Week 2 Football Pick’em Strategy & Advice (2021)
Week 2 is Overreaction Week, which presents lots of value opportunities for your pick'em pools if you can stay steady and calm.
Kirk Cousins hopes you exercise your personal choice and take a shot on him (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
Do you smell that? It’s the smell of opportunity wafting through the air as we head toward Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season.
This is Overreaction Week, where the public goes overboard in reacting to what they just saw.
Below, we’ll explore strategies to maximize your edge in NFL and college football pick’em contests. We also provide some of the rationale behind picks potentially recommended by our product.
Week 2 Pick’em Updates
We will continue to add to this post until Sunday of NFL Week 2 arrives, so check back for daily updates. Here’s what’s available now:
- Sunday 9/19: Reviewing the Week 2 Dynamics Entering Sunday
- Saturday 9/18: Kansas City Chiefs lead most popular ATS picks for public
- Friday 9/17: College Games Where Public is Opposite the Favorite
- Thursday 9/16: Giants and Washington Face Off on Thursday Night Football
- Wednesday 9/15: Cleveland as a Top Confidence Point Play
- Tuesday 9/14: Week 2 Early Value Picks Outlook
- Tuesday 9/14: Week 1 Results Summary
- FYI: Important Notes About Picks We Highlight
- FYI: About Our Pick’em Pool Advice
Week 1 Results Summary
Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season featured a ton of upsets. Against the most common closing lines, underdogs went 12-4 against the spread.
Since the public tends to lean heavily on favorites in spread pools, a contrarian strategy likely proved profitable.
In game-winner pools, the high number of underdog wins will lead to some low opening-week win totals across the board, so don’t freak out early if you don’t have a lot of wins. Using public pick averages, the average public entry got 8.4 wins in Week 1 out of 16 games. When a few publicly popular small favorites win (Seattle and Carolina) and a lot of others lose, our recommendations are going to also come in lower, averaging 7.7 wins.
In spread pools, out subscribers likely had a very good week. The public was picking every favorite more than half the time ATS, and Green Bay (77% popularity) was the public’s most popular spread pick. The public averaged only 6.9 wins in spread pools out of 16 games. Meanwhile, our pick recommendations averaged 9.0 wins across both weekly and season-long contests, and 10.0 wins in weekly spread contests.
Week 2 Early Value Picks Outlook
Some teams laid big eggs in Week 1, and others surprised. If some of those same results happened in the middle of the season, they would be just blips on the radar. But right now, they are all that many of your opponents are reacting to when picking.
That leads to prime opportunities to zig when your opponents zag.
We’ve been collecting weekly win data from our subscribers since 2014. Our subscribers have averaged a respectable 7.9% win rate in weekly contests in Week 1, but that has shot up to 16.5% in Week 2. That’s the single-highest week all year in terms of reported win rates.
In three of the last seven years, over 20% of our weekly prize subscribers have reported winning a prize in Week 2. Here’s where we give the obligatory disclaimer that past results are not indicative of future performance.
But we aren’t here claiming to have some secret sauce or ability to see the future in Week 2. The key is just letting your fellow poolmates overreact to one week of results, stay steady, and trust the numbers. Week 2 provides some opportunities because of public reaction to one week of results. That is demonstrated this year by the vastly different pick rates for teams with very similar point spreads.
For example, nine Week 2 games feature a point spread between 3.0 and 4.5 points. But the popularity of the favorites range from 92% (Arizona) to 42% (LA Chargers).
Here are some early value options for the games in that range:
Minnesota (at Arizona)
Win Odds: 37%
The Vikings lost in overtime to Cincinnati in Week 1, while Arizona blew out Tennessee on the road. So the public is hammering Arizona in this one, but the spread is only 4.5 points.
For perspective on this low 8% pick rate for the Vikings: The Texans (+12.5) are being picked to beat the Browns as often as the Vikings are being picked against Arizona.
This is the start of a theme. The public overvalues Week 1 results, which are already included in the Week 2 point spreads.
Indianapolis (vs. LA Rams)
Win Odds: 37%
The Colts just lost at home to Seattle. The Rams played in primetime on Sunday Night Football, beating the Bears by 20 points.
The case for value here is similar to Minnesota. The public is so low on these two moderate underdogs that they present an interesting value gambit in weekly contests.
Using the win odds, there’s a 14% chance that both Indianapolis and Minnesota win, but only about 8-in-1,000 entries would be expected to pick both based on public popularity. Getting risky with both picks wouldn’t be advised in a season-long pool, but in a large weekly contest, leveraging those kind of scenarios is how you can maximize your win rate when the chances of winning the pool are low to begin with.
LA Chargers (vs. Dallas)
Win Odds: 59%
At the other end of the spectrum, the Chargers have nearly the same win odds as the crosstown Rams, but they’re being picked by less than half the public.
Few people watched the Chargers win a close, low-scoring game over Washington in the early Sunday time slot. Lots of people saw America’s Team go toe-to-toe with Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football.
The public is in the “love” phase of the love-hate relationship with ‘dem Cowboys in Week 2.
Chicago (vs. Cincinnati)
Win Odds: 55%
The Bears lost in primetime in Week 1 by 20 points. The Bengals won. So the public is slightly favoring the Bengals in this one even though the Bears are the betting favorite.
These are just some of the examples from this week, but there is a pretty clear reaction by the public to (a) who won and lost in Week 1, and (b) what happened in primetime games. That isn’t unusual, and it provides value opportunities if you can be a little more grounded and trust the betting market.
Important Notes About Picks We Highlight
Keep in mind three things about picks we highlight in this article:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
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.