Week 11 Survivor Strategy: Of 2 Top Options, We’ve Got One Left

Welcome to the Week 11 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.

We were this close to being elated about Week 10’s Survivor results, as the Pittsburgh Steelers needed overtime to eke out a win against the lowly Kansas City Chiefs. A Steelers loss would have eliminated an astounding 60% of the pool.

The second most popular pick, the San Francisco 49ers, also went to overtime, and finished tied with the St. Louis Rams. In many Survivor contests, a tie is as bad as a loss. That’s the case on Yahoo, so 13% of our competitors were knocked out by San Francisco’s struggles.

Our official Week 10 pick, on the other hand, had no trouble at all. The Baltimore Ravens crushed the Oakland Raiders by a 55-20 score. That means we stayed alive, and we didn’t have to give up much future value to do it.

The Ravens were an easy choice last week, but that was partly because we had already used another top option (the 49ers). It looks like we’ve got a similar situation in Week 11. Two teams stand out as the very good choices, but we only have one of them left available.

Week 11 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
Houstonvs Jacksonville-15.0-1250 / +91584%16.0%3.33.2
Atlantavs Arizona-9.5-420 / +36177%10.0%0.50.3
Tier 2: Worth A Look
New Englandvs Indianapolis-9.0-410 / +35477%5.4%3.43.4
Dallasvs Cleveland-8.0-350 / +30576%38.2%0.50.8
New Orleansat Oakland-4.5-218 / +19564%7.4%0.50.2
St Louisvs NY Jets-3.5-184 / +16663%1.3%0.00.0
Denvervs San Diego-7.5-320 / +28174%16.3%4.24.3
Washingtonvs Philadelphia-3.5-192 / +17355%0.8%0.00.0
Tier 3: AVOID
Baltimoreat Pittsburgh-3.5-180 / +16263%0.2%0.50.6
Cincinnatiat Kansas City-3.5-176 / +15962%2.5%0.81.0
Green Bayat Detroit-3.5-177 / +15967%0.3%2.32.4
Chicagoat San Francisco-5.0---- / ----60%0.0%1.51.6
Tampa Bayat Carolina-2.0-121 / +11053%0.8%0.70.5
Buffalovs Miami-2.0-123 / +11144%0.4%1.01.4

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)

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)

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.

Houston Texans (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) — The Texans are huge favorites this week, with a crazy -1250 money line on Pinnacle right now. They are clearly the safest team of the week, and they aren’t super popular since many people (us included) used them in Week 1. The one big negative is their future value. They could be a good choice in Week 15 (IND), Week 16 (MIN), or even possibly Week 13 (@ TEN). In a small pool where future value doesn’t matter much, the Texans are a good choice. But in larger pools, you may want to save them for later use. The right move depends on what your other available options are this week and in those future weeks.

Atlanta Falcons (vs. Arizona Cardinals) — The Falcons are the second biggest favorite of the week (tied with New England for that distinction), and only the fourth most popular team. They also don’t have a ton of future value left. They ought to be small favorites in most of their remaining games, but there are no real easy matchups. This is a great spot to use Atlanta.

New England Patriots (vs. Indianapolis Colts) — The Patriots have the roughly the same money line and TR Odds as the Falcons. New England is a bit less popular, but the difference between 10% and 5% isn’t too important. What has a bigger impact on our choice is their future value. There are several future weeks New England could be a decent choice, and where their projected win odds are on par with this week. So we’d prefer to save the Patriots for later.

Dallas Cowboys (vs. Cleveland Browns) — The Cowboys are a shade riskier than the Falcons or Patriots. They are also the most popular team, pulling in roughly 38% of the public picks. That’s bordering on a “STAY AWAY” level, but this week is set up just right for them in other aspects. First, they have very little future value compared to most other relatively safe teams (except the Falcons). And second, most of the other top options are semi-popular as well, with 10% or higher pick rates. So while there are clearly better options, Dallas isn’t a terrible pick if your hand is forced.

Denver Broncos (vs. San Diego Chargers) — Here is a perfect example of why Dallas isn’t such a bad pick. The Broncos have a similar level of risk as the Cowboys, and are less popular … but they are still being picked by 16% of the public, and they have a ridiculously easy remaining schedule, which means tons of future value. In a tiny pool, the Broncos could be a decent pick, but if your pool has any shot at lasting til the end of the year, avoid Denver.

New Orleans Saints (at Oakland Raiders), St. Louis Rams (vs. New York Jets), Washington Redskins (vs. Philadelphia Eagles) — These teams all have little future value, and are unpopular. But we’re getting down to teams that are simply too risky to take if you can help it, given the big favorites available this week. If you are forced to drop down to this risk level, the Saints are probably the best option, simply because both Vegas and our models project them as the safest choice. Though the Saints could possibly be used against Carolina in Week 17, the chances of that mattering are minimal, and Week 17 is notoriously difficult to predict in advance.

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 11 NFL Survivor Pick: Atlanta Falcons Over Arizona Cardinals

This week, there are two clear top options: the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons.

The Texans are very safe, but force you to give up a lot of future value. The Falcons are riskier (though still safe compared to some of our past picks), but you get to save the Texans for later. Which one you should choose depends largely on your pool size and on what teams you have left available.

The main benefit of saving Houston is that they look like a great choice in Week 15. This week’s drop off in safety from Houston to Atlanta is probably slightly larger than the drop from Houston to Miami in Week 15. However, the Dolphins will probably be the most popular choice that week, so it will be valuable to have Houston available in order to avoid the crowd. If you think there’s a chance that you’ll need Houston in Week 15 or 16, we would recommend opting for the Falcons.

Now, what size pool has a decent chance to make it to Week 15? There’s no absolutely correct answer to that questions, but we’d estimate the threshold is around 8 people. Since our picks are designed for huge pools, we’re saving Houston for later. The Atlanta Falcons are our preliminary Week 11 Survivor 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 11 for those in smaller pools:

Pools With 9-20 People — While future value is less important here, Houston looks like such a valuable option in Week 15 that we’d still recommend saving them and using Atlanta. If you’ve got neither left, New England is the next best choice. After that, it’s a tough call on whether to save Denver (and take the Saints), or burn the Broncos now. Using the Saints is probably the right move, as anybody making this decision obviously doesn’t have many great options in future weeks.

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 poolHowever, in very small pools this week, Houston is generally going to a good pick. Unless several people in your pool have all managed to save Houston until now, we’d recommend taking the super safe and super unpopular Texans, and hoping your pool is over before Week 15.

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, unless burning that team is going to leave you with no good options in one of the next few weeks. This week, that means you should take Houston.

However, there is a caveat here. If you don’t have Houston left, and you’re trying to decide between to 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.

Good luck!