Welcome to our weekly post on NFL survivor pools, where we recap the previous week and list a few teams you should definitely avoid this week if your goal is to win your pool.
Week 1 Recap
For a while it looked like chaos would rule in Week 1. The most popular pick, the Eagles at 44%, were down 17-0 at halftime to the lowly Jaguars before ultimately winning. And the second most popular pick, the Bears at 19%, did lose to the Bills in overtime. So including some of the other upsets, over 70% of survivor players were nearly eliminated in Week 1!
The actual value ended up being only 28%, but that’s still a very good week…provided you didn’t pick one of those losing teams, of course.
Weeks like Week 1 serve as great examples of why mathematically optimal survivor strategy, which drives our recommended picks, often advocates avoiding the most popular teams — even if they have higher win odds (Philadelphia) and/or less future value (both Philly and Chicago) than the team you choose.
If you survived Week 1, your surviving entries just had their expected share of the prize pool go up by almost 40%, assuming an equal split among all surviving entries. If the Eagles had lost as well, the expected share for your surviving entries would have more than tripled.
This fall, we’ll be hosting private one-day fantasy football tournaments for TeamRankings users on FanDuel, with large cash prize pools. (Learn how to get an invite.)
To show everyone just how easy it is to play on FanDuel, we put together this quick tutorial.
First, once we put together our private tournament for a given week, we’ll email a link to the tournament to everyone who signs up for FanDuel using our Promo code, TEAMRANKINGS.
Once we send you the link to the tournament, entering the contest is all done on one screen, which makes things quite easy to understand.
(Click the image below to enlarge it.)
We’re excited to introduce a new initiative this football season. The TeamRankings Nerds are going to be playing in weekly football contests on FanDuel. These contests are reserved exclusively for TeamRankings users, and we want YOU to play along with us.
To get invited to our private tournaments, the first step is to sign up for FanDuel at the link below, using Promo code TEAMRANKINGS.
(If you already have a FanDuel account, please just email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to get on the tournament invite list.)
Here’s the full story:
What is FanDuel?
FanDuel is a site that runs one day long football contests for real money prizes. Like traditional fantasy football, you first draft a team of NFL players. The twist is that this the “season” only lasts one day, and you can draft your team whenever you want to.
You then enter your team in a tournament, and within hours you’ve got a chance to win cash — deposited in your account right after the contest ends. Then the fun starts all over again the next Sunday.
We are total newbies at this daily fantasy sports thing, but here’s what we do know:
- It’s easy to play
- You win real money
- It’s legal in the USA
- It’s getting huge (you may have seen or heard ads lately)
That all sounds pretty awesome to us. So this year we decided to partner with FanDuel to bring the action to TeamRankings.
Note: This post is taken from our NFL Survivor Pools product, which includes our picks, analysis, and tools for survivor/eliminator style contests. We’re posting it on the blog to provide an example of the depth of Survivor pool analysis we do. If you like what you see, we invite you to check out the full product.
A Quick Refresher Course on Survivor Strategy
A quick review of our picking methodology is in order since it’s Week 1. Our goal is to maximize your expected winnings in your survivor pool. We assume your #1 goal is winning your pool — not just surviving for a certain number of weeks so you can tell your friends you made it that long.
Maximizing your odds to win your pool most often requires a slightly riskier picking strategy than most of your opponents will use. In most weeks, we’re looking to avoid the most popular public pick in favor of a less picked team, and rooting for an upset to take out a large percentage of your pool competitors.
With the NFL season kicking off Thursday in Seattle, here is our annual post outlining our NFL preseason ratings, with season projections added for good measure, for every NFL team in 2014-15. Below the data table is more information on how we rank and project teams.
Preseason NFL Rankings Highlights
When we make comparisons to Vegas below, we are using Chase Stuart’s implied Vegas SRS Ratings as the basis for comparison. Those rankings are based on preseason lines that are several months old now, but they should still be close enough for our basic purposes here.
- Agreement with Vegas regarding top teams. There is close agreement between us and Vegas on the top six ranked teams this year: Denver (#1 TR, #2 Vegas), Seattle (#2 TR, #1 Vegas), San Francisco (#3 in both), New England (#4 TR, #5 Vegas), New Orleans (#5 TR, #6 Vegas), and Green Bay (#6 TR, #4 Vegas).
We’ve refined our college football preseason ratings algorithm with the benefit of an extra year’s worth of results, and fed all of the requisite 2014 input data into the model. After a few turns of the hand crank, the results are in.
Here are the official 2014 TeamRankings preseason college football team rankings and ratings, including the TR Preseason Top 25.
(Quick announcement though: Our picks for college football office pools and confidence pools, which gave our users up to a 10x edge over their opponents last year, are now available.)
2014 College Football Rankings Highlights
- A Trifecta At The Top. There’s a clear triumvirate at the top of our ratings this year, with Florida State (#1), Oregon (#2), and Alabama (#3) all projecting at least six points better than the rest of the FBS.
After several years of success blogging about picks and strategy for football office pools, including taking first place in the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference NFL pick’em contest, in 2013 we decided to take things to the next level.
We released the world’s most sophisticated picks and analysis for football pools, now part of our expanded lineup of Office Pool Picks products. We spent a big chunk of the summer working on improvements to this product, and we’re excited to announce the latest developments.
For those unfamiliar with our football pool picks, our approach uses millions of computer simulations to identify the picking strategy that gives you the best chance to win your football office pool or handicapping contest. We also customize picks based on key factors like your pool’s size, format, and scoring system.
Here’s a quick rundown on upgrades we made to our NFL Survivor Pool picks product this summer.
Before we dive in, it’s worth noting what happened to us in survivor last season. After ripping off a 29-week survivor win streak across the two previous two seasons, we hit a bit of rough patch during the first few weeks of 2013. This was especially frustrating for two reasons:
- Our analysis was sound, but our luck was bad. The teams our survivor algorithms categorized as “Top Options” and “Worth A Look” during Week 1 and Week 2 of 2013 won even more often than we expected. Combined, those teams went 13-3 compared to an expected 11-5 based on our pre-game win odds. Unfortunately, we just happened to settle on two of the losers as our Week 1 and Week 2 picks for people playing one entry in a pool.
- The rest of the season went fine. Toward the end of last season we began hearing from customers who, despite our rocky start, were still cashing in their survivor pools. These were people who played three, four, or more entries in their pools, which is often a good idea for survivor, especially in larger contests. They had lost entries early on, but stuck with our analysis and still ended up profiting.
In our ongoing effort to simplify our business, we’ve made several changes to our premium subscription packages in advance of the 2014-15 football season. In short, we’ve:
- Eliminated pricing tiers (e.g. “Lite” and “Pro”) from our office pool picks packages
- Combined our NFL Pick’em and College Football Pick’em products
- Lowered prices on longer-term premium subscriptions (Quarterly and Yearly)
- Moved to consistent $49 pricing for all office pool picks packages
Below is the reasoning behind each decision in case you are curious.
No More “Lite” And “Pro” Packages
We now have a single premium package associated with each type of office pool we cover. In addition, we still offer an awesome bundle deal on our yearly Pool Picks Subscription, which includes access to all four of our pool picks products. You can see all our current office pool packages on our sales page.
A lot of people will read our bracket picking guide and say, “Whatever. Winning a bracket pool just comes down to luck anyway. Last year Sally in accounting won the March Madness office pool picking by team colors, and my great grandmother knows more about college basketball than her. Research like this doesn’t mean squat in the end, it’s all a crapshoot anyway.”
We would never argue that winning a bracket pool in any given year doesn’t require luck. It’s ridiculous to imagine anyone, even with the best bracket research at their disposal, being 25 or 50 times better at making picks than all the other people in their pool — in other words, good enough to expect to win a smaller sized pool each and every year.
As a result, paying some money to enter a bracket pool will always be a very risky use of your money. On the grand scale of risk, let’s consider two extremes of what you could do with $25 this month: