NFL experts take several factors into account when picking the winners of a game, including statistical trends, recent team performance and key players. Most experts admit that gut feeling also plays a role in picking NFL games.
Statistical trends can be interpreted to predict if one team has the possibility of exploiting the other team's weaknesses. For example, an expert could point out that a team with a very high sack or interception rate is facing an immobile or inaccurate quarterback, implying this gives the former team the advantage over the latter.
Experts usually interpret a team's overall record as an indication of the team's level of play. Therefore, if a team with a winning percentage lower than 50 percent faces a team with a winning percentage higher than 50 percent, experts usually consider the latter team to have the advantage in the matchup.
Analyzing the key matchups in an NFL game also helps experts to predict a winner. Factors that might influence an expert's picks might include if a team's star wide receiver lines up against a below-average cornerback or if a weak offensive line has to block an above-average defensive line. The injury report released before a game also factors into a prediction; if an important player is too injured to play, the expert takes this into account.
Gut feeling also plays a role in an expert's thinking. Sometimes an expert who has chosen a team to do well before the season picks the team to win in matchups where statistics don't support the pick. Speculation over off-the-field incidents and their effect on a team's performance on the field also affects which team an expert picks.