Week 14 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2023)

Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season is a point at which your pick strategy in pick'em pools could change depending on standings and pool type.

The Bills have been voted into the playoffs by the selection committee (Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Week 14 means we have five weeks left in the regular season, and that marks the point at which your pick strategy could change notably depending on your place in the standings and the pool type. Read more about that logic below.

Also, as a reminder for those that play in college football bowl pools, the college bowl pool picks product is now live.

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 13, so check back for updates. Here’s what’s available now:

Golf Pool Picks

Get an edge in your PGA Majors and One And Done pools

Learn MoreGet Picks Now

Tuesday 12/5

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.

Tuesday 12/5

NFL Week 14 Early Value Picks

Here are some early Week 14 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.

Dallas Cowboys (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)

Spread: -3.5
Win Odds: 64%
Pick Popularity: 60%

What a difference a week makes. Philadelphia was on top of the NFL at 10-1 and had a two-game lead on Dallas. After the 49ers beat the Eagles, though, Dallas now has a chance to catch Philadelphia for first in the NFC East. They get the Eagles at home and are favored by over a field goal.

With enough of the public taking Philadelphia, there is good value on the Cowboys as a favorite.

Cleveland Browns (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)

Spread: -3
Win Odds: 60%
Pick Popularity: 37%

Trevor Lawrence suffered a high ankle sprain on Monday night, and while the Jaguars have not officially ruled him out, it’s unlikely he plays (or is healthy enough against the Browns defense to play at his best). The line has shifted to the Browns being favored by a field goal, but the public is for now still on the side of the Jaguars.

Chicago Bears (vs. Detroit Lions)

Spread: +3
Win Odds: 44%
Pick Popularity: 10%

We are just a few weeks removed from Chicago blowing a late lead against Detroit, and now the two matchup again. This time it will be in the cold of Soldier Field. While the Bears are only a three-point underdog, they are pretty unpopular with only 10% picking this upset. That’s not much higher than several bigger underdogs this week.

Buffalo Bills (at Kansas City Chiefs)

Spread: +2.5
Win Odds: 46%
Pick Popularity: 23%

The Bills are another upset worth considering this week, as they travel to Arrowhead. Buffalo is in a desperate position for their playoff hopes (we give them a 22% of making the postseason, entering this week at 6-6). They power rate similarly to Kansas City, hence the spread under a field goal, but the public is strongly on the side of Kansas City, providing upset leverage in weekly pools on picking Buffalo. They are also an attractive pick if you are outside a prize-position right now in season-long pools, but need a viable pick that can win but isn’t too popular.

LA Chargers (vs. Denver Broncos)

Spread: -2.5
Win Odds: 55%
Pick Popularity: 49%

The Chargers are the favored team in the AFC West matchup with Denver, but the public is evenly split. That makes for slight value on the Chargers in this one in game-winner pools.

Tuesday 12/5

Week 13 Results Summary

Week 13 got turned on its head. Overall, favorites did well, going 10-3 straight up. But the three losses came from teams favored by six or more points (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville). Meanwhile, teams favored by fewer than four points went 6-0 in Week 14.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 8.0 wins in Week 13, out of 13 possible games.

Our game winner picks in season-long were above the public, averaging 9.0 wins on average from the “Max Profit” selections. The performance of favorites, particularly some notable smaller favorites who won, accounts for this for the second week in a row.

The weekly picks top options, meanwhile, underperformed at 7.2 average wins, thanks to the lack of upsets from smaller underdogs who were unpopular.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 128.4 wins, Weekly top option 112.8 wins, Public 117.8 wins

Spread Pools

Favorites went 8-5 ATS and that is usually good for the public. The bigger favorites, though, were the ones that did not cover, going 1-4 ATS, and that reduces the public performance.

The public finished perfectly average at 6.5 wins in 13 games.

Our top model picks were Philadelphia, Carolina, and Denver. The Eagles got beat down by the 49ers as a home underdog, getting their second loss. The Panthers covered most contest lines (and pushed at +3) and Denver ended up having a chance but coming up short in the end.

Our season-long picks finished with 5.9 wins on average. The weekly picks came in at 6.2 wins.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 99.9 wins, Weekly top option 93.4 wins, Public 99.8 wins

Tuesday 12/5

Week 13 News and Stats Rundown

Key Injuries in Week 13

  • Jacksonville QB Trevor Lawrence left the Monday Night game with an ankle injury and we await word on his outlook, as the hits against starting QBs continued.
  • Steelers QB Kenny Pickett also left the game early against Arizona and is expected to miss games.
  • Saints QB Derek Carr left the game and is in concussion protocol.
  • Texans WR Tank Dell was having an excellent rookie year, but that is over now after suffering a broken leg.
  • Packers WR Christian Watson scored twice in the win over Kansas City, but left with a hamstring injury.

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 13:

  • A week after struggling mightily on offense, Cincinnati put up the most yards of any team (491) in Week 13 in the win at Jacksonville.
  • The Chargers won a game while scoring 6 points, as New England was shut out. The Chargers are the first team to win while scoring under 10 points all season, and the lowest-scoring winner since Jacksonville won by the same scoreline in December 2018 against the Colts.
  • Ten of the 13 teams that won in Week 13 did not commit a turnover.
  • Philadelphia and Jacksonville were the only two teams that lost while having no turnovers.
  • Atlanta beat the Jets 13-8 with only 194 total yards, the third-lowest total for a winning team this year. The Jets have lost twice now while giving up 194 or fewer yards, accounting for two of those three outcomes (the loss to the Chargers was the other).


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.

Thursday 12/7

Pittsburgh-New England in Thrilling Thursday Night Game

If you like dental appointments and watching paint dry, the NFL’s Week 14 opener has you covered. Tonight’s Pittsburgh-New England game features a quarterback battle between Mitch Trubisky and Bailey Zappe. The Over/Under on the game is set at 30 points, the lowest win total we have seen in an NFL game in over 25 years.

Pittsburgh is the 6-point favorite in this one, with win odds just over 70%, as the Patriots have really struggled on offense over the last month. New England is dead last in points scored in the NFL, and lost 6-0 last week.

Our pick recommendations are heavily on Pittsburgh in game winner, with a small percentage of you getting the Patriots as an upset pick based on end-of-year strategy if trailing in your pool. In spread pools, meanwhile, the picks are heavily on the Patriots and the points in this barnburner.

Friday 12/8

Army-Navy Concludes College Football Regular Season

The Army-Navy game is tomorrow. For those that have that in your pick set, you will actually find the game listed in last week’s “college” data on the Data Grid, together with all the championship game data.

Army is a three-point favorite in this one, with 58% win odds and about 64% popularity. The popularity split is close enough you probably want to pick Army, unless you have a strategic reason to pick the underdog (you are one game back of a leader with one game to go).

The total on this game is down to 28.0 points. For those of you who are betting subscribers, we released this as a Staff Pick when it was at 30.5 points 10 days ago. In games between two of the service academies since 2010, they have gone Under 35 of 41 times, including both the Army-Air Force and Air Force-Navy games this year. Last year’s Army-Navy game was the first to go Over in more than a decade, and it took two overtime periods for that to happen, as it was 10-10 in regulation.

These teams run the same offense, one that has a bit of a uniqueness edge when playing teams not used to seeing it, but which they practice against regularly. We think that helps explain why so many of these games are low scoring, and if you are in a pool that picks the total, we would still lean under, even at the current line.

Sunday 12/10

NFL Week 14 Sunday Overview 

Here are the most notable shifts in spreads and win odds since mid-week, as of early morning Sunday:

  • The Texans are now only a 3.5-point favorite at the Jets, after opening at -5.5
  • The Saints line has moved a point, from -5.5 to -6.5.
  • The Buffalo and Tampa Bay lines continue to tighten up, both now +1 (from +2.5)
  • Cincinnati has moved from a 1.5-point underdog to 2.5-point favorite.

Here are some of the key games we are seeing across various types of pools:

Game Winner

With not much NFL season left, we are at the stage where different subscriber entries can get different pick recommendations based on their current position in their pool standings, and their pool’s payout structure.

These are the only teams that are seeing a 99%+ recommendation rate in Max Profit season as well as top Weekly Option picks.

  • Miami
  • Dallas
  • LA Chargers

Lower the threshold to 80% and these are the additional teams that are being mostly recommended to entries:

  • San Francisco
  • Baltimore
  • Cleveland
  • Minnesota
  • Green Bay

Weekly Game Winner

For single-week prize contests, we have several teams that are being picked heavily even though the spreads in those games are close. Here are the close matchups where we have a high rate on one side:

  • Tampa Bay
  • Buffalo

In addition, we have a higher rate of upset picks on the Jets and Bears.

Confidence Points

In confidence point pools this week, you will likely see Dallas, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay rise up the board in weekly, and also see the Jets and Bears move up more in larger pools.

Spread Pools

In spread pools, these are teams where we have over 90% pick recommendations in both season-long and weekly:

  • LA Rams
  • Chicago
  • Carolina
  • NY Jets
  • NY Giants

We are also heavy on Denver, though they just miss that threshold in season-long pools. The Raiders also rise in weekly pools, playing against popularity for Minnesota.