Week 15 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2023)

Week 15 of the 2023 NFL season gives us several close matchups, including a key AFC South game as the hurting Houston Texans face the Titans.

Will Levis and the Titans catch a hurting Texans team (Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire)

With four weeks left, things are getting heated up in NFL pools. We are coming off a week where the underdogs ruled and had a winning record. Can it happen again?

Also, as a reminder for those that play in college football bowl pools, the college bowls start on Saturday, December 16th, and our college bowl pool picks can help.

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:

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Tuesday 12/12

NFL Week 15 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.

Tennessee Titans (vs. Houston Texans)

Spread: -2.5
Win Odds: 55%
Pick Popularity: 45%

The Titans are coming off a big comeback win against the Dolphins, while the Houston Texans have major injury concerns. QB C.J. Stroud went into the concussion protocol, while WR Nico Collins also suffered a calf injury, a week after the team lost WR Tank Dell for the year.

All that currently has the Titans as the betting favorite while the Texans are the more popular side with the better record, but keep an eye on the injury report for this one.

Buffalo Bills (vs. Dallas Cowboys)

Spread: -2.5
Win Odds: 55%
Pick Popularity: 47%

This heavyweight matchup is one where you are picking up a little value on the favored Bills, with the public slightly leaning toward the Cowboys in this one.

Carolina Panthers (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

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

At this point, few people want to pick the 1-12 Panthers. They get the Falcons at home, and are only a field goal underdog. Importantly, only 10% of a typical pool is taking them, making them a big leverage play in weekly contests.

Pittsburgh Steelers (at Indianapolis Colts)

Spread: +2.5
Win Odds: 46%
Pick Popularity: 22%

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off two straight bad losses at home (to Arizona and New England) and now go on the road to the Colts. The public is jumping ship en masse but they are only a 2.5-point underdog in this one, providing plenty of upset leverage for weekly pools and if you chasing a leader in a season-long pool and need to differentiate.

Chicago Bears (at Cleveland Browns)

Spread: +3.0
Win Odds: 40%
Pick Popularity: 13%

The Bears have been quietly playing much better of late, since Justin Fields returned from injury. The defense, particularly the rush defense, has been stout, and they can stick around with the Browns in a Midwest cold weather battle. With well under 20% picking them, they make for another attractive upset play.


Tuesday 12/12

Week 14 Results Summary

Week 14 went HAM, turning into absolute chaos by the end of Monday Night Football’s doubleheader. Overall, favorites had a losing record, going 7-8 straight up, and 4-10-1 against the spread. When that happens, we can sometimes benefit in weekly contests, and that’s what we see this week.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 6.8 wins in Week 14, out of 15 possible games, mirroring the record of favorites as they had a losing record.

Our game winner picks in season-long were above the public, averaging 7.9 wins on average from the “Max Profit” selections. So even though that record is one of the lowest win percentages for a week in a vacuum, it still added more distance away from the public average, with things like being heavier on Dallas and having a good number of picks on teams like Tampa Bay contributing.

The weekly picks top options, meanwhile, had a really big week and one that should result in very good win rates. They averaged 9.5 wins, nearly 3 wins more than the public average. High pick rates on Buffalo, Chicago, and Tampa Bay contributed among the upsets.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 136.3 wins, Weekly top option 122.3 wins, Public 124.6 wins

Spread Pools

Favorites failing to cover at a high rate is generally good for us and bad for the public. The public finished at 7.0 wins in 15 games, so under .500.

Our top model picks included the Rams, Bears, and 49ers, who did not cover the closing line but did cover more contest lines. For the first time in a while, line moves also led to covers at a higher rate, so grabbing line value was a positive strategy.

Our season-long picks finished with 10.3 wins on average. The weekly picks came in at 10.0 wins. Both of those are three wins over the public average for this week, and should result in higher reported weekly win rates.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 110.2 wins, Weekly top option 103.4 wins, Public 106.8 wins

Tuesday 12/12

Week 14 News and Stats Rundown

Key Injuries in Week 13

  • Chargers QB Justin Herbert suffered a hand injury, and he is unlikely to play on Thursday night (and the rest of his season could be in question, with the Chargers falling behind playoff contenders).
  • Vikings WR Justin Jefferson played for the first time in nearly two months, but got hurt again (chest) on a hospital ball hit over the middle.
  • Texans QB C.J. Stroud left the game over concussion concerns, and WR Nico Collins suffered a calf injury, creating major concerns for the Texans offense.

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 14:

  • Houston’s 135 total yards was the third lowest total for a team this year, as they really struggled at the Jets and had key injuries. It was also the first game below 150 yards against a defense other than the Cleveland Browns.
  • The Chargers followed a game where they won with 6 points by scoring 7 points against Denver, and may have lost QB Justin Herbert for the season.
  • The 49ers may have *only* won by 12 points against Seattle, but they racked up a season-high 527 yards of offense and had nearly 200 more yards than the Seahawks, dominating most of the game.
  • The Titans won the game against Miami despite three turnovers and a -2 turnover margin. They are only the sixth team this year to win a game with three turnovers and at least a -2 turnover margin, but the difference is that the other five winners who overcame turnovers were favored, while the Titans were a big underdog, and came from down 14 with three minutes left.


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.

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