Week 3 Football Pick’em Strategy & Advice (2021)

Week 3 features a lot of quarterback injury news as you consider your football pool picks options.

The Dolphins look to turn things around after a blowout loss (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire)

Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season features lots of big favorites and injury uncertainty that could impact pick’em pool strategy as the week progresses.

Here, we’ll track Week 3 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 3 Pick’em Updates

We will continue to add to this post until Sunday of NFL Week 3 arrives, so check back for daily updates. Here’s what’s available now:

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Tuesday 9/21

Week 3 Early Value Picks Outlook

Here’s an early look at some potential Week 3 value plays in NFL pick’em pools.

Minnesota (vs. Seattle)

Line: +2.0
TR Win Odds: 51%
Popularity: 24%

The Vikings are 0-2, but those losses have been in close, heartbreaking fashion. Not much separates these teams, and you can get the Vikings at a big popularity discount by taking them in a coin-flip type game.

Miami (at Las Vegas)

Line: +3.5
TR Win Odds: 39%
Popularity: 7%

This is a big recency bias game.

As we noted in our Week 2 Betting Recap, the Raiders benefited from Pittsburgh playing much of the game without three of its top defenders (T.J. Watt, Joe Haden, and Devin Bush). Meanwhile, Miami lost QB Tua Tagovailoa early to a rib injury, although he’s day-to-day for Week 3. WR Will Fuller V also has yet to make his season debut, but he’s expected to play this week.

Miami had two turnovers and four failed fourth-down attempts, while Las Vegas had no turnovers. Those are high-leverage events that can swing games, and these teams are closer than the public thinks.

San Francisco (vs. Green Bay)

Line: -3.5
TR Win Odds: 64%
Popularity: 63%

Green Bay is back in the public’s good graces after a big win over Detroit on Monday Night Football, so you can get value here just by staying on the favorite. The Packers won by more than expected in a primetime game, but they were aided by two big fourth-down stops and a 2-0 turnover advantage.

Carolina (at Houston)

Line: -7.5
Win Odds: 77%
Popularity: 88%

Carolina is one of the larger favorites this week, but there are nine other teams being picked at a higher rate than the Panthers. The Texans, meanwhile, will be without QB Tyrod Taylor and will start rookie third-round pick Davis Mills.

The public may not be fully aware of the Texans’ potential drop-off at quarterback. Taylor has been one of the surprises of the young season, while Mills struggled in relief of him against Cleveland on Sunday.

Philadelphia (at Dallas)

Line: +4.0
TR Win Odds: 40%
Popularity: 14%

The Eagles have a decent chance to pull off an upset at Dallas, but the public is heavily on the Cowboys for the second straight week. They got away with it last week thanks to Dallas’ close victory over the Chargers, but you can get good pot odds with Philadelphia this week.

Also, NFC East games have featured very little home-field advantage over the last 20 years. The home team in the Dallas-Philadelphia series actually has a losing record (19-20 SU) since 2002.

Tuesday 9/21

Week 2 Results Summary

Week 2 NFL results were good for TR subscribers, but they could have been great with a few last-second field-goal results swinging the other way.

In game-winner pools, “max profit” season-long picks went 12-4, while the public averaged 10.2 wins. The “win the week” top options averaged 10.4 wins.

Dallas hit a 56-yard field goal on the final play to beat the Chargers in what was a tough result for both pick options. Minnesota’s missed game-winning field goal was another high-leverage loss in weekly contests. Had that gone the other way, the “win the week” picks would have been up big on the public.

These were the highest-leverage results in game-winner pools in Week 2:

TeamOpponentPublicMax ProfitWeekly
DallasLA Chargers50.0%0.0%0.4%
San FranciscoPhiladelphia67.7%100.0%99.9%
LA RamsIndianapolis91.5%100.0%27.5%

In spread pools, our subscribers had another solid week. The three most popular public spread picks (Kansas City, Los Angeles Rams, and Arizona) all failed to cover. The “max profit” season-long picks averaged 8.5 wins and the “win the week” top picks averaged 7.9 wins, compared to a public average of 7.5 wins in Week 2.

Here were the highest-leverage games in spread pools, based on our recommendation rates versus the public pick rate.

TeamOpponentPublicMax ProfitWeekly
BaltimoreKansas City21.4%96.1%99.6%
IndianapolisLA Rams22.8%88.2%91.5%
CarolinaNew Orleans34.4%96.9%97.8%
Tampa BayAtlanta60.3%0.4%0.4%



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.


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.

Wednesday 9/22

Quarterback Injury News Roundup

There has already been lots of injury news regarding quarterbacks this week, so here’s a quick rundown of where we stand:

  • Houston: Tyrod Taylor was placed on IR, which means he’ll be out for at least three weeks. Rookie QB Davis Mills will start Thursday’s game against Carolina and for the foreseeable future.
  • Miami: Tua Tagoavailoa has been ruled out with his fractured ribs. Jacoby Brissett will start against Las Vegas.
  • Chicago: Rookie QB Justin Fields has been named the starter for Week 3 against Cleveland after Andy Dalton suffered a knee bruise last week.
  • Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger suffered a left pectoral injury last week. His status is uncertain for Week 3 against Cincinnati.
  • Las Vegas: Derek Carr underwent an MRI on his ankle but is expected to play this week.
  • Indianapolis: Carson Wentz has two sprained ankles. There has been no further word on his availability, although he missed practice Wednesday.

As always, we will have up-to-date win-odds information based on the latest news,. Check the Data Grid to see the most current point spread and win-odds estimates for these matchups.

Thursday 9/23

Panthers vs. Texans on Thursday Night Football 

Carolina plays Houston tonight on Thursday Night Football to open Week 3. We have a betting preview for the game with some trends and notes.

The big news impacting the spread for this game is Houston QB Tyrod Taylor’s injury. With Taylor out, the Texans will turn to rookie QB Davis Mills on a short week. He’ll go against a Panthers team that ranks first in the NFL in a number of different defensive categories after two games.

As a result, the Panthers have win odds of 77% and are being picked by the public 93% of the time.

In game-winner pools, the Panthers are the choice tonight. In spread pools, the Panthers are favored by eight points and roughly 65% of the public is taking them. The recommendation you get in spread pools may depend on your prize goal, pool size, and the specific spread number.

Friday 9/24

Las Vegas vs. Miami Line Move

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