Welcome to the Week 13 installment of our NFL Survivor contest advice column. We apply a data-driven strategy to get an edge in Survivor pools, using analysis based on NFL predictions from our algorithmic Team Rankings models, public picking trends, future team schedules, and other data. This article presents our preliminary Survivor pick of the week; we publish our final, official pick on Fridays.
For the fifth time this season, and the fourth time in the last six weeks, over 94% of Yahoo Survivor contestants managed to avoid elimination. The last time a team picked by at least 15% of the public lost was way back in Week 6.
There are no hugely popular teams this week, so a mass knockout seems unlikely, but with picks spread fairly evenly among a handful of top options, hopefully we’ll see at least one or two upsets thin the ranks.
Week 13 NFL Survivor Decision Factors
This is the heart of our column, the table showing the factors that influence our weekly Survivor pick decision. For every team, here are the three questions we ask ourselves (and the data in our table that helps us answer them):
1. How likely are they to win? (consensus sportsbook Spread at -110 payout odds, Pinnacle Money Line, and TR Odds from our NFL win picks page)
2. How popular is this team? (Average public Pick % from sites like Yahoo! and OfficeFootballPool)
3. Should I save this team for later? (Future Value: a quick rating created by giving 1 point for a future game with 75%+ win odds and half a point for a game with 65%+ win odds, with only partial credit for games in Week 16 or 17 when teams may be resting players. Based on averaging projections from our NFL Survivor Tool [which uses data from only this season] and our NFL Season Projections [which incorporates our preseason team projections].)
Teams are listed in order of how attractive we think they are as a choice this week. They’re also separated into rough tiers. If two teams are in the same tier, you may want to choose among them based on which pros and cons are more important to your particular situation.
NOTE: We’ve removed the “Near Value” column this week because at this point in the season, everything is near, so plain old “Future Value” should work for everyone.
|Team||Opponent||Spread||Money Line||TR Odds||Pick %||Future Val|
|Tier 1: Top Options|
|Dallas||vs Philadelphia||-10.0||-525 / +442||76%||15.6%||0.0|
|Green Bay||vs Minnesota||-9.0||-390 / +338||75%||4.4%||1.2|
|Tier 2: Worth A Look|
|Denver||vs Tampa Bay||-7.0||-325 / +285||79%||5.2%||2.3|
|New England||at Miami||-7.0||-350 / +305||79%||10.1%||2.8|
|Detroit||vs Indianapolis||-4.5||-215 / +193||68%||2.5%||0.3|
|Houston||at Tennessee||-6.0||-255 / +227||69%||1.7%||1.8|
|NY Jets||vs Arizona||-4.5||-213 / +191||66%||4.6%||0.5|
|San Francisco||at St Louis||-7.0||-320 / +281||72%||18.3%||1.6|
|Tier 3: AVOID|
|Baltimore||vs Pittsburgh||--||---- / ----||64%||6.7%||0.0|
|Atlanta||vs New Orleans||-3.5||-195 / +175||61%||0.3%||0.4|
|Chicago||vs Seattle||-3.0||-186 / +167||68%||7.3%||0.9|
|Buffalo||vs Jacksonville||-5.5||-240 / +214||66%||18.3%||0.3|
|Carolina||at Kansas City||-3.0||-148 / +134||53%||2.8%||0.5|
|NY Giants||at Washington||-2.5||-143 / +129||52%||0.6%||0.9|
|Cincinnati||at San Diego||-1.5||-132 / +120||51%||0.4%||1.0|
|Oakland||vs Cleveland||-1.5||-161 / +135||29%*||0.4%||0.1|
Teams We’ve Already Used (Final Official Picks): Houston Texans (WIN), Cincinnati Bengals (WIN), Dallas Cowboys (WIN), Green Bay Packers (WIN), San Francisco 49ers (WIN), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WIN), Minnesota Vikings (WIN), Chicago Bears (WIN), Seattle Seahawks (WIN), Baltimore Ravens (WIN), Atlanta Falcons (WIN), New England Patriots (WIN)
Previous Wednesday Preliminary Picks: Houston Texans (WIN), New York Giants (WIN), Chicago Bears (WIN), Green Bay Packers (WIN), San Francisco 49ers (WIN), Arizona Cardinals (LOSS), Minnesota Vikings (WIN), Chicago Bears (WIN), Seattle Seahawks (WIN), Baltimore Ravens (WIN), Atlanta Falcons (WIN), New England Patriots (WIN)
Weighing the Options
Please note that the discussion below is designed for people in large pools. In pools with under 20 people left, where your pick actually changes the pool pick rates to a significant degree, please see the “Advice For Smaller Survivor Pools” section at the end of this article that provides quick strategy tips for smaller pools.
Dallas Cowboys (vs. Philadelphia Eagles) – If you’ve saved the Cowboys, nice work! They are the biggest favorite of the week, have basically no future value, and are being picked by only 16% of the public. That does make them the third-most popular pick this week, but 16% is not a huge incentive to stay away. Our models also are a bit down on the ‘Pokes, but that just means they forecast Dallas as roughly as safe as a few other teams, rather than clearly safer. So again, no red flag there. The Cowboys look like the clear best pick, as long as they aren’t more popular in your pool than with the general public.
Green Bay Packers (vs. Minnesota Vikings) – The Packers are one of three teams that seem just a touch riskier than Dallas. Green Bay, Denver, and New England all have money lines in the -300′s and TR Odds between 75% and 79%. The Packers are the most attractive of those three options, because they have the least future value, and they are the least popular (though only by a hair on Aaron Rodgers’s mustache). Their immediate value seems similar to Dallas, as their lower popularity makes up for their lower money line. However, their future value means they aren’t quite as good of a pick as the Cowboys. Still, being the clear second best option this week is nothing to sneeze at.
Denver Broncos (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – The Broncos have a profile very similar to Green Bay’s. The main difference is that Denver has more future value. It would be nice to save that future value, but it’s getting late enough in the game that it may be smart to burn them. If you can plot a path for yourself over the last four weeks that doesn’t use Denver, and still manages to stick to teams that are toughly touchdown favorites (or 70% win odds), then it’s not a terrible idea to use Denver now.
New England Patriots (at Miami Dolphins) — The Patriots look a lot like the Broncos, except they have even slightly more future value, and they are a bit more popular. So, a similar rule applies here. If it looks like you can survive the next four weeks without the Pats, it might be time to spend them. If not, there are enough medium favorites this week that it’s not super scary to save them for later.
San Francisco 49ers (at St. Louis Rams) – The 49ers are another notch riskier than any of the above teams, plus they are tied with the Bills for the most popular team of the week. They also have some future value (next week vs. MIA, and Week 17 vs. ARI). They are a better choice than a small favorite like Carolina or Cincinnati, but we’d try to avoid San Francisco if you have any medium favorites available.
Baltimore Ravens (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers) – The Ravens are definitely riskier than the 49ers or anyone else listed above, but they aren’t popular, and have zero future value.
If you have them available, they are a good choice. [EDIT: We originally were using a spread/money line from Legends sportsbook to inform this choice. It turns out those lines are listed on SBRforum but not actually up on Legends any more. Without a line on the game, we're going to have to trust our models, which show Baltimore as riskier than the Jets or Lions. Until lines are released, we're bumping them down to Tier 3.]
Detroit Lions (vs. Indianapolis Colts) – Like the Ravens, the Lions aren’t very popular, and don’t have much future value. However, we’re getting riskier and riskier as we move down the list, and this may be an inflection point. The Lions are definitely a passable pick, but if you have a safer team available, you may be able to plan a path through the season that avoids any risks this large.
New York Jets (vs. Arizona Cardinals) – Roughly as safe as the Lions, but with a bit more future value. So the same concept applies. Check out your future options, and try to plan a path that avoids a risk this large.
Houston Texans (at Tennessee Titans) – The Texans are a bit safer than the Jets or Lions, but have a lot more future value. Its likely they’ll be more valuable to you in the future than they are now, so for most people it’s probably a good idea to save them.
Buffalo Bills (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) – The Bills are only the eighth-biggest favorites of the week according to the money lines, but they are tied with the 49ers as the most popular team. Sure, 18% isn’t a huge amount, but when it doesn’t come with a high-win-odds upside, the smart move is to STAY AWAY and root for an upset.
Preliminary Week 13 NFL Survivor Pick: Denver Broncos Over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s getting deep enough in the season that options are becoming very limited. We don’t have either of our Tier 1 options available, and the only Tier 2 options left are Denver, Detroit, and the New York Jets.
We can easily eliminate the Jets from consideration, because they grade out as slightly worse than the Lions in every metric (money line, TR odds, pick%, future value). That leaves us with a choice of burning Denver now, or taking on some additional risk this week with Detroit in order to save Denver for week 14, 16, or 17.
To help make the decision, we tried to plan out the rest of the season based on this week’s choice. It seems like the most likely paths for us, taking into account who we’ve already used, are:
- 13 DEN (vs TB); 14 CLE (vs KC), 15 MIA (vs JAC), 16 CAR (vs OAK), 17 NYG (vs PHI)
- 13 DET (vs IND); 14 CLE (vs KC), 15 MIA (vs JAC), 16 DEN (vs CLE), 17 NYG (vs PHI)
The differences there are this week (obviously) and Week 16. So it ultimately boils down to whether we’d rather take Detroit now and Denver in Wek 16, or Denver now and Carolina in Week 16.
Based on looking at projected future odds on our site and other sources, it seems like the projected win odds for both options are roughly the same. In other words, the penalty for dropping down to Detroit now is basically cancelled out by the bonus of moving up from Carolina to Denver in Week 16.
In a case like this, we generally like to take the route that is safer up front, and risky later. Our reasoning is that the future odds are more uncertain, and by Week 16 Denver may not even look like that much better of an option than Carolina. Plus, in Week 16 and 17, there are often surprising lines available due to teams resting starters for the playoffs or giving young talent a bit of experience at the end of a disappointing season.
And, of course, there’s always the chance that your pool will end before you have a chance to cash in the future value.
This was a very close choice, and there would certainly be nothing wrong with a pick of the Lions. It would be the riskier move, but would set us or you up for smoother sailing in future weeks. And, who knows, if the lines move significantly by this weekend, we may end up flipping to Detroit for our official pick.
Advice For Smaller Survivor Pools
Remember, all the discussion above is designed for large pools, where future value is still very important. Many of you are probably in pools with only a few people left. It’s important to remember that in small pools, the correct strategy can change considerably. Here’s a refresher on key three points about Survivor end-game tactics:
- It’s less likely that your opponents’ picks will closely mimic the national public picking averages.
- Future value means less.
- Resist the urge to play overly conservative just because you’re close to winning.
For an expanded discussion on these points, see the Week 4 NFL Survivor post.
Here is some specific advice for Week 12 for those in smaller pools:
Pools With 9-20 People — At this point, it seems likely that many pools of this size will last the rest of the year. So the strategy here is basically to follow the order outlined in the main data table. The one caveat is that your pool’s picks may be quite different than the public, so if one team projects to be much more or less popular than in the general public, you’ll want to adjust your ranking of them accordingly.
Pools With 3-8 People – If you’re in a very small pool, where you can take some rough guesses about who your opponents will choose, all bets are off. Our picks are made based on the assumption that these public pick percentages roughly match the pick rates in your pool, and that won’t be true for your pool. In very small pools this week, the least popular out of the Cowboys, Packers, and 49ers is probably your best option, as those three teams are in the safest tier, plus have less future value than the Broncos or Patriots. If you’ve got none available, then working your way down from safest to riskiest (by money line) and taking the first unpopular team (only 1 or 0 people picking them) may work.
Head-to-Head Pools – Strategy totally changes here again, as the pick percentages will always be 50% or 100%. It’s impossible for you to pick an unpopular team, because you are half the pool. And future value means very little, as the pool may be over this week. In those cases, safety becomes the number one priority. So in head-to-head pools, we generally recommend taking the biggest favorite you have available, with future value only playing a role win there are multiple good options. This week, the Cowboys clearly have the best combo of safety and future value, so they are the ideal pick. If you don’t have them available, Green Bay or San Francisco are the next most attractive, and then Denver or New England.
There is one thing to keep in mind here. If you’re trying to decide between two teams that are roughly equally risky, you may want to consider which teams your opponent has left. If he looks like he may have the upper hand in future weeks, it’s wise to try to pick a different team than him now. You’d be hoping to win or lose this week (with equal chances of both), rather than waiting for the future (where he has the advantage). On the other hand, if you have the upper hand in the coming weeks, you should try to pick the same team as him, so he doesn’t get the chance to win now, and must fight against the odds later.
As always, feel free to ask questions about your specific situation in the comments section. However, please note that the volume has gotten high enough that we can’t commit to giving everyone a detailed answer. But we’re doing our best and can make it work if we all follow a few guidelines:
- First, please read the “Advice For Smaller Pools” section and see if that answers your question.
- A lot can change between now and Friday, when we publish our finalized pick. So if your pick isn’t due until Friday or the weekend, please hold off asking questions until Friday.
- If you do need advice now, and you’re in a small pool, be sure to include information about pool size, who you have available, and who you think your opponents will choose, as those are the key factors in small pools.
- If you’re in a large pool, please include info on why you think your pool is different than the generic Yahoo! and OFP pools.