Week 5 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2022)

Week 5 of the 2022 NFL season is here, and we have several value favorites showing up in your pick'em pools.

Bailey Zappe is the next man up for New England (Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire)

Week 5 in NFL pick’em contests has arrived. The 2022 NFL season has gotten off to quite the start with wild comebacks and unexpected results. We now have only one undefeated team (the Philadelphia Eagles), and one winless team (the Houston Texans, although they did get a tie.)

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

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Tuesday 10/4

NFL Week 5 Early Value Picks

Below are some picks initially setting off the value radar for Week 5 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 Orleans Saints (vs. Seattle Seahawks)

Spread: -5.5
Win Odds: 69%
Pick Popularity: 62%

The New Orleans Saints return from London to face the Seattle Seahawks, and they are currently showing up as a value favorite. The Saints have lost three in a row, while the Seahawks are coming off a road win at Detroit.

While only a handful of teams have returned from London and played the next week, those teams are a perfectly neutral 2-2-1 against the spread so far.

Watch the injury report for this game before making your pick. The Saints held QB Jameis Winston, WR Michael Thomas, and RB Alvin Kamara out of the London game, and their status for this week is still to be determined. If any/all of them miss the game, it could shift the odds (and the value proposition).

Washington Commanders (vs. Tennessee Titans)

Spread: +2.5
Win Odds: 45%
Pick Popularity: 15%

Washington is showing up as the biggest-value upset play this week when it hosts the Tennessee Titans.

The Commanders are an underdog of less than a field goal right now, but they have similar popularity to Carolina (a 6.5-point underdog to San Francisco) and are far less popular than Arizona (a 5.5-point underdog against undefeated Philadelphia).

That makes them a great value play in weekly contests. You are getting a team with 3x win odds compared to their popularity. Washington should be a higher-leverage play in those types of pools.

New England Patriots (vs. Detroit Lions)

Spread: -3.0
Win Odds: 59%
Pick Popularity: 56%

The Patriots are a value favorite this week, as they likely face the Lions with rookie QB Bailey Zappe. The Patriots fell to 1-3 with their close OT loss to Green Bay, and the public is currently down on them.

That presents a little value in just sticking with the betting favorite in this one.

The five other favorites of between 2.5 and 3.5 points this week are being picked by at least 73% of the public. Detroit is the most preferred public upset pick this week, so avoiding that temptation gives you some value.

San Francisco 49ers (at Carolina Panthers)

Spread: -6.5
Win Odds: 73%
Pick Popularity: 86%

The 49ers are a larger favorite this week, but they’re relatively less popular than other teams favored by a similar amount. That makes them a potential differentiator in confidence-point pools, where the public is more down on them relative to others with the same risk profile.

We currently project the Niners to have the fourth-best win odds this week, but they are the seventh-most popular choice. Public entries are about 2-3 times more likely to pick the Panthers to pull the upset compared to teams like the Giants, Bears, and Texans.

Cincinnati Bengals (at Baltimore Ravens)

Spread: +3.0
Win Odds: 41%
Pick Popularity: 24%

The Bengals face the Ravens in a key AFC North matchup in what projects to be a reasonably close game. (The Ravens are favored by three at home.) The public is on Baltimore by about a three-to-one ratio, providing some slight value on the underdog Bengals here.

The Ravens have already shown that no lead is safe for them, as their defense has struggled against top passing offenses. The Bengals’ playmakers give them a chance to pull the upset, so consider Cincinnati in weekly prize pools.

Tuesday 10/4

Week 4 Results Summary

Week 4 saw some value plays finally go the public’s way.

We noted last week that the weekly win rates in the first two weeks for PoolGenius subscribers were high. Week 3 exceeded that and was the third-highest reported win rate since 2014, at 35%.

The public finally got some bigger wins in Week 4, so the results are more mixed for the first time this season.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 9.8 wins in Week 4. There were two teams that were the betting favorite by kickoff and the public was heavily on the other side (Tampa Bay and Carolina). But both of them lost, so the public came out in front on those toss-up games.

Overall, the season-long “Max Profit” picks finished ahead of the public at 10.5 wins. A few value favorites (Cincinnati, San Francisco) made the difference there.

With those toss-up games, plus a few very popular small favorites winning (Dallas, Buffalo), though, the weekly top picks came in just below the public at 9.2 wins.

Spread Pools

The public finally posted a winning week in Week 4, averaging 8.6 wins.

Our pick recommendations averaged 8.7 wins in season-long max-profit picks, matching the public. Meanwhile, weekly picks, which tend to also account for public pick popularity more to differentiate, averaged 7.4 wins as the public hit on several of the more popular plays like Minnesota, Dallas, and the Los Angeles Chargers.

In pick-five-type pools, our playable model picks went 3-1-1 against closing lines. It’s possible that entries in that type of spread pools fared a little better than those that pick every game in Week 4.


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.


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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