Week 8 Football Pick’em Strategy & Advice (2021)
Week 8 kicks off with the Arizona-Green Bay matchup, while Indianapolis has moved into the favorite role against Tennessee.
Carson Wentz and the Colts face the Titans (Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire)
Here, we’ll track Week 8 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 8 Pick’em Updates
We will continue to add to this post until Sunday of NFL Week 8, so check back for daily updates. Here’s what’s available now:
- Sunday 10/31: Reviewing the Week 8 Dynamics Entering Sunday
- Saturday 10/30: College Value Picks for Saturday
- Friday 10/29: Uncertainty Over Dak Prescott’s Status Pushes Vikings to Favorite
- Thursday 10/28: Arizona-Green Bay, Plus Colts Move to Favorites
- Wednesday 10/27: Week 8 Has Some Extremely Popular ATS Favorites
- Tuesday 10/26: Week 8 Early Value Picks Outlook
- Tuesday 10/26: Week 7 Results Summary
- FYI: Important Notes About Picks We Highlight
- FYI: About Our Pick’em Pool Advice
Week 8 Early Value Picks Outlook
Here’s our early look at some potential value plays in NFL pick’em pools for Week 8.
Indianapolis Colts (vs. Tennessee Titans)
TR Win Odds: 48%
The Tennessee Titans are coming off consecutive impressive wins versus the Bills and Chiefs. They already beat the Colts this year, too. So while the objective win odds have this closer to an even game, the public is going heavily on Tennessee here.
By picking the Colts, you’re getting plenty of pot-odds value in weekly contests and some diversity from your opponents in season-long pools in what is basically a toss-up.
San Francisco 49ers (at Chicago Bears)
TR Win Odds: 64%
It feels like open season in the media on San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers fell to 2-4 with their loss to the Colts on Sunday Night Football and have now lost four straight games.
Chicago also looked terrible last week, but its loss to Tampa Bay didn’t happen in prime time.
You’re getting the better team as a favorite here, while the public is more evenly split. That makes San Francisco a solid value play this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars (at Seattle Seahawks)
TR Win Odds: 43%
The public may not fully realize how awful Seattle has looked on offense with Geno Smith at quarterback. After all, the Seahawks have been in two tight games, albeit mostly through some smoke and mirrors.
Seattle’s offensive woes make this game much tighter than you might think. Jacksonville is coming off its first win and then a bye week.
There are several good-value upset options this week (Carolina, Minnesota, and maybe even New Orleans in large contests), and we’ll see where the line moves end up on all of those. But for now, Jacksonville looks like the best upset option when it comes to balancing risk and popularity.
Arizona Cardinals (vs. Green Bay Packers)
TR Win Odds: 71%
Seventeen teams were favored by between 5.5 and 6.5 points in the first seven weeks. The average pick popularity for that group is 91 percent. New Orleans last week against Seattle was the only other one with a pick popularity under 83 percent.
This one may be due to the line move based on COVID-19 news. Packers star WR Davante Adams is among those on the Green Bay roster who could miss the game.
This game opened with Arizona favored by 3.5 points, but it has since jumped to the current spread. The Cardinals’ popularity number may rise if the public catches on, but that’s no guarantee by Thursday.
As another example of the value on Arizona here, the two teams closest in spread to this one are the Chargers (89 percent popularity) and the Bucs (93 percent popularity). Both of those teams are slightly under the Cardinals in win odds right now.
Philadelphia Eagles (at Detroit Lions)
TR Win Odds: 59%
The Eagles are coming off a disappointing performance at Las Vegas, while the Lions again kept it close against a good team as a big underdog.
But right now, you are getting enough value here—and the Eagles are a big enough favorite—that sticking with them is the sharp move.
As another indication, three teams favored by less than the Eagles are currently all getting around 80 percent pick popularity (Dallas, Atlanta, and Tennessee).
Week 7 Results Summary
The biggest favorites again had a good week, as the five teams favored by a touchdown or more went 5-0 straight up and 4-1 ATS. Meanwhile, there was plenty of chaos in the other games, where the favored teams had a losing record (3-4).
Those games likely decided pool standings for the week.
In game-winner pools, the public averaged 8.6 wins in Week 7. The five biggest favorites accounted for well over half those victories, as 97 percent or more of the public picked all of those teams. The biggest loss for the public was the Giants’ victory over Carolina, as only 11 percent of entries picked the Giants.
Our season-long picks again came in slightly above the public average (9.0 wins), with the biggest result being Atlanta over Miami. All of our “Max Profit” recommendations were on the favored Falcons, while the public was more evenly split.
The public averaged 6.4 wins out of 13 in spread pools.
Week 7 did not feature many extreme public popular picks. The Panthers-Giants game was the one in which the public picked one side over 75 percent. The Giants winning that one was the biggest loss for the public and the primary reason they ended slightly under .500 for the week.
Our season-prize spread picks had an almost identical average to the public in Week 7, while the weekly picks were slightly above the public. The Washington-Green Bay result hurt the most, and there’s a good chance that a lot of entries were getting positive line value on that one, as the line had shifted from an early 9.5 point spread to 8.5 points by closing.
Meanwhile, the Bengals’ outright win and the Lions covering were two of the biggest results in favor of our spread picks, as games where almost all our recommendations were on those sides.
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.
Week 8 Has Some Extremely Popular ATS Favorites
There are some extremely popular spread picks this week, including some of the most popular public picks of the year.
- Cincinnati is being picked by 86 percent of spread pool participants early on. We have seen that line now move to Bengals -10.5 after opening at -10.
- Tampa Bay is the choice of 80 percent of the public, and that line has moved from the Bucs -5 to -5.5.
- Buffalo (-13.5) is being picked 77 percent of the time.
- The Los Angeles Rams (-14.5) have 75 percent pick popularity.
Teams being picked by 75 percent of the public or more are 4-10 ATS so far in 2021.
Arizona-Green Bay, Plus Colts Move to Favorites
Tonight’s Arizona-Green Bay game should be a good one, featuring teams that are 7-0 and 6-1.
The last time Green Bay played in Arizona was in the playoffs after the 2015 season. Aaron Rodgers threw a game-tying Hail Mary at the end of regulation, only for the Cardinals to win in overtime.
Let’s hope we get as much entertainment tonight.
Green Bay will be without star WR Davante Adams and fellow WR Allen Lazard because they have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The point spread has shot up to 6.5 points for Arizona as a result, and 80 percent of the public is now picking the Cardinals.
You will likely see the Cardinals as the recommendation in all game-winner pools. The spread-pool picks may depend on the specific line number used in each pool (as some may have the Cardinals as a smaller favorite, providing line value).
Meanwhile, in other news, the Indianapolis Colts have shifted from being a one-point home underdog to now being favored (-1.5). With 81 percent of the public picking the Titans, that makes the Colts a high-value play this week.
Uncertainty Over Dak Prescott’s Status Pushes Vikings to Favorite
Dak Prescott continues to recover from a calf injury that may be related to the broken ankle he suffered last year. His status for Sunday Night Football remains up in the air, and the betting market has responded with the line moving several points in the Vikings’ favor.
Minnesota was a slight home underdog, but the point spread moved four points. Minnesota is now favored by 2.5.
The Vikings now have 54 percent chance of winning, but only 21 percent of pool participants are picking them right now. That number should shift some based on the news, but it likely won’t catch all the way up. Minnesota should be a value-favorite play if Prescott sits.
The four-point shift likely doesn’t reflect the full adjustment for Prescott. If he does miss the game, expect it to move a few more points in Minnesota’s favor.
College Value Picks for Saturday
Here are some value picks for your college football Saturday.
- Fresno State (-1) at San Diego State (14% popularity)
- Wisconsin (-3) vs. Iowa (29% popularity)
- Mississippi State (-1.5) vs. Kentucky (21% popularity)
- Auburn (-3) vs. Ole Miss (41% popularity)
- Rutgers (-1.5) at Illinois (41% popularity)
- Washington (+2.5) at Stanford (13% popularity)
- North Carolina (+4) at Notre Dame (7% popularity)
- Virginia (+2.5) at BYU (20% popularity)
- Houston (PK) vs. SMU (24% popularity)
- California (+1.5) vs. Oregon State (22% popularity)
We also have the big rivalry game between Michigan and Michigan State, both of whom are undefeated. Michigan is favored by 4, with 65 percent win odds. With the pick popularity at 68 percent, the value play is to stay on the favored Wolverines, who aren’t prohibitively popular in this one.
Reviewing The Week 8 Dynamics Entering Sunday
Of the 14 remaining games in Week 8, four of them feature teams favored by double digits. But the other 10 are all fairly close matchups, with the current spreads at 4.5 points or fewer.
The public pick rates for those games are quite varied, making for a week with some extreme value swings. Our picks are likely to be more distinct from the public on these closer matchups.
Public Disagrees With Two Favorites to an Extreme Degree
Two of those 10 smaller favorites are very unpopular.
Indianapolis was a slight underdog early in the week, but it is now favored by 2.5 points. However, only 21 percent of the public is on the Colts.
Meanwhile, Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott will be a game-time decision for Sunday Night Football. That doesn’t help much if you have to submit picks before kickoff, but the safer and higher-value course is to take Minnesota. The Vikings have moved to being favored by 3 points with the concerns over Prescott, but only 23 percent of the public is on Minnesota.
There are two other value favorites this week:
- San Francisco at Chicago, 66% win odds and 65% popularity
- Philadelphia at Detroit, 64% win odds and 57% popularity
Several Strong Upset Values
On the flip side, several modest favorites (all with win odds under 67%) are extremely popular, making an upset play on the underdog attractive in weekly contests. Those include:
- Carolina at Atlanta, 45% win odds and 18% popularity
- New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay, 39% win odds and 8% popularity
- Jacksonville at Seattle, 40% win odds and 14% popularity
- New England at LA Chargers, 35% win odds and 12% popularity
Because two high-leverage favorites are already unpopular, you may not see all these underdogs in your weekly recommendations depending on your pool size, but all are candidates.
Several big spreads are drawing high pick popularity. The Bengals (85% popularity) are drawing the highest pick rate in spread pools so far in 2021. The Rams and Bills are also double-digit favorites getting over 75% pick popularity ATS.
The final game drawing high popularity is Tampa Bay against New Orleans. The line for that one is down to -4.5, but it could be at -5 or -5.5 in several spread pools if lines were set early in the week. New Orleans is also the top spread value play this week, according to our models.
Other spread plays that show up as values in our models are Jacksonville and Carolina, in addition unpopular underdogs Houston and Miami.