesday. If you want to see some of our betting picks and a little more explanation, check that out.

Betting on moneyline upsets and looking for value there is a different beast than making pool picks. When the payoff for getting it right is identical to the penalty for getting it wrong, taking a chance on a risky team like Jacksonville is not worth it.

But if you are getting a significantly higher reward (such as a significantly bigger payout than the money risked, or a bonus based on upset size), Jacksonville is worth considering.

The Titans have been a little overvalued anyway, and they are not performing as well with several key players out on offense.


Thursday 12/9

San Francisco Moves Into Favorite’s Role

The San Francisco 49ers are now favored by a point against Cincinnati, as the line moved from the Bengals as a slight favorite. While we never know all the factors driving a line move, this is likely related to Bengals QB Joe Burrow’s status.

He’s currently questionable with a pinkie injury. He tried to play through it last Sunday, and he’ll probably try to do so again, but it could have a real impact on his ability to throw the football accurately.

Our recommendations were likely going to be on Niners in most game-winner pools anyway since they are unpopular here. But this solidifies it a little more.

The 49ers are now one of two teams who are favored but the public is picking the underdog at a higher rate (Cleveland, facing Baltimore, is the other).


Friday 12/10

Rams Highlight Upset Options for Week 14

The Rams weren’t highlighted in our initial value picks segment on Tuesday, but with a slight line move downward (Arizona is now favored by 2.5 points) and increased popularity for Arizona, they have moved up.

In a week with multiple value favorites, you may not need to get too risky unless you are trying to come back in a pool with five weeks left.

Los Angeles is probably a key upset to try to leverage in that case, or in weekly pools. Only 24 percent of the public is picking the Rams, but we give them a 44 percent chance of winning.


Sunday 12/12

Reviewing The Week 14 Dynamics Entering Sunday

Over half of the games this week feature a spread of 5.5 points or more, and only four involve a line of less than a field goal. That means a smaller number of potentially high-leverage games in game-winner pools.

Two Value Favorites Whom The Public Is Picking Against

For two of those smaller favorites, the public is actually picking the other side more frequently.

  • Cleveland is favored by 2.5 points against Baltimore with 42 percent popularity.
  • San Francisco is now favored by 1.5 points against Cincinnati, with 35 percent popularity.

Line Movement Makes Dallas a Value Favorite

The point spread in the Dallas-Washington has moved up over the weekend, and Dallas is now favored by six points with 71 percent win odds.

At 71 percent popularity, Dallas is a value favorite at higher win odds and should be heavily featured in lots of pick sets.

Rams and Falcons Highlight Few Upset Options

For the second week in a row, we generally see fewer upset options showing up in weekly pools. The reason is pretty simple.

With Dallas being a value favorite and the public treating two unpopular favorites like “upsets,” we already have some diversification.

The most common upset picks will be the two other games with smaller spreads, with Atlanta over Carolina and the Rams over Cardinals.

Spread Pools

Tennessee is the most popular pick (72 percent) in spread pools. Jacksonville is also one of our higher-value model plays, so you will probably see the Jaguars in a lot of spread pick sets.

We’ve seen some significant line movement in several games, so you could also see pick recommendations that take advantage of that movement. Dallas, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco have all seen line movement in their favor compared to a lot of contest lines set earlier in the week.

Finally, our top model play is New Orleans -5.5, so you should see some Saints picks.