Week 12 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2023)

Week 12 of the 2023 NFL season has us thankful for a full 16-game schedule and lots of Thanksgiving football game options.

The Chicago Bears will try to complete the NFC North upset this time (Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

Thanksgiving Week is here, and we have a full NFL schedule with three games on Thanksgiving, another on Friday, and then 12 more on Sunday and Monday.

In these columns, we explore strategies to maximize your edge in NFL and college football pick’em contests. We also provide some of the rationale behind picks potentially recommended by our premium product.

We plan to periodically update to this post through Sunday of Week 12, so check back for updates. Here’s what’s available now:

Tuesday 11/21

NFL Week 12 Early Value Picks

Here are some early Week 12 value picks in game-winner-based NFL pick’em contests we are seeing as of Tuesday.

Things are bound to change as kickoffs near, but it’s worth keeping an eye on them.

New England Patriots (at New York Giants)

Spread: -3
Win Odds: 60%
Pick Popularity: 41%

The Giants are coming off a big win over the Washington Commanders, to stop a bad run after losing both Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor at QB. But they did so with an unsustainable +6 turnover margin (largest of any game this year) and despite nine sacks on offense. Over the last two games, the Giants have 29 offensive first downs, and have allowed 60 (!!) by the opponent.

The Patriots are favored in this one, coming off their bye week. New England has been non-committal on naming a starting QB, but either way, the line shouldn’t change too much. With the majority of the public on the Giants, the value is going against the team that needed a lot of turnovers to win.

Atlanta Falcons (vs. New Orleans Saints)

Spread: PK
Win Odds: 54%
Pick Popularity: 42%

The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints are both coming off their bye weeks, and clash in this NFC South battle. Saints QB Derek Carr was injured in the last game, and is still in concussion protocol after the bye. The Saints will also be without CB Marshon Lattimore. This one is currently a pick’em, and our models favor Atlanta slightly at home. With the public leaning to the Saints, we see a little value here on picking the Falcons.

Arizona Cardinals (vs. Los Angeles Rams)

Spread: +1
Win Odds: 52%
Pick Popularity: 36%

The Arizona Cardinals came up short three different times in the fourth quarter in their upset bid at Houston, and now return home to face Los Angeles. The Cardinals are more competitive now with QB Kyler Murray, and that explains the line being very close. But the public is going with the Rams nearly two-to-one, so taking the Cardinals is advisable in most formats.

Chicago Bears (at Minnesota Vikings)

Spread: +3.5
Win Odds: 39%
Pick Popularity: 10%

The Chicago Bears had a late two-score lead on the Detroit Lions in QB Justin Fields’ first game back from a thumb injury, but could not hold on. Right now, the public doesn’t like their chances, as the Vikings are extremely popular (90%) for a team favored by just over a field goal. That puts pretty high leverage value on the Bears in weekly contest formats.

Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Baltimore Ravens)

Spread: +4
Win Odds: 39%
Pick Popularity: 10%

The numbers are virually identical in the Chargers-Ravens game as the Bears-Vikings. The Chargers are a four-point underdog at home only being picked by 10%. Baltimore will be playing this game without star TE Mark Andrews, who suffered an injury that could keep him out the rest of the season.


Tuesday 11/21

Week 11 Results Summary

Week 11 gave us several close calls, but only one big upset, as the New York Giants got a win (again) against Washington, putting Commanders coach Ron Rivera on the hot seat. Detroit came back from a big deficit, Seattle missed a long field goal, and Denver and Cleveland got late wins.

Overall, favorites went 11-2 SU, but 5-8 ATS, and that could be the best of two worlds for our differing pool types.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 9.3 wins in Week 11, out of 14 possible games.

Our game winner picks in season-long were above the public, averaging 10.3 wins on average from the “Max Profit” selections. The close wins by some teams that were slight favorites, like Denver and the LA Rams, were big results for game winners.

The weekly picks top options, meanwhile, were even better, with 10.9 wins, as those two games, plus the Packers upset, were common picks in weekly contests

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 108.0 wins, Weekly top option 98.3 wins, Public 99.1 wins

Spread Pools

Several games were likely impacted by what contest line an entry got, as several games came down to the end and were right near the spread. For example, the Houston/Arizona game could be a win for either side depending whether the line was -4.5/-5/-5.5. The Rams won by a point, and closed as a favorite, but may have been the slight dog in some pools. The Pittsburgh-Cleveland game was decided by 3 points, and those who got the Steelers in a contest at +3.5 would have won.

So our reporting here may be particularly off (and under-reporting our edge). The public was just above .500 at 7.4 wins in 14 games.

Our top model picks were Arizona (which pushed against the closing line) along with wins by the Giants and Packers. Our season-long picks finished with 8.5 wins on average, over a win above the public average. The weekly picks were below average, at 6.8 wins.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 85.5 wins, Weekly top option 81.2 wins, Public 84.2 wins

Tuesday 11/21

Week 11 News and Stats Rundown

At the bottom this week, we also have a summary of adjusted turnovers (not only turnovers, but safeties, missed kicks, and turnovers on downs). These things can often be more random but high leverage in a given week, so seeing which teams have benefited or struggled the most in these categories can be informative.

Key Injuries in Week 11

  • Rams WR Cooper Kupp left the game against Seattle with an ankle injury.
  • Dolphins RB De’Von Achane returned from the IR but left in the first quarter after an injury to the same knee that kept him out, though early reports are that it isn’t serious.
  • On a day when Zach Wilson was finally benched for the Jets, OT Mekhi Becton was hurt.
  • 49ers S Talanoa Hufanga suffered a knee injury and is out for the year.
  • Tampa had several key defensive injuries, with LB Lavonte David, CB Jamel Dean, and CB Carlton Davis all leaving the game Sunday.
  • Seahawks QB Geno Smith left the game with an elbow injury, and Drew Lock threw a costly pick, but Smith returned and we’ll see how he is doing this week. Meanwhile RB Kenneth Walker suffered an oblique injury and could miss games.

Going Inside the Stats

The public tends to overreact to wins, losses, and scores. But football is a game where a couple of bounces and key plays can swing scoring quite a bit in the moment, but may not be as predictive.

Here are some notes from Week 11:

  • Pittsburgh had 137 yards on their two scoring drives, and only 112 yards on the 11 other drives in their 13-10 loss. Those other drives ended in nine punts and two end-of-half plays.
  • Three different teams won despite having at least three turnovers: Houston, Miami, and Detroit.
  • One of the reasons that Houston was able to overcome and win despite three interceptions by C.J. Stroud? Arizona turned it over on downs in Houston territory on each of their final three possessions. The Cardinals now have 16 turnovers on downs for the season, easily the most of any team.
  • A team that couldn’t overcome turnovers: Washington. They had six turnovers in the loss to the Giants, so while New York winning was a pleasant surprise, they also benefited from the largest turnover differential of any game all year.

Adjusted Turnover Standings, Week 11

Here are the adjusted turnover ranks. Teams at the top have benefited the most, on net, from opponent miscues and fails compared to their own. Teams at the bottom have had a lot of missed opportunities or a lack of mistakes by the opponent. (Safeties are included in turnovers.)




Important Notes About Picks We Highlight

Keep in mind three things about picks we highlight in this article:

  1. Optimal pick’em contest strategy balances risk and potential reward.
    Maximizing your odds to win a pick’em pool generally requires exploiting the best opportunities to differentiate your picks from your opponents’ picks. Ideally, you want to fade the public while taking on minimal additional pick risk to do so. For example, taking a betting market favorite being picked by less than 50% of your opponents is usually a great opportunity.
  2. Not all of the picks we highlight are suitable for all pools.
    Don’t be surprised if our Football Pick’em Picks product doesn’t recommend several of the picks we mention in this post for your pool specifically—especially the upset picks. The best pick strategy for you depends on a number of factors such as your pool’s size, rules, and prize structure (a concept that’s covered in part by our article on season vs. weekly prize strategy).
  3. Picks we highlight may no longer look compelling by game day.
    We analyze and write about picks using data (e.g. win odds and pick popularity) current at the time we publish this article, but that data can change before kickoff. For example, a key player being ruled out or a shift in public sentiment about a team can erase the differentiation value that a pick initially offered.

We’ll provide periodic updates in this post if major data changes occur for picks we’ve mentioned, so make sure to check back. However, there’s a much better way to stay on top of changing data trends throughout a week, which all sharp players need to do.

Our Football Pick’em Picks product automatically imports the latest win odds and pick popularity data multiple times per day. You can see the latest information in the Data Grid.

After you generate customized picks for your pool, you can also update those pick recommendations whenever you want via the My Pool Picks screen. The updated picks will incorporate the most recent data we have.


About Our Pick’em Pool Advice

What makes pick recommendations from our Football Pick’em Picks product different from other sites is that it isn’t generic.

In any given week, the best picks for your football pool depend on a number of variables. Your pool’s size, rules, and prize structure all influence strategy, as do factors like your current place in the standings and how many weeks are left.

So many different scenarios exist that it’s impossible to give pick advice that makes sense for every one. An underrated 6-point underdog could be a great pick in a big weekly prize pool and a terrible pick for a small season-long pool where you’re currently in the money.

Technology to the rescue

As far as we know, we’re the only site that has built algorithms to evaluate all these strategy factors and provide you with customized pick recommendations every week.

The result? Every year, an average of 73% of our subscribers win a prize (season-long or weekly) in a football pick’em contest.

If you want to see all the Week 1 picks we recommend for your football pick’em contest, use our Football Pick’em Picks product.

Why we write this column

At the same time, we know our subscribers like to understand the rationale behind picks our product may recommend, especially when those picks go against the grain. So over the years, we’ve started to write more about the “whys” behind our approach.

This column can also help educate our readers with pick’em pool strategy. We highlight tactics proven to result in more pick’em pool wins over the long term and point out common pitfalls to avoid.

We hope you enjoy reading, and we encourage you to check out more of our football pick’em strategy articles.

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