The Favorites Pick ’Em Contest: NFL Week 3 Tiebreaker Strategy
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Ja’Marr Chase.
With the launch of The Favorites' NFL pick 'em contest, which is free to play, we decided on tiebreaker props to settle the winners of the $3,000 in weekly prizes. Last week, 149 entrants went 5-for-5 on spread picks, with the five-closest guesses on our tiebreaker (longest Steelers reception) receiving cash prizes.
As predicted, the best strategy was to come in with the highest possible number — though I can't say I saw a 71-yard catch from George Pickens coming.
For Week 3, our tiebreaker is the longest Bengals touchdown, with a guess of zero being the winner if Cincinnati fails to score.
Important note: You can sign up for this contest at any point during the season.
Week 3 Tiebreaker: Longest Bengals Touchdown
Figuring out the actual likeliest number is just part of the puzzle. There's a few different ways to go about it, including looking at the length of all touchdowns over a given time period, or Bengals touchdowns specifically. I'm going with option B, as their explosive passing attack should lead to a different distribution of scoring length than a plodding team.
The Bengals scored 58 touchdowns last season (including the playoffs), with a mean length just under 15 yards, but a median length of eight yards. This makes sense intuitively, as the mean is driven up by a few long touchdowns, with the bulk of scores significantly shorter.
Now we need to figure out how many touchdowns are likely to be scored — more total scoring gives more opportunities for longer touchdowns. The Bengals are implied for 23 points, so the likeliest number of total touchdowns is three, with the expected number a bit below that.
Therefore, to arrive at the most accurate guess, we'll take the 66th percentile of Bengals touchdowns from last season. That gives us a starting point of 13.62 yards, where one out of every three Bengals touchdowns exceeded that amount. Of those touchdowns of 14 yards or longer, the mean length was 32.55.
That number would increase or decrease proportionately with how many touchdowns you think Cincinnati scores. As an aside, when looking at all touchdowns scored by all teams, the length at each percentile was slightly shorter, as predicted.
My Recommendation: High 30s
As we saw last week, leverage on the field was far more important than the accuracy of the guess. In a vacuum, guessing a longest reception of 69 yards would be a terrible decision — but it was the highest guess by nine yards, resulting in a win.
My guess is the same strategy will be optimal here, for similar reasons. Lower numbers are likely to have at least five guesses at each number, so odds are you'd have to nail the exact yardage just to claim a share of first place. With higher numbers, we're unlikely to see as many entries on any number, making it possible to claim the top prize individually.
There's also a meta game at play here, as more people attempting to follow this strategy drives up the number needed to be on top of the field.
Last week, 48 entrants guessed in the 40s or higher. This week, the average guess should be a bit lower as specifying touchdown instead of reception should lead to a smaller correct answer on average. Still, the optimal strategy would be to have the highest guess on the board by one, so it may be worth going even higher.
On the other hand, if your goal is to maximize the chance of making any money, consider going with a guess of one.
Cincinnati had nine one-yard touchdowns last season, while no other individual number exceeded four. That would also give you a shot at cashing if the Bengals fail to score, presuming less than five people enter a guess of zero while going 5-for-5 on spread picks.