Week 13 NFL Survivor Friday Update: Maybe We’ll Keep That Last Ace…

Wow, it’s been a while, but we’ve finally got an interesting Friday update on our hands … or at least, one that can’t just be handled by a robot bartender.

There hasn’t been any earth shaking line movement over the past couple days, but there have been a couple shifts in our decision-making process:

  • First, it has come to our attention that the Yahoo! public pick data may be contaminated. Apparently Yahoo! lets you start Survivor pools at any point in the season, and allows you to restart after everyone is eliminated. This means that their published pick rates are probably not a good proxy for those in a normal pool. As a result, we’re switching to using only data from OfficeFootballPool.
  • Second, some great discussion in the comment section of Wednesday’s post convinced us that when we plan out our future path, we need to be giving more weight to how popular a team will be. This changes the value of the possible future picks we laid out Wednesday, and makes us lean more towards saving some teams with high future value.

Our Wednesday decision was a very close call, so these changes, along with line movement in the Detroit game, have led us to reconsider our official pick.

What Has Changed Since Wednesday?

Let’s go over how a few key teams have been affected by our new ways of thinking, and by other changes.

Baltimore Ravens — News reports indicate that the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger will almost certainly miss this weekend’s game, and sportsbooks have responded by making the Ravens -7 or -8 point favorites. They now seem like a very good play, rather than a big question mark, and we’ve moved them to the top of Tier 2. (As an aside, our models do not explicitly take injuries into account, so we’re not downgrading Baltimore as much as usual for their relatively low TR odds.)

Denver Broncos — Our pick from Thursday was based on laying out a possible future path that didn’t include the Broncos, and deciding it had decent survival odds. However, some of those future picks will be very popular, and we’d like to avoid that, so we’re now leaning more towards saving the Broncos looks (at least in big pools where your pick doesn’t make up a large portion of the pick percentage).

New England Patriots, Houston Texans — These two teams also have a lot of future value, and have been used by most people, so saving them also looks like a better decision now.

Detroit Lions — First, there was some line movement here, as Detroit’s money line rose from -215 to -225, and their spread went from -4.5 to -5. In addition, their TR Odds improved from 68% to 69%. Finally, the fact that choosing Detroit lets us save Denver (or another strong future value team) makes them a more attractive choice than before.

Buffalo Bills — The Bills saw their money line, spread, and TR odds rise slightly, and are also the beneficiaries of our increased appreciation for the future value of elite teams. So, like Detroit, they look more attractive than they did previously, and we’ve bumped them up from Tier 3 to Tier 2.

San Francisco 49ers — Because of our switch to using only OfficeFootballPool public pick percentages, San Francisco’s Pick % in our table drops from 18% to 11%. This means that avoiding them (and rooting for an upset) is less important, and they climb several spots in the rankings.

Dallas Cowboys — The switch to using OFP public pick rates means Dallas now seems more popular, which is a negative. However, their lack of future value is still important enough that the Cowboys remain the clear best choice if you have them available.

Week 13 NFL Survivor Decision Factors (Updated)

Here’s a look at the updated Survivor data table. As a reminder, this helps us answer the three main questions we ask ourselves about each team when making our Survivor pick.

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 that’s among the safest of the week, and a half a point for a game that seems borderline playable, with only partial credit for games in Week 16 or 17 when teams may be resting players. 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 in big pools (more than 20 people). 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 Val
Tier 1: Top Options
Dallasvs Philadelphia-10.0-525 / +44276%22.5%0.0
Green Bayvs Minnesota-7.5-380 / +33075%4.9%1.1
Tier 2: Worth A Look
Baltimorevs Pittsburgh-8.0-333 / +26564%*8.4%0.0
Detroitvs Indianapolis-5.0-225 / +20169%3.5%0.3
San Franciscoat St Louis-7.0-335 / +29373%11.5%1.3
Denvervs Tampa Bay-7.0-325 / +28579%6.8%2.2
NY Jetsvs Arizona-4.5-215 / +19366%6.9%0.4
New Englandat Miami-7.0-350 / +30579%8.0%2.8
Buffalovs Jacksonville-6.0-255 / +22767%16.9%0.2
Houstonat Tennessee-6.0-270 / +23969%1.3%2.1
Tier 3: AVOID
Chicagovs Seattle-3.5-178 / +16068%5.3%1.0
Carolinaat Kansas City-3.0-148 / +13453%2.1%0.5
NY Giantsat Washington-2.5-143 / +12952%0.5%0.8
Cincinnatiat San Diego-1.5-121 / +11051%0.3%1.1
Oaklandvs Cleveland-2.5-149 / +12529%*0.2%0.0

Teams We Already Picked: 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), New England Patriots (WIN)

Official Week 13 NFL Survivor Pick: Detroit Lions over Indianapolis Colts

Just a quick reminder, to make it extra clear — if you have Dallas available, they still seem like the clear best choice, as long as they won’t be picked by more than a third of your pool. We used them way back in Week 3, so we’re forced to look elsewhere.

In Wednesday’s preliminary Week 13 NFL Survivor post, we quickly narrowed down our options to Denver and Detroit, and then dove a little deeper to ultimately give a slight edge to the Broncos. Here was the money quote:

“Based on looking at projected future odds on our site and other sources, it seems like the projected win odds [taking into account both this week and future weeks] for both options are roughly the same. In other words, the penalty for dropping down to Detroit now is basically cancelled out by the bonus of moving up from Carolina to Denver in Week 16. In a case like this, we generally like to take the route that is safer up front, and risky later.”

Two things have led us to change our mind:

  • Line movements and TR odds changes make Detroit look a little safer than they did Wednesday, so the immediate value penalty for choosing Detroit has lessened.
  • We now think we should be placing a bit more emphasis on future popularity during this end game phase, which makes saving Denver (who most have already used) a bit more attractive.

That second point about future popularity may need an explanation.

Before, we determined that the choice essentially boils down to taking Detroit now and Denver in Week 16, or Denver now and Carolina in Week 16. The relative safety of those two options seems roughly equal, so we originally leaned towards Denver.

However, the value of a pick depends not only on safety, but also on popularity, and Carolina projects to be more popular than Denver in Week 16, because many more contestants ought to have them available. So, we now lean towards taking Detroit this week, and saving Denver for later, so we can avoid the more popular Panthers in the future.

So, in light of the line change and our increased attention to future popularity, we’re jumping teams. Our official Week 13 NFL Survivor pick is the Detroit Lions over the Indianapolis Colts. Keep in mind this is still a very close decision, so there’s nothing wrong with going the safer route, and taking Denver, if that’s what you’re more comfortable with.

Advice For Other Pool Sizes

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 our Week 11 small-pool advice. Nothing has changed since Wednesday:

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 Cowboys, Packers, and 49ers is probably your best option, as those three teams are in the safest tier, plus have less future value than the Broncos or Patriots. If you’ve got none available, then working your way down from safest to riskiest (by money line) and taking the first unpopular team (only 1 or 0 people picking them) may work.

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 Cowboys clearly have the best combo of safety and future value, so they are the ideal pick. If you don’t have them available, Green Bay or San Francisco are the next most attractive, and then Denver or New England.

There is one thing to keep in mind 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.

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’ll do our best.

If 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 if and why you think your competitors may be picking differently than contestants in a generic OfficeFootballPool.com pool.