Week 14 NFL Survivor Friday Update: Fear The Compression Pad, Bolts

posted in NFL, NFL Survivor Pools

As expected, the Broncos took care of business on Thursday against the Raiders, advancing about 7% of the public on to Week 15. Though it would have been nice to be in that group, or for Denver to have taken a surprise loss, at least their win means another 7% of our opponents won’t be able to take them in Week 16.

As for our official pick, it looks like we’re going to be flipping it for the second week in a row, and the third time this year. The first time we flipped, our original pick lost while our new pick won. The second time, our original pick won while our new pick lost. Let’s hope this time we get a repeat of the former … or even a “both win” scenario.

What Has Changed Since Wednesday?

There has been one big news item since we posted our preliminary pick, and other than that only a few very minor line shifts. Let’s start with the big news:

Pittsburgh Steelers — The Steelers have announced that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play this weekend. As a result, Pittsburgh’s spread, money line, and TR win odds have risen, and they now look much safer than they appeared Wednesday. In fact, they have a safer profile than every remaining team other than San Francisco and Seattle. Combined with their low popularity and marginal future value, that means Pittsburgh is now a great pick this week.

Seattle Seahawks — The Pinnacle money line for Seattle has fallen from -550 on Wednesday to -468 this morning, which is equivalent to a win odds decrease of about 2% to 2.5%. That’s not a huge drop, but it’s the biggest one of the week. The Seahawks were already rated as STAY AWAY due to their popularity; this just makes the choice a little bit clearer.

The rest of the money line shifts this week made only a 1% difference or less in equivalent win odds, so they didn’t affect our preferred ordering of teams at all.

Week 14 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
San Franciscovs Miami-10.0-520 / +43981%12.1%0.3
Pittsburghvs San Diego-7.5-370 / +32279%2.2%0.3
Tampa Bayvs Philadelphia-7.0-345 / +30175%12.8%0.2
Tier 2: Worth A Look
Clevelandvs Kansas City-6.5-280 / +24869%4.4%0.0
Green Bayvs Detroit-6.5-290 / +25674%0.6%0.5
Indianapolisvs Tennessee-5.0-235 / +21061%5.8%0.2
Atlantaat Carolina-3.5-175 / +15863%0.5%0.2
NY Giantsvs New Orleans-5.0-230 / +20566%0.3%0.3
Tier 3: AVOID
Buffalovs St Louis-3.0-150 / +13060%0.2%0.0
Chicagoat Minnesota-3.0-144 / +13056%0.1%0.2
Cincinnativs Dallas-3.0-164 / +14858%0.1%0.5
Seattlevs Arizona-10.0-468 / +39978%52.9%0.4
Washingtonvs Baltimore-2.5-139 / +12656%0.1%0.3
NY Jetsat Jacksonville-2.5-138 / +12549%0.1%0.0
New Englandvs Houston-3.5-180 / +16268%0.0%1.7

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), Detroit Lions (LOSS)

Official Week 14 NFL Survivor Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers over San Diego Chargers

Two days ago, it looked like we were facing a tough decision between Denver (representing a much safer path now, a much riskier one later) and Cleveland (much riskier now, much safer later). We ultimately opted with Cleveland, mostly because we thought our expected value would be higher in the long run.

However, there was another benefit to passing on Denver that we didn’t discuss Wednesday. Because we didn’t have to lock in our pick before last night’s game, we were able to wait for Pittsburgh’s situation to become clearer. In our preliminary Week 14 NFL Survivor post we said:

“By Sunday morning, the Steelers may look like a very good pick, but for now there is enough uncertainty that we’d be cautious”

Well, it turns out that by Friday morning they look like a very good pick. Out of the teams we have remaining, Pittsburgh now has the biggest spread, best money line, and highest win odds. They are also being picked by only about 2% of the public.

The only (slight) negative is that they do have some future value. However, that comes mainly in Week 17 (vs CLE), when we should have a couple other options available (NYG vs PHI, SD vs OAK), so we’re not particularly worried about saving them.

Put it all together, and it’s an easy choice. Our official Week 14 NFL Survivor pick is the Pittsburgh Steelers over the San Diego Chargers.

We hope that compression pad you’re wearing Sunday doesn’t hinder your movement, Big Ben.

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 14 small-pool advice. There are a few minor changes since Wednesday, mostly related to the Steelers.

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, and the tips covered in the pick discussion above. 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 49ers, Seahawks, Steelers, or Buccaneers is probably your best option, as those four teams are in the safest couple tiers, plus have less future value than the Packers. If you’ve got none of the above 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 Seahawks or 49ers have the best combo of safety and future value, so one of those is the ideal pick. If you don’t have either available, Pittsburgh is the next most attractive, then Tampa Bay, then Cleveland.

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. (Though note that this week is particularly busy, with us prepping the site for college bowl season, so we’ll have a lower response rate than usual.)

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.

  • Kyle

    13 left in a pool that started WK8 and can go into the playoffs. I have
    used CHI, SD, BAL,DAL, CIN and GB. I think most will be on SF, SEA and some sprinkled with TB and IND. Would PIT be a better
    choice then TB with 13 left I don’t see it going far into the playoffs. Or do I hold on to PIT since not much of a difference between them and TB.

  • Tyson

    At this point in the season, assuming you understand the math, the biggest challenge is figuring out who your opponents might be picking.

    I’m in a pool with 19 left and a Thursday deadline. I predicted 13 out of 18 picks correctly this week. I figure I’d pass along an insight based on what I saw there.

    There are a group of people that usually pick one of the biggest favorites each week. I figured the ones that had both SEA and SF left would split 50/50 between those two teams. I was wrong. Out of the 6 people who have both SF and SEA left, 4 took SF, 1 took SEA, and 1 took CLE. 1 of the SF picks seems to pick like I do, weighing popularity.

    So I think your basic player will look at it like this for week 14. If I have SEA and SF, I’m taking SF. Otherwise, I’m taking SEA. If I don’t have either of those 2 teams available, then I’m probably taking TB but may take PIT, CLE, IND or GB.

  • Sebastian

    4 people left in my pool. I’m the only one with SF left, 3 people, including me, have PIT, everyone still has SEA. Is the advantage of using SF this week negated by PIT’s lower win odds (64% to SF’s 79%) in Week 17? I figure that PIT’s odds will go up assuming they win 2 of their next 3, so it’s best to go with SF here. Plus they’re more likely to “have something to play for.” Thanks for any advice and of course your awesome weekly columns.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21721315 Carlo Ferri


    13 of us remain. If there isn’t a winner at the end of the regular season, our teams reset and we start the process fresh in the playoffs.

    I used Hou, Cinci, Chi, GB, SF, Tam, Min, Den, Det, Balt, Atl, NE, Dal

    8 out of the 12 opponents has already used Pit
    2 out of the 12 opponents has already used Sea

    Does my strategy stay the same still and do I pick Pit? Or do I play it safe and join the sheep to make it into the playoffs?


  • cybergolf1

    I have to get picks in Thursday night and took PITT…Nice you see you guys get on the PITT train this week! Chargers starting 3 brand new O-lineman this week…Blitz happy PITT will give Rivers a handfull.

  • cybergolf1

    ‘to see you’

  • Ferv

    In a pool with 17 people left. Here’s the breakdown of best options for this week:

    0 can take SF
    0 can take GBAY
    4 can take DEN
    6 can take PITT
    11 can take SEA
    16 can take CLEV
    16 can take INDY
    17 can take TBAY

    I have PITT, SEA, CLEV, INDY, TBAY available to me. Based on this
    whom do you think is my best bet? I was originally thinking SEA this
    week as my best option to win.

    Plan for rest of season is MIA week 15,TBAY/WASH/CAR for week 16, and NOR/PITT/SEA/SD for week 17.

    Let me know what you think. Thank you!

  • Doug E Doug

    Hey David – I posted on Wed’s blog (see below)

    So starting this week and continuing through Week 17 we now have to
    pick TWO teams correctly. I have already used both of the top tier
    teams. Was originally thinking about the Colts and Seahawks, but like
    the Browns as well. Between those three, which would be the best combo
    for Week 14?

    Just an FYI – 186 teams left, 24 have used Colts, 29 have used Seahawks, and only 1 has used the Browns.

    On Wed you suggested I take the Browns and the Seahawks because the popularity is less important and future value is more important. My question is, I have Pitt still as well. Does the recent news that Big Ben is playing change your suggestion from Wed?

    Should I go: Sea/Cle or Sea/Pitt or Pit/Cle

  • Dave

    Things have broken my way this week perhaps. Only 4 of 13 remaining entries have PIT available. One of those also has SF available and the other two have SEA available. I might be the only person taking PIT. Now I just have to hope for some upsets.

    A word of warning for people who have MIA penciled in for Week 15: I expect the Pick% to be above 50% for MIA next week. You may want to look for a backup plan (CIN, SEA, SD, STL)

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

    Hey guys nice run! Lucky for me I already took det. We have 37 people left out of 2937. I am choosing between SEATTLE, PITT, TAMPA, AND CLE. Mostly everyone has sea, tam, and CLE. I am one of three that has the steelers left. I am leaning towards Cleveland and saving the steelers. What would u suggest? If we don’t loss 8 or more this week next week are double picks. Just something I have to keep in mind.

  • Semaj

    What about pools that run into the playoffs? Should I use a Seattle now and save Pitts? And/or other teams that should be in the playoffs? If we are worried about the popular opinion…I still have cleveland too for this week…Thougts?

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

    It doesn’t seem likely for PIT to be a favorite in the playoffs anyway, so I would lean PIT as long as you have another better options saved for the first weekend.

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

    Yeah, I would discount SF’s Week 17 odds a bit, but it seems like they still may be safer than PIT in Week 17. … But the bigger concern is that with others having PIT left, you might not be the only one taking them. So I’d lean SF, based on a combination of those two factors.

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

    Assuming SEA is popular in your pool, PIT will probably maximize your average expected value, while SEA will probably decrease your average expected value, in exchange for increasing the fraction of the time that you win *something*.

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

    Yeah, I’d go SEA/PIT probably.

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

    Yep, good point about MIA. I’m not very happy about my Week 15 options at this point.

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

    Yes, if you need to pick the playoffs, you should be saving some playoff teams. No, I don’t see why that would mean you should take SEA. CLE sounds alright … I’d basically just start with the order in the table, then knock likely playoff teams down a few spots.

  • Julio

    Hey David. Excellent column, thank you! I was just wondering… If you guys didn’t have NYG for week 17, and SD was your best option, would you still be taking PIT?

  • Semaj

    Thank you sir…

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

    Probably. PIT is definitely a notch safer than CLE this week, and I don’t really think it’s clear that PIT will be any safer than SD in Week 17.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21721315 Carlo Ferri

    Wish i would have been a sheep today instead. Wtf steelers!

  • EddieSpaghetti


  • Ty

    Ouch. 2 weeks of bad picks. I think you guys just got overly analytical. Should have stayed with the Wednesday pick.

  • MrOban

    good thing I didnt read this today. I went with the Browns. Whew!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.silberfarb Daniel Silberfarb

    When it rains, it pours. Sorry to those on PIT and TB. Unfortunately, noone in my pool was knocked out.

    Next week looks like it’ll be another similar tough-call situation. If anyone somehow managed to save Houston, they can use them (1 in our pool) – but everyone else will be picking MIA v JAX. If you want to avoid the popular pick, there’s not really many options to do so. With the way ARI played, maybe DET? I’m not really seeing much.

  • Dave

    Yea, I’m out because of TB. I needed to save SEA for week 15 because of the requirement to make 2 picks- but now DET is a bigger favorite than SEA, so I wouldn’t have needed SEA in week 15 anyways argh. So now I would have gone MIA and DET in week 15. That last 4 minutes of TB-Eagles was excruciating to watch, I’m still not sure that Eagles TD should have been called a TD, I thought his foot was sliding out of bounds as he was catching the ball. But that’s how it goes.

  • Frank_Elways

    Double picks for me. Both other teams left have to be on Miami, I am guessing. Don’t know whether to go HOU/MIA and HOU/MIA with my two teams or HOU/MIA and HOU/DET. If I go Miami x2, I’m guaranteed to advance both teams with a Houston win no matter what Miami does. If I go Det with 1 team, I can win the pot with a Miami loss, but might lose that team with a Miami win and DET loss

  • StevenB

    Again, I was lucky that I have to make my picks by Thursday, as I went with CLE, and might have changed to PIT if it was allowed… Let’s keep this roll going… 30 people left out of 1000. I’m thinking my possibilities, in Week 15, will be MIA, DET, CIN, SD, NO and OAK. MIA is gonna be picked by like 50%, so they’re out…DET will be picked by like 20%, so they’re probably out… That leaves CIN, SD, NO and OAK. SD has the most Future Value… CIN will probably be the only other team (besides MIA and DET) that might be picked by anyone… But, I don’t really know who to go with out of those four… I anxiously await your next installment… Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.silberfarb Daniel Silberfarb

    My prediction – the official pick will be the Saints.

    HOU would be the clear pick if they were still available.
    SEA would probably be a top pick, but they too are off the board, as is CIN and DET (which I think I like). DEN would be a much better play in the last couple weeks. NE is off the board and has better future value anyway.

    So what’s left? SD, NO, OAK, CLE, MIA, STL.

    CLE may look good if Griffin is out, so that may end up being the Friday pick. SD, OAK, and STL all have lower win odds than NO with no clear advantage. As you said, MIA is too popular.

  • John

    Sometimes, you just need to go with the best pick regardless of popularity. It goes vs. game theory, but do you really trust the Saints vs. a better TB for your money?

  • Bob Sanders

    Oy. If the Saints are the pick, I’d pick another team.
    I’d much rather ride with STL at home, against a MIN team that blows on the road.

  • Frank_Elways

    Sometimes it just costs to much to avoid the popular team. All those games other than DET, MIA, and maybe CIN, are dog meat. I’d go DET and CIN.

  • Frank_Elways

    You’re over thinking it. David has been posting his path forward for two weeks, now. Miami is a lock. The drop off in win % after them is just to great to pick the other four teams you list.

  • Frank_Elways

    Damn, shows what I know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.silberfarb Daniel Silberfarb