NFL Picks Against the Spread: 10 Strategies to Dominate Your Office Pool

Tom Kinslow@@TomKinslowFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2010

NFL Picks Against the Spread: 10 Strategies to Dominate Your Office Pool

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the San Diego Chargers at the Louisiana Superdome on August 27, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Well, tomorrow night the NFL is back, and so are office spread pick-'em pools.

    Every week millions of people agonize over their pool looking for the slightest advantage that will bring the pot home to them. There's plenty of ways to go about doing this, but if you're smart about it, you can find yourself in contention every week.

    To help you out, I've put together a list of 10 things to consider when you're putting your office pool together this season.

    If you've got your own tips or disagree with mine, feel free to air it out in the comments.

No. 10: Take Home Underdogs

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    DENVER - AUGUST 29:  Quarterback Dennis Dixon #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks for a recevier against the Denver Broncos during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Coming into anyone's home stadium and walking away with a victory is no easy task, and it's why home underdogs are a favorite of mine when I'm filling out my weekly pool.

    I like to go with teams that have notoriously strong home field advantages when they're underdogs. For instance, I know Ben Roethlisberger is out, but Dennis Dixon is more than adequate as a backup. I'm loving the Steelers getting 2.5 this week against Atlanta.

    It's those types of sneaky lines that you can take advantage of. However, teams like Buffalo as home dogs should be strayed away from depending on the opponent.

No. 9: Avoid Double-Digit Favorites

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    GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 26: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to look for a receiver as teammate Daryn Colledge #73 looks to block against the Indianapolis Colts during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 26, 2010 in Green Bay,
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    While you may look at a matchup like Green Bay vs. Detroit later this year and think that Aaron Rodgers and company will have no problem covering a spread of 10 points—think again.

    Ten points is a lot to cover, and unless the 2008 Lions are walking through that door, I'd go with the underdog in those cases. Those are the types of games where a team will mail it in late in the game and allow their opponent to crawl back into the game.

    You don't want to be on the receiving end of a loss because of a touchdown in garbage time. Go underdogs with spreads of 10 or more.

No. 8: Avoid the Hype

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 27:  Rex Ryan, Head Coach of the New York Jets looks on during the preseason game against the Washington Redskins on August 27, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Ima
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Every year, a team gets a bunch of hype around it and every year that team disappoints out of the gate. Last year it was Tennessee, as plenty of people pulled their hair out as their hopes in the Titans ended in failure for six straight weeks.

    Try and avoid the preseason hype around teams. Also pay attention to who's getting a lot of press during the season and do your research to see if it's warranted.

    Look at a team like the Jets this year, favorites against the Ravens Week 1. I'm loving Baltimore this year and especially getting two points on a Monday night.

No. 7: Take 4.5- to 6.5-Point Underdogs

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    CHICAGO - DECEMBER 28: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 28, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 36-30 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    These are the trickiest lines to gauge and are usually the most common on a pool.

    However, I like the underdog in these situations most of the time, especially if it's a quality team. For instance, Minnesota is a 4.5-point underdog against the Saints tomorrow night. I like the Vikings there.

    I know that the defending champ has never lost the kickoff game since its inception, but last time the two teams met, it was a three-point game.

    Sometimes, teams are vastly overrated by six points. I'm not sure the Titans are six points better than the Raiders and would roll with Oakland on my pool.

No. 6: Remember the Past

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 21:  Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans in action during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on August 21, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Despite some teams being dark-horse favorites, don't forget their past history against their current matchup.

    Everyone seems to be in love with the Texans this year after they finally got a winning season under their belts, but be wary of taking them Week 1.

    The Texans are 1-15 all time against the Colts, and a two-point spread is too close for comfort as far as I'm concerned. If you see that a team has had struggles against an opponent, I'd try to stay away from it if it's possible. If you have to pick the game, go with history.

No. 5: Medicore Matchups are Crapshoots

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 28: Derek Anderson #3 of the Arizona Cardinals drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Bears 14-9. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When two bottom-of-the-barrel teams get together, it's always havoc for those playing spread pools to try and figure out where to go.

    For instance, this week's Arizona and St. Louis matchup. In recent years, the easy pick would be Arizona, especially as four-point favorites. Now, we're not so sure. The worst part is that these are the types of games that can win or lose you a pool.

    When trying to pick these games, just go with the team you think is better. There's no true science to it. I wish there was, but there isn't.

No. 4: Embrace Risk Taking

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    MINNEAPOLIS - AUGUST 28:  Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks throws a pass against the Minnesota Vikings during a preseason NFL game at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on August 28, 2010  in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Phot
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Do you think Seattle's going to shock San Francisco this week? Are you of the belief that the Jets aren't as good as people make them out to be?

    If so, embrace it and go out on a limb. No one ever won their pool by playing it safe. There are rules to follow, of course, but you need to shake it up from time to time to reach the top.

    Just make sure you don't go too far out on a limb. There's a fine line between gutsy and crazy and you can step over it and cost yourself your pool.

No. 3: Avoid Teams with Roster Shakeups Early

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    ASHBURN, VA - JULY 29:  Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Washington Redskins throws a pass during drills on the first day of training camp July 29, 2010 in Ashburn, Virginia.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
    Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Unless this is Brett Favre to Minnesota, stay away from teams that made serious roster changes in the offseason for the first few weeks.

    It's going to take awhile for Donovan McNabb to grasp the system in Washington and Arizona needs to transition away from Kurt Warner. Don't let names fool you. Be smart and realize there's going to be growing pains along the way for these teams.

    Avoid these teams and you won't end up a victim of disappointment.

No. 2: Be Wary of Aging Teams

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a first quarter pass against the New York Giants on September 2, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    I'm looking right at you New England. I'm not sold on the Patriots this year, they have an aging defense and contract issues with Tom Brady and Randy Moss.

    I'm sure they'll work out Brady's contract, but Moss could be a problem in New England. It's clear the Patriots don't want him past this year, and if Randy doesn't get what he wants, it could be "straight cash homie" part two in New England.

    Aging teams that have won in the past have haunted many a pool player, and you don't want to be the next victim. For instance, the Patriots are 4.5-point favorites against the Bengals this week. I'm loving the Bengals in that game.

    Take advantage of matchups like that throughout the season.

No. 1: Go with Your Gut

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    NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 23:  Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans avoids defenders Clark Haggans #53 and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie #29 of te Arizona Cardinals during the first half of a preseason game at LP Field on August 23, 2010 in Nashville, Tenn
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    I know rules are rules, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

    Don't just play these rules blindly across the board without some sense of self-awareness. If you think Tennessee is going to beat Oakland by two touchdowns, then roll with it. I'm not saying that you should be reckless just to be reckless, but if your gut is telling you something, then you have to follow it.

    You don't want to be sitting on the couch on Sunday afternoon tearing your pool up because you overrode your gut. Follow your gut and your heart this season. If you follow your brain, you're going to rationalize yourself out of a couple wins which could make or break your pool.

    Good luck to everyone this season!