Week 14 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2022)
Week 14 of the 2022 NFL season moves us into endgame strategy mode, where your risk adjusts based on your place in the standings.
The Detroit Lions are rolling in Motown (Steven King/Icon Sportswire)
Week 14 in NFL pick’em contests moves us into December and closer to the stretch run, as we have five weeks remaining in the 2022 NFL regular season.
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 14, so check back for updates. Here’s what’s available now:
- 12/11: Final Week 14 Dynamics
- 12/9: All Quiet on the Value Front
- 12/8: Raiders-Rams on TNF
- 12/7: Baker Mayfield Could Play for Rams?
- 12/6: Week 14 Strategy Change Alert
- 12/6: Week 14 Early Value Picks
- 12/6: Week 13 Results Summary
- FYI: Notes About Picks We Highlight
- FYI: About Our Pick’em Pool Advice
Reviewing Final Week 14 Dynamics On Sunday
The Raiders and Rams are done, but we still have 12 games to go.
Here are the key NFL value plays for Week 14:
- Detroit vs. Minnesota (54% win odds, 34% popularity). Detroit is the favorite here, while the public is on the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings, making this a high-leverage favorite play for our picks.
- Jacksonville vs. Tennessee (38% win odds, 6% popularity). Jacksonville is one of three big upset picks where the public is picking a team less than 10% of the time, but it has a realistic chance of winning.
- Carolina at Seattle (34% win odds, 4% popularity). Carolina is a really unpopular upset pick this week, and the spread is only four points at Seattle.
- Cleveland at Cincinnati (35% win odds, 5% popularity). Cleveland is one of our top model plays this week. It goes against a Cincinnati team it has had success playing in recent years.
Seattle is the most popular spread pick of the year so far at 82%, according to our public pick data. Tennessee also has high popularity against Jacksonville. Kansas City and Cincinnati also have public pick popularity over 70%, while the line has moved against both favorites since early in the week.
In season-long pools, there might be a bigger variation in the picks that individual subscribers get in their pools based on their place in standings and pool rules. This is the start of endgame strategy, so entries that are leading by a lot may get different picks than those that are trailing.
These statements are generalities, but there are plenty of exceptions. Right now, in max-profit, the most common spread picks are:
In weekly contests, you will see those teams plus more of:
- Tampa Bay
All Quiet on the Value Front
We haven’t seen any notable line moves so far, so the value picks still largely look the same.
It’s looking like the Detroit-Minnesota game will be a fairly high-leverage outcome across all pools, as Detroit is the game-winner pick in most pick sets and is also heavily picked in weekly pools.
Two of the biggest value upsets, Jacksonville vs. Tennessee and Carolina vs. Seattle, are also showing up as the recommendations to over half of all weekly pick sets and as the spread-pick play in weekly contests in most pools.
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati is another potential value-upset play, but given their lower win odds, the Browns are showing up for less than half of entries in weekly pick sets. However, they’re very likely to be recommended in spread pools.
Raiders-Rams on TNF for Week 14
The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Rams are playing on Thursday Night Football to start Week 14. There’s a chance we could see Rams QB Baker Mayfield get some snaps fresh off the plane.
The Raiders are the 6.5-point favorite going against the depleted 3-9 Rams. The public is picking the Raiders 74% of the time, but with 72% win odds, they are a value favorite and you should see them in all game-winner formats. Our models are close to the Vegas market odds here.
The Raiders are the more common pick in season-long spread pools, possibly with several pools getting the spread at a -6 number. In weekly pools, that shifts a bit, with more Rams spread picks based on popularity.
Baker Mayfield Could Play for Rams?
The Rams face the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football. And according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, there’s a chance QB Baker Mayfield plays after just being claimed off waivers by the Rams yesterday.
Asked if Baker Mayfield has a chance to play Thursday night for the Rams, one source just texted, “There’s a shot.”
Team is in the process of sending the playbook to Mayfield to make sure he can study the offense on his flight to Los Angeles.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 6, 2022
That’s more of a testament to the dire straits the Rams find themselves in, and it gives a glimpse as to why the 5-7 Raiders are 6.5-point road favorites in the betting markets. Mayfield, who has six interceptions to six touchdown passes and averaged 6.4 yards per attempt in Carolina with full preparation, doesn’t seem like the type of QB who can just roll in to a new situation and turn it around.
Week 14 Is the Start of Pick-Strategy Changes in Some Pools
With five weeks to go, this is the week where your pick strategy may change in season-prize pools depending on which goal you selected (Avoid Bad Finish versus Max Profit).
We are now about 70 percent of the way through the season, which means we’re entering the endgame. It’s time to try to make a move if you are outside the money in season-long contests. (You can read more about endgame strategy and how it might impact your picks here.)
You should evaluate whether you want to go for Max Profit or Avoid a Bad Finish. The most common result when you become a little riskier with picks is that you drop in the standings.
The best way to come back and get in the money in a pool is to take those chances when there is a relative payoff, so you have to risk something to get something.
It’s a lot like a football team’s decision to go for it on fourth down rather than punting it back and keeping the score close late in the game. It’s the best way to make a big play, but the most likely result is a bigger loss.
If where you finish—even if it isn’t in the money—is important to you for other reasons, such as finishing above your co-worker or family member, now is the time to adjust your pick goals by editing your pool.
NFL Week 14 Early Value Picks
Here are some value picks we are seeing early on for Week 14. There are lots of values showing up this week, so the best ones could shift as the week goes on.
Detroit Lions (vs. Minnesota Vikings)
Win Odds: 55%
Pick Popularity: 32%
Can the Minnesota Vikings continue their run of winning close games? The Vikings are 10-2, but that is thanks to a 9-0 record in one-score games. They’ve been outgained by more than 700 yards on the year, their defense ranks 31st in total yards allowed, and they have scored only 10 more points than they’ve allowed.
Meanwhile, Detroit has shown genuine improvement in the last month as its offense has gotten healthier. The Lions just blew out Jacksonville and have won four of their past five games, with the one loss coming in a close game against Buffalo on Thanksgiving. Detroit has averaged over 30 points per game in its last four games and looks to be peaking.
Detroit is actually the betting favorite at home here, but the public is more heavily on the 10-2 Vikings.
Las Vegas Raiders (at LA Rams)
Win Odds: 71%
Pick Popularity: 70%
The Rams showed a few signs of life against the Seahawks on Sunday despite being shorthanded. But backup QB John Wolford is now hurt again and not practicing to start the week. Star DT Aaron Donald could still be out, too.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas has now moved back to 5-7 with three straight wins and is a bigger road favorite here. Enough of the public is picking the Rams on name recognition that there is still value on the favored Raiders.
Carolina Panthers (at Seattle Seahawks)
Win Odds: 36%
Pick Popularity: 4%
The Seattle Seahawks are a really popular pick this week, with 96% of the public on Seattle. That puts them similar in popularity to the Bills (a 9-point favorite) and more popular than Kansas City (a 9-point favorite).
But the line is only 3.5 points. Seattle rookie running back Kenneth Walker III left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, and the Seahawks are not deep at that position. Seattle’s defense is 28th in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed, which means the underdog Panthers should have a chance.
Jacksonville Jaguars (at Tennessee Titans)
Win Odds: 36%
Pick Popularity: 5%
The Titans are nearly as popular as Seattle despite being only a 4-point favorite at home against Jacksonville.
Tennessee has the opposite problem of Seattle. It is 29th in total yards on offense and 26th in points, which means it can keep underdogs in the game by not putting them away with better offense.
After rebounding at the start of the season, Titans RB Derrick Henry has also struggled for the last month. He has failed average over 3.2 yards per carry or reach 100 rushing yards in any of the last four games.
So while it would be an upset, picking the Jags is a high-leverage opportunity if you are trailing in your pool or playing in weekly contests.
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Baltimore Ravens)
Win Odds: 55%
Pick Popularity: 50%
Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson is most likely out this week—if not longer—with a PCL injury. So Pittsburgh has moved to the betting favorite against the Ravens, while the public is split.
That makes the Steelers a slight value favorite right now.
Week 13 Results Summary
Week 13 was a week for favorites. Ultimately, the betting favorites won 13 of the 15 games and tied another. The only favorite to lose was Kansas City at Cincinnati. That made for a better week in game-winner picks than in spread pools.
In game-winner pools, the public averaged 10.9 wins out of 15 games in Week 13. As noted, the favorites almost universally won.
Overall, our season-long “Max Profit” picks finished ahead of the public at 12.1 wins.
Weekly picks finished were just below that, but also above the public, at 11.6 wins.
The public finished slightly over .500 in Week 13 in spread pools, averaging 7.8 wins in 15 games.
Our pick recommendations in season-long pools had a down week, coming in below the public at 7.3 wins on average. Weekly picks, which also tend to account for public pick popularity more to differentiate, came in just below that at 6.9 wins, as some popular favorites won and covered. Indianapolis and Jacksonville were among the culprits.
Overall Season Summary
Last week, we summarized the season-long results.
Game-winner season-long max-profit picks are now more than seven wins ahead of the public average through 13 weeks, and they have outperformed the public in nine of the 13 weeks. Spread-pool picks have done even better despite the Week 13 results, as both the season-long and weekly picks have outperformed the public by around 16 wins in pools that pick every game.
Our picks are designed so that the weekly pick sets take a little more risk and play against the public more, so we should see more variance in the weekly performance.
Important Notes About Picks We Highlight
Keep in mind three things about picks we highlight in this article:
- 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’s 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.
- 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).
- 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, 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.
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 71% 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.