Week 17 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2023)

Week 17 of the 2023 NFL season gets us to the end stretch, with just two weeks of NFL games remaining and we several key games on the slate.

The Saints need a big won over the Bucs in Week 17 (Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire)

Week 17 gives us a big NFC South showdown as the Bucs try to beat New Orleans to win the division, a Detroit-Dallas matchup for Big D supremacy, and a Baltimore-Miami contest between the top two teams in the AFC, which could decide the No. 1 seed.

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

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Tuesday 12/26

NFL Week 17 Early Value Picks

Here are some early Week 17 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.

New Orleans Saints (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Spread: +3
Win Odds: 43%
Pick Popularity: 13%

The Saints are in desperation mode. The Bucs can clinch the NFC South with a win in this game, or the following week at Atlanta.

The public is heavily on the surging Bucs, who have won four in a row, so the value opportunity is to take the Saints as only a 3-point underdog in the always unpredictable NFC South.

San Francisco 49ers (at Washington Commanders)

Spread: -13.5
Win Odds: 86%
Pick Popularity: 95%

We’ll go boring with the next one, but San Francisco looks like a great option for the top confidence play. They are coming off a turnover-filled loss to Baltimore, and have the highest win odds of the week. However, they are only the fifth most popular favorite, as Philadelphia and Buffalo both have 98% popularity, and two favorites of a touchdown, Cleveland and Jacksonville, are also more popular.

Dallas Cowboys (vs. Detroit Lions)

Spread: -6
Win Odds: 70%
Pick Popularity: 79%

Dallas may not be a huge value favorite this week, but the favorites overall are really popular this week, so it’s all relative. At *only* 79% popularity, they are actually less popular than four smaller favorites this week: Houston (-3.5), Seattle (-3.5), Tampa Bay (-3), and Denver (-5.5).

That means entries are a little more likely to pick this as the upset compared to those games with actual higher odds of an upset happening, so the play here is to take Dallas and take your upset shots elsewhere.

Indianapolis Colts (vs. Las Vegas Raiders)

Spread: -3
Win Odds: 60%
Pick Popularity: 64%

We don’t have any cases where the public is on the complete opposite side like last week with Atlanta vs. Indianapolis. The Colts are actually the least popular favorite among the sixteen this week. They have similar odds to several others, so based on that sticking with the favored Colts is the better move. The Raiders are coming off a big win at Kansas City on a short week, but they got that without an offensive touchdown, and without even a completed pass over the last three quarters of the game.

Carolina Panthers (at Jacksonville Jaguars)

Spread: +3.5
Win Odds: 28%
Pick Popularity: 4%

If you are really needing to make an “outside-the-box” pick this week to mount a comeback, Carolina is your best bang for the buck among the bigger underdogs. The Jaguars have been struggling and battling injuries, and the odds are down to Jacksonville -7. Only 4% of the public is taking the Panthers, so while this would be a big upset, it’s not popular and also more likely than some others that the public is taking.


Tuesday 12/26

Week 16 Results Summary

In Week 16, the five biggest favorites failed to cover (with the Chiefs, Broncos, and 49ers losing outright. Overall favorites went 11-5 straight up, but only 6-9-1 against the most common spread, as there were several close games that resulted in wins but not covers for the favorite.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 9.7 wins in Week 16, out of 16 possible games. Our “Max Profit” selections averaged 10.1 wins, slightly above the public, while the Weekly Top Options averaged 8.3 wins, as some of the key upset picks came up just short in late game situations.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 157.0 wins, Weekly top option 140.5 wins, Public 144.9 wins

Spread Pools

With the biggest favorites all failing to cover, the public had a down week, averaging 7.5 wins.

Our top model picks were on Carolina, Chicago, Kansas City, Atlanta, and Washington, going 4-1 over those five, with some late covers. Our season-long picks finished with 9.2 wins on average. The weekly picks came in at 10.4 wins, thanks to the underdogs covering at higher rates, particularly unpopular ones. That should result in a pretty high Week 16 spread pool win rate, outperforming the public by three wins.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 126.9 wins, Weekly top option 121.6 wins, Public 122.7 wins



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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