Week 2 NFL Picks for Pick ’em Contests: Expert tips, advice for football pools

Week 2, which we like to dub “Overreaction Week,” is here. We wait all offseason for football, and then crazy things can happen over the course of one 60-minute game. Unlike other weeks, though, we don’t have anything to compare it to, so we don’t know if it was a fluke or not. That means you can often find value with your Week 2 NFL pick ’em pool and confidence pool picks. All of those overreactions are based on random upsets or poor performances from favorites, not necessarily repeatable trends.

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Week 2 NFL Picks Advice: Tips for Pick ’em Pools

How we identify Week 2 value picks

Our pick advice is different than most. Why? Because not many people understand that good NFL game predictions are only part of the story when it comes to maximizing your edge to win a football pool. You also need to consider how you expect your opponents to pick each game. After all, you can only rise in your pool standings if you score points that your opponents miss. So, in order to distance yourself from the competition, you need to do two things:

  • Always look for unpopular picks that might be worth educated gambles
  • Make sure to avoid trendy upset picks that aren’t worth the risk.

This approach to making picks is a big reason why, since 2014, an average of 72 percent our subscribers have reported winning a prize in a football pick ’em contest.

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Important Notes About These Week 2 Picks

We are not saying that you should make all of the picks in this article — the upset picks especially. The best Week 2 picks for your NFL pool depend on a number of strategy factors particular to your pool. (To learn more, check out our free articles about strategy for winning football pick’em pools.)

What we are saying is that the teams mentioned in this post provide some of the best opportunities to differentiate your Week 2 picks from your pool opponents by taking on little or no additional risk. We also call out matchups where picking an upset is probably a terrible idea.

(If you want our game-by-game pick recommendations for all of your specific pools, please use our Football Pick ’em Picks product.)

Note: Win odds and estimated pick popularity data below may change between publication time and kickoff time. If you want the latest numbers, our product updates multiple times per day.

Big Favorite At A Reasonable Price

The pick below may not be significantly underrated by the public, but compared to other big favorites this week, it’s a relative bargain in terms of pick popularity. Think twice about picking against it; there are much smarter upset pick opportunities elsewhere.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Carolina)

Tom Brady looked like someone who retired to Florida in the season opener, throwing two interceptions, including a pick-six, in the loss at New Orleans. Carolina was competitive in a home loss to the Raiders in head coach Matt Rhule’s debut. So, it’s understandable that some pool players are picking the upset here in Week 2.

However, Tampa Bay is favored by nine points, tied for the largest line of the week, and our models have it with the second-highest win odds behind only Kansas City. However, there are five other teams being picked more heavily than the Bucs (who are at 91-percent pick popularity) in Week 2.

If you are going to take a longshot bet on an upset, there are better options on the Week 2 slate that are both less popular upset picks and favored by fewer points. In fact, we’ll highlight one below.

Value Favorites

Week 2 features several favorites that the public is picking at a lower rate than their chances to win. These types of teams are as close to no-brainer picks as you can get in NFL pick ’em contests since you can take the team that’s expected to win yet still “fade the public” (in relative terms, at least) at the same time.

Cleveland Browns (vs. Cincinnati)

Cleveland is favored by six points with 70-percent win odds, according to both the betting market and our models, while the public is picking the Browns 68 percent of the time. That means you can take the more likely winner and gain ground on 32 percent of a typical pool if the favorite prevails.

Yes, that requires putting some faith in the Browns, but how they looked last week (against one of the two best teams in the NFL in the first game for head coach Kevin Stefanski) is very public knowledge already being factored into the betting odds. In short, it’s too early to write off Cleveland in 2020.

Indianapolis Colts (vs. Minnesota)

Speaking of jumping off bandwagons, the public has completely bailed on the Colts in Week 2 after their crushing road loss at Jacksonville. You can be there to cash in on overreaction this week by simply staying the course.

About 75 percent of the public so far is picking Minnesota in this game, yet the Colts are actually three-point home favorites in the betting markets. Our projections have them at 56-percent win odds. It’s rare to get a favorite of this size that is this unpopular, so you need to jump the opportunity when it presents itself.

Again, yes, this does require trusting Philip Rivers not to have another frustrating game like in Week 1 when the Colts outgained the Jaguars by nearly 200 yards but made key mistakes. To maximize your odds to win a pool, though, you can’t be afraid to trust more objective numbers over trendy narratives. You need to break from the crowd and differentiate your picks.

Unpopular Toss-Up Pick

When a matchup is close to a 50/50 proposition, it often makes sense to pick the less popular team. To win an NFL pick ’em pool, you’re probably going to need some luck in these “coin flip” games, and when you get it, you want to maximize the upside.

Philadelphia (vs. LA Rams)

Here’s another case of a wild swing in popular opinion (as reflected by pick popularity) after just one week. The Eagles were a very popular pick last week before losing at Washington in embarrassing fashion. At the same time, the public was strongly supporting Dallas on the road at the Rams, but Los Angeles won by a field goal.

A week later, 68 percent of the public is taking the Rams on the road against a Philadelphia team looking to bounce back. Even more important, the Eagles should have offensive tackle Lane Johnson and maybe RB Miles Sanders back for this one. The point spread is currently the Rams -1, while our win odds have this one as a 50-percent toss-up game.

Value Gamble

If you’re going to make a gamble on an underdog, you need to make sure that the potential reward if you get it right — that is, how much your odds to win your pool will increase — is big. Take a bunch of extra risk to make a super trendy upset pick, and the joke is really on you.

The pick below is definitely not appropriate for all pools. If you’re in a smaller, season-long pool, it’s probably not worth the risk. However, it should be seriously considered for single-week contests or if you only care about weekly prizes in your pool.

Detroit Lions (at Green Bay)

We are going to preface this upset analysis by emphasizing this: You should not pick Detroit in most pools. But if you are in a pool where the goal is just to play for a weekly prize, winner-take-all, and it has a large number of entries (say, over 100), the Lions actually make some sense as a longshot attempt.

The more likely scenario is they lose to Green Bay, but the public is so down on Detroit after last week’s collapse and Green Bay’s great performance that only two percent of pick ’em entries nationwide are picking the Lions. That makes Detroit the least popular upset pick of the week despite the Lions being far from the biggest underdog. Meanwhile, the betting markets put Detroit’s chances of winning closer to 30 percent as a six-point underdog. 

So, if you are in a weekly contest and take what amounts to a Colts-Eagles-Lions value parlay, there’s about an eight-percent chance all three hit to go 3-0. Based on public pick rates, almost every other entry would get zero or one win out of that combination of results.

Sure, it’s a longshot, but if you are in a large pool where your chances to win are tiny to begin with, those are the types of calculated gambles that can really boost your odds.

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Get all of our Week 2 picks for your pool!

Once you know the best value pick opportunities of Week 2, you can typically increase your odds to win your pick ’em pool by taking a calculated risk or two (or more).

If you’re in a confidence pool, for example, it may be wise to bump up the number of confidence points you assign to a value pick like Cleveland or Indianapolis. In a non-confidence pool, the process is more about deciding whether the risk of making one or more upset picks is worth it in Week 2, especially with many weeks still to play. 

There are a lot of decisions to make, which is why we built technology to do all the data gathering and analysis needed to make the best calls. Our Football Pick ’em Picks is the only product gives you the tools and content you need to maximize your edge in NFL pick ’em pools.

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