Week 3 of the NFL season features two of the larger favorites we have seen in quite some time, as the New England Patriots (vs. the Jets) and the Dallas Cowboys (vs. the Dolphins) are both favored by over 20 points in the betting markets.

You don’t need us to tell you which way to pick in those two games. It’s the other matchups in Week 3 where you need to look for value, and identify the teams being underrated and overrated by your pick’em contest opponents.

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. Otherwise, read on to find out about the Week 3 picks that need to be on your radar screen.

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Good & Bad Week 3 Value Picks In NFL Office Pools

Below are three different pairs of 2019 Week 3 teams, plus a bonus head-to-head toss-up game. The teams in each pair are both favored to win or lose by a similar margin, but one option in each pair will vault you higher up the pool standings if you get it right. Why? Because it’s a much less popular pick in Week 3 NFL pick’em contests.

Keep in mind that we’re not saying you should pick against all the “worse 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 “better value” team to get upset, then pump your mental brakes and reconsider. In comparison, picking the “worse value” team to lose would be a much better strategy. The risk is similar, but the reward will be greater if you get it right.

And if you’re only gunning for weekly prizes and could care less about an end of season prize in your pick’em contest, then picking one or more of the “worse value” teams to get upset could make a lot of sense.

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.

Better Value: Minnesota Vikings (vs. Oakland)
Worse Value: Green Bay Packers (vs. Denver)

When you get past the Cowboys and Patriots in Week 3, there are a group of teams favored by around a touchdown. The pick popularity is not wildly different on any of them this week, as the public consistently tends to pick bigger favorites at a very high rate. However, there are some modest differences.

Coming off a 2-0 start, Green Bay is being picked by 97% of public pool entries nationwide, while Minnesota, coming off a loss to Green Bay, is only being selected by 91% of entries. The Vikings, though, are the more likely team to win according to both our models and the betting markets. By point spreads, Minnesota is a 9.5-point favorite while Green Bay is only an 8-point favorite.

While the difference in pick popularity may not seem very big (and by the numbers, both teams are technically being overrated by the public), think of it this way. Despite Oakland having a worse chance to upset Minnesota than Denver does to upset Green Bay, about three times as many people are picking Oakland than Denver.

You’re almost certainly better off picking both of the favorites here in most types of pools, but If you do get the itch to pick a big upset in either of these games, don’t make it Oakland. 

Better Value: LA Chargers (vs. Houston)
Worse Value: LA Rams (at Cleveland)

Last week, we highlighted the differences between the Rams and Chargers, showing that the Rams were more fairly valued against the Saints, while the Chargers were overly popular going to Detroit. In Week 3, the roles are now reversed, thanks in large part to the Chargers’ upset loss and the Rams’ convincing win.

The Chargers and Rams again have similar win odds and are both 3-point favorites in the betting markets, though our models make the Chargers the slightly more likely team to win, with about 62% win odds at home vs. the Rams’ 57% win odds on the road.

Nevertheless, the public is going with the Rams a whopping 90% of the time, while selecting the Chargers only 64% of the time. That makes Houston nearly four times as popular an upset pick this week than Cleveland.

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Recency bias is almost certainly having an impact on pick popularity here, as well as other second-order factors like the public significantly underrating the Colts (who took the Chargers to OT in Week 1), or reading a bit too much into the Chargers’ close upset loss last week, or not realizing that the Rams didn’t face Saints QB Drew Brees for a good portion of last week’s game, after Brees left the game with an injury.

In most season-long pools, taking both the favorites here probably makes sense. But in formats like single-week pools where pick differentiation is more important, the Browns are absolutely worth consideration.

Better Value: Carolina Panthers (at Arizona)
Worse Value: Tennessee Titans (at Jacksonville)

Tennessee and Carolina both go on the road this week to face rookie quarterbacks. The Panthers face the No. 1 overall pick for Arizona, Kyler Murray. The Titans will try to shut down “Boogie Nights” extra Gardner Minshew at quarterback for Jacksonville. 

Both road teams have roughly similar win odds, with the Panthers are currently the larger favorite in the betting market, at 2.5 points compared to 1.5 points for Tennessee.

However, the public is picking the Panthers in less than half of pool entries, while taking the Titans to win 66% of the time. That difference is likely due at least in part to Carolina getting upset in primetime by Tampa Bay, while Tennessee’s home loss to Indianapolis was buried within the Sunday afternoon schedule.

It also likely reflects some public pessimism regarding Cam Newton, whose status is still undetermined for this week. But that information is publicly known and priced into the point spread. If Cam was perfectly healthy and had looked awesome last week, the Carolina point spread would be even higher.

Jacksonville, meanwhile, may not be a great play in most season-prize pools but is a legitimate value gamble consideration in weekly prize pools as a highly underrated underdog with close to a 50/50 shot to win.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Based on the latest news, it now appears that Carolina may end up as a slight underdog against Arizona in the betting markets; the game was still “off the board” at most sports books at post time. In that case, Carolina may still be at least slightly underrated, but not nearly as strong a value pick as if they were the favorite. So you’ll need to keep an eye on this one.

Toss-Up Call: Indianapolis or Atlanta?

Our bonus Week 3 game features the Colts at home versus Atlanta. At post time, the Colts were the very slight (1.5-point) favorite in this one in the betting markets, but you would not guess it by their pick popularity of only 28%.

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So far this year, the public has had a love-hate relationship with the Falcons, while generally underrating the Colts. In Week 1, we highlighted the Minnesota Vikings as a fairly priced favorite where you did not want to pick the Atlanta upset. Last week, though, Atlanta ended up being an unpopular toss-up pick against the Eagles at home. Only 23% of the public sided with Atlanta in Week 2, though the point spread never favored Philadelphia by more than 2 points.

Indianapolis, meanwhile, has been very unpopular with the public so far with Jacoby Brissett playing quarterback. The Colts were selected only 8% of the time in Week 1, losing in overtime to the Chargers, and were then picked by only 13% of the public last week while upsetting Tennessee. For team close to being 2-0 right now, the Colts have been absurdly unpopular in pick’em contests.

In a game that’s close to 50/50, you generally are better off taking the less popular team. This game is a bit of a quirk, as our models are less optimistic about the Colts’ odds to win than the betting markets are. But the bigger your pool gets and the more it rewards differentiation, the more you should be leaning Indy.

Which Of These NFL Week 3 Picks Should You Make?

Once you know the best value opportunities of Week 3, 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 3 pick strategy, and it takes a lot of data and math to get to the right answer.

Our Football Pick’em Picks product recommends the best weekly picks for your pool based on all these strategy factors. You answer a few quick questions about your pool, and it gives you the weekly pick sheet that will maximize 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 the product a try for free for NFL Week 3:

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FantasyFootballers readers can get a free 3-day premium trial to TeamRankings, including all game predictions plus customized picks for your NFL survivor pools and pick’em contests. Get Picks Now

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