Week 16 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2023)

Week 16 of the 2023 NFL season means a full week of games stretching through Christmas Day.

Bryce Young and the Panthers just got their second win of the year (David Jensen/Icon Sportswire)

Three weeks to go, and when the week wraps up, it will be Christmas Day. Will you find a lump of coal or get some sweet treats? The week is one with lots of close swing matchups.

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 16, 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 12/19

NFL Week 16 Early Value Picks

Here are some early Week 16 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.

Atlanta Falcons (vs. Indianapolis Colts)

Spread: -1
Win Odds: 53%
Pick Popularity: 22%

The Atlanta Falcons just lost to the Carolina Panthers while the Colts beat the Steelers to move to 8-6. But the Falcons are a slight one-point favorite at home in this one, and the public is heavily on the Colts.

If you need to come from behind, this looks like a clear opportunity to go against a big chunk of the pool in a toss-up game.

Tennessee Titans (vs. Seattle Seahawks)

Spread: +2.5
Win Odds: 46%
Pick Popularity: 25%

The Seahawks are coming off an exhilarating Monday Night win, and the public is all over them, with 75% picking the Seahawks. The Titans are only a slight home dog here at low popularity. Titans rookie QB Will Levis suffered an ankle injury at the end of the last game, but early indications are he could play, though if he doesn’t go, the Titans still have veteran Ryan Tannehill to come in.

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)

Spread: +2.5
Win Odds: 46%
Pick Popularity: 26%

The win odds/pick rate in this Steelers/Bengals game is very similar to the Titans-Seahawks game. The Steelers are going the wrong way in recent games, losing three in a row, and they are now benching Mitch Trubisky and turning to (Mason) Rudolph just in time for Christmas Eve.

But they are only a slight home dog, and the public is heavily on the Bengals now, so there’s some contrarian value on Pittsburgh in this one.

Dallas Cowboys (at Miami Dolphins)

Spread: +1.5
Win Odds: 47%
Pick Popularity: 31%

The Cowboys just laid an egg on the road at Buffalo, something they have done on occasion this year (at Arizona, at San Francisco). They will try to bounce back at Miami in a marquee matchup, but the spread in this one is really close. It’s close to a toss-up, but the public is strongly on Miami’s side coming off the Dolphins’ 30-0 win over the Jets combined with Dallas’ poor showing.

Carolina Panthers (vs. Green Bay Packers)

Spread: +5
Win Odds: 36%
Pick Popularity: 7%

If you are looking for a unique longer shot play this week, the Panthers present an opportunity, with only about 7% of the public picking them. The only other teams being picked less than 10% of the time this week include the three double-digit underdogs, and the Patriots (+6.5) at Denver.

So relatively speaking, you are getting better win odds here on an extremely unpopular pick, and the Packers’ defense is coming off a poor performance in a gut-punch loss to the Bucs at home that severely dented their playoff hopes.


Tuesday 12/19

Week 15 Results Summary

Before we get to Week 15 results, a quick note on the Week 14 results, since we had indicated the expectation of a high weekly win rate. The final Week 14 numbers came in at 26% winning a weekly prize, which is the second-highest week this year, behind only Week 7.

Now, to the Week 15 results. Favorites went 12-4 in game winner, and 10-6 against the spread against the most common contest lines, though two games may have been pushes (instead of losses) for favorites in the Browns and Bengals games depending on the line.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 10.6 wins in Week 15, out of 16 possible games. Our “Max Profit” selections also averaged 10.6 wins, while the Weekly Top Options averaged 9.9 wins.

There was likely some variation here for subscribers. With the six biggest favorites all winning, those in a leader position likely performed better than those taking chances to come back with bigger upset calls.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 146.9 wins, Weekly top option 132.2 wins, Public 135.2 wins

Spread Pools

The public had a solid week thanks to the biggest favorites covering, as they averaged above a 50% win rate, at 8.4 wins.

Our top model picks were on Washington, NY Giants, Philadelphia, and Jacksonville, who went 0-4. That made for a rough week.

Our season-long picks finished with 7.5 wins on average. The weekly picks came in at 7.8 wins. After a big Week 14, things bounced back the wrong direction in Week 15.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 117.7 wins, Weekly top option 111.2 wins, Public 115.2 wins

Tuesday 12/19

Week 15 News and Stats Rundown

Key Injuries in Week 15

  • Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase is expected to miss time and be out next week with a shoulder injury.
  • Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence is in the concussion protocol and is in question for this week.
  • Ravens RB Keaton Mitchell suffered an ACL tear and is out for the year.

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 15:

  • The Jets’ horrific offensive season continued, as they were shut out while gaining only 103 yards. It’s the third time in the last five games they have failed to reach 160 total yards.
  • The Browns came from 10 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Bears, as Joe Flacco threw for 374 yards, with a lot of that coming late, while the Browns only managed 29 rushing yards. That’s the most passing yards for the Browns since a December 2020 shootout with the Ravens, and the fewest rushing yards in a game for Cleveland since a 2016 game against New England, in the 1-15 season.
  • Philadelphia lost on a late TD pass from Drew Lock to Jaxson Smith-Njigba, leading to a 3rd straight loss. But the biggest thing here is that the Eagles, who went 7-1 in close games in their 10-1 start, did not win another close one, and now have only a +18 point differential and are 7th in our power ratings, and more than two points behind everyone in the top six.


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.

Get access to all football pick’em pool content, picks and tools

Free subscription offers now available!

Subscribe now