Week 5 Football Pick’em Contest Strategy & Advice (2023)

Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season gives you a decision: go against the recent form and the public on some teams that struggled last week.

Ja'Marr Chase is open to be picked in Week 5 (Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire)

Week 5 is going to test your resolve, if you want to grab value. Some of the biggest values will be teams that just looked bad last week, and you might pick against some early surprises. One notable one is Cincinnati, a team that has disappointed as much as anyone in the first month.

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:

Tuesday 10/3

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.

Cincinnati Bengals (at Arizona Cardinals)

Spread: -3.0
Win Odds: 62%
Pick Popularity: 58%

Have the Bengals hit rock bottom? Cincinnati has scored only three offensive touchdowns in four games, and fell to 1-3 on Sunday. Arizona is also 1-3, but the vibes are very different, as the Cardinals have been surprisingly competitive throughout the early season. A month ago, you would not have guessed this line would only be a field goal.

But the public is even further down on Cincinnati, as they are coming as a value favorite here, with enough pool participants picking the Cardinals in an upset. We could look back and either see this as the turnaround week, or the week the Bengals confirmed that they just don’t have it in 2023.

Atlanta Falcons (vs. Houston Texans)

Spread: -1.0
Win Odds: 55%
Pick Popularity: 44%

Atlanta looked bad against Jacksonville, as Desmond Ridder threw back-to-back picks in the first half and the Falcons lost 23-7. Houston, meanwhile, put up a second straight impressive performance, beating the Steelers handily, 30-6.

Atlanta is the slight favorite here, close to a toss-up, but the public is coming down more frequently on the side of the Texans. Playing against others for value often involves going against the recent results, and this is a prime example of that.

Las Vegas Raiders (vs. Green Bay Packers)

Spread: +2
Win Odds: 47%
Pick Popularity: 33%

The Raiders have been a massive underachiever, while the Packers look better, largely though because they have bunched their yards together at the right time for points. (Green Bay has been very inconsistent on offense and has had long bouts of poor play.)

Las Vegas is a league-worst -9 in turnover margin through four games, contributing to them not maximizing their scoring relative to their yards. Green Bay, though, actually has the worst yardage differential of the two, and has outperformed so far in points, ranking 1st in our yards per point metric, something that can indicate regression.

Jimmy Garoppolo could be back this week, and that could impact the odds here, but it’s possible the Raiders are a value pick in a game that is closer to a toss-up, with the public heavily on Green Bay.

Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Buffalo Bills)

Spread: +5.5
Win Odds: 33%
Pick Popularity: 4%

The Bills have rolled for three straight weeks, and now have to travel across the pond to London. The Jaguars just beat Atlanta in London this last week, and get to stick around for another contest. This is the first time this has ever happened, where a team is playing twice in London in the span of two weeks (or twice at all in the same season). If you are looking for an unknown factor that could contribute to more uncertainty, that is a strong one, as Jacksonville will not be making the lengthy trip this week and have a travel edge.

Meanwhile, the public is strongly certain that the Bills will win, with close to 97% of all picks on Buffalo. That makes for a compelling upset pick in weekly contests, at high leverage.

Miami Dolphins (vs. NY Giants)

Spread: -11
Win Odds: 81%
Pick Popularity: 98%

Okay, we are highlighting the biggest favorite. But this is about the relative pick rates to other favorites. Yes, Miami is popular. But Detroit, with slightly lower win odds, is actually just ahead in popularity right now. Buffalo is almost as popular, as a 5.5-point favorite, and Washington is at 95% popularity against Chicago. Several teams favored by just over a field goal have popularity around 90%.

So yes, relative to the public being nearly as heavy on a lot of riskier favorites, sticking Miami as a top confidence play is good strategy.

Tuesday 10/3

Week 4 Results Summary

It was a solid, if not completely spectacular week for the season-long picks, as some undervalued favorites prevailed. Weekly picks, meanwhile, missed out on some unpopular upsets that prevented a bigger week.

Game-Winner Pools

In game-winner pools, the public averaged 10.6 wins in Week 4. All six picks drawing 85% of public popularity won, but two popular smaller favorites (Cincinnati and Pittsburgh) went down.

Our game winner picks in season-long outperformed the public with 11.9 wins on average from the “Max Profit” selections. Our models had the Titans closer to a pick’em and flipped that pick to Tennessee, a big factor, and also the Buffalo result was one where the public was split but our picks were Buffalo-heavy.

The weekly picks top options went 11.0 wins, so above the public average. Picks like Buffalo, Tennessee, the Rams, and Houston contributed there, but others like the Seahawks over Giants and Baltimore over Cleveland (with the very late news switching the favorite) prevented a bigger week.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 41.5 wins, Weekly top option 36.7 wins, Public 38.9 wins

Spread Pools

The public continued with above average results, averaging 8.5 wins in 16 games. Unlike some recent weeks, though, closing line value showed positive results when compared to the average contest spreads, as teams with line movement in their favor went 10-2-1 ATS against closing lines. That included several situations with QB changes and uncertainty.

Our season-long picks outperformed the public, with 9.6 wins on average, taking advantage of some of that line value, and model leans on games like Tennessee, Minnesota, Washington, and Houston. The weekly picks, meanwhile, underperformed at 7.6 wins with some popular picks doing well again in Week 4.

Overall 2023 averages: Season-long Max Profit 33.0 wins, Weekly top option 31.6 wins, Public 33.0 wins

Tuesday 10/3

Week 4 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 4

Kenny Pickett of the Steelers suffered a knee injury, and could miss the Week 5 matchup with Baltimore, with the team having a bye in Week 6. TE Pat Freiermuth is also going to miss the game with a hamstring injury and could miss multiple games.

Deshaun Watson was a late scratch on Sunday morning, forcing rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson into the lineup, where he struggled, throwing three interceptions.

Matthew Stafford suffered a hip contusion in the fourth quarter Sunday, but head coach Sean McVay expects him to be available next week.

Derek Carr ended up playing with the shoulder injury, but struggled, managing only 127 yards on 37 pass attempts.

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 4:

  • The Cincinnati Bengals have scored only three offensive touchdowns in four games, dead last in the league, and are also last in yards gained (944). Joe Burrow has played through a calf injury, but probably shouldn’t have, and we’ll have to see if this offense can turn it around, but it’s been a brutal collapse.
  • Denver bounced back from their 70-point drubbing, but it still wasn’t pretty and it took playing against a really bad team making mistakes to do it. Denver was outgained by 160 yards and nine first downs against Chicago, but came back to win as the Bears had two turnovers and a turnover on downs in the fourth quarter. Denver is still the worst defense ever measured by DVOA after four weeks, going back 40 years.
  • Houston backed up their big win at Jacksonville by destroying Pittsburgh 30-6. It was a total domination, as Houston had 451 yards to only 225 for Pittsburgh. Rookie QB C.J. Stroud had another 300 yard passing day, and has gone two weeks without taking a sack (after 11 in the first two games).
  • The San Francisco-Arizona game featured only 13 actual possessions, excluding two different single-play kneel-downs by the 49ers. In their other drives, San Francisco scored a TD of five of their six possessions, with each drive going at least 60 yards. Arizona had five straight drives with 10 or more plays, scoring on three of them.

Adjusted Turnover Standings, Week 4

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.)




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.

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 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.

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