Week 7 Football Pick’em Strategy & Advice (2021)

The Week 7 early value pick outlook is up, and it includes some NFC East teams in an underdog role, plus a road favorite against a backup QB.

Joe Burrow and the Bengals are one of the biggest surprises of the year (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

Here, we’ll track Week 7 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 7 Pick’em Updates

We will continue to add to this post until Sunday of NFL Week 7,  so check back for daily updates. Here’s what’s available now:

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Tuesday 10/19

Week 7 Early Value Picks Outlook

Here’s our early look at some potential value plays in NFL pick’em pools for Week 7.

This week, the early data shows some potential upset picks for NFC East teams. The public also still isn’t quite moving off a team with a notable QB injury.

New Orleans Saints (at Seattle Seahawks)

Line: -5.0
TR Win Odds: 68%
Popularity: 61%

The New Orleans Saints are a decent-sized road favorite at Seattle coming off their bye week. However, the public pick rates on the Saints are not as high as most teams that are favored by about five points.

Seattle has brand-name recognition, but without starting QB Russell Wilson, this team is not the same. Backup QB Geno Smith’s 6.9 yards per attempt is well below what Wilson had averaged. On a team with a great defense, Smith’s production might be OK, but Seattle has one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

Take the value against Seattle until the public adjusts.

New York Giants (vs. Carolina Panthers)

Line: +2.5
TR Win Odds: 44%
Popularity: 14%

The Giants had a disaster game against the Rams, with four turnovers in a blowout loss. But they didn’t get dominated in yards, and they could have some value coming off that heavy turnover game.

Meanwhile, the Panthers have also regressed. They’ve now lost three in a row after a 3-0 start.

RB Christian McCaffrey tried to return from his hamstring injury last week, but he was instead placed on IR and will now be out through at least Week 8. In the Panthers’ three full games without him, QB Sam Darnold has averaged 5.9 yards per attempt and thrown six interceptions, cooling off after his hot start.

In weekly contests, the Giants are a high-leverage upset play with low popularity and a decent chance of winning.

Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Tennessee Titans)

Line: -4.5
TR Win Odds: 67%
Popularity: 71%

The Chiefs won last week to get to 3-3 despite committing three first-half turnovers. They’re second in the NFL in total yards and first in total first downs gained.

Their biggest problem on offense is their league-high 14 turnovers. However, those issues may be presenting some value here.

With 29 percent of the public going with a Titans upset after their thrilling Monday Night Football win over the Bills, there is value in staying with the Chiefs this week.

Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Las Vegas Raiders)

Line: +3.0
TR Win Odds: 41%
Popularity: 16%

Talk about an enigma.

The Raiders have been a wild team this year. They’re 3-1 as an underdog after their win in Denver. They are 1-1 as a favorite, with the win coming in overtime. (They’ve gone 0-2 ATS in that role.)

The Eagles have played a tough schedule, already losing to the Bucs, Chiefs, Cowboys, and 49ers.

The public is heavily on the Raiders in this one coming off their win Sunday, which was aided by a slew of Broncos turnovers. There’s value in an Eagles upset play in weekly pools.

Atlanta Falcons (vs. Miami Dolphins)

Line: -2.5
TR Win Odds: 54%
Popularity: 57%

The Falcons are a favorite over the Dolphins and are coming at a slight popularity discount compared to other similarly favored teams this week. This one could shift depending on where the line and popularity numbers go, though.

This is a weird game from a scheduling perspective. The Dolphins just played in London, but they do not have the week off after that trip (unlike the Jets and Falcons last week, and the Jaguars coming off Sunday’s game). Atlanta, which did get that week off, now gets a home game.

There isn’t a lot of data on how teams handle being in the Dolphins’ situation.

Tuesday 10/19

Week 6 Results Summary

Favorites again had a good week, including several larger favorites winning big. There were also some key leverage games, which swung our record versus the public.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, “max profit” season-long picks averaged 10.0 wins, while “win the week” top options only had 8.5 wins.

The public, meanwhile, averaged 9.4 wins.

These were the highest-leverage results in game-winner pools in Week 6:

TeamOpponentPublicTRMax ProfitWeekly
BaltimoreLA Chargers46.9%95.3%100.0%99.7%

The Arizona result was a big one for the public since the Browns were the betting favorite. But that was countered by both Baltimore and Minnesota winning as favorites while the majority of the public was on the other side.

The weekly picks were again down (more on that below). The value upsets didn’t hit, though the Patriots were very close and came up short in overtime. Had they beaten the Cowboys, that would have boosted our weekly performance.

Spread Pools

The “max profit” season-long picks averaged 7.0 wins, and the “win the week” top picks averaged 7.2 wins, compared to a public average of 7.2 wins in Week 6.

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

TeamOpponentPublicMax ProfitWeekly
LA RamsNY Giants67.5%14.2%1.0%
Green BayChicago78.2%38.8%0.9%

Several big results went the opposite way, while most of the others showed moderate gains against the public. As a result, both weekly and season picks were similar to public averages in Week 6.

On Weekly Picks

So far this year, the weekly picks haven’t hit at a high rate. In fact, there hasn’t been a single week where subscribers have reported a 10 percent weekly win rate across all pools.

Our weekly pick sets are designed to be boom-or-bust in many cases. They aim to leverage results so that when things do break correctly, the win rates are higher. So far ,those outcomes haven’t come at a high enough rate.

Hot and cold runs do happen, but we are confident in the overall process and strategy driving those picks.

Here is a summary of how many weeks we had with a reported 10 percent or higher weekly win rate in the first six weeks of the season, versus the rest of the season, going back to 2014:

YearFirst 6 WeeksRest of Year

Some years have seen really hot starts, and then some regression. Others have seen cold starts, and then bounced back. Overall, the 10-plus percent weeks are about as common in the first six weeks (33.3 percent of the time) as they are in the rest of the season (32.5 percent).

We’d obviously prefer to have a hot start. The history is that about one-in-three weeks produces good weekly win rates, but those results vary and can include streaks either way. It’s just like how a .300 hitter in baseball can have a huge day or go several games without a hit.


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.

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Wednesday 10/20

Closing-Line Value, Luck, and Spread Pools

We were looking at spread numbers because of things we observed in our spread pools (well, David Hess was, and I’m sharing it). If it feels like you’ve had bad luck in spread pools on games where you appeared to get great line value, well, it’s probably true.

First, what do we mean by line value here? In most spread pools, the specific number is set by the website or pool administrator. Often, it’s locked into place earlier in the week. So you can get quite a bit of variation in the actual spreads that entries are getting on a game.

If the administrator/site makes an error, puts an off-market line, or the line moves in one direction between when the number is set and when the final picks are due, that can provide line value. For example, the Giants were +10.5 last week in one of my pools, but by kickoff, the line was down to +7.5, providing three points of line value.

Using Closing-Line Value Should Provide Some Edge

Theoretically—and over a large sample size—playing lines where you’re getting line value should give you an edge over the typical competitor. If the closing point-spread line represents the best number from the market, and it’s 50-50 on either side, then being on the side where you’re getting additional points of value should increase your win odds slightly. The amount of that increase depends on factors like the specific key numbers and amount of line movement.

So Far in 2021, It Hasn’t

We have data showing each spread number used in a pool and its distance from the closing spread, along with our recommendation. Based on the specific spreads and amount of line value, you would have expected the picks where our subscribers were getting at least 0.5 points or more of value to win overall at a 55.0 percent rate.

They’ve covered at a 51.5 percent rate. That’s below the 52.3 percent cover rate needed to break even against the juice, despite getting 1.2 points of value on average from that group.

It’s been even worse at extreme line value. Picks getting at least three points have won only 29.8 percent of the time. They would have been expected to win 56.5 percent.

I’ve seen that in my Pick 5 pool, where by far my worst results have come on the games where I was grabbing bad lines. I’ve gone 1-3 in games with three or more points of value.

All we can say here is that one of the strategies in spread pools (in addition to playing the popularity game, and using our models to identify value) is to grab free points in many cases when it is giving value, especially across key numbers. That luck should even out, but so far, sharp players that have grabbed value in 2021 haven’t profited.

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