November 16, 2011 - by David Hess
Welcome to the Week 11 installment of our series of Survivor advice columns, where we use a data-driven strategy to get an edge in NFL Survivor contests. This post includes analysis based on NFL predictions from our algorithmic Team Rankings models and other relevant data.
This discussion below is also meant to complement our Survivor Predictor tool, which provides a grid view of win odds predictions by week, from now until the end of the season. This presentation of prediction data will help you quickly grasp the current week’s best Survivor pick options, and will explain our logic in making our official pick.
Man, these NFC West at NFC East games have really been treating us well! Our main advice in our Week 10 NFL Survivor Strategy post for people in larger pools was to avoid the Eagles, as they were being picked by over half of Yahoo contestants.
Just as in Week 5 — when the Giants lost at home to the Seahawks despite being the biggest Vegas favorite of the week — our strategy of rooting for the shocking upset paid off, as Philadelphia managed to collapse in the fourth quarter once again.
The real key to last week, though, was the fact that we had saved Green Bay all year, and were able to pick them in Week 10. With the Eagles, Ravens, and Chargers all losing as favorites of 6.5 points or more, the Packers were the only “safe” choice that actually came through. If we’d have used Green Bay earlier, we might have ended up picking Baltimore, and thus been tossed (actually, if you look at our top 5 picks list from last week, our next highest un-picked team was Miami, so I guess we would have been safe anyway, if we could have stomached backing the Dolphins).
With all the upsets, it was a fantastic week for those who managed to survive — 80% of the Yahoo contestants were kicked out, and now only 1,749 people remain… less than the weekly readership of this column.
Time for the heart of our post, the table showing the factors that influence our decision:
|Team||Opponent||Spread||TR Odds||Yahoo! Pick %||Future Val||Notes|
|New England||vs Kansas City||-14.5||83%||38.4%||2||PICKED|
|Green Bay||vs Tampa Bay||-14.0||84%||6.1%||3||PICKED (good otherwise)|
|San Francisco||vs Arizona||-9.5||83%||25.8%||2|
|Detroit||vs Carolina||-7.0||87%||12.3%||0||last chance?|
|NY Jets||@ Denver||-6.0||71%||4.1%||0|
|NY Giants||vs Philadelphia||-4.5||66%||0.7%||1||PICKED|
|Chicago||vs San Diego||-3.5||70%||2.2%||2|
|St Louis||vs Seattle||-1.0||58%||0.2%||0|
Future Val = the number of future games where the team is expected to have win odds of 75% or greater, based on our NFL Survivor Tool.
Teams We Already Picked: Houston Texans (WIN), Pittsburgh Steelers (WIN), San Diego Chargers (WIN), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WIN), New England Patriots (WIN), Cincinnati Bengals (WIN), New Orleans Saints (WIN), New York Giants (WIN), Dallas Cowboys* (WIN), Green Bay Packers (WIN)
*Our original official pick in Week 9 was the Oakland Raiders. However, we issued a an update to the post well in advance of Sunday morning that suggested readers switch to Dallas. Because Oakland lost while Dallas won, we feel that this series will be more useful going forward if we assume Dallas was our official pick.
New England Patriots (vs Kansas City Chiefs) — The Patriots are neck and neck with the Packers as the safest pick of the week, with both Vegas and our models in agreement. The problem is that they are also the most popular pick this week, and they’ll be a great choice in Week 13 when they host the Colts. They are a decent pick, but we’d rather choose somebody else and root for the upset.
Green Bay Packers (vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers) — If you managed to survive last week without burning the Packers, now wouldn’t be the worst time to do so. They are basically even with New England as the safest pick of the week, but only 6% of the public is picking them. The one qualm we have is that they still have good value in weeks 14 through 17 (though they may be resting starters for a couple of those). So, if you’re in a small pool where going the full 17 weeks is unlikely, the Packers are the definitely best pick. If you might need them in three weeks, they’re still not bad.
San Francisco 49ers (vs Arizona Cardinals) — The 49ers are a big step below New England and Green Bay in terms of the Vegas line, though our TR win odds don’t agree. They are also the second most popular pick this week, plus will be valuable in Week 13 against the Rams. Their public pick rate (26%) isn’t enough lower than New England’s to justify the decrease in the line that you’ll have to put up with. We’d take either of the big favorites over them, but they’re still not a terrible choice.
Dallas Cowboys (@ Washington Redskins) — At first glance this looks good. Decently high line, no future value, only 3.5% of the public picking them. But our models are raising a big red flag here, putting their win odds at only 63%. We went back and took a look at the rest of the games this year where the Vegas line has been -9 or greater, yet our models have shown a TR win odds of 75% or less. The results are not pretty for the favorites:
|8||New Orleans||@ St Louis||-13.5||73%||Loss|
|4||Philadelphia||vs San Francisco||-9||74%||Loss|
|3||New England||@ Buffalo||-9||74%||Loss|
|3||Philadelphia||vs NY Giants||-9||75%||Loss|
|3||Pittsburgh||@ Indianapolis||-10.5||72%||Win (by 3)|
|3||San Diego||vs Kansas City||-14.5||75%||Win (by 3)|
|2||NY Jets||vs Jacksonville||-9||73%||Win (by 29)|
|2||Detroit||vs Kansas City||-9||75%||Win (by 45)|
|2||Green Bay||@ Carolina||-9.5||75%||Win (by 7)|
Now, we are definitely not saying that the Cowboys will lose. What we’re saying is that we don’t think this game is as safe as it looks on first glance. We’ve already picked the Cowboys, so it’s moot for us, but we’d probably try to find another option, if possible.
Detroit Lions (vs Carolina Panthers) — The Lions only have a line of -7, but our models see them as the most solid favorite of the week. That’s likely because Carolina is one of the more consistent teams in the NFL. They’re unlikely to play way over their heads and upset the Lions. Combine this optimistic opinion from our models with this possibly being your best chance to use Detroit, and the Lions are a pretty attractive choice. Yes, you’re taking a bit of a risk compared to New England or Green Bay, but you’ve likely already used those teams (as we have). They’re roughly as safe as San Francisco, yet less popular and with less future value. And they’re a safer pick than Dallas.
Baltimore Ravens (vs Cincinnati Bengals) — The Ravens are midway between Detroit and Dallas in terms of how safe of a pick Vegas and our models think they are. But they have much more future value, as they host the Colts in Week 14 and play the Browns twice in the last six weeks. There are definitely better options.
New York Jets (@ Denver Broncos) — The Jets are pretty similar to the Ravens, with the main differences being that New York is a bit more popular, but has less future value. We slightly prefer them to Baltimore, but they’re definitely a cut below Detroit or the big favorites.
Atlanta Falcons (vs Tennessee Titans) — The Falcons are a bit riskier than the Jets, but are a bit less popular, which basically evens out. As with all of these past few teams, there are definitely better choices out there.
This was a pretty easy choice, but that’s because we’ve already used Green Bay.
In our eyes, Green Bay is the best choice for people in small pools where you’re unlikely to still be playing in Week 17. That’s basically single-digit pools. If you’re in such a pool, but you’ve used Green Bay and still have New England left, then the Patriots are a good pick.
For people in medium and larger pools, saving Green Bay and getting a bit riskier with Detroit is definitely a viable option, and it’s what our official pick will be. However, the Lions do appear to be relatively popular for a team with such a small Vegas line. If you can see your pool pick percentages, and Detroit is being picked 5% to 10% more than San Francisco, then the 49ers are probably a better choice. And, of course, using Green bay now is a good move as well.
Here’s our ranking of the best options this week, for people in large pools:
1. Green Bay vs Tampa Bay (picked)
2. Detroit vs Carolina
3. New England vs Kansas City (picked)
4. San Francisco vs Arizona
5. Dallas @ Washington (picked)
6. NY Jets @ Denver
7. Atlanta vs Tennessee
8. Baltimore vs Cincinnati
We feel those top three are a good cut above the rest, but we’re listing more to help with people who may be handcuffed by their earlier picks. Our advice is to take one of those top three teams, if possible.
Of course, as always feel free to ask questions about your specific situation in the comments section.
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