Week 15 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2022)

Week 15 of the 2022 NFL season continues the stretch run for pick'em pool glory, as all 32 teams are in action.

David Njoku and the Browns will try to take advantage of Baltimore injuries (Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire)

We’re officially through bye weeks heading into Week 15 in NFL pick’em contests. We have 16-game schedules over the last four weeks of 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 15, so check back for updates. Here’s what’s available now:

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Sunday 12/18

Reviewing Final Week 15 Dynamics On Sunday

Four games are already in the books after the Saturday spectacular that gave us the largest comeback in NFL history and two snow games. The Minnesota comeback thwarted one of our high-leverage upset picks in weekly pools, though the Colts did hold on for the cover in spread pools. Cleveland, meanwhile, won as a value favorite.

Here are the remaining key NFL value plays for Week 15:

  • Las Vegas vs. New England (58% win odds, 46% popularity). Las Vegas is the less popular side as the slight favorite, as Josh McDaniels’ Raiders face off against the team where he served as offensive coordinator for a long time.
  • Tampa Bay vs. Cincinnati (40% win odds, 14% popularity). The Bucs are one of the bigger value upset plays in weekly pools today.
  • NY Jets vs. Detroit (52% win odds, 41% popularity). The Jets are in a toss-up game, but more than half of the public is taking the Lions in Zach Wilson’s return to the lineup.
  • Tennessee at LA Chargers (41% win odds, 21% popularity). The Titans are another underdog with a decent chance of victory that is relatively unpopular.

Minnesota was the most popular spread pick of the week. The Bengals and Eagles are the two most popular spread picks today.

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. We are in the 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:

  • NY Giants
  • LA Rams
  • Las Vegas
  • Carolina
  • Jacksonville

In weekly contests, you will see those teams plus more of:

  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Tennessee
  • Tampa Bay

Friday 12/16

Minnesota Line Moving Against Popularity

Minnesota and Indianapolis face off in the first game on Saturday. Minnesota is one of the most popular spread picks of the year for the public, at 83%. The only game more popular was Seattle last week against Carolina.

Meanwhile, the line continues to drop, as it has gone from -4.5 early in the week, to -3.5 or -4 depending on the book now.

So far this year, if you would have taken the unpopular side when the public was taking a team at 75% or more but the line moved against the popular side, you would have gone 10-5 ATS, including Carolina’s upset at Seattle and Jacksonville over Tennessee last week.


Wednesday 12/14

Remember the Saturday Games

This is your reminder that this week has a different schedule. In addition to the Thursday night game between San Francisco and Seattle, we also have three NFL games on Saturday, including some that are fairly important to pick’em pools.

  • Indianapolis at Minnesota: This is a high-value upset play in weekly pools and some season-long picksets for those trailing a prize spot, as Minnesota is super popular.
  • Cleveland vs. Baltimore: Cleveland is a slight value favorite here, with the public a little more on Baltimore.
  • Buffalo vs. Miami: Buffalo is a bigger favorite, but the spread pools may see some differentiation here depending on the closing line.

So don’t forget to check your picks by Saturday and make sure those games are in before you head to Bed, Bath & Beyond.


Tuesday 12/13

Reminder: Endgame Pick Strategy in Effect

Last week, the pick logic shifted depending on your season goal. (You can read more about endgame strategy and how it might impact your picks here.) As a result, if you have selected Max Profit as a goal and are trailing a prize position, your picks will likely get riskier, with the level of risk dependent on your place in the standings.

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 12/13

NFL Week 15 Early Value Picks

Here are some value picks we are seeing early on for Week 15. There are lots of values showing up this week, so the best ones could shift as the week goes on.

Cleveland Browns (vs. Baltimore Ravens)

Spread: -3.0
Win Odds: 60%
Pick Popularity: 46%

The Cleveland Browns are favored over a Baltimore team that has some significant issues at QB. Lamar Jackson is not expected to return this week, and his backup, Tyler Huntley, suffered a concussion in last week’s game. That leaves undratfed rookie Anthony Brown as the likely starter for Baltimore.

The public is still picking this one with a slight lean to the Ravens, so there is value on the favored Browns here.

Las Vegas Raiders (vs. New England Patriots)

Spread: -1.0
Win Odds: 55%
Pick Popularity: 55%

The public is fairly evenly split on this toss-up type game where the Raiders are a slight favorite, so the value is just to stay with the Raiders here.

Josh McDaniels is facing off against Bill Belichick for the first time as Raiders head coach. Former Patriots assistants have a decent track record against the master even when they aren’t having much success overall. Matt Patricia and Brian Flores both got wins against the Patriots recently.

Indianapolis Colts (at Minnesota Vikings)

Spread: +4.5
Win Odds: 33%
Pick Popularity: 4%

If you are looking for an upset pick to shake up your pool and get you back in contention, the Colts present the best scenario due to their combination of win odds and lack of popularity.

Minnesota is highly popular in this game, but Indianapolis has a realistic chance of beating the Vikings, who have now been outscored on the year despite being 10-3.

Denver Broncos (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

Spread: -1.5
Win Odds: 52%
Pick Popularity: 48%

This could be the battle of the backup QBs. Arizona’s Kyler Murray tore his ACL on Monday Night Football, while Denver’s Russell Wilson is in the concussion protocol. Denver’s Brett Rypien and Arizona’s Colt McCoy will star together in a 1960s Western and then face off in this one.

The public is evenly split, but Denver is the favorite right now. That gives slight value on taking Denver here.

Tennessee Titans (at Los Angeles Chargers)

Spread: +3.0
Win Odds: 41%
Pick Popularity: 27%

Our final upset value play is Tennessee, which is coming off a poor performance against Jacksonville and is facing a Chargers team that just beat Miami.

Over the last few years, Tennessee has often played to the level of its competition. It sometimes struggles as a favorite but performs well in the underdog role. (Tennessee is 12-8 straight up and 13-7 against the spread over the last three seasons as an underdog.)

Tennessee is also the opposite of Miami when it comes to its offense. It’s a run-heavy team that will look to get Derrick Henry going. That’s the big weakness for this Chargers team, as they rank 32nd in yards per carry allowed this season (5.4).


Tuesday 12/13

Week 14 Results Summary

Week 14 was the revenge of the underdogs. Several popular favorites took a big loss in Week 14, led by Tennessee losing to Jacksonville and Seattle getting beat at home by Carolina.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 7.3 wins out of 13 games in Week 14. Favorites won eight of 13 games, with the four biggest favorites winning, but the smaller underdogs had the edge in the remainder.

Overall, our season-long “Max Profit” picks finished ahead of the public at 7.8 wins.

Weekly picks finished were even better thanks to the Jaguars and Panthers winning, at 9.1 wins.

Spread Pools

The public finished well below .500 in Week 14 in spread pools, averaging 5.6 wins in 13 games.

Our pick recommendations in season-long pools finished about two wins ahead at 7.7 wins on average. Weekly picks, which played even more against the public with underdog plays like Jacksonville and Carolina, finished at 8.7 wins.

Overall Season Summary

Game-winner season-long max-profit picks are now almost eight wins ahead of the public average through 14 weeks, and they have outperformed the public in 10 of the 14 weeks. Spread-pool picks have done even better, as both the season-long and weekly picks have outperformed the public by 18 and 19 wins, respectively, in pools that pick every game.


FYI

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’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.
  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, 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.


FYI

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.


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