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

posted in NFL, NFL Survivor Pools

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!

  • M

    I have NE, Dallas and NO available in a pool with 288 left. Is Dallas the play? Half of the pool has already taken them. Or would is be smart to go NO so I can maybe save Dallas next week vs Wash so that I’m not with the majority (probably) with Denver at KC?

  • gus

    saints or rams? i like home teams but tell me why saints would be a better pick …in your opinion if you think so

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Hmm, why have so many people in your pool already taken Dallas? If it’s because your pool has a ton of Dallas fans I’d probably avoid them this week, as I’d think they’d still be very popular. If it’s just due to random picking, then yeah, I think Dallas sounds like a good play for you, since they ought to be less popular than in Yahoo.

    I would go with New England rather than New Orleans as well.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    The answer to your question is in the “Weighing The Options” section above, where I specifically have a paragraph discussing the Saints vs. Rams vs. Redskins.

  • Chris


    Given the moneylines the only good options this week seem to be HOU/ATL/NWE/DEN/DAL.
    Everyone in the pool has used HOU.
    Opp #4 is the only one with NWE remaining so he should be picking them. If he chooses not to, he’s already taken ATL, so they are eliminated as one of his possible options.

    I assume myself and the other 3 will be jockeying between ATL/DEN/DAL.
    Based on previous picks I think Opp #2 will take the biggest favourite, which is ATL.
    Opp #3 could very likely try to differentiate and take DEN or DAL.

    Not sure what Opp #1 is likely to do. I was confident they’d be on SFO in Week 10, but unfortunately they weren’t.

    I’m leaning towards going with ATL as I’d rather be 2nd on them than 2nd on any other team. I think worst case is there’d be 3 of us on ATL. I don’t see all but #4 taking them. DEN also has more future value than ATL as well imo.

    Looking at Week 12, the only decent options available to me, and the rest of the pool for that matter, seem to be Denver or Cincy…which Denver being a fair bit better. Based on this I could see the majority of pool taking ATL this week and then DEN next week. I could go DEN then CIN. It lowers my win odds, but I think it increases my pool equity.


  • M

    I think a majority of that ~140 went with Dallas when they played Tampa early on. They have rarely been picked since then

  • Jeff

    Pool has 6 left, no one has ATL, NE or HOU. Don’t want to burn Denver yet and Dallas is probably the top alternative though likely the majority choice… Any suggestions?

  • Scott

    David, I am head-to-head and my opponent has not used Houston. Should I go Atlanta or Denver. Thanks

  • Chris

    Hello! Great insight each week. I am in losers pool with 13 ppl left. My options are SD, Indy and Oak this week. Holding KC for next week should I survive and would prefer to hold Indy for when they play Houston. Your thoughts please. FYI, if KC would have won on MNF pool would be over. I had Buf last week.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667456521 Justin Miller

    Loooove this website btw…I’ve already used ATL. 100 buy in, 2700 people started, only 188 remain. Haven’t used NE or HOU, only 28 have Houston left. I really want to save them if I can, but i know at least 100 will pick Dallas. Should i pick Dallas as well, knowing the remaining people with Houston will pick Houston? It would give me a huge future advantage knowing I’ll be one of only a handful of people with NE and Houston left?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Given the possible picks of your opponents, I’d estimate that DEN increases your CURRENT week equity by about 5% over taking ATL.

    Now, let’s assume one person gets eliminated this week. Let’s also assume DEN has 85% win odds next week, and CIN 73%. Given all those assumptions, I think whether DEN/CIN is a better path than ATL/DEN boils down to how likely you think it is that all three opponents would be on DEN next week. If I did the math right, it looks like the break even rate is around 50/50.

    So if you think that it’s more likely than not that all your opponents will pick DEN next week, then DEN/CIN seems like a better path than ATL/DEN.

    But there’s a HUUUUGE margin of error on that :)

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    What are the likely picks of your opponents? I’d rather be the first person on New Orleans than the fourth on Dallas. (You said Dallas is the likely majority, I assume that means 3 opponents on them)

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess


  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    I don’t really know how how your pool picks will look, though it sounds like people really load up on big underdogs, based on KC being so popular last week. If that’s the case, then I guess I’d try to stay away from JAX/IND/ARI. I guess SD then?

  • NYJoe

    Hi David, I’m in a pool that started out with over 10,000 people in it and is now down to 591. I probably wouldn’t have made it this far without your advice, so thanks. Rules are a little different than most pools. Weeks 1-9 you must pick one team, weeks 10-15 you must pick 2 teams and weeks 16-17 you must pick 3.

    So far I have used:

    Week 1: Texans
    Week 2: Giants
    Week 3: Bears
    Week 4: Packers
    Week 5: 49ers
    Week 6: Bucs
    Week 7: Vikings
    Week 8: Patriots
    Week 9: Lions
    Week 10 pick 1: Ravens
    Week 10 pick 2: Seahawks

    What do you think is the best combination for this week? Falcons and Saints, Falcons and Rams, or Falcons and Redskins

    The same people that run this pool stated a second half pool with the same rules, just starting in week 7. This pool started with 1,800+ and is now down to 1,192.

    In the second half pool I have already used:

    Week 7: Raiders
    Week 8: Bears
    Week 9: Packers
    Week 10 pick 1: Ravens
    Week 10 pick 2: 49ers

    Any thoughts for the second half pool (again I have to make 2 picks). Thanks again for all your help.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Being one of over 55% of the pool on Dallas seems like a pretty bad idea, from an expected value standpoint. I’d probably use either NE or HOU.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Given you may need the Saints as a pick going forward, I guess I’d go ATL/STL in pool 1.

    Pool 2 is gonna have way different pick rates, so hard to say. Seems like ATL & DAL will both be popular, so there may be no way to avoid taking a popular team. If you can figure out how people may pick, then an informed decision can be made.

  • Frank_Elways

    15 people left in my pool. I have two teams left. Of the remaining 13, 6 have already picked Atlanta. 6 have already picked Houston (4 have picked both). I have both available for both teams. I agree Houston is off limits for me because of future value. (we have to pick 2 teams from wk 14-17.)

    So should I double down on Atlanta, or diversify and go Atlanta and Dallas? Even though a small pool, a lot of people have a lot of good teams left, so assume that it will go to the end. Atlanta would be a nice option in week 17, but I don’t need them desperately, especially since Pittsburgh is now going to be a week 17 possibility with Ben’s arm rendering them useless for a while.

    And generally, how do you do the math on whether to diversify picks of not?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Picking two teams increases your chance of taking at least one loss, and in exchange you decrease your chance of being totally eliminated. You can calculate the exact odds of the each by multiplying together the odds of individual wins and losses happening, then make an educated guess about which scenario you prefer.

    But I don’t know that diversifying on Dallas makes much sense. The point of avoiding a popular team is that if they lose, your expected share of the pot goes way up. But if you lose half of your entries while the pool loses a third of the total entries, your share just went down.

    So I guess I’d probably go HOU/ATL this week. Or ATL/ATL.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667456521 Justin Miller

    Ok…I just thought I’d be in a huge advantage over everyone else because I’m one of only 5 teams with NE and Houston left, and I’m thinking most with Houston left will use them, as well as NE. I just figured around 50% would go Dallas, but if I went Dallas too, I’d have a huge advantage over everyone else because I still had Hou and NE left that it would be worth a little value stand point from this week, to get future value in the next weeks

  • Adam

    102 people left in my pool, we have to start picking 2 teams NEXT WEEK… I have New Orleans, Dallas, Cincinnati, St Louis as legitimate options. Right now 37% of picks that have been submitted are Dallas… Who should i roll with?

  • Slevin Kelevra

    Me plus 3 others left (4 total). I am only one with NE available. All have used HOU and ATL. 1 has used DAL, no one DEN or NO.

    opponents almost always take most popular team, so Im thinking i will face 2 DAL and 1 DEN this week, and 2 DEN and 1 wildcard (no HOU, CHI, NE, DEN) next week.

    If i use NE this week, since i have no CHI or HOU I will likely either have to join 2 others on DEN or take something risky like CIN or TEN.

    Is there any argument for holding onto NE for next week, and joining opponents on DAL or DEN or mixing it up with something riskier like NO this week?

  • Frank_Elways

    Does your opinion change if due to geopolitical reasons specific to my pool, Atlanta will be more popular than Dallas?

  • Chris

    It’s so close, and given the assumptions and margin of error, I think it’s probably best to just take the team with the highest win % and hope my opponents do something outlandish.
    Thanks for the math. I’ll likely stick with ATL unless the lines change a fair bit.

  • http://twitter.com/mvan67 Michael Van Veelen

    I’m one of 3 people left. All 3 of us have used Hou, Atl, & NE. One of my opponents have used Dallas. Everyone has the Saints available. Any thoughts between Dallas and N.O.

  • LBS

    So my pool has about 20 people (would have been 10 if Pitt lost) left out of an initial 400. I’m one of three people who has NOT used New England, and for that reason I’m attracted to them this week as opposed to a Dallas or New Orleans. Yes Indy is decent, but they’ve been beating up on bad teams for the most part and I don’t trust NO on the road or Dallas anywhere. Seems like NE is way to go here but curious on your thoughts. I’ve already used HOU, ATL

  • LuckyLucy

    Help! Opponent has both Den and NE left. I only have Denver. Before this week, I was eying up Cinny and saving Den for next week. Based on previous picks, I imagine that my opponent will use both NE and Den the next two weeks, at which point we will be pretty much tied. Based on your chart, my projected best pick next week is Cinncy at home vs. Oakland. Assuming I either use Denver this week or next, do I trust Cinncy more on the road vs KC or at home vs Oak? I was surprised to see Cin as only 3 or 3.5 favorites before KC forced Pitt to OT. What do you think the Cin/Oak spread will be? I feel that Oak is better than KC, but does Cin at home next week tip the scales to pick Den this week and Cin next week? I am confident I can beat my opponent once we have the same teams left. Love the site!

  • MakaveliTheDon


    Need your expert advice!

    18 people left in my pool. I have taken DET, NYG, DALL, HOUST, SF, ATL, MINN, CHI, GBAY, BALT so far weeks 1-10. For this week I am trying to decide between NE, DEN, NO, STL. I didn’t see NE as a great option again until week 16/17 but didn’t expect the Colts to look like a possible playoff team by now, so this game worries me a bit. I’ve had NE circled all along for this week but the Colts are actually good it seems. I agree with you about trying to save DEN since they have easier games in wks 12/13/16/17 than this week. I’d be really scared to take NO or STL though. I had NO as a great option for wk 17 since they’ll def have to win that game to make the playoffs if they are still in the running. STL worries me too even though the Jets are a mess.

    All 18 people left in the pool have picked HOUST, 15 of the 18 have picked ATL, and 12 of the 18 have picked NE and 6 of the 18 have picked DALL, so I bet DALL will be the most popular pick this week in my pool. Only 2 of 18 have picked NO and nobody has picked STL this season.

    What do you recommend doing in this situation?


  • Pitus

    David, great site!! me and two others in my pool…., im the only one with HOU. Other than that we pretty much have the same options remaining except of NE wich I dont have and one other guy does…, my competition can take top picks this week DEN/ DALL and/or NE this week. Im tempted to go safe with HOU now and see what happens in the later weeks however it seems by doing that i will loose the only “joker” i have left to use as and level the competition going forward. My options this week are HOU/DEN/NO/SL/WASH. Would you agree on picking NO this week?? Or is it just too bold a move considering that I am the only with HOU left?? …

  • LuckyLucy

    BTW, I have used Hou, Atl, NE, Dal, NYG, Chi, SF, GB, SD, Pitt, he has used Hou, Atl, Dal, NYG, Min, Chi, SF, GB, Pitt, Bal (not in that order, just going from memory)

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    OK, well a 2-picks-per-week pool with ~35% on Dallas is waaaay different than a normal pool with 55%+ on Dallas. Yes, I think in your spot, with future value so much more important than in a normal pool, Dallas is a good pick.

  • Kyle

    21 left in a pool that could go into playoffs. 12 teams can use Hou and almost all can use Atl and NE. Would Atl be the top picks even if we go into playoffs?

  • Dave

    I’m in good shape in my pool for this week (ATL), and next week (likely DEN or CIN), but then week 13 it gets hard since I don’t have HOU or NE available. I may end up going with DAL or CAR that week. So I see your point of possibly saving HOU for week 13 and going with DAL this week. Though win % for DAL is only 3% lower in week 13 versus week 11.

  • Tony

    27 left in my pool. It’s two losses before you’re eliminated, and the pool goes into the playoffs. Teams do not reset in the playoffs, so any team I’ve already picked cannot be used in the postseason. 4 remaining players have no losses. I’m now starting to struggle with how much I should be worried about running out of playoff-eligible teams should the pool last that long. I’ve already used HOU, BAL, and DEN from the AFC. I still have NE and PIT left, as well as IND and MIA, so I think I will at least have a chance with the AFC if I last until the playoffs. In the NFC, though, I’ve already used CHI, NYG, GB, SF, SEA, TB, and MIN. The only remaining NFC teams that I could realistically hope to have left in the playoffs are ATL and, potentially, NO or DAL. I know that there should be a number of factors that influence my decision-making process here, but should I be all that worried about running out of playoff teams? I’m just afraid that I might wind up having to pick something like IND over DEN in the 1st round of the playoffs if I don’t start taking somewhat larger risks in the rest of the regular season. Of course, I have to balance this fear with the obvious fact that my worries will be moot if I don’t last until the playoffs (or if the pool winner is determined in the regular season). I suppose I should start analyzing my competition to see how many of them are in the same boat I am, and proceed accordingly. If there are any other thoughts you have that might assist me in my decision-making process, I’d really appreciate hearing them.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    I’d go Dallas.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yes, in that case I think ATL/DAL is pretty reasonable.

  • L3

    OK O’ great and accurate ones…
    Me and 2 others left in the pool –
    ~2 of us have the Broncos
    ~2 of us have the Saints
    All have the Bengals, Cowboys, and Dolphins
    The Texans, Falcons and Pats have been used by all.
    The Bengals had a great home game last week, are away this – and are the Bengals.
    Dallas is home, but Cleveland is coming off a bye and have shown (limited) signs of pulling off the upsets. I’m with you on this to stay away. Don’t really want to consider others which leaves me with the Broncos. their next 2 games are both divisional, but they are home this and at KC next.

  • Brian

    6 people left. Shockingly 5 of us (me included) still have NE left. All have used HOU. All but one used ATL and I expect him to be on them. I’ve also used DAL. All but one have DEN available. Do I go DEN this week and NE next, or the opposite? Any other teams I should consider?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    There is a reasonable argument for that. Looks like your main options are:

    DEN now, CIN next week
    DEN now, NE next week
    NE now, CIN next week
    NE now, DEN next week

    I think NE–>CIN might be your best option here, actually. It’s the only one that allows you to be the sole picker of a team both weeks, and I’m not positive the drop from NE to CIN next week will be *that* huge. Yes, NE will definitely be a better pick than CIN next week. But I think the few percent win odds difference between them is outweighed by the large plus of being the only one on NE this week rather than the 2nd on Denver. … And, don’t forget you’ll still have DEN available if you go that route.

    But it’s close, and if my win odds guesses for next week are off, then going DEN-NE may be better.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yeah, I forgot to mention that — when in doubt, play it safe and hope your opponents mess up. It’s a good general strategy.

  • Jeff G

    3 people left in my pool (started with only 30).
    We had to pick 2 teams in weeks 5-7, and have to lose twice to be knocked out.
    I have 2 losses left, while the other 2 have just 1 loss left each.
    We’ve all used the top picks this week.
    Based on the teams they haven’t yet used, the other 2 will be picking either NO or STL.
    I have those teams, plus BAL and DEN, but want to save DEN for next week.
    I’m leaning towards NO, but with Roethlisberger out maybe I should go with BAL.
    What do you think?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    How many have used Denver, and do you have them available? And what do you think your opponents will do?

    Generically,I’d rather be the 2nd on Dallas than the 1st on New Orleans.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yes, I have NE ranked third in the table, and your pool seems normal.

  • http://twitter.com/mvan67 Michael Van Veelen

    All 3 of us have Denver available. One of them have already used the Cowboys. I’m guessing he will use Denver and the other one will use Dallas. My first instinct is to save Denver and pick Dallas. But Cleveland coming off a buy concerns me. But Saints having to play out west coming off a huge game against Atl concerns me too.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    So, basically the question is whether the win odds are higher for DEN–>[other] or [other]–>DEN.

    I don’t know what the CIN/OAK spread will be, but based on our win odds forecasts and the future spreads on SurvivorGrid, it looks like CIN next week should be roughly as risky as NO this week. Which means it comes down to whether Denver is safer this week or next week. I am pretty sure the answer to that is “next week” so I’d go New Orleans this week, then Denver next week.

  • Chris

    Another option is keeping it simple and going ATL this week, and then going Cincy next week, hopefully leaving me alone on them, as well as saving DEN for a future week.

  • Jose

    8 people left ( started with 155 ).4 have Dallas, 2 have NE. Atl & Houston are gone across the board.7 have Denver & 3 have Baltimore available which maybe enticing with Big Ben out. Everyone has Wash, NO & STL. I’m leaning towards Denver but like the idea of NO even though I’m not a big fan of Road Teams. Dave, great site !!!!

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    So your questions is basically: should you take the slightly safer team with less future value (NE) or the slightly riskier team with more future value (DEN)? And it seems neither will be the most popular, as that will be Dallas.

    Seems like NE.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Please see the “Pools With 3-8 People” section above.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yikes, tough one. I think ATL probably is still the top pick, despite their playoff value (which is high). If not, then it would probably be DAL … or perhaps reaching for NO or STL. It’s tough to say what your pick rates will look like. If it will be heavily DAL (which I would expect), then ATL may still be the best.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Seems pretty solid.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    It sounds like you have all the right thoughts. You should try to figure out how you are doing compared to your opponents, in terms of future/playoff value. My guess is, with this many people and multiple strikes allowed, the pool will run into the playoffs. So you do need to make an effort to avoid playoff teams when possible.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    FYI I ignored your whole last paragraph since I’m not trying to handicap teams.

    So, it’s a 3 person pool, and you are basically deciding between DEN, DAL and NO. I can’t exactly tell what your opponents may pick because you didn’t give enough info to figure out what each guy has left. (Does the same guy have both Saints and Broncos? or one guy has Saints and one has Broncos?) But it seems like your likely opponent picks are either:

    DAL/DAL (in which case I’d lean DEN)

    DAL/DEN (in which case I definitely would want DAL)

    DAL/NO (lean DEN but DAL is OK)

    DEN/NO (clearly go DAL here)

    Since there are 2 clear DAL situations there, and the others are just leans, and it’s tough to say which is most likely, I’d go DAL.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    DEN and NE seem like they could be equally popular. NE is safer and has less future value. So NE seems like a better option than DEN.

    Of course, if your pool picks are 2 NE, 2 DEN, 1 ATL, then taking NO would be the best option for you. You didn’t mention if your opponents may take DAL though, so hard to say if that;s likely.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    When you have a strike advantage on your opponents, the ideal situation is to pick the same team as them, since that means they can’t catch up this week. NO and STL are roughly equal in win odds, so if you can figure out which team your opponents are more likely to pick, I’d go with that one.

    Definitely avoid BAL because you don’t get a safety advantage (as with DEN) or an impossible-to-catch-up situation (NO or STL).

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    OK, if you think your opponents will be on DAL and DEN, and it’s impossible for *both* to be on DAL, I would definitely go DAL. They are safer and have less future value, and it sounds like they’ll be equally popular.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yes, that may end up being better (CIN rather than popular DEN)

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Sounds like DEN could be very popular in your pool (most opponents have them left) and they have tons of future value, so you might want to avoid them.

    NO is pretty rough, but I’d rather be the first on them than the 4th on DEN.

  • Jose

    Got it.Will be in on NO then !! Thanks a Ton !!!!

  • Robertfee

    Thank you for the information. 69 of 1120 left in single elimination. My options for this weekend are Denver, New Orleans, and St. Louis. All three are similar in your rankings, would you recommend one of the three?

  • Jose

    Good point to solidify the selection.

  • Greg W

    David: 3 pools going still. Large has 300 left, going ATL, used HOU already. Small has 9 left. They usually all in a pack go popular route, I’m thinking most on DAL or DEN. I have NE left, not ATL or HOU tho so am thinking NE there. Finally, heads up. We both dont have a lot of options left. Our best choices are DAL, DEN, NO. Suggest going DAL there as best odds? Does it change your thoughts that I’d be going A/B/C with ATL/NE/DAL? Always like to hear what you would do. Thanks again.

  • Greg

    5 teams left. I have ATL and so does one other player. I still have 0 strikes. There is one guy with 1 strike and he has picked all the popular teams except for New Orleans. Do I stay with ATL or pick NO?

  • Joe Allan

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks again for your advice last week.
    120 left out of 340 in a 2 strike pool with no more strikes after week 8. So now its one and done. We had to pick 2 teams in week 1 and week 8 as well so choices are somewhat limited.
    Keep in mind I am trying to only take home teams the rest of the way.
    Am I saving my good teams for way too late in the season or not?
    Would greatly appreciate your thoughts and opinions.

    Week 11 – Atlanta
    Week 12 – Dallas vs. Washington
    Week 13 – Buffalo vs. Jacksonville or Oakland vs Cleveland
    Week 14 – Seattle vs. Arizona
    Week 15 – Texans vs. Colts
    Week 16 – Broncos vs. Cleveland
    Week 17 – San Fran vs. Arizona

  • eb

    Keep up the great work as I am a weekly visitor and poster now.
    Still 21 people left in my big money pool. 2 have houston left and 1 has Atlanta and i assume they take them. Only 6 have NE left(one of which is me).11 have Dallas left(one of which is me). Everyone but 2 has Denver left.
    Although NE looks like the best pick here I keep leaning toward Dallas as I like NE in future weeks. I feel the same about Denver as they have plenty of future value. I dont see myself taking Dallas any other week. Although it could still be a thrid or more on Dallas is it not worth taking them?
    I appreciate the input.

  • Patrick


    Thanks for all your input this year….been great reading your column each week.

    Big single elimination pool started, with only 24 left. Can you please give me your quick thoughts on MY idea going forward;

    Used: Hou, Cinn, Dal, Bal, NYG, TB,SF, GB, SD, PIT

    This is my outlook/plan going forward:

    Week 11:ATL (ariz)
    Week 12:CHI (minn)
    Week 13:NE (@ mia)
    Week 14:SEA (ariz)
    Week 15:NO (tb)
    Week 16:DEN (clev)
    Week 17: Wait and see (TENN vs Jac)


  • LBS

    Thanks, much appreciated

  • Andy

    David, In a pool with 4 left. Everyone has used Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Green Bay and San Fran. I am only one to use Dallas and am only one with Denver left. Only one person has New England and Baltimore left so I think their picks will be one for NE or Baltimore and 2 for Dallas. So my question — do I go with being only one on Denver or go New Orleans and save Denver since they are best pick following week? Thanks.

  • Mark

    Hi David, In a pool with 4 teams left and it’s double elimination. I’m the only perfect team and the other 3 have missed 1 week. This week we need to pick against the spread using the following: MIA+1.5, PHI+3, DET+3.5, ARI+10, CAR+1.5, CLE+7.5, NYJ+3, IND+9, JAX+16, KC+3.5, OAK+4.5, SD+7.5, BAL+3.5, CHI+5

    Here is the listing of teams used:
    Opp2 – HOU, CIN, CHI, NO, BAL, NYG, ATL, SF, GB, SD, PIT

    After this week we go back to just picking winners straight up. Week 2 we had to pick 2 teams. You’ve been very helpful getting me this far thank you for that but the spread is messing with my mind this week. What team do you suggest for me and why?

  • Ian Graham


    In a pool with 4 other players. Everyone has NO and DEN left, 3 have NE, and I am the only one with DAL remaining. I also have NE, DEN, NO remaining. I am trying to decide between DAL and NE. Do I go with DAL because I will be the only one on them? I believe 1-2 will be on NE this week.

  • Rocket

    I know you didn’t ask me, but I’ll throw in my two cents. Right now, I wouldn’t trust NO vs. TB. That could change if NO keeps winning, but that seems like a pick-em game right now. MIA (vs. JAX) seems like a much safer Week 15 pick.

    Also, I’d consider swapping your NE and DEN picks. NE @ MIA looks scary to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.simmons.75098 Matt Simmons

    So I have 96 people left from 2997. I already took Atl. Here is who I can pick from. Wash, NO, Dallas, St Louis, and Denver. I really dont want to take Dallas but might have to save Denever. Your thoughts?

  • Kevin Senor

    Down to two last week and opponent took SF and I took Bal! I won our 30 person pool this year!

    Back to Back Survivor Pool Winner thanks to you guys.

    Thanks for the time and great analysis you do!!!

  • matt

    lLove the blog!!!
    8 people left in my pool, . I have New Orleans, Denver, Cincinnati, St Louis as legitimate options. Right now 5 players can choose DAL/DEN/CIN/STL 1 has ATL/DEN/NO, one player has DEN/NO/STL,CIN… should i roll with NO or DEN?

  • in it to win it

    David! You are keeping me alive, big big thanks!

    Still going head to head:
    Me: HOU / NYG / CHI / BAL / SF / ATL / NE / GB / SD / PIT
    Other: HOU / NYG / CHI / BAL / SF / ATL / GB / NE / DEN / PIT
    You mention going with the biggest favorite, so Yahoo! right now is:
    Dallas: 42.9%
    Houston: 14.6%
    Denver: 14.6%
    New Orleans: 8%
    I know Dallas would be the obvious pick but since my opponet took Denver in Week 9, would Denver be a look for this week or should I stick with Dallas to keep on riding out the storm? I think, assuming survival, Denver may be an obvious pick next week…
    Appreciate the help!!!

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Sounds like you *really* need to conserve future value since you’ve used most of the good teams. So I’d go NO or STL. I lean NO.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Hmm. In isolation, I think you have the best pick chosen for each pool. I am a *little* hesitant to split picks over 3 teams rather than just 2, but I don’t know that you have much choice. It seems like the only way to avoid that, given the teams you have left, is to pick DAL in one of your larger pools. And I like that even less than splitting 3 ways.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Thanks for the detailed breakdown of your opponents. That’s tough to do in a pool this size.

    As scary as it sounds, I so think you you may want to consider a riskier team, perhaps New Orleans. Given the projected pick breakdown you laid out, being the 8th person on NE would be *slightly* better than being the 1st on NO in terms of immediate expected value. However, NE obviously has a lot more future value than the Saints, which ought to be more than enough to counteract the slight immediate value edge.

    That said, it’s also smart to assume opponent picks may not go as planned. If even one or two opponents decides to take NO, then their value goes down enough that NE seems like a better pick. OR, if fewer people pick NE than expected, they look like a better pick.

    It’s a tough choice.

    One last thing to think about. In a “life changing” pool, you may sometimes want to sacrifice some *average* expected value in exchange for a higher chance to win *any portion* of the pool. In this case, I think that may push me a bit towards New England. I believe they would increase your odds to survive the season, though you will be tied with more people at the end if you do make it.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    How many strikes do the other 3 people have? 0 or 2+?

    If you have 0 strike, another guy has 1, and the other three have 2, then NO may or may not be a good pick. Depends on what your other opponents do. You’d like to be on the same team as them, as well.

    If you and three others all have 0 strikes, I’d ignore the 1 strike guy and try to beat the 0 strike people. Of course, the best pick there also depends on what the other people are picking. Without knowing anything else, I guess I’d lean ATL in a vacuum.

  • http://twitter.com/ryancsablotny Ryan C. Sablotny

    Our pool is not a true survivor, with rules that reward best record at end of the year. I lost early, and am thus going for the last place prize (team with worst w-l record). I’m deciding between the Cardinals, Browns, and Chargers this week. Thoughts? This looks like SD’s last time to be significant dog, but Cardinals seem like the consensus even though teams coming off a bye scare me…thanks for the help!

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Not going to take the time to evaluate your future plans, as that may change. This week, I think ATL and HOU are both good choice, so I am on board with your ATL pick.

    As for the general question about saving teams… In a pool of this size, it’s likely that the pool will last all season. So there is no real disadvantage to saving a team til later in the season, as you WILL need to win that week to win the pool. The main issue is just that the future is harder to predict than this week, so it’s sometimes good to take advantages that exist now, rather than hoping that a future advantage does not disappear (i.e. if a QB gets injured or something).

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    With over a third of the pool on Dallas, it’s generally going to be smart to stay away and root for an upset. However, if 20% of your pool is on NE, that makes them popular enough that a 35% Dallas is of similar value, in my opinion.

    However, if the money is enough that you value splitting *any* portion of it over maximizing your *average* expected value, then going with the crowd and taking Dallas may make sense. That route generally leads to smaller chunks of the pool when you do win, but you may win something more often.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    That’s a plausible future plan, and I don’t think it’s worth fretting too much over the exact details, as I’m sure the odds for some games will be different than you expect.

    Given the teams you have left, I think ATL is the right choice this week.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Hmm … you’re deciding between NO–>DEN and DEN–>CIN, basically. It’s about a 9% drop from DEN to NO this week, and maybe a 12% drop from DEN to CIN next week. Plus, it sounds like some opponents may be on CIN next week, but none will be on NO this week.

    As scary as it sounds, I think that means NO is the better pick in this case. The one thing Denver has going for it is that next week may not even matter. If your opponents lose this week, then saving Denver’s future value was irrelevant. Tough call.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Wow, I really hate that spread rule.

    Basically, I would make a list of all the teams that you are 100% sure you won’t use going forward (KC, JAX, etc). Then wait as long as you can before the week starts, and compare your pool’s spreads to the consensus spreads from http://www.sbrforum.com/betting-odds/nfl-football/ (by consensus, I mean look through them and see what most books have as the spreads … but only count books where the payouts are close to -110/-110) … whichever game you are getting the most free points on (i.e if the consensus spread is ARI +8 but you’re getting +10, that’s 2 free points), I’d pick that one. …

    One other thing you may want to take into account is our ATS pick odds: http://www.teamrankings.com/nfl-ats-picks/ … A simple rule of thumb for adjusting these is that each line point is worth about 2.5%. So if we have MIA +1 at 57.6%, and your line is MIA +1.5, a rough guess of their odds to cover that would be 57.6% + (2.5% * 0.5) = 58.85%.

    The point is, though, that this is very close to a coin flip, so take a team with absolutely zero future value, and cross your fingers.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Wow, yeah, for sure DAL. Not much future value, nobody else will be on them, almost as safe as NE.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yeah, I have Dallas listed the highest in table out of those teams.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    That is awesome, congrats!

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Do you have any idea who those guys will choose? Look at their past history and try to get a feel for their patterns.

    Generically, I’d rather be the 1st on NO than the 3rd on DEN. The 1st on NO and the 2nd on DEN are roughly tied in my eyes.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    By “biggest favorite” I meant the team that is the largest favorite according to Vegas. I did not mean “most popular”.

    However, it does just so happen that Dallas *is* the biggest favorite you have left available. :)

    Dallas and Denver are roughly equal in win odds, but Denver has way more future value, so I’d go Dallas.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yeah, without knowing how your opponents are picking (or if there is even anybody going for the biggest loser spot with you), it seems like San Diego is the smart choice. Similar loss odds to ARI/CLE but like you said, no big dog opportunities left, so no need to save them.

  • Kyle

    It seems like more teams taking big favs with good playoff value Like GB in wk 8 Hou wk 9 and Pit wk 10. So I think more will be on Hou Atl and NE this week. So I think I am going to Dal. I say maybe 5 people would be on them and the rest split with Hou, Atl and NE.

  • in it to win it

    Oh geez, being lame. Thanks for the feedback!!

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    OK, if that’s the case, I agree with your plan to take DAL.

  • Mark

    Thanks I felt it was a coin flip as well. Thanks to you in my other pool which is single elimination it’s down to me and 1 other.

    Me: BAL,CHI,GNB,HOU,MIN,NWE,NYG,SDG,SFO,TAM – Picking ATL this week.

    Them: ATL,BAL,CHI,CIN,DAL,GNB,HOU,NWE,NYG,PIT – guessing they will take DEN.

    Does this approach make sense?

  • collcha1

    I am in a double elimantion pool, 45 left. I am picking ATL which know else has but I am down to NO or St. Louis. Leaning St. Louis, I still have NE and Den left but thinkg of saving them. Should I go with St. Louis only 3 other people have them picked.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yeah, that’s what I would do.

  • Patrick

    Thanks rocket…….those are actually the two games that worry me the most.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    I’m sorry, I can’t really figure out what you’re asking. You’re picking multiple teams? And it’s double elimination? And who has picked what team?

    Without understanding your pool details, I guess I have to point you to the table in the post, which lists my preferences in order.

  • Pizza an

    Have two entries still alive…Atl/new England/Dallas/ available on both….would you use Atl on both? Or Atl on one and someone else on other? 2/3 have already used Atlanta, 1/3 newvengland and 1/3 Dallas. Thoughts? Thx

  • Mark

    I am in a pool with 448 remaining out of 36,000. Am told it usually lasts all the way to Championship Weekend and sometimes to the Super Bowl. Starting to worry about saving some playoff teams. I’ve used:

    Green Bay
    New England
    San Francisco

    I have Houston, Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington (among others) available this week. Would you burn Atlanta or take a shot with New Orleans or even Washington?


  • NJR

    D. Hess: In a pool with 192 ppl left and I have 4 teams. For a “general” question, as we’re a little more than halfway through the year, should I be doubling and tripling up on picks or should I look to pick 4 different winners each week (which obviously is tougher but lowers my chances to lose in all four games)? Your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks

  • Ronny

    Head to Head left, and it’s Denver or Dallas with the largest spreads for both of us. I’ve picked two teams (Minny, Cincy) that he has not. My opponent has picked two teams (NYG, Seattle) which I have not, so I may have a slight advantage. I just don’t know which team to pick, as we both have Denver and Dallas available.

  • DW

    Head to Head with NE & Den available to me this week. My opponent only has Den & NO available this week (of the legitimate choices), and based on his tendency to pick the biggest home favorite available, I’m fairly certain he will go with Denver. Would the better strategy be to also choose Den so as to pull out the NE trump card later (like maybe next week @ NYJ), or should I use NE this week since they are the biggest favorite I have available and save Den for next week when they play @ KC? If my opponent uses Den this week (like I’m anticipating), then he will be in real trouble next week seeing as the teams he still has available don’t have strong matchups at all next week. Based on the TR odds for next week, the teams with the highest TR odds available to him are the Titans (@ Jac – 71% TR odds), Seahawks (@ Mia – 71% TR odds), & the Panthers (@ Phi – 68% TR odds). The rest of the teams available to him next week all have TR odds under 60%, with the biggest home favorite being Ind vs Buffalo (55% TR odds). At the moment, I am leaning towards taking NE this week and saving Den for next week, as my gut tells me NE is a safer play this week at home vs. Ind than next week on the road @ Jets. Am I making too much out of this or is there truly a best strategy approach given the info laid out above? Thanks for all your help this year!

  • Danny

    Your expected value is higher if you choose New England.

  • Brendan M

    6 left out of 121, including myself. I have used Texans, Giants, Bears, Packers, 49ers, Falcons, Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks, and Ravens. Leaning Saints. Nobody in my league has the Falcons left, my guess is most go Cowboys or Redskins. Thoughts?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    I like to split picks whenever possible when you have two entries. I think ATL/NE is pretty reasonable, but that’s assuming Dallas is fairly popular in your pool. It seems like they ought to be, but if not, then ATL/DAL would be better (you’d get to save NE).

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    With that many people left, yeah, it definitely looks like you’ll need to go deep in the playoffs to win. I think that means you have to hold on to Houston and Atlanta, given that they look like your best options left for the Super Bowl and the previous week.

    I think you’ve gotta go risky, and New Orleans looks like your best option for that. They’re the safest of the non-playoff teams, and don’t have much future value.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Good question. I think the sweet spot is spreading picks over 2 or 3 teams each week. Every additional team you add increases the chances of at least 1 entry surviving, but also increases the chance of at least 1 getting eliminated.

    Here’s some quick math. Assume every pick has a 75% chance to win…

    Each row below shows: # teams to split over, chance of having at least 1 team alive, chance of having at least 2 alive, chance of having at least 3 alive, chance of having at least 4 alive…

    1, 75%, 75%, 75%, 75%

    2, 94%, 94%, 56%, 56%

    3, 98%, 89%, 70%, 42%

    4, 99.6%, 95%, 74%, 32%

    You can see most of the “at least one survives” benefit comes in the very first split, from AAAA to AABB.

    Once you split 4 ways, even on four very safe teams, your most likely outcome becomes losing an entry.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    I do think you have a slight advantage, but the difference in future value between Dallas and Denver is far larger. If you pick Denver and he picks Dallas, he’ll have the advantage going forward. So I think you have to go with Dallas here.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yep, Danny is right. New England is slightly safer than Denver this week, and Denver ought to be safer than New England next week, so NE–>DEN is the better option.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    If most go DAL or WAS, then I think staying off DAL and going with the riskier NO is worth it, from an EV standpoint.

  • Mike

    21 people remaining out of 350. Everyone has used Atl. I’m one of 3 who haven’t used Hou and one of 4 who haven’t used NE. I’ve already used Chi, SD, Dal, Ari, NYG, Atl, Min, GB, Sea and Bal. The majority of the pool typically goes with the the biggest favorite (17/24 last week went with Pit) but I don’t know what that will be this week. I think there will probably be a decent spread this week with the majority on Den and Dal. Do I go ahead and use Hou now, or should I save them for week 15 when almost everyone will likely be on Mia? My first thought is to go ahead and go with Hou, but I’m torn and thinking of going with NO.

    Thanks for the column it’s fantastic! Wish I had found it sooner…

  • Tony

    There are 280 left in my pool, I generally like to stay away from divisional games or picking against the home team. This week its between the rams and 49ers, leaning towards rams, do agree?

  • Brendan M

    So you think Saints are riskier then Dal or Was? There is no guarantee the others in my league go that direction as we don’t know until after games go off on Sunday who picked who. I’d prefer going the safer route if possible….so Dal and Was are safer? Of the three NO, Was, Dal…who is the safest? Thanks, love your blogs!

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    “we may have to go to double picks in the future”

    Umm, the details of your pool rules are pretty important here. I guess I’ll just assume double picks for weeks 12 on…

    In that case, I do think it’s a tough call between HOU & NO. You are taking a pretty huge hit in immediate value by dropping to NO. You will get it back in Week 15 … but that’s a while to wait. What other options do you have that week? I’m guessing you’ll have to go with MIA if you burn HOU now?

    My spreadsheet is telling me to go with New Orleans, by a hair. But it’s really tough for me to figure out how to evaluate the future value here. And in general if it’s a toss up, I like to go with the pick that has more *immediate* value, since you may not end up needing the future value.

    So, I lean HOU, but it’s a very close call. If you’re only going to need double picks in one or two weeks, then I think the HOU pick becomes a bit stronger, too.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Yeah, I think given the uncertainty in SF’s QB situation, and their higher future value, I lean STL. It’s pretty close. If you see a lot of lines released tomorrow morning on the SF/CHI game, and SF is consistently more than a TD favorite, I’d probably switch to SF.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess