Week 4 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2023)
Week 4 of the 2023 NFL season features a couple of favorites that are being picked like underdogs, including a big AFC East matchup.
The Giants get a different defensive matchup in Week 4 (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)
The Week 4 slate gives us an early value favorite who is being picked like a big underdog, and a notable AFC East matchup where the public is disagreeing with the sports books on who should be favored.
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 3, so check back for updates. Here’s what’s available now:
- 10/1: NFL Week 4 Sunday Overview
- 9/29: College Football Value Picks
- 9/28: Green Bay vs. Detroit on TNF
- 9/28: New York Giants and Seattle Now Pick’em
- 9/26: Week 4 Early Value Picks
- 9/26: Week 3 Results Summary
- 9/26: Week 3 News and Stats Rundown
- FYI: Notes About Picks We Highlight
- FYI: About Our Pick’em Pool Advice
NFL Week 4 Early Value Picks
Below are some picks initially setting off the value radar for Week 4 in game-winner-based NFL pick’em contests. Things are bound to change as kickoffs near, but it’s worth keeping an eye on them.
New York Giants (vs. Seattle Seahawks)
Win Odds: 56%
Pick Popularity: 30%
The New York Giants, who played in primetime and lost by 18 to San Francisco, have 10 days to get ready for a Monday Night matchup at home against Seattle. It is the Giants who are the slight betting favorite in this one, but the public is all over Seattle, picking them 70% of the time. That means that Seattle, an outright road underdog, is a more popular pick this week than seven other favorites besides the Giants this week.
We’ll note that Seattle ranks near the top in our Week 3 News and Stats Rundown adjusted turnover differential rankings, and the Giants are dead last, something that is often a hidden factor in identifying regression candidates. The Giants have really struggled against two of the best defenses in the NFL, but Seattle is the opposite of that, ranking 29th in yards allowed and points against after three weeks.
Buffalo Bills (vs. Miami Dolphins)
Win Odds: 55%
Pick Popularity: 47%
The Bills aren’t as big of a value as the Giants, but they are currently coming as a slight value favorite at home against Miami, coming off the Dolphins’ impressive 70-20 win last week. But the Bills have also bounced back quite nicely since the Monday Night opening loss to the Jets, beating the Raiders and Commanders by a combined 75-13 point differential.
So the value proposition here is to take the favorite, while the public is a little more heavily on the Dolphins in this big AFC East matchup.
Green Bay Packers (vs. Detroit Lions)
Win Odds: 49%
Pick Popularity: 35%
Green Bay is an unpopular pick at home in what is a pretty even contest with the Lions. In weekly contests especially, that means a little value on taking the Packers and being on the path less traveled. Watch for the injury reports here. The Packers have been without RB Aaron Jones for the last two weeks and WR Christian Watson all season, and their availability could shift the odds slightly by later in the week.
Tennessee Titans (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)
Win Odds: 49%
Pick Popularity: 31%
The Titans are coming off an ugly offensive performance against the Browns, and back at home against the Bengals, where they are a slight underdog. You know who else had an ugly performance against the Browns? These Bengals, who are back now after winning their first game (and scoring 19 points). The public is coming down on the side of the Bengals after the Monday Night win, so the Titans are a potential upset value play this week.
Houston Texans (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
Win Odds: 43%
Pick Popularity: 21%
The young Texans put up an impressive performance at Jacksonville, winning 37-17 and leading wire to wire. Rookie QB C.J. Stroud has looked like the real deal, averaging over 300 yards passing this season, and throwing four touchdown passes to no interceptions so far. Pittsburgh got back on track at the Raiders, but still are inconsistent on offense.
The Texans present a decent value play in weekly pools with only 21% of the public picking them so far this week.
Week 3 Results Summary
The public had quite a day in spread pools, which generally spells bad news for us. Our game winner season picks still performed well thanks to some key value favorites coming through, but a lot of the leverage upset picks against the popular public teams crashed and burned.
In game-winner pools, the public averaged 9.8 wins in Week 3. Three of the five biggest favorites lost, and they were universally popular, all being picked well over 90% of the time.
Our game winner picks in season-long outperformed the public with 11.2 wins on average. The biggest factors there were wins by Cleveland, New England, and Green Bay, in games with smaller spreads where the public was somewhat split.
The value underdogs, meanwhile, took a beating, as unpopular upset plays like Atlanta, Denver, and Carolina did not work out (to say the least, in Denver’s case with a 70-point beatdown).
Overall, the weekly picks top options went only 8.1 wins, and we don’t expect many weekly wins in game winner this week. That’s what happens when the public darlings crush.
Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 29.6 wins, Weekly top option 25.7 wins, Public 28.3 wins
The public had a rare high win rate week in spread pools, averaging 8.9 wins (55.6%) in 16 games. For the second week in a row, line movement that went against the public also did not produce, as popular picks did well even when the line moved against them.
Our biggest model leans were the Broncos, Panthers, Cardinals, Texans, and Raiders. Overall, our season-long and weekly spread pool picks had a poor week, posting 5.0 and 5.4 wins respectively. The positive results in season-long spread pools from the first two weeks were canceled out by the public beating us in Week 3.
Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 23.4 wins, Weekly top option 24.0 wins, Public 24.5 wins
Week 3 News and Stats Rundown
We are adding this section to our weekly articles, where we put some random observations, news, and notes from the week that was, that may be important going forward. At the bottom this week, we also have a summary of adjusted turnovers (not only turnovers, but safeties, missed kicks, and turnovers on downs). These things can often be more random but high leverage in a given week, so seeing which teams have benefited or struggled the most in these categories can be informative.
Key Injuries in Week 2
Mike Williams of the Chargers suffered a season-ending knee injury. The team still has Joshua Palmer and drafted Quentin Johnston in the first round, to go with Keenan Allen, so they do have depth at wide receiver.
Jimmy Garoppolo is in the concussion protocol and his status could impact the line in the Chargers-Raiders game, where the team would start either veteran Brian Hoyer or rookie Aidan O’Connell.
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 3:
- Kirk Cousins now has nine touchdown passes, but the Vikings are 0-3. One subtle factor? Fumble luck. They’ve lost all seven of their own fumbles, while recovering only one of the five by their opponents. So they’ve only recovered one of a possible 12 so far, when those plays could have swung what were three close losses.
- Miami put up over 700 yards of offense in the 70-20 win over Denver. The Broncos have gone from 7th in total yards allowed last year to dead last after three weeks, with a change in coach. The Dolphins did that without WR Jaylen Waddle, who missed the game with a concussion.
- At the other end of the spectrum, the Titans lost 27-3, and did so without committing any turnovers, having any missed kicks, or failing on fourth down. The Titans only gained 94 total yards against the Browns, and the only “scoring drive” of the day came after a Browns fumble, and a -9 yard drive before the kick.
- Speaking of the Browns, they have allowed a league-low 491 yards now for the season, and only 21 offensive first downs all year. None of their three opponents have even reach double-digit first downs in a game yet.
Adjusted Turnover Standings, Week 3
Here are the adjusted turnover ranks. Teams at the top have benefited the most, on net, from opponent miscues and fails compared to their own. Teams at the bottom have had a lot of missed opportunities or a lack of mistakes by the opponent. (Safeties are included in turnovers.)
|Team||Team TO||Team TOD||Team MFG||Opp TO||Opp TOD||Opp MFG||NET|
Important Notes About Picks We Highlight
Keep in mind three things about picks we highlight in this article:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
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.
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 73% 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.