Week 3 Picks For NFL Pick'em Contests

Sep 18, 2019
Week 3 Picks For NFL Pick'em Contests

This article was written by TeamRankings

Will NFL Week 3 produce the number of upsets we saw last week when over half of the games were decided by just one score? It was also a good week when it came to looking for value picks based on how the public was leaning.

We highlighted five teams last week, from small favorites to underdogs, that were relatively unpopular with the public in pick'em contests. Based on their respective win odds, you would have expected a total of 2.6 wins from that group, but three wins happened (Buffalo, Atlanta, and Detroit) vs. two losses (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati). On balance, that's a fantastic result.

Put another way, based on public pick popularity, the average pick'em contest player got less than two wins out of the five games we highlighted last week. Only 10% of the public were on Detroit; 23% on Atlanta and less than 50% picked Buffalo. If your pool's picking trends reflected national averages, you would have gained more than half a win on your opponents from these five games alone, even going just 3-2.

Now, let's take a look at where the value lies in NFL Week 3 picks for pick'em contests and office pools

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Week 3 Value Picks For NFL Pick'em Contests

Below are four teams that float to the top of our "simple value screen" for 2019 NFL Week 3. As a reminder, we are mainly looking at two factors (a team’s chance of winning and how popular it is as a pick), and adding up their weekly rank in each category.

Keep in mind we are not blindly recommending you make all of the picks below—the upset picks especially. (Though it's worth noting that Week 3 is thinner on value than others, so you would likely need to take relatively more risk to differentiate your picks from the public this week, compared to last week.)

What we are saying is that the teams below have some of the more compelling risk vs. reward profiles in NFL Week 3 pick'em contests. You should certainly think twice about picking against favorites because there are much better upset opportunities elsewhere. If your pool's format rewards taking more risk (e.g. a single-week pool with lots of entries in it) underdogs deserve strong consideration as well.

(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.)

No. 1: Cleveland Browns (vs. LA Rams)

Win Odds: 42% (20th-best in Week 3)

Pick Popularity: 10% (tied for fifth-lowest in Week 3)

Maybe the public still has visions of Cleveland’s home blowout defeat in Week 1 in their minds (which looked worse than it actually was), or maybe they are giving the Rams too much credit for a big win over a Saints team that lost Drew Brees in the game.

Whatever the reason, the Browns are only a 3-point underdog at home in this AFC-NFC matchup, and yet they are being picked by only 10% of the public.

So far in 2019, there have been seven underdogs that have had a pick popularity at least 25% below their projected win odds. Those teams are 5-2 straight up so far and went 4-0 last week (Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay)—though it's worth noting the Rams were one of the two wins for the favorites (at Carolina in Week 1).

While picking the upset here is definitely not the play in every pool, the very low popularity figure does make the Browns an attractive option in weekly contests.

No. 2: Indianapolis Colts (vs. Atlanta)

Win Odds: 52% (16th-best in Week 3)

Pick Popularity: 28% (13th-lowest in Week 3)

Indianapolis presents a near-auto pick situation in pick’em pools, as long as the Colts' win odds remain north of 50%. If you can get a (slight) favorite that is this unpopular, it’s like getting better than 50/50 payout odds on a coin flip. Both our models and the betting markets see this game as close to even, but the public is treating the Colts more like a 6-point underdog.

So far this year, the public has had a love-hate relationship with the Falcons, while generally underrating the Colts. We highlighted the Minnesota Vikings against Atlanta in Week 1 as a fairly priced favorite where you did not want to pick the Atlanta upset. Atlanta, however, looked good as an unpopular toss-up against the Eagles at home last week. (Only 23% of the public sided with Atlanta last week, though the point spread never moved above two points in either direction.)

Indianapolis, meanwhile, has been extremely unpopular with the public so far with Jacoby Brissett playing quarterback in place of the retired Andrew Luck. The Colts were selected only 8% of the time in Week 1 (and lost in overtime to the Chargers) and were picked 13% of the time last week while winning at Tennessee. That's obviously gone up somewhat in Week 3, but it's reasonable to think the public still isn't giving the Colts enough credit and is being at least a bit biased by Atlanta's big Sunday Night Football upset of Philadelphia in Week 2.

No. 3: Carolina Panthers (at Arizona)

Win Odds: 56% (14th-best in Week 3)

Pick Popularity: 48% (16th lowest in Week 3)

This game is one to keep an eye on given Carolina QB Cam Newton's evolving injury status, but that's also very public information, and the Panthers are still 2.5-point favorites in the betting markets despite that news. That concern, though, has likely caused their pick popularity to drop below 50%.

Recency bias is a value picker's best friend, and after watching Carolina get upset by Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football last week, and seeing an injury situation at QB, it's no big surprise the Panthers are not public darlings in Week 3. However, there's a good argument to be made that the loss to Tampa Bay was a fluky one. Carolina had more yards, more first downs, a minus-one turnover margin, didn't convert several 4th-and-1 opportunities and performed atrociously in the red zone, generating all of its points from four field goals and a safety.

That level of performance is unlikely to repeat itself. With 56% win odds and 48% pick popularity that was trending downward early in the week, Carolina is being underrated here, at least until any other news breaks about Cam Newton. As it stands, there are much better upset picks on the Week 3 board than the Cardinals.

No. 4: Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Houston)

Win Odds: 62% (12th-best in Week 3)

Pick Popularity: 64% (15th-highest in Week 3)

The Chargers return home to face the Texans after getting upset by the Detroit Lions. The Texans, meanwhile, have had two of the most exciting finishes in the NFL this year, losing in dramatic fashion at New Orleans and holding on against Jacksonville at home in the final minute.

The Chargers are a moderate 3.5-point favorite at home, and 64% of the public is selecting them, pretty much right in line with their win odds of 62%. After being selected by over 90% of pick'em pool entries in each of the first two weeks, the Chargers aren’t nearly as overvalued in Week 3, presumably after the public has gotten a bit spooked by two underperformances.

In comparison, the next two closest favorites to Los Angeles are the Rams and Chicago, and those teams are being selected 90% and 84% of the time in pick'em contests, respectively. So if you are looking for upset plays, going Houston here has way less upside than picking another similarly risky team like Cleveland.

Which Of These NFL Week 3 Picks Should You Make?

Once you know the best value opportunities of Week 3, you can often increase your odds to win your NFL pick'em pool by making some educated gambles on them.

Perhaps you bump up the number of confidence points you assign to a pick like the Chargers, or maybe you take even more risk on an upset pick like Cleveland. But there are a lot of potential decisions to make, and not all of them will make sense for your specific pool.

FREE TRIAL: 4for4 readers can get a free three-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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