Welcome to your weekly dose of expert advice and analysis for making your Week 4 NFL picks. At TeamRankings.com, we offer specific tips for pick ’em pools, survivor leagues, and other types of football picks scenarios. Check out our website to see everything we offer and to learn more about using a numbers-driven approach to win football pools.
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NFL pick ’em advice, strategy
We’ve tested hundreds of theories and simulated millions of football pools, and there’s one key finding that rises above the rest. The biggest and most dependable advantage you can exploit in an NFL football pool doesn’t come from luck or from being an expert on NFL teams and matchups. Those things help, but luck is fleeting and very few human “experts” consistently out-predict the Vegas lines.
Understanding the context and rules of your pool (e.g. the number of entries, the scoring system, and the prize structure) and anticipating how your opponents are likely to fill out their pick sheets is key to playing an NFL pool like a pro. With that knowledge, you can evaluate your picks on a risk vs. reward basis and start to apply game theory to get an edge. With the right data, you can craft a picking strategy that exploits the biases of your opponents and ensures that you’re always making the smartest gambles.
Recap of last week’s advice
In last week’s column, we focused on pick ’em pool advice for NFL Week 3. Here’s how things ended up:
- Carolina vs. New Orleans. The public had its day with this game, and the somewhat “trendy upset pick” we typically encourage avoiding was a winner as New Orleans romped. Our models actually liked New Orleans’ chances more than the Vegas line implied, as Saints plus-five was our top-rated point spread pick of the week. But with win odds in the 35 percent range, New Orleans just looked like too much of a risk in pick ’em pools compared to other alternative upset plays. The upset pick that looked much better to us from a value perspective also won, though, so that was good (keep reading).
- New England vs. Houston. It looked silly to take a big risk on Houston if you wanted to make a crazy upset pick, and we advised looking at the Jets over the Dolphins instead. That advice ended up being a great call, but wow, Houston almost pulled off the highly improbable here. Crazy stat: Coming into this game, Tom Brady was 37-3 (92.5 percent) in games during the first half of the season (Weeks 1-8) when New England was favored by at least a touchdown. That’s a much higher winning percentage than implied by the Vegas lines, so Brady either just demonstrated why he’s such a stud or he’s pretty darn lucky.
- Tennessee vs. Seattle. Picking Tennessee qualified as one of those “close to a no brainer” calls for pick ’em pools. The Titans were the favored team yet the majority of pool players were picking the Seahawks, so you had both risk and reward on your side if you picked Tennessee. Thankfully, the Titans delivered a nice win that provided valuable differentiation from pool opponents.
- Indianapolis vs. Cleveland. From both a risk and value perspective, Cleveland looked like the better pick earlier in the week, but betting lines shifted late and the Colts closed as a one-point favorite. At 37 percent pick popularity, the Browns were still being underrated by the public, but the risk was higher. Cleveland ended up losing the turnover battle 3-1 and dropping a close one, which is a frustrating way to go.
- Buffalo vs. Denver. If you had the guts to take Buffalo after we pointed out just how criminally the public was underrating the Bills’ chances to upset Denver, pat yourself on the back. You just scored points that 95 percent of your opponents didn’t score, and those opportunities don’t come along often. We wouldn’t have advised this pick for all pick ’em pools, especially season-long ones, but it was probably the “educated bet of the season” (so far) in terms of winning a weekly pool prize.
Week 4 NFL Picks: Early expert predictions, analysis
Here are some Week 4 games you should be paying attention to as you finalize your strategy for pick ’em and confidence pools.
As always, we remind you that betting line movement and shifts in public picking trends continue right up until kickoff, thus changing the Week 4 landscape. Also, your optimal pick strategy depends on the characteristics of your specific pool.
For customized advice based on the latest matchup data, we update our Football Pool Picks product multiple times per day.
Bigger Favorite At A Reasonable Price
Seattle vs. Indianapolis. Seattle is the biggest favorite of Week 4 by a significant margin, and in the early going betting lines have shifted in favor of the Seahawks. So, we’d be very careful about reading too much into “momentum” here after Seattle’s Week 3 loss and Indy’s Week 3 win. If you want to get crazy with an upset pick, there are other underdogs on the board with a much better chance to win than the Colts that are being picked at similar rates by the public.
Smaller Favorite At A Reasonable Price
Denver vs. Oakland. Recency bias is most certainly a thing, and the public appears to have quickly soured on the Broncos after their upset loss at Buffalo. Funny enough, the Raiders actually underperformed Vegas expectations by a wider margin last week in their loss at Washington. Denver is only a three-point favorite right now, so it could easily lose this game, but the Broncos currently have the lowest public pick percentage of all Week 4 favorites of three points or more. Consequently, there are several better upset pick candidates out there than Oakland.
Smaller Favorites With Value
LA Chargers vs. Philadelphia. It’s important to watch how the betting odds trend on this game, but as of Wednesday morning, the Chargers were holding steady as a one-point favorite while being picked by less than 35 percent of the public. It’s pretty much a coin-flip game, so if the line holds or only moves another point against LA, you’re getting more value for the same price (i.e. odds to win) with the Chargers.
There are a couple modest underdogs in Week 4 that look like good candidates for players looking to make an upset pick or two. Based on win odds, at least one upset is expected to come out of the two games below
New York Jets vs. Jacksonville. It’s yet another fade-the-recency-bias opportunity. After the Jaguars’ 44-7 stomping of formerly undefeated Baltimore in London last week, almost 90 percent of the public is picking Jacksonville to win this game. That’s despite this matchup being the Jaguars’ second straight road game, and despite the Jets also outperforming expectations in Week 3. The bottom line is that the Jaguars are only around three-point favorites as of post time, yet the public is picking them at the same rate as they typically pick a six- or seven-point favorite. The Jets have the value.
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh. The good news for Baltimore is that Joe Flacco almost certainly can’t get much worse than he was last week in London. Teams have fluky bad games now and then, and on the season, the Ravens have outperformed expectations in two of three games while the Steelers have outperformed expectations in only one game. As a three-point favorite, Pittsburgh has around 60-percent win odds. However, close to 80 percent of the public is picking Pittsburgh, so Baltimore is significantly underrated for a team that has a legitimate shot to win.
Early Week 4 NFL Picks Advice: Survivor Pools
Survivor pools, in which you only pick one team per week, demand much different strategy than pick ’em and confidence pools. Since you can only use a team once per season — and you get eliminated if your team loses — your best pick each week depends on a mix of three factors:
- Win odds (higher is better)
- Pick popularity (lower is better)
- Future value (lower is better)
Our NFL Survivor Picks product provides customized pick recommendations for all your survivor pools, based on the latest data like Vegas odds and public picking trends.
Last week, we came close total Survivor Armageddon. When the dust settled, nine of the 10 most popular survivor pool picks of the week either lost or came extremely close to losing. Only the 10th-most popular pick, Kansas City over the LA Chargers, had a relatively comfortable win, but KC was only picked by about 1.5 percent of survivor entries.
Nationwide, around 35 percent of survivor entries still alive after Week 2 were eliminated in Week 3, largely as a result of losses by Miami (13 percent picked) and Pittsburgh (12 percent picked). However, heroic last-minute comebacks by New England and Green Bay (both around 28 percent picked) averted wholesale disaster.
If you’ve even got one survivor entry still alive this week, consider yourself lucky. And if you were one of the rare souls who picked the Chiefs, our sympathies are with you. That was a horrifically bad beat you just suffered, and you probably should have won your survivor pool last week.
In Week 4, here are some of the factors you should be considering about the most popular survivor picks of the week so far:
Seattle (home vs. Indianapolis)
The Seahawks are currently the most popular Week 4 survivor pick by a wide margin, at around 37 percent picked. There’s a good reason for that, too. Similar to the Patriots situation last week, Vegas lines currently favor Seattle by 13, and the next safest team on the Week 4 slate, New England, is only favored by nine. So, your primary decision point with Seattle this week is about safety. The Seahawks have around 85-percent win odds, and your chance of elimination will increase significantly (by at least eight percent, according to our models) if you use any other team.
Atlanta (home vs. Bufffalo)
The Falcons are the second most popular survivor pick this week at 16 percent picked. According to Vegas odds at post time, Atlanta is also the third safest pick after Seattle and New England. Our models don’t agree, though, and are somewhat more optimistic about the Bills’ chances. Another negative is that Atlanta has more future value than Seattle. Our models project the Falcons with around 70-percent win odds in six future games, while the Seahawks only have three or four more games at that confidence level. On the plus side, 16-percent pick popularity is a lot more appealing than 37 percent for the Seahawks.
Green Bay (home vs. Chicago)
The Packers are currently drawing around 14 percent of Week 4 survivor picks and have a pick profile similar to Atlanta. Compared to the Falcons, Green Bay is about as likely to win (less likely according to Vegas, more likely according to our models), slightly less popular (good), but has more future value (bad). If you’re in a huge pool or a pool that requires multiple picks in later weeks, that higher future value becomes more of a concern. Also, this game is a divisional matchup, which spooks some survivor players.
Arizona (home vs. San Francisco)
We can’t imagine that anyone is picking the Cardinals in a survivor pool these days and feeling thrilled about it, but that’s often the case with future value-driven pick decisions. If you believe Vegas, Arizona’s win odds aren’t too far behind Atlanta and Green Bay this week. And depending on the size and rules of your pool, this might be the last week in which the Cardinals are a legitimate survivor pick option for you. At post time about seven percent of entries nationwide saw that as an opportunity too good to pass up. It’s also a divisional game.
Dallas (home vs. LA Rams)
The Cowboys are riskiest pick of the five most popular picks so far this week, with our models giving them about a 30 percent chance of losing to the Rams. Dallas also could have solid value as pick option in at least a couple more weeks, most proximally Week 7 at San Francisco, so that’s a consideration, as well. Your reward for stomaching the increased risk, though, is a pick popularity (seven percent) that, like Arizona, is also much lower than Seattle, Atlanta, or Green Bay.
Together, the five teams above are drawing over 80 percent of survivor pool entry picks this week, while no other individual team is currently being picked by more than six percent of entries. If you’re willing to follow the numbers and play to win, there are a couple solid pick options among those much less popular teams. Our NFL survivor pool picks product identifies them.
Finally, if you’re planning on betting some games this weekend, you can see what our multiple algorithmic models think about every game with our NFL betting picks.
Article source: http://www.sportingnews.com/fantasy/football/news/week-4-nfl-picks-predictions-expert-advice-pick-em-leagues-tips-confidence-points-survivor-suicide-pools-strategy-sleepers-favorites-underdogs-odds/1liegwinmu481ltp2bwe2yhpc