Week 12 NFL Survivor Strategy: The Lesser Of Three Evils

posted in NFL, NFL Survivor Pools

Welcome to the Week 12 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.

Enough with the narrow escapes, already!

Check out how key Survivor contests went last week:

  • The most popular pick (Cowboys) needed overtime to survive the Browns.
  • The biggest favorite (Texans) needed overtime to avoid a loss to the Jaguars.
  • Our official pick (Falcons) came back from 13 points down to edge the Cardinals.

Flip the OT outcomes of the first two games and we’d be surveying massive Survivor carnage, as nearly 60% of contestants would have been knocked out. Instead, only 1.5% of Yahoo entries were eliminated.

This week, over 75% of players are picking two teams, so there is a chance the situation above repeats itself. Lets hope this time all the breaks fall our way.

Week 12 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
Chicagovs Minnesota-5.0-227 / +18561%1.4%0.10.0
Cincinnativs Oakland-8.0-390 / +33877%31.8%0.50.4
New Englandat NY Jets-7.0-320 / +28176%4.3%2.82.7
Tier 2: Worth A Look
Dallasvs Washington-3.0-169 / +15261%0.9%0.50.8
Tennesseeat Jacksonville-3.0-158 / +14358%1.1%0.30.1
Indianapolisvs Buffalo-3.0-156 / +14160%6.4%0.10.0
Pittsburghat Cleveland-3.0-154 / +13063%0.5%0.80.5
NY Giantsvs Green Bay-2.5-144 / +13053%0.1%0.30.1
Seattleat Miami-3.0-157 / +14259%1.3%1.10.9
Denverat Kansas City-10.0-500 / +42381%48.5%3.03.0
Tier 3: AVOID
Philadelphiavs Carolina-2.0-143 / +11028%*0.3%0.00.0
Atlantaat Tampa Bay-1.0-129 / +11752%0.2%0.40.3
Arizonavs St Louis-2.5-129 / +11746%0.8%0.00.0
San Diegovs Baltimore-1.0-113 / +10251%0.1%0.60.3
Houstonat Detroit-3.0-165 / +14953%0.5%2.52.3
San Franciscoat New Orleans-1.0-125 / +10564%0.1%1.92.2

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), Atlanta Falcons (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), Atlanta Falcons (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.

Denver Broncos (at Kansas City Chiefs) — The Broncos are the safest team this week, but picking them comes at great cost: they have the most future value of any team remaining and they are the most popular pick this week, with nearly half the public choosing them. Because they are so safe, they are a reasonable pick in pools with only a few people left. But if you’ll need to survive all the way through Week 17 (which most of you probably will) try not to burn them if possible.

Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Oakland Raider) — It’s rare for a team picked by over 30% of the public to be the second most popular team of the week, but that’s what we’ve got here. The high pick percentage is obviously a big negative, but the Bengals are nearly as safe as Denver, and have much less future value (borderline useful in Week 15). There are simply not any options this week that are very safe, very unpopular, and have little future value. Cincy checks off two of those three boxes, which is about as much as you can hope for this week, so the Bengals are a good option, despite their popularity. One thing to keep in mind is that having another team that’s even more popular mitigates the downside of Cincy’s 30% pick rate a bit, because you could still see half your pool knocked out in one game.

New England Patriots (at New York Jets) — The Patriots are the third team that you might call “pretty safe” this week (to use a technical term). Like Cincinnati, New England checks off two of three boxes: they’re safe, and they are unpopular. However, they will be a good option next week, or in the final two weeks, so you’re losing future value by taking them now. As we said above, though, there aren’t any perfect candidates this week, so the Patriots are a decent pick, despite their future value.

Chicago Bears (vs. Minnesota Vikings) — The Bears (this will sound familiar) check off two of three boxes: they are unpopular, and have very little future value. However, they’re a good bit riskier than the Patriots or Bengals. Still, out of all the unpopular, no-future-value options, Chicago is the safest. The Bears seem like a good pick, despite their relatively low win odds. However, monitor Jay Cutler’s status if you’re thinking of taking Chicago. The line for this game may move quite a bit depending on whether it appears he’ll play. If it drops, the Bears are no longer a good pick.

After the above four, there are a whole mess of teams with money lines in the -140 to -170 range. Hopefully you don’t need to dip into this pool of teams. Stare too long at this group, trying to pick the best option, and your eyes will eventually glaze over. All of them are relatively risky, unpopular, and have little future value, with only a couple exceptions. Let’s cover those exceptions, briefly:

Dallas Cowboys (vs. Washington Redskins) — The Cowboys are probably the best pick of this risky bunch. Based on their money line and TR Win Odds, we can conclude they are a couple percent safer. That should outweigh their slight future value  … unless you will need them next week, when they ought to be solid favorites over the Eagles at home.

Tennessee Titans (at Jacksonville Jaguars) — The Titans are a bit riskier than Dallas, but aren’t going to be useful going forward, so they are the other best option from this group.

Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Carolina Panthers) — See that asterisk by Philly’s TR Odds? That’s because when our models are this far off from Vegas, we get a bit suspicious. We’re not sure you should take that 28% at face value, but we do think it’s reason enough to avoid the Eagles this week.

Houston Texans (at Detroit Lions) — The Texans are among the safest of this bottom group, but there’s simply no way to justify using them this week when they have so much future value. Avoid Houston at all costs.

Official Week 12 NFL Survivor Pick: New England Patriots Over New York Jets

See that word “Official” up there in the section heading? Yep, it’s not a “preliminary” pick this time, because we’re finally choosing a team playing on Thursday. No backsies on this one.

There are three clear top options this week, and they each have one major weakness:

  • New England is safe and unpopular, but has a lot of future value.
  • Cincinnati is safe and doesn’t have much future value, but is quite popular.
  • Chicago is unpopular and has little future value, but is riskier than the Pats or Bengals.

We’ve already used the Bears and Bengals, so our decision is easy. Because our hand is forced, our official Week 12 NFL Survivor pick is the New England Patriots.

We’d imagine most of you are in a similar boat, but if you’ve got more than one of these teams available, first of all, congrats. Now, which pick is the best of the three?

If Jay Cutler were clearly healthy, the answer would be Chicago. However, as long as his status is up in the air, it’s tough to choose them with confidence. Still, we’re inclined to trust the sportsbook lines here, and right now they’re at a spot (-227/+185) where the increased risk in picking the Bears is outweighed by being able to root for two different major upsets (DEN or CIN), and by conserving future value.

If the Chicago line drops, then we lean towards Cincinnati, despite their popularity. The Patriots are borderline useful every single week, which makes them a great team to save for the future, even this late in the season.  So unless you have a clear path to survive the season that doesn’t involve New England, the Bengals may be the way to go.

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 12 for those in smaller pools:

Pools With 9-20 People — At this point, it seems likely that many pools of this size will last the rest of the year. So the strategy here is basically to follow the order outlined in the main data table. The one caveat is that your pool’s picks may be quite different than the public, so if one team projects to be much more or less popular than in the general public, you’ll want to adjust your ranking of them accordingly.

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 pool. In very small pools this week, the least popular out of the safest three teams (Broncos, Bengals, Patriots) is probably your best option.

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, with future value only playing a role win there are multiple good options. This week, the Bengals clearly have the least future value out of the safest tier of teams, so they are the ideal pick. If you don’t have them available, Denver is a more attractive choice than New England because of their higher win odds and money line.

However, there is a caveat here. If you’re trying to decide between two 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.

Thanksgiving Note

As always, feel free to ask questions about your specific situation in the comments section. However, please note that due to the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re not going to be able to answer all questions. We’ll get to as many as we can, but travel, friends, and family will keep us away from our computers for much of the break. Also, our Friday post will likely be much briefer than usual, though we will still review the impact of any major injuries or line movements.

Good luck, and happy Thanksgiving!

  • Joe

    David– Great stuff as always– Don’t you believe that the lack of popularity for NE is due to the fact that most folks have already used them? I didn’t as yet- but will ” save” them going forward, IF I go forward. Ques– If you had not already used the Pats, would you go with them still, or switch to Cincy?
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and enjoy the day–

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.melvin.94 Adam Melvin

    10 people left. 3 people have Den available. 4 other people besides me have Cincy avaiable. I am the only one with NE left. Would it be advantageous at all to save our ace NE and use Cincy. 2 people don’t have NE, Cincy, Chi, or Denver avaibalble. At whay point is it wise to save FV with NE and flip the pick to Cincy. Worth noting I don’t have Denver available for FV sake. Every other team I have used has followed the Final pick except I have used Den instead of Ciny. Thanks

  • Emerson

    You clearly put a lot of thought and analysis into your posts. Because of this, many people have won or in a position to win their survivor pools. I have won one already this year and in the running to win two others. If successful, I anticipate netting $4000.00! I don’t think I am alone when I say that some of us would like to donate in appreciation of your efforts (and to selfishly assure that this website, and thread specifically, continues). Please provide a PayPal link or similar to receive “tips” from a grateful readership.

  • Amy

    I’m in a double elimination league, the lone person with no strikes. This week we need to pick 2 teams and I’ve been following your blog. In a previous week when I needed to pick 2 teams I used NE. Of the 20 remaining survivors, many people have CIN, DEN, and DAL available. The table above leaves me with: Pitts, Indy, Denver, Seattle, Tenn, and NYG available. I’m leaning toward DEN/TEN, any thoughts?

  • Tyson

    Starting with week 13, one of my pools requires that we pick 2 teams per week. Does this impact the math of staying away from the most popular team? Does it make it less important, or does the importance stay the same?

  • cbowling01

    Seven Teams Left in my pool for $550.

    -I have used CHI, CIN, NO, HOU, SF, MIA, MIN, GB, DET, BAL, ATL.

    -Still have DEN and NE as possibilities this week. Anything else seems too risky.

    -Out of the seven I am thinking 2 will take NE, 1 or 2 will take DEN, 1 or 2 will take CIN, and 1 has to take something else.

    Should I go with NE this week and then go DAL, then DEN for 15 and 16.
    Should I go with DEN this week and then go NE, then SEA/TB for 15 and 16.

  • JJA from Florida

    Great stuff as always, does the strategy change when you need to pick 2 teams near the end of the season? 210 left in a 4000 pool. Denver and Cinn will be the popular picks in my pool. Do you go with one fav and a coin flip or go with 2 coin flips? I have Den, Indy, Sea, Tenn, Pitts left. Leaning towards Den-Indy or Indy-Tenn. Any thoughts? Have a great Thanksgiving

  • Tyson

    Since you are the lone person with 0 strikes, I think your strategy should be to pick the most popular teams each week to force the rest of the pool to catch up. So I think you should use Denver for sure. I’d probably go TEN also.

  • Kyle

    20 left in a pool that started in WK 8 and can go to the Super Bowl. Would NE still be top choice or will Cin or Chi be better choice. I think Cin might be picked by a lot. But taking NE makes it tough for future value with playoffs thoughts?

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

    I’m actually in the same boat as everyone else on here…i have Cincy, NE, and Denver. 180 left, week 15 you have to pick two teams. Should i go Cincy here?

  • Michael

    Hi David, Happy Thanksgiving. love your blog
    I am in a pool that can only use Thursday games this week so (NO-ATL; DEN-OAK;CINC-PHILLY;ATL-DET) are out
    # of Opponents have left to use these teams (0) DEN; (1) HOU; (2) DAL; (3) CIN; (3)NE; (3) NYG;(4) BAL; (5) PITT; (6) SF
    I am thinking I need NE for next week so was thinking Denver this week? what are your thoughts?

  • david

    I’m in a large pool (still ~200 people), and we need to pick 2 teams this week. A single wrong pick results in elimination. Is the optimal strategy to pick the best two available options from your list? Or mixing one team from your top tier and another team from the second tier (thereby preserving one of your top tier teams for a future week)?

  • stumped

    Have 120+ left. The only teams I have left that I can consider are: Indy, Tenn, and Denver. I know over 50% will choose Denver this week. Are Indy or Tenn worth the risk in this week in this league?

  • Skip

    Happy Thanksgiving, David. Still surviving in my 2 pools. Unfortunately, didn’t find your column til halfway through so I may have burned some aces earlier than I needed–but I’m still alive.

    Pool 1: 3/110 remain. Our remaining teams are very similar for the rest of the year. Each can play either Denver or Cincinnati this week. New England is dead. If I don’t play Cin, I’ll probably have to play Buffalo-Jax next week. Or Jets, Det, Carolina. We all will, though.

    Pool 2: 10/55 remaining (Large Money). Feel I’m in middle or pack re Future Value. Looks to me like the 4 people who are “out of teams,” have used Denver and NE already and are forced to play Cin. Three guys can play pats, cin or den. Three (incl me) can play cin or den. Strikes me Denver might actually be the play here under the circumstances. Except for the future value issues (for next week esp).

    Thoughts? For a while, it looked like I was gonna win both last week as Hou, Dal and Atl struggled.

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

    Yes, I’m sure NE’s lack of popularity is because most have used them.

    I answered your CIN/NE question in the post — read the official pick section for my thoughts.

  • Robert Fee

    Wish I had the Pats this Turkey Day, but used them already. 67 left out of 1120. My choices are Denver, Indy, and Seattle. Please advise. Last week we took NOLA on your advise.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

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

    Hmm, tough. I think th magic number is around 3 — I’d definitely rather be the 2nd on CIN than the 1st on NE. I’d definitely rather be the 1st on NE than the 4th on CIN. The 3rd on CIN is where I’m not sure whether to value the future or immediate value more. I guess the note that you don’t have DEN available make me lean CIN there.

  • StevenB

    53 left in my pool that started with 1000. “Normal” rules. I have CIN and NE left. You state that you are leaning towards CIN. I think that in my pool CIN’s popularity will be closer to 45% (with DEN also at 45%). Does that tilt it in favor of NE? What would the popularity of CIN have to be to tilt it in NE favor? Thank you very much, by the way, Reading your posts each week is one of the highlights of my week. I’d read even if was knocked out of all pools. Hope I didn’t just jinx myself…

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

    Yes, Tyson is right about your general strategy You should be trying to match the picks of those below you, if reasonable. I would also go DEN/TEN here, even though that burns Denver. You’re not going to see WAY higher win odds from them in the future, plus this week they have the big plus of shielding you from the advances of half the pool.

  • Chris P


    I have NE available, but not Cincy or Chicago of your tier 1 teams. starting next week we most likely need to start picking 2 teams until the end (this will depend on how many people are left each week). having NE next week or week 15 may be important, so is it advisable to reach for a tier two option this week, like a tennessee (used Dallas already), or go with NE this week and worry about double picks if and when they become necessary? without NE available, my options next week would be between Denver, Buffalo, NY Jets, not exactly ideal especially if we need 2 picks.

    thanks for the great work.


  • matt

    David – you’ve gotten me this far…

    3 teams left. I still have CIN, NWE and DEN in the bank and my two opponents have burned NWE and DEN. Do you like DEN here?

    Much appreciated…

  • Chris P

    btw i meant week 16 for new England (against Jax) not week 15.


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

    Great question. I believe it makes popularity slightly less important. My logic goes like this:

    In a normal pool the benefits of avoiding Denver comes from the possibility that a Denver loss knocks out half your pool. A Denver win means those people survive. So a Denver loss is a net 50% elimination.

    In a two-pick pool, a Denver loss still knocks out 50%. But a Denver win still results in, say, 15% of those people eliminated by their second pick. So the Denver loss is only a net 35% increase in the number of people eliminated.

    So the benefits of (Denver loss + YOU win) are reduced in a two-pick pool.

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

    See my answer to Tyson below for some discussion of this.

    I think in a two-pick pool, Denver becomes a lot more attractive. I haven’t done the math on this one, but I lean DEN-TEN (or DEN-IND is fine, too).

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


    Thanks so much for the appreciative words! I was joking the other day that I might spend more time thinking about NFL Survivor more than anybody else in the world. :)

    I don’t have a PayPal link for you at the moment, but I’ll talk about that with the rest of the TR crew, and might have one for you next week. (We’ll see).

    Of course, one way to support the site is to purchase one of our premium products. Generally for the NCAA tournament and for college bowl season, we offer bracket picks or bowl pick’em picks tailored to various pool sizes. Signing up for one of those products would be a way to show support, and get something back in return.

    Thanks again for the kudos, and congrats on the win!


  • ron

    With none of the top options available to me, I’m at a bit of a loss with who to take. Teams I’ve used are HOU, CIN, CHI, BAL, NYG, ATL, SF, GB, DEN, NE, DAL. There are only 5 people left in the pool. Of the other 4 people, I’m expecting 2 to use DEN and 2 to use CIN. By default, is TEN my pick?

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

    Thanks for the good info, that makes it a lot easier to evaluate.

    If the two choice you laid out are really all it comes down to, then I would lean towards DEN this week. Given your opponent pick projections, DEN has a much higher immediate value — they are safer, plus there is a chance they’ll be less popular. The future weeks play out better if you take NE, but my best guess is that the future value lost roughly cancels the current value gained. However, you have to assume there is some chance that you won’t even make it to Week 15, which means you need to discount the future value. That’s enough to push me towards taking advantage of the Denver value now.

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

    Probably CIN since I think NE and CHI will be more popular in your pool than in one that’s been going on all season.

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

    Yeah, think so.

  • Frank

    I am in the same boat, I’ve got Den, Indy, Seattle, and the Titans left because I burned the other top picks this week. There are about 100 entries left and I know the majority will take Den this week despite the fact that about 30 have used Den already. Should I just take Den this week or take more risk?

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

    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 pool. In very small pools this week, the least popular out of the safest three teams (Broncos, Bengals, Patriots) is probably your best option.

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

    I don’t really know, haven’t done the math on this. However, needing two picks a week means future value is more important, so I’d probably try to take the highest rated picks you can, while making sure one of them has little to no future value. So NE-CHI would be decent, but NE-DEN would not.

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

    Yep, that’s why they are listed higher in the table. :)

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

    1 — Yeah, the drop off to CIN this week is less than the drop from DEN to XXX next week, so I’d go CIN
    2 — Seems like NE ought to be less popular, no? Less people can use them, at least. So I’d lean that way.

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

    Teams in the table are listed in order of how attractive we think they are as a choice this week.

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

    Teams are listed in order of how attractive we think they are as a choice this week.

  • Dave

    Here is my projected schedule for the rest of the year:
    week 12 – CIN or DEN
    week 13 – DAL or CAR
    week 14 – TB
    week 15 – CIN or SEA or MIA (2 picks required)
    week 16 – IND or CAR or WAS or DEN (3 picks required)

    Main problem I have is I’d love to use CIN in week 15 vs PHI. Should I use DEN now so that I can use CIN in week 15? Any comments on the schedule above? I basically went based on the TR win % to determine the schedule above based on what teams I have left.

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

    Yeah, that extra 10% is enough. It was a really close decision already, so I think NE is the right move for you.

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


    You definitely need to place a premium on future value. I do think that dropping down to TEN or IND this week is probably the right move, as risky as it is. (This is assuming there are a lot of people remaining, and you’ll probably need to last all season to win)

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

    Wow, nice job saving bullets.

    Actually, this is kind of a unique spot. If you are *sure* both opponents will be on CIN, you might think about taking CIN. You give up an advantage this week, but in return you get a huge boost in future value. PLUS, you eliminate any chance of your opponents lucking out and winning this week while you get tossed. Basically you’d be sacrificing an edge now for an even bigger edge later. And, you’d be increasing your chances for a split pot while reducing chances of a straight win or loss, which might be desirable if it’s a huge pot.

    Otherwise, I think I’d rather save DEN and use NE. The difference in win odds this week is maybe 7%, but then DEN will be an option both of the next 2 weeks, plus 16/17 if it lasts that long. NE isn’t as good of an option in Week 14.

  • Ken

    Hi David,

    I’m in a pool of 5, and I likely have a choice between being the second (maybe 3rd) on Cincinnati or the first on New England. I’d like to save New England if possible, but I’d like to know your take on this.


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

    I think IND is slightly better than TEN in this spot due to less future value, but yeah, you basically have it right. Just try to find the safest team available to you, and cross your fingers.

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

    I think having DEN available in week 16 (and as a back up plan other weeks) is going to be more valuable to you than having CIN available in week 15.

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

    I think saving NE is valuable enough that I’d go CIN here.

  • Robert Fee

    Once again thank you.
    Keep Calm and Gobble On!

  • Chris

    unless you’re in my pool with 5 remaining, then go NE cause I’m taking cincy

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

    Ha, I wonder how much that happens.

  • http://twitter.com/jeffrouk Jeff Shaw


    Thanks again for your advice – always excellent.

    3 left in my pool – I think one will go for NE, or maybe CHI (he’s used DEN and CIN). The other will got for CHI, DEN or CIN (he’s used NE). Of the sensible options I have the choice between DEN and CIN this week.

    So – if I choose one of those two, there’s no chance all 3 of us will be on the same team, but there’s reasonable chance I’ll be the second on whichever I pick.

    I know DEN is safer now, but my thinking is to take CIN this week on the basis of future value – I’ll pick DAL next week (both my opponents have used DAL) and then I have DEN available if needed W14 (I’ve used most of the other good options for W14 such as TB, SEA, SF).

    Is that sensible in your view?

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.melvin.94 Adam Melvin

    So of the 4 favorites of 5 or more 5 teams only have cincy available and one has Chi/cincy avaibable. This leads me to believe 4 or 5 people will be on Cincy. I am gathering if thats the case its worth rooting for the Cincy upset and not saving NE future value, RIght? Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving

  • Dave

    Okay, thanks very much. I’ll go with CIN this week then and hopefully a better pick opens up for me in week 15. My guess is that my pool will last to week 16 since there are 15 or so people in it right now.

  • Skip

    except, sadly, I don’t have New England. Burned them last week. Might have to go Cincy both pools. Concern is more than 50% may be on Bungles under circumstances.

  • Jennmcg

    Hi Dave,
    I always look forward to your posts. I have followed most of them with a few strays. I am one of four left. I believe one will be taking CIN, I have used them as well as two others. We have all used Denver. I and one other have used NE so I would think the other two will probably take them. The issue is I don’t know who to pick. I have already taken Hou, Cin, Dallas, Green Bay, San Fran, Miami,NE, Chi, Den, Balt, Atl. Considering between Pitts or Ten or ? Thanks so much for any advice and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  • Jose


    You’ve gotten me this far so more Kudos to you. I am still in a pool of 8. I took NO last week to save Denver. Last week 4 took Dallas so it appears the remaining players look to be agressive for the ” popular” pick. That being said..8 still remain…5 have Denver available,5 for Cincy,3 for Baltimore with 1 for NE & the Bears. I have used each but Denver. Within your Tier 2 group, reading through this blog earlier today, i see at 1 point, you value Indy a tad higher than Jax. I’m thinking Den & Cincy will be choices along with the 1 NE pick. I’m looking for another team outside of Denver & hoping to make it to next week where Denver & Seattle will still have future value.Will Indy be okay to take this week ?
    Gracias Again & have a great Holiday !!!!

  • Scott

    Thanks for these posts and all your hard work this season. Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. Now to my question…

    My league is double elimination, there are five teams left, only 1 team is perfect (not me).

    I’ve picked Bears/Bengals/Cowboys/Texans/49ers/Bucs/Vikings/Titans/Packers/Ravens/Falcons

    Of the 4 other people and top options you listed: 3 people have used the Bengals, 3 people have used the Patriots, 2 people have used the Bears, 2 people have used the Broncos, and 2 people have used the Colts.

    Of your top 3 options, I’ve already used the Bengals and Bears, so are the Patriots the no doubt pick? Or should I consider maybe the Colts being at home with win odds over 60% and no future value? Or should I just take the easiest pick with Denver?


  • Tom


    Thanks for all your advice so far this year – we’ve seen a pool of over 1,100 dwindle to 67 but have now a tough choice to make. You highlight CHI, CIN, and NE as your top three, but unfortunately we do not have any of those available – two of the weeks we moved away from your advice we took CIN and NE. So in short, we still have DEN but no other heavy favorites. We’re interested at this point in IND or CAR, and I’d think we’d like to save DAL. What’s your recommendation from that mix of barely-favored teams for our situation?

  • NJR

    D. Hess, in a lil’ bit of a conundrum here. In a pool with 192 teams left, of which I have 4 teams remaining. One of those teams I have followed your pick every single week. However, if I’m to choose a Thursday game, my picks must be in by Wed at noon….and that deadline has come and gone.

    With that being said, who do you feel is my next best option in regards to my one team that has mimicked your weekly picks? Thanks so much!!! Gobble, gobble

  • Lobster

    Have a Great Thanksgiving guys. Thanks for all the great info.

  • Ken

    Thanks David. Happy Thanksgiving! And Chris – unless you make it a point to totally ignore David’s advice every week, I don’t think you’re in my pool lol so we can both root for Cincy.

  • Greg W

    David – Just in case you get a chance to reply. 3 pools. Large one 300 left: used chi, cinci, ne, bal, sea, sf… do I just go Denv with the crowd? Or slip to Indy or Tenn? Small pool 9 left I have Cinci left and think I go there as I predict most will be on Denv and I dont have NE left. Heads up in 3rd pool. I think I go Denv here, we’ve both been going favorites for awhile and even though he has a slight advantage I dont have Cinci or NE left there so hard to drop a lot in % to vary the teams. So, overall it looks like either Denv/Cinci/Denv? Or possibly Indy/Cinci/Denv? I hate taking such popular teams, but I’m not sure I have much of a choice… Thanks again and if you don’t get to it have a great holiday!

  • brian

    I also agree would be willing to donate money as well… As I see what you said below would be willing to purchase the NCAA bracket predictions to help me as well with advice… Well about this weeks picks… Most of the pool will be taking Bengals and broncos. I have both teams left. With 20 people left do I go with the Bengals as well and save Denver.I have used the bears and pats already. Thanks for your advice

  • MattAir360

    Seeking advice: Pool is down to two. My opponent has Denver available but has gone on record of not trusting Cincy. I fully expect her to pick Denver this week. Do I save Denver to gain the upper hand in future weeks and go with Cincy this week?
    I have picked Hou, NYG, Dal, GB, SF, Atl, NE, Chi, SD, Pitt, NO. My opponent has picked almost the same teams, except she has SD and NO and compared to her, I have Min and Bal. I wouldn’t say that either of us has the upper hand… Thanks for your help!!!

  • Steve

    Picks are due before kickoff tomorrow morning, so if you can possibly get to my question I would greatly appreciate it! I know in small pools (3 left in my case) you shouldn’t worry too much about future value, but as options get slimmer it is hard not to think about future value since next week the only clear favorite looks to be DEN over TB (Although I do have BAL and BUF l who look to be decent options). I am the only one that is able to pick Denver this week. One other guy will be on CIN for sure and the other on DAL (he doesn’t have CIN or NE). If I take DEN (NE is not an option) this week, we will be on a pretty even playing field next week in regard to teams remaining. If I take CIN this week, I will be the 2nd guy on them, but will have DEN saved for next week. Does the benefit of being the only guy on DEN outweigh the benefit of having them next week? Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  • Jargon

    Hey Dave,

    I’m going head to head and this is an interesting week. I still have Denver and he doesn’t. He has Cincy and I don’t. We’ve both used New England. My gut is to use Denver and hope Cincy loses, assuming he’ll take them. Do you agree or should I consider a team like Indy or Tennessee who could let me save Denver for later on?

  • Justin Geoghegan

    Three players left – I have already burned New England and so has one other guy. All three of us have Cincinnati I’m the only one who has Denver available. Denver is the right choice, right?

  • Steve

    Picks have to be in by kickoff tomorrow, so a response would be greatly appreciated if possible! In a pool of 3 and I am the only one with DEN left. One guy will definitely be on CIN and the other on DAL or another non-CIN/DEN/NE team. I would pick DEN this week without thinking twice, but next week DEN looks like the clear best pick (though with PIT’s QB situation BAL may be a solid choice). I know future value is less meaningful in a pool this small, but as options get slimmer does the benefit of being the only one on DEN this week still outweigh the benefit of having DEN available next week? Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  • Steve

    Sorry, duplicate post. Created a new one because my older one wasn’t showing up

  • Bosco

    Thanks for all the work you put into this every week!

    I’m in a pool with 12 people left and I have already taken NE, CIN, and CHI. Not a good spot I know. Especially since 10 of my 11 opponents still have DEN left as an option. Of those 10 opponents, 2 have only DEN left of the 4 biggest favorites. The other 8 have either CIN, CHI, or NE as additional options. I do anticipate DEN being a popular pick in this pool though. People just like to pick the big favorite. What would you recommend? Take a risk and go TEN? Burn up the big favorite with a lot of future value and hope the rest of my pool saves them? Curse my bad luck for using all the good picks for this week and angrily pick KC?

  • Steve

    Haha, read my post below. I am in a very similar situation except only one guy can pick CIN. In case David can’t reply, what I have been considering may be helpful to you. CIN and DEN are similar favorites this week. If you keep DEN for next week while taking CIN this week, you could have a sizable edge over your opponents next week with a CIN victory(depending on who they have left of course). You wouldn’t be able to win this week though and a CIN loss would result in a split pot. Pick DEN and you put yourself in a position to win it all this week with a CIN loss. Ultimately I think I am going to stick with DEN as I personally like their chances this week better than next week vs TB. Although CIN are pretty big favorites, I can’t help but to look at their 5-5 overall record with a 2-3 home record. My gut tells me the chance of OAK upsetting them is far greater than KC’s chance of upsetting Denver. You will have to ask yourself if you think having DEN vs. TB next week is worth it and definitely depends on your available options (and your opponents options) next week.

  • Steve

    Thank g-d for teamrankings.com! I’ve followed your picks every week and I’m one of 250 left. The picks are: Falcons, Ravens, Bears, Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, Vikings, Chargers, 49ers, Bucs and Texans. Unfortunately this week I need to make two picks. What do you suggest?

  • Steve

    Thank g-d for teamrankings.com! I’ve followed your picks every week in my no-spread pool and I’m one of 250 left. The picks are: Falcons, Ravens, Bears, Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, Vikings, Chargers, 49ers, Bucs and Texans. Unfortunately this week I need to make two picks. What do you suggest? Do I burn Patriots and Broncos?

  • ILJ


    There are 4 left in my pool. No one has Chicago left. Of the other 3 good picks, I have New England & Denver, one person has Cincinnati and Denver, one person only has Denver, and one person has all 3 left.

    I think the person with only Denver left will obviously pick Denver, and the person with Cin & Den left will pick Cin. That leaves me & the other person (who has all 3 to choose from). He is fairly conservative so I think he will pick Cin or Den. That (hopefully) leaves me as the only person picking New England.

    My main worry is what I will pick in the future, namely next week. Past picks are DET, CIN, DAL, HOU, SF, TB, MIN, CHI, GB, BAL, and ATL. If I pick NE this week, are Carolina or Buffalo good enough picks for next week?

  • jlhdc


    I cannot use New England this week (12), because I used them in week 8.
    You advised Chicago that week (8). but I could not use the Bears because I had already used them in week 3. I missed your late change to Dallas that week (3).
    So, my problem is I still have Dallas available, but not New England.
    My question is, do I go with the safer pick in Denver, and give up their future value, or take a chance with the riskier pick in Dallas?
    Please advise.
    Thanks, I really appreciate your expertise!

  • Pirate

    Down to 7 people. I have already takenHou Cin Dal Gb Sf Atl Min Chi Sea Ne Den
    I think Cleveland may be my best pick because of the QB situation and the Browns tough defense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506829205 Eric Haase

    In a pool with 12 contestants remaining, where only three of us still have Denver available, am I correct in presuming I should take the Broncos without hesitation?

  • Adam

    Happy thanksgiving. You stated under your final pick that Chicago is riskier than NE and Cin, so why do you have Chicago at the top of tier one? Shouldnt they be listed under them? You always state to follow how you have listed out your picks. Thanks

  • Jeff


    My pool started with 803, and as of week 11, there were 42 people left.
    It’s getting down to crunch time, and I have to make my decsion for this week today, because I’m trying to decide between Dallas (playing today), and Denver.
    Please read my thinking, then advise, I really appreciate your expertise!
    I cannot use New England this week, because I used them in week 8.
    You advised Chicago for week 8, but I could not use them because I had already used them in week 3. (I missed your late change to Dallas in week 3).
    So, my dilemma is, I still have Dallas available, but not New England.
    My question is, do I go with the safer pick in Denver, and give up their future value, or take a chance with the riskier pick in Dallas?


  • Mike

    I have 7 left in my pool and I am the only one left with New England. Is today a good day to take the Pats. I’m leaning towards the Bengals but I think everyone else will pick them this week

  • Adam

    David, 97 people left have to take 2 teams.. I have cinci Denver Seattle colts Dallas and titans as options.. Who do I roll with ?

  • Chris

    Look at his list above. Take the top 2 you have available. Those being Cincy/Dallas

  • Chris

    Cause only 1.4% of public has picked them and they have no future value. They are riskier because they have less chance of winning, but that is outweighed by the other 2 factors.

  • Chris

    Just look at his list above and work from the top down. That will be his suggestion provided your pool isn’t relatively small at this point.

    If it is, try to determine what your opponents will pick. If it looks like a small % of people will be on Denver perhaps you should take them.

  • ThaddeusB

    Um, Carolina is the 2 point favorite, not Philadelphia… Not that it really changes anything.

  • jack

    lol i might be in your pool hahahaa

  • Kyle

    Only 2 of 20 took NE. knowing that does Cin still look to be best choice on games remaining?

  • Tyson

    A word to the wise on pick percentages. My pool is down to 23 people, picks were due on Thursday. I went through each entry and tried to predict whom each person would pick, ended up with 10 on Denver, 9 on Cincy (including me). Well I was off on a lot of my predictions, There are 11 on Cincy and only 7 on Denver, so I may have been better off taking Denver.

    My advice is that when you’re doing your predicting in your pool, keep an eye out for people who don’t like to take road teams, division teams, or who might save Denver – don’t just assume they always take the biggest favorite even if it looks that way on the surface.

  • Tyson

    That wasn’t the case earlier this week. The line opened with the Eagles as 2.5 point favorites. Carolina may be “worth a look” now, though they have future value (next week and week 16).

  • Steve

    Pick is in, no need to reply. Thanks for the great blog!

  • Dave

    20 remaining in my pool. Of those 20, nine have used Denver and not Cincy. Only two have used Cincy and not Denver. Two have used both. Seven, including me, have used neither.
    So I figure there will be more people picking CIN than DEN.

    Do you think it’s reasonable to pick Denver over Cincy in this situation despite the difference in future value? If I were to save Denver, I’d probably use them in week 16 because I have other options in week 14 and I’m a little scared of Denver’s Week 13 matchup (TB).

    And also, my gut tells me that the CIN spread is a few points too high.

    In my situation, who do you prefer?

  • drock1122

    how can i get in that pool next year? man 1100

  • guss

    Ya great Titans pick. Highest team of tier two. How about those Colts and Giants? titans total joke of a pick and ranking…

  • guss

    At least the Bengals won. My second pick lost with the titans pick…
    Now 5 left and have the stupid broncos as the other 4 took them was hoping they could lose but the Chiefs are a hot pile of dog doo doo…

    Hope you can come up with a winning team next week… Now one of 5 instead of 2 of 6…

  • guss

    HA Ha you want to pay him? Maybe if I can win some cash I would consider a tip not likely unless he wins me some real cash… The ones I do my own picks are still strong, needed help with one and did not help…

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

    Chris, Thanks for answering some of these questions while I was gone over Thanksgiving break. I appreciate it.

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

    Hey everybody, sorry I couldn’t get to many of these questions over the Thanksgiving break — I was traveling, which made it a bit difficult, and I also came down with a bout of food poisoning on Friday which put me out of commission for a while. I hope everybody caught Tom’s update on Friday, and that you all survived the weekend!

  • Frankie G

    Why did you take the titans? The moneyline dropped massively on Sunday. Forgot to do your homework???