Let's dive straight into this week's top five value plays according to the methods outlined in Week 1 and Week 2. I'm skipping futures this week but will be back with them next week. (Sorry, day job's been crazy.)
Value plays did really well in Week 1 and pretty well in Week 2, both against-the-spread and on the money line. Picking against the Giants and Texans — both of which the models viewed as overvalued by oddsmakers — paid dividends as top five picks in both weeks. Top five money-line value plays are 2-3 in both weeks, all via underdogs (TB, NYJ in Week 1; KC, TEN in Week 2), so they're comfortably in the black.
The three picks with at least a 65% chance to cover across the 50+ models on The Prediction Tracker are now 3-0 on the season (+300), including the Patriots and Eagles in Week 1, and an unpopular but victorious Titans selection in Week 2. Picks with at least a 60% chance to cover are now 4-1-1 on the season (+280).
This week's value plays and season-to-date results are listed below. Probabilities to cover and win are sourced from the 50+ models aggregated on The Prediction Tracker, then applied to current odds.
I. Against the Spread — Top 5 Value in Week 3
1. Philadelphia -6.5 vs. Indianapolis (-110) — 62% chance to cover
2. Tampa Bay +2.0 vs. Pittsburgh (-110) — 60% chance to cover
3. Baltimore -5.5 vs. Denver (-110) — 59.4% chance to cover
4. Washington +2.5 vs. Green Bay (-110) — 59.3% chance to cover
5. Arizona +5.0 vs. Chicago (-110) — 58.8% chance to cover
On its face, backing Washington and Arizona doesn't feel great here. The models are probably underestimating Green Bay and Chicago given last year's poor performances, and they could be overestimating Arizona and Washington, the former thanks to last season (8-8) and the latter thanks to Week 1's convincing but likely overinflated drubbing of the Cardinals, who've scored six points all season.
But one of the goals here is to take emotion out of the equation. So there they are. Let's see how they do.
TOP 5 VALUE - Last Week: 2-2-1 (-20), Season: 6-3-1 (+270)
65%+ COVERS - Last Week: 1-0 (+100), Season: 3-0 (+300)
60%+ COVERS - Last Week: 2-0 (+200), Season: 4-1-1 (+280)
II. Money Line — Top 5 Value in Week 3
1. Buffalo: +1000 at Minnesota — 18% chance to win
2. N.Y. Giants: +215 at Houston — 41% chance to win
3. Detroit: +250 vs. New England — 36% chance to win
4. Tennessee: +375 at Jacksonville — 24% chance to win
5. L.A. Chargers: +260 at L.A. Rams — 31% chance to win
Keep in mind that these (and everything else) are only as good as your faith in the probabilities put forth by the models. The 50+ models on The Prediction Tracker give the Bills an 18% chance to win in Minnesota. If you agree with that, then there's really good value in the Bills at +1000. But most folks think the Bills chances are close to nil. Even the 9% probability of a Bills win implied by the money line seems to high.
TOP 5 VALUE - Last Week: 2-3 (+60), Season: 4-6 (+325)
All selections have been underdogs
Moneyline odds via the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (September 22). Point spreads and probabilities via The Prediction Tracker (September 21).
The original version of this article framed expected value in terms of what a hypothetical $100 wager "would turn into." For example, if you were expected to lose $10, I showed the resulting expected value as $90, or $10 less than $100. I've since updated this to show the "expected return" on that $100 wager. So in that same example, the expected value now shows as negative $10. This is much more intuitive — positive expected values are good, and negative expected values are bad.