Week 4 Football Pick’em Strategy & Advice (2021)

Week 4 kicks off with Cincinnati and Jacksonville, while the point spreads in several matchups on Sunday have tightened up a bit.

Kirk Cousins and the Vikings are going for two wins in a row (Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season features a handful of intriguing matchups. The undefeated Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals will clash in an NFC West showdown, while Tom Brady will make his highly anticipated return to New England.

Here, we’ll track Week 4 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 4 Pick’em Updates

We will continue to add to this post until Sunday of NFL Week 4 arrives, so check back for daily updates. Here’s what’s available now:


Tuesday 9/28

Week 4 Early Value Picks Outlook

Here’s an early look at some potential Week 4 value plays in NFL pick’em pools.

Dallas Cowboys (vs. Carolina Panthers)

Line: -5.0
TR Win Odds: 68%
Popularity: 73%

Enough of the public is going with Carolina to provide solid value on Dallas. The Panthers are off to a 3-0 start, but they did lose both RB Christian McCaffrey and CB Jaycee Horn to injuries last Thursday night.

Denver Broncos (vs. Baltimore Ravens)

Line: -1.5
TR Win Odds: 53%
Popularity: 37%

The Broncos are off to a 3-0 start, but more than half of the public is picking the Ravens so far. Denver is the slight favorite, so you’re getting some value against the public by sticking with the favorite here.

Chicago Bears (vs. Detroit Lions)

Line: -3.0
TR Win Odds: 59%
Popularity: 56%

Chicago looked bad on offense in Justin Fields’ first career start last week, while Detroit almost beat Baltimore. So the public is more evenly split on this one than the win odds, where Chicago is favored by a field goal at home.

Minnesota Vikings (vs. Cleveland Browns)

Line: +2.0
TR Win Odds: 46%
Popularity: 32%

For the third week in a row, Minnesota makes the value list as an underdog. The Vikings won last week after missing a game-winning field-goal attempt in Week 2.

Of the six teams favored by a field goal or less in Week 3, Cleveland is the most popular favorite at 68%. Going with the Vikings will thus provide some value in weekly pools.

Kansas City Chiefs (at Philadelphia Eagles)

Line: -7.5
TR Win Odds: 79%
Popularity: 93%

The Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the most popular picks over the last few years, so we rarely get to highlight them. But while they are still very popular this week, everything is relative.

Among the seven games where the point spread is 6.5 points or more this week, the Chiefs are the least popular favorite. Meanwhile, we have them with the second-highest win odds, making them a solid high-confidence-point selection this week.


Tuesday 9/28

Week 3 Results Summary

Week 3 NFL results were a mixed bag. For the second week in a row, late field goals swung the week in game-winner pools, and largely went again the value plays and in favor of the public.

In game-winner pools, “max profit” season-long picks and “win the week” top options averaged 10.2 wins, while the public averaged 10.5 wins.

These were the highest-leverage results in game-winner pools in Week 3:

TeamOpponentPublicMax ProfitWeekly
MinnesotaSeattle23.7%100.0%99.4%
Green BaySan Francisco44.6%0.0%0.1%
CincinnatiPittsburgh16.9%17.2%93.3%
Las VegasMiami94.0%100.0%23.0%
AtlantaNew York Giants36.4%0.0%11.3%

The three losses on that list were all decided in the final moments of the game on field-goal makes. The Atlanta and Green Bay wins were costly in all types of pools, while Miami was a weekly contest value play.

In spread pools, a few results flipped the week late. Arizona roared back from a two-score deficit in the second half to covering late as Jacksonville turned the ball over repeatedly.

The “max profit” season-long picks averaged 7.1 wins and the “win the week” top picks averaged 7.7 wins, compared to a public average of 8.1 wins in Week 3.

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

TeamOpponentPublicMax ProfitWeekly
MiamiLas Vegas17.2%99.4%99.7%
ArizonaJacksonville80.1%0.6%0.2%
TennesseeIndianapolis73.1%2.9%1.0%
DetroitBaltimore30.7%100.0%99.9%
MinnesotaSeattle31.2%100.0%99.7%

The Miami cover (despite the overtime loss), Detroit’s cover (despite Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal) and the Minnesota win over Seattle were the biggest positive results in spread pools, while Arizona and Tennessee were among the biggest negative results.


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.


Wednesday 9/29

Public Goes Wild On Some Point-Spread Favorites

When the public is picking one side 75% or more of the time in ATS pools, that team is 1-5 so far this year.

Last week, the Las Vegas Raiders were the first team to be picked by more than 80% of spread pool participants. They won, but they failed to cover in OT since they won by only a field goal against Miami.

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