Week 10 NFL Survivor Strategy: Steer Clear Of The Steelers

Welcome to the Week 10 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.

While last week’s schedule was loaded with close matchups, and made for a stressful Survivor experience, Week 10 features several huge favorites. Even the back up plans this week are safer than our official pick last week.

The narrow lines in Week 9 didn’t translate into as many upsets as expected, however. The biggest was Carolina over Washington, which knocked out a measly 3% of Yahoo contestants.

Of course, that means it was a fine week to roll the dice on a riskier team, which we did with the Seahawks. Seattle pulled away late to finish with a 10-point victory over the Minnesota Vikings, and we’ve survived to pick again.

Will we be taking one of the three double digit favorites this week? Or is there a sleeper pick in Sunday’s field?

Week 10 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 late in the season when teams may be resting players; Near Value: a modified version of Future Value that places more emphasis on near term value and is more relevant to players in very small pools. Both are 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.

TeamOpponentSpreadMoney LineTR OddsPick %Future ValNear Val
Tier 1: Top Options
San Franciscovs St Louis-11.0-530 / +44682%13.3%1.81.8
Baltimorevs Oakland-8.0-325 / +28579%6.5%0.00.0
New Englandvs Buffalo-11.0-540 / +45477%8.5%3.94.9
Tier 2: Worth A Look
Seattlevs NY Jets-6.5-280 / +24872%4.1%1.00.8
Miamivs Tennessee-6.0-250 / +22268%1.9%1.51.4
NY Giantsat Cincinnati-4.0-190 / +17162%0.9%0.90.7
Pittsburghvs Kansas City-12.0-560 / +46879%59.6%2.12.2
Indianapolisat Jacksonville-3.5-172 / +15556%2.6%0.90.8
Tampa Bayvs San Diego-3.0-162 / +14659%0.2%0.70.6
Denverat Carolina-3.5-184 / +16665%1.8%4.55.8
Detroitat Minnesota-2.5-132 / +11254%0.1%0.30.3
Dallasat Philadelphia-1.0-115 / +10454%0.1%0.81.0
Atlantaat New Orleans-2.5-127 / +11552%0.1%1.72.5
Chicagovs Houston-1.0-113 / +10254%0.1%2.32.9

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)

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)

Weighing the Options

Please note that the discussion below is designed for people in large pools. In pools with under 25 people left, where the contest may not last all season and 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.

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Kansas City Chiefs) — The 49ers, Patriots, and Steelers are all huge favorites this week, with around 80%-83% win odds according to a mix of the Vegas lines and our TR Odds. However, there’s an enormous weight hanging around the Steelers’ neck: a ridiculous 60% of the public are picking them. Clearly, in most cases the right move is to STAY AWAY from the Steelers and hope the Chiefs pull an upset and knock out over half your pool.

New England Patriots (vs. Buffalo Bills) — The Patriots are less popular than the Steelers, which is obviously a good thing. However, New England has quite a bit of future value. They may not be the clearly safest pick in any future week, but there are a lot of cases where it looks like they’ll be useful as a Plan B when we need to avoid a super popular team. So, we’d prefer to save the Patriots for later, though they’re certainly not a bad choice.

San Francisco 49ers (vs. St. Louis Rams) — The 49ers are as safe as the Pats and the Steelers, but without the big negatives. Only 13% of the public is picking them, which is an acceptable level given how safe they are. And they don’t have much future value; their easiest remaining game looks like it may come in Week 17 against Arizona, but by that time it’s possible they’ll be resting starters for the playoffs. So, of the three teams in the safest tier, the 49ers look like the best option. Unfortunately, we’ve already used them, so we’ll have to look elsewhere.

Baltimore Ravens (vs. Oakland Raiders) — The drop in money line from the top three teams to Baltimore looks enormous: -540 to -325 is over 200 points, right? But as lines get larger, each additional line point is worth less, on a percentage basis. That drop is only worth about 8% win odds. That’s still significant, but it’s not nearly as important as a move from, say, -340 to -125. That would represent over a 20% decrease in win odds. The point here is that the money line difference between Baltimore and the top tier looks larger than it really is. Combine that with Baltimore’s zero future value, and the fact that our models are pretty high on the Ravens this week, and you’re looking at a pretty attractive pick. They are a bit riskier than the top tier, but you’ll be preserving some flexibility in your picks down the road.

Seattle Seahawks (vs. New York Jets) — Seattle’s profile this week makes them look like a poor man’s Baltimore. Like the Ravens, they’re riskier than the safest few squads, and in return for the risk you get to keep some future value and avoid the most popular team. However, there’s really no upside to taking Seattle rather than Baltimore. They have lower win odds and more future value, and the difference in public pick percentage is negligible. So the Seahawks are an acceptable second or third option, but we prefer Baltimore.

Miami Dolphins (vs. Tennessee Titans) — They look very similar to Seattle, but are a few percentage points riskier, and have a bit more future value. Clearly a step down from the Seahawks.

New York Giants (at Cincinnati Bengals) — Wow, it’s really easy to rank the second tier this week. The Giants are several percent riskier than the Dolphins. They do have less future value, but an extra week of being a borderline option is not enough to take on the additional risk, so the Giants are at the bottom of Tier 2.

The rest of the favorites are even riskier, and there’s no real upside to gambling with them. There are already unpopular teams with little to no future value listed above, so why drop down to Tier 3?

Preliminary Week 10 NFL Survivor Pick: Baltimore Ravens Over Oakland Raiders

In our discussion above, we laid out our reasoning for why the San Francisco 49ers are the best option out of the three huge favorites this week, and why the Baltimore Ravens are the best of the rest. But of these two teams, which is the better pick?

For us, the question is academic, as we’ve already used the 49ers, so we can say up front that the Baltimore Ravens are our preliminary Survivor pick for Week 10 (in medium and large pools). For those of you that have the 49ers left, it’s not such an easy call.

Looking only at this week, New England and San Francisco are the top choices. They offer the best combination of win odds and unpopularity. The only way Baltimore can surpass them is by taking into account future value. New England has quite a bit of it, and we’re pretty comfortable opting for the Ravens rather than the Pats.

However, the 49ers have a bit less value going forward, and what looks like their easiest game comes in Week 17, which is notoriously risky to count on this far in advance, since teams often sit players at the end of the year.

If forced to choose right now, we’d go with the 49ers over the Ravens. Of course, the best move is to wait a few days, if possible. Lines could shift, and public pick rates may swing in one direction or another, and what looks like a cloudy picture now may clear up by the weekend.

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 10 for those in smaller pools:

Pools With 10-20 People — Future value is less important here, so the 49ers look like the clear best choice, and the Patriots are neck and neck with the Ravens. Though if one of these teams (or Pittsburgh) looks like they’ll be far less popular than the others, we’d opt for them.

Pools With 3-10 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 poolIn very small pools this week, it’s tough to lay out a one size fits all strategy. If your whole pool is split evenly between the three biggest favorites, it might be wise to take Baltimore. But if it looks like one of those safest three will be less popular than the other two, they are likely the best pick.

Head-to-Head Pools — This is a very interesting week for head-to-head pools. Generally, we recommend taking the safest team. But there are three equally large favorites this week (SF, NE, PIT). Generically, out of those three we’d suggest either Pittsburgh or San Francisco, due to their lower future value.

However, there’s another consideration: which teams your opponent has left. If he looks like he may have the upper hand in future weeks because he has better teams left, it’s probably wise to try to pick a different team than him this week. 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 future, 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.
Good luck!