Week 7 Office Pool Advice: Top Picks For Your NFL Pick’em Contest
Week 7 is here, and several prominent playoff contenders have been taking their lumps in recent weeks. Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams both started off 3-0, but have dropped three straight games. The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers finished with the two best records in the AFC a year ago, but injuries have hampered both early, and they’ve each lost two home games over the last two weeks as big favorites. Meanwhile, the Saints continue to roll along, winners of four straight. How does the public feel about those teams? We’ll get to that shortly with our Week 7 pick analysis.
For more background on how to pick for value and maximize your edge in pick’em pools, see our two-part series on NFL office pool strategy. Otherwise, read on to find out about the NFL Week 7 picks that need to be on your radar screen.
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How Last Week’s Value Picks Did
Last week we highlighted three games. In two of them, the public was heavily picking one side (Seattle and New Orleans) and we suggested the Browns and Jaguars. In the other, the favorite (Carolina) was being picked slightly less frequently than the underdog. As it turned out, by game time, all three of the teams that the public was crazy about had actually moved to being the betting underdogs.
Our better value picks went 1-2, with Carolina beating Tampa Bay, while both the Saints and Seahawks won close games as extremely popular picks who were the underdogs by kickoff. But if we had to do it all over again (or more accurately, if a similar circumstance presented itself again) we would still employ the same strategy. Popular toss-up picks don’t win at a higher rate than unpopular ones over time. So far this season, in games where the point spread is less than a field goal, but the public is picking one team more than 70% of the time, the popular team is now 3-5. We offer that lest anyone thinks “well, of course, you shouldn’t have picked against those teams because public wisdom is smarter than the betting markets.”
Good & Bad Week 7 Value Picks In NFL Office Pools
Every week, we highlight three pairs of possible picks. Sometimes, we compare favorites from two different games who have similar odds of winning and discuss where the relative value lies. Sometimes, we compare two teams playing head-to-head in the same game, and discuss which is the better value option.
This week, two of the pick pairs are in head-to-head showdowns and the final comparison is of two similarly-sized favorites where the popularity numbers differ.
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: Chicago Bears
Worse Value: New Orleans Saints
New Orleans is a popular choice again this week, with 57% of the public picking the Saints to beat the Bears. It’s easy to see why. They have won four games in a row with Drew Brees out and Teddy Bridgewater in at quarterback. Chicago, meanwhile, lost their last game to Oakland and then has been on a bye.
But Chicago is a 3.5-point favorite, and our models give them a 63% chance of victory, so you are getting a team that is a solid favorite being picked at a rate more appropriate for an underdog.
The Saints have gone 5-0 in close (within 8 points) games this year. Maybe they can continue that hot streak in games that could go either way. But of the last 10 teams that started a season by going 4-0, 5-0, or 5-1 in close games through six weeks, they finished the rest of the year only 24-26 in close games. Record in close games tends to balance out over time and right now the public is overvaluing the Saints without Brees because of their record relative to their point differentials.
Better Value: Tennessee Titans
Worse Value: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have underwhelmed all season, and are coming off consecutive home losses to Denver and Pittsburgh. They stand at 2-4 with one of those victories coming against Miami. They lost starting center Mike Pouncey to a season-ending injury before the last game.
Tennessee is also 2-4, and are coming off getting shut out by Denver. The Titans still haven’t announced who will start at quarterback between Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill, but that determination probably will not affect the line much. Tennessee is a 2-point favorite with 55% implied win odds (our models put it at 53%).
It seems the public has not fully jumped off the Chargers despite how they have looked so far, and 58% of the public are taking them in this one, so you can once again get the betting favorite where the majority of the public is on the other side.
Better Value: Dallas Cowboys (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)
Worse Value: Los Angeles Rams (at Atlanta Falcons)
The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams both started the year 3-0, and have since lost three games in a row. Both are 3-point favorites this week, with Dallas hosting the Eagles and the Rams going to Atlanta.
But the public is heavily on the Rams (87%) compared to the Cowboys (61%). That means that picking favored Cowboys gains you more ground on your pool than picking the Rams if the favorite wins. You’ll want to keep an eye out for news on Dallas offensive tackle Tyron Smith because the offense hasn’t been the same with him out, but if he plays and the pick percentages generally stay where they are, Dallas is coming at a reasonably discounted value here at home.
Our models also think the Falcons have a better chance of winning of the two underdogs in these matchups, giving Atlanta a 47% chance of victory as the underdog, compared to 41% for Philadelphia.
Breaking Down the Value of Taking Favorites Who Aren’t Treated as Favorites
We’ve highlighted three games here, and two of them (the Bears and Titans) are home favorites that are being selected by the public less than half the time.
Could they both lose? Sure, we do not speak in absolute terms and do not make promises about specific game results. (We would never use the word “lock” for any NFL game).
But let’s talk through the value of taking them. If you multiply the odds of each winning, you get a 34% chance that the two favorites we highlighted go 2-0, compared to a 17% chance they go 0-2, based on the current game odds. So even though these are only slight favorites in the NFL, the chances of winning both is better than losing both, by about double.
When you add in that the public is picking both favorites 42% of the time, that means if they do go 2-0, you are more than one full game up on the average pick’em entry this week (since the average entry would be expected to get 0.84 correct in that case). Conversely, you would be down a similar amount to the public if they both lost. But since the odds of 2-0 are greater than 0-2 given their favorite status, that’s a chance worth taking.
The value picks won’t hit every week, but when they do, the outcome is very positive. Take NFL Week 2, for example. Out of our subscribers who received pick suggestions designed to win a weekly prize, 21.1% reported winning a prize that week, a rate more than four times larger than you would expect based on their reported pool sizes. In two key games, the Lions beat the Chargers and the Falcons beat the Eagles when both had pick popularity below 15%. Both were only one-point underdogs.
For the season, our subscribers have reported winning weekly prizes 2 times as frequently as you would expect, compared to an average entrant. Last year, 80% of our subscribers reported winning a prize in a football pick’em pool.
We invite you to give the product a try for free for NFL Week 7. Our NFL Pool Picks are customizable and offer advice for a variety of pool types, including confidence pools and those picking against the spread. (For example, among subscribers who received pick suggestions designed to win a weekly prize in an against-the-spread pool last week, 29% have reported winning).
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