The first week of the NFL season gave us plenty of close calls and exciting finishes, but in the end, there were very few actual upsets.
Week 2 gets interesting, though, because it features more games where the point spread is close. Based on spreads, nine games in Week 2 are expected to be decided by a field goal or less, compared to only five such games a week ago.
Couple that dynamic with the typical public overreactions that happen after just one game, and it presents some great value opportunities for your Week 2 picks in pick’em pools.
(For more background on how to pick for value and maximize your edge in NFL pick’em contests, see our two-part series on NFL office pool strategy.)
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Recap Of Last Week’s Pick Analysis
Before we get to this week’s highlights, let’s do a quick recap of the teams we highlighted in Week 1. To recap, we compared some team pairings at similar spreads to identify which team provided more value in NFL picking contests.
First, we noted that the Patriots were being selected less frequently than the Browns were in pick’em pools last week — pointing out how strange it seemed that the defending Super Bowl champs were somehow a less popular pick than a franchise that has one playoff appearance in the last 25 years. As it turns out, the Browns didn’t handle the “heavier favorite” role well and the Pats romped, so thumbs up here.
Second, we pointed out that public was picking the Chiefs as if KC was better than a touchdown favorite on the road at Jacksonville, yet the Kansas City line was only -3.5. In comparison, the Bears provided more upside as a less popular pick with similar risk. Well, the Chiefs’ offense looked incredible and quarterback Nick Foles got hurt for Jacksonville. As for the Bears’ offense, well, what’s a word for “less than incredible”? We take a thumbs down on this one.
Finally, we compared the Lions and the Rams as two slight road favorites with greatly differing popularity in pick’em pools. Both teams looked on target for wins until the Lions decided to recreate the last sixty years of their existence in the final quarter of the game, turning a 24-6 late lead into an overtime tie. The Rams got a challenge from Carolina but eventually prevailed with a 3-point win. There wasn’t a huge impact either way on these games; if you decided to take some extra risk and pick Carolina as an upset, it was a solid shot.
Good & Bad Week 2 Value Picks In NFL Office Pools
Below are three different pairs of 2019 Week 2 teams. The teams in each pair are both favored to win or lose by a similar margin, but one of them will vault you higher up the pool standings if you get it right. Why? Because it’s a much less popular pick in Week 2 NFL pick’em contests.
Note that we’re not saying you should pick against all the “lower value” teams we identify in each pair below — especially if they are favored to win. In season-long pick’em pools especially, you need to be careful not to get too risky with your picks.
But if you find yourself wanting to pick the “higher value” team to get upset, then pump your mental brakes and reconsider. In comparison, picking the lower value team to lose would be a much better strategy. And if you’re only gunning for weekly prizes and could care less about an end of season prize, then picking one or more of these lower value teams to get upset could make a lot of sense. (We explain why in our NFL office pool strategy series.)
Note: Win odds and estimated national pick popularity data below may change between publication time and kickoff time. If you want to see the latest numbers, our product updates multiple times per day.
Pittsburgh (vs. Seattle) OR Tennessee (vs. Indianapolis)
This pair of games have classic Week 2 overreaction potential when it comes to the general public. Pittsburgh is coming off a 30-point loss to New England. Tennessee is coming off a 30-point win over Cleveland. It’s not completely surprising, then, that only 57% of the public is picking the Steelers to win, while 87% are going with the Titans.
The kicker is that Pittsburgh is actually a 4-point favorite this week in the betting markets, while Tennessee is only favored by 3 points.
Tennessee relied on a slew of late turnovers to blow out the Browns, but it was a close game with less than 18 minutes left. The Browns’ starting left tackle was ejected in the first half and his backup got hurt soon after, and Cleveland had the second-most penalty yards in a game since 2000. In other words, there are lots of reasons to think that Tennessee had a good game, but not the dominant performance that the scoreline suggests.
And yeah, the Steelers looked horrid. But Seattle didn’t exactly bathe themselves in glory either, allowing the Bengals to march up and down the field en route to a pretty lucky 1-point win at home. But due to Sunday Night Football, more of the public watched the Steelers suck than watched Seattle suck.
The public also seems to be discounting that the Colts looked respectable in Week 1 in the first game without Andrew Luck, and took the Chargers to overtime.
In most season-long pools it makes sense to take both favorites here, but Pittsburgh is probably worth a confidence point boost due to its relative value as a solid favorite underrated by the public.
Los Angeles Rams (vs. New Orleans) OR Los Angeles Chargers (at Detroit)
Hey, we get to write about the Rams and Lions again! Maybe we will just make this a weekly feature. But this week, it is the Rams being (relatively) discounted, while the other LA team, going on the road to Detroit, is being overrated by the public.
In a vacuum, the Rams and Saints are closer in quality than the Chargers and Lions. But NFL games aren’t played in a vacuum. They are played in actual stadiums with large home crowds (present Chargers company excluded) and home-field advantage.
So the Rams get to play at home, while the Chargers have to travel east to Detroit, and as a result, both are currently favored by 2.5 points. The public, though, is picking the Rams only 54% of the time, while taking the Chargers to beat Detroit a whopping 90% of the time. That’s a pretty crazy discrepancy for two teams equally likely to win.
So taking the Rams here is a great way to both select the favorite and get them when a large chunk of the pool is going the opposite way. Conversely, if you opt to go upset pick with the Lions, which may make sense in larger pools with big weekly prizes, you’d get fantastic score differentiation if they win, because very few other entries will have Detroit.
Cincinnati (vs. San Francisco) OR Philadelphia (at Atlanta)
Cincinnati and Philadelphia are our last pair of (very slight) favorites to discuss. At post time, both these teams were favored by two points in the betting markets.
The public, though, is heavily on the Eagles, while still treating the Bengals as the underdog at home. The Eagles are being selected by 77% of pick’em pool entries nationwide, while the Bengals are being picked in only 46% of entries.
Cincinnati gained almost 200 more yards than Seattle in losing a 1-point game. If you covered up the team names and just looked at the numbers, you’d probably assume that a plucky underdog managed to barely win that matchup despite being outgunned in many key stat categories. Instead, it was favorite Seattle that seems to have gotten lucky.
San Francisco, meanwhile, put up an impressive-looking 14-point road win, but nearly half their points came off Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston throwing two pick-sixes.
In the other game, the public may have soured on Atlanta this week after their poor offensive showing in Week 1 at Minnesota. But the Falcons were done in by a punt block and three early turnovers, with all three fumbles in the game going Minnesota’s way (two fumbles by Minnesota and one by Atlanta were all recovered by the Vikings).
So this week, the Bengals deserve extra attention as an underrated favorite, while docking Philadelphia in your confidence points (or even going with the Atlanta upset in pools that reward more risk-taking) could be a wise move.
Which Of These NFL Week 2 Picks Should You Make?
Once you know the best value opportunities of Week 2, you can increase your odds to win your pool by making educated gambles on them. There are a lot of potential decisions to make, though, and not all of them will make sense for your specific pool.
Factors like your pool’s size, scoring system, prize structure, and even your current position in the pool standings should all weigh into your Week 2 pick strategy, and it takes a lot of data and math to get to the right answer.
Years ago, we decided to build technology to do all the heavy lifting. Our Football Pick’em Picks product recommends the best weekly picks for your pool based on all the strategic factors that matter. You answer a few quick questions about your pool, and it constructs the weekly pick sheet that maximizes your edge.
Some proof of the real-world results: last year 80% of our subscribers reporting winning a prize in football pick’em pool. We invite you to give it a try for free for NFL Week 2.
Good luck in your NFL pick’em contests and office pools this week!
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FantasyFootballers readers can get free premium access to TeamRankings for NFL Week 2, including all game predictions plus picks for your NFL pick’em contests and survivor pools: Get Free Week 2 Picks