Week 14 NFL Survivor Strategy: Ravens, Steelers, Packers or Jets. Which Is Ideal For You?

posted in NFL, NFL Survivor Pools

Somehow, the Chicago Bears lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. By a score of 10-3. Because of an end-of-first-half Hail Mary. Thrown by Tyler Palko. Not a pretty game.

The Bears were the third most popular choice in Yahoo’s survivor competition, and their loss knocked out 14% of contestants. A couple other minor upsets knocked out a few more opponents, and overall 79% of players survived the week, meaning there are only 615 people still alive.

Our pick, San Francisco, shut out St. Louis by a score of 26-0, so those who followed our advice advanced without much of a sweat.

[Welcome to the Week 14 installment of our series of Survivor advice columns, where we use a data-driven strategy to get an edge in NFL Survivor contests. This post includes analysis based on NFL predictions from our algorithmic Team Rankings models and other relevant data.

This discussion below is also meant to complement our Survivor Predictor tool, which provides a grid view of win odds predictions by week, from now until the end of the season. This presentation of prediction data will help you quickly grasp the current week’s best Survivor pick options, and will explain our logic in making our official pick.]

Week 14 Survivor Decision Factors

TeamOpponentSpreadTR OddsYahoo! Pick %Future ValNotes
Baltimorevs Indianapolis-16.584%36.9%1
Pittsburghvs Cleveland-14.084%16.4%2PICKED
Green Bayvs Oakland-11.081%3.4%3PICKED
NY Jetsvs Kansas City-9.083%9.2%0PICKED
New Englandat Washington-9.075%2.0%1PICKED
San Diegovs Buffalo-7.076%0.8%0PICKED
Detroitvs Minnesota-7.071%11.9%0PICKED, preliminary TR Odds
Seattlevs St Louis-5.074%12.9%0preliminary TR Odds
New Orleansat Tennessee-3.568%1.6%1PICKED
San Franciscoat Arizona-3.566%1.5%1PICKED
Denvervs Chicago-3.565%1.5%0
Dallasvs NY Giants-3.558%0.2%0PICKED
Miamivs Philadelphia-3.065%0.4%0
Cincinnativs Houston-3.058%0.2%0PICKED
Atlantaat Carolina-1.563%0.3%2
Tampa Bayat Jacksonville-1.039%0.1%0PICKED, preliminary TR Odds
Jacksonvillevs Tampa Bay+1.061%0.0%0preliminary TR Odds

Future Val = the number of future games where the team is expected to have win odds of 75% or greater, based on our NFL Survivor Tool.

Teams We Already Picked: Houston Texans (WIN), Pittsburgh Steelers (WIN), San Diego Chargers (WIN), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WIN), New England Patriots (WIN), Cincinnati Bengals (WIN), New Orleans Saints (WIN), New York Giants (WIN), Dallas Cowboys* (WIN), Green Bay Packers (WIN), Detroit Lions (WIN), New York Jets (WIN), San Francisco 49ers (WIN)

*Our original official pick in Week 9 was the Oakland Raiders. However, we issued a an update to the post well in advance of Sunday morning that suggested readers switch to Dallas. Because Oakland lost while Dallas won, we feel that this series will be more useful going forward if we assume Dallas was our official pick.

Weighing the Options

Baltimore (vs Indianapolis) — The Ravens are the most popular choice this week, but they’re only at 37%, not an overwhelming number. And it’s with good reason, as this is their easiest game of the season. They would be nice to save for Week 16 (vs CLE), but their value compared to the rest of the field is higher this week than it will be then. The Ravens aren’t a perfect pick but are a good, safe choice.

Pittsburgh (vs Cleveland) — The Steelers are very nearly as safe of a pick as the Ravens, but are significantly less popular, at 16% (though this is still second on Yahoo). They are a bit more valuable than Baltimore in Week 16 (vs STL), but being able to stay off the most popular team this week is a big plus. We prefer the Steelers to the Ravens this week. Unfortunately, we’ve already picked them.

Green Bay (vs Oakland) — The Packers are a notch below the top two in terms of the Vegas line and TR win odds, plus they have reasonable matchups in each of the last three weeks. However, they are not popular at all (3%), and they aren’t the safest choice in any week going forward. They are definitely a solid pick if you have them left. If you somehow have both Green Bay and either Baltimore or Pittsburgh available this week, think about taking Green Bay now and use the other in Week 16.

NY Jets (vs Kansas City) — The Jets are in tier 2 with Packers in terms of surviving the week, but they’re more popular (9%). However, they have no future value, which is a huge plus. If there are more than a few people left in your pool, then you’re going to want to plan on making at least a couple more picks. That means the Jets are a great pick this week. They are only a bit riskier than the top picks, but are less popular, and will let you save BAL/PIT/GB for Week 16. Unfortunately, we’ve already used them.

New England (@ Washington) — Now we’re down in the third line/odds tier. The Patriots are unpopular (2%) but are one of the better picks in Week 17 (vs BUF), as they may still be fighting for home for home field advantage in the AFC. We’d prefer to save them, but if you don’t have any of the top four left, they’re a fine alternative. We’ve already used them.

San Diego (vs Buffalo) — The Chargers are about as risky as New England, but have basically no future value. We’d go with SD over NE, if that’s the choice. If you’re comparing them to a team above, we’d take the safer pick. If you’re comparing them to a team below, we’d go with SD. We’ve already picked them.

Detroit (vs Minnesota) — We’ve now dropped into tier 4. Not only that, the Lions are pretty popular (12%). Sure, they don’t have much future value, but their popularity means they don’t have much current value, either. Definitely the worst option we’ve come to so far. We’ve already picked them.

Seattle (vs St Louis) — The Seahawks are in a position extremely similar to Detroit. They have no future value, but are way more popular than their win odds should dictate. You shouldn’t be considering Seattle unless you’ve used all of the above teams.

Other Teams — We realize that sometimes your hand is forced due to previous picks, but if possible we would definitely advise staying away from any team not listed. There is a big increase in the risk factor once you get past Seattle (and the ‘Hawks are already way riskier than, say, Baltimore).

Official Week 14 NFL Survivor Pick:  Baltimore Ravens over Indianapolis Colts

It’s getting to be late enough in the season that our choices are mostly dictated by who we have left. This week, there is clear top tier of four picks that stand out:

  • New York Jets — Lowest immediate value, but no future value. Best pick for people who need to survive several more weeks.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers — Highest immediate value, but also high future value. Best pick for people in pools with 5 or less people left.
  • Green Bay — Midway in immediate value, with some future value, but not the best pick in any future week. Good alternative to the above in any size pool.
  • Baltimore Ravens — Midway in immediate value, with more future value than Green Bay. The immediate value makes them better than any pick besides the above three.

The only one of those we have left is the Ravens, so they are our official pick.

Beyond that top four, San Diego and New England are the next tier of decent alternatives. After those two are Detroit and Seattle, but we’re already getting into pretty unappealing choices.

Of course, as always feel free to ask questions about your specific situation in the comments section.

  • Ruch66

    I have only Detroit and Seattle for this week.  Is one a better choice?  Pool is down to just two of us and I am certain he will be on the Jets.  Thank you

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

    Ruch66 — If you can (i.e. if your pick doesn’t have to be in before tomorrow’s game), I would wait until later in the week, to see what the spreads for those games end up as. Right now, our usual source for lines that we input into our models hasn’t released any yet, so we don’t 100% trust the numbers in the chart for those two games. That’s why it says “preliminary TR odds” in the notes.

    So, mainly I’d recommend waiting to make a decision. But if you have to choose now … If your opponent isn’t picking either team, and neither one is useful going forward, then the only thing that matters is which is more likely to win this week. I think hosting the Rams makes Seattle the choice here, by a hair.

  • Sos41

    i am heads up with balt and the jets available. he has the same available

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

    Sos41 — With just two players, you want to take the safest pick, and hope that he goes riskier. So, Baltimore … UNLESS that totally screws up your future picks. For example, if you will then have no good options in Week 16, I’d go ahead and take the Jets.

  • Anonymous

    I have Pittsburgh and New England left with 32 people still left in the pool. Would you take the Jets this week and leave Pittsburgh for week 16 and New England for week 17? As a FYI our pool allows you to use a team twice..

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

    In pools with weird rules, it’s hard to say what the correct move is, since I can’t predict what your opponents will do. But taking the Jets now certainly seems reasonable.

  • Oilbox9

    I have Pitts , Balt , Atlanta, Phylie and the Jets left..the Jets pick intriques me as I think a owerwhelming bunch of the pack will take Pitt or Balt..But..whats the word in KC ..will the Chiefs go with SmeltKo..

  • MO

    4 left in pool that started with  ~2,000.  I can not see others picks  I have same teams left as you, except I have Jets left instead of Ravens.

    I am leaning toward Jets this week, but considering Seattle with the  Bradford/Feeley injury situation. 

    Playing out the next 4 weeks I see 2 viable options (in order by week):

    1: Jets, Falcons, Titans, Jaguars
    2: Seahawks, Titans, Jets, Falcons

    In scenario 2, Jets have relative value in week 16 but with more risk this week.  In scenario 2, Jax would be the most likely best remaining choice (albeit against Ind).  I am assuming someone will make it all the way to week 17.

    Your thoughts as to risk/reward of each scenario?  

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

    Oilbox — No idea on the Chief’s QB status, but honestly, is it that important? Orton is better, but hasn’t had as many reps with KC.

    If your pool has more than a few people left, I’d definitely go NYJ in your position, both to root for the upset, and to save the other teams. (PIT week 16, BAL week 17)

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

    Judging by our Survivor tool (http://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/tools/survivor-predictor/) option 1 gives you a better chance to make it through all four weeks. The Jets are also safer than the Seahawks this week. So I don’t really see the upside of taking the Seahawks.

    Also, with 4 left, it’s no guarantee that somebody will make it to Week 17, so surviving the current week should take a bit more precedence.

  • Oilbox9


    About 70 odd left..but I can see that number dropping after this week with most playing it safe and then needing a prayer in week 16-17
    The Jets it will be..thanks

  • Joefast13

    without a question if you have seatlle and detroit as your only choice the pick should be seattle  esp if the other person take jets
    why  time  the jets game is at 1 and u have till monday on the seattle game
    which opens up other options
    on top of that minn is playing with a spark det not  seattle playing well
    rams not and may have a 3rd string QB

  • Joefast13

    Another pick would be Denver , Chicago is just horrid with the QB they have
    and Denver defence better then KC and Tebow a lock for sure. The spread
    does not say that but at this time of the year forget the spread and the models
    make the pick based on momentum and gut feel . Last week chi was 9 pt fav
    and  sd only 3  carolina 3 and they coasted to a win . Most models had Chicago
    wow tks 
    You are on your own now . Pick like a man and dont look back

  • Sos41

    My top 2 choices over the next 4 weeks are

    14- Jets and Balt
    15 – Hou and Atl
    16 – Balt and Hou
    17 New England and Atl and Jax

    appreciate the help

  • MO

    Yeah, definitely the safer pick.  But the thought of Tom Brandstater starting was enough to make me give it a thought.  Thanks — keep up the great work!

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

    Sorry, I didn’t notice this was in reply to my earlier comment. Rethinking my answer.

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

    Joe — What does the game time have to do with it? I haven’t considered that at all in the past. How is picking a later game an advantage? If there is actually a reason to do so, I want to include this info in my analysis going forward.

  • Anonymous

    !7 left in pool-I have Pitt, Det, Atla, Cinn, Seat,Den,Chic,Jack,Phil, Mia left.  Is it better to go with the fav Pitt this week, or save them because of their future value and go with Det or Seat this week, Cinn next, Pitt, and finish with Atla.
    Your thoughts.  

  • Joefast13

    seems we all feel safe since pool entry fee is 50 bucks  and we are down to 5 lets say well the value of your team is in thousands. In week 14 most good teams gone so det or sea or jets well cannot use jets everyone else will be taking jets do I take det or sea
    jets game is at 1  det at 1 sea monday  if sea or det pretty even then has to be
    seattle since i will see the outcome of the jets game
    If jets lose I am on a trip to las vegas to hedge plus I can concentrate on the jets game
    at this stage we are dealing with thousands of dollars you need to protect the
    paper profit you earned so far
    In addition takes a lot of pressure off you and you have time to decide whether a
    hedge is a good thing or not
    My motto is  you must leave with money if your team gets eliminated period

    ps if you pick balt odds this week are in the 10-12 to one range is a 100
    bucks not a good insurance policy considering balt behaviour this year
    they are not Green Bay.

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

    Oscar — The drop off from Pitt to Cincy in Week 16 is way bigger than the drop off from Pitt to Det/Sea this week, and it looks like there are enough people in your pool that you’ll need to survive 2 more weeks to win. So based on just the info above, I’d lean Det/Sea. That position is even stronger if it looks like a big chunk of your pool will be on Pittsburgh this week.

    Now, this is kind of a risky move, as you are more likely to get eliminated this week. But I think it’s a smart calculated risk on your part.

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

    Oscar — The drop off from Pitt to Cincy in Week 16 is way bigger than the drop off from Pitt to Det/Sea this week, and it looks like there are enough people in your pool that you’ll need to survive 2 more weeks to win. So based on just the info above, I’d lean Det/Sea. That position is even stronger if it looks like a big chunk of your pool will be on Pittsburgh this week.

    Now, this is kind of a risky move, as you are more likely to get eliminated this week. But I think it’s a smart calculated risk on your part.

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

    Hmm, that’s an interesting point you make about hedging. I’ll have to give it some thought. It seems like the only time it could make sense is in the case you pointed out — everyone else lost, now it’s down to either your team wins (win full pot) or your team loses (split pot). There’s definitely an argument to be made that if there is a ton of money involved, it may be worth it to you to decrease your overall expected value in return for locking in some profit. But I think that is kind of a separate issue from what we’re covering here.

    Thanks for the thought provoking comment.

  • John

    Hello Dave,
    Well the pool is now down to 3 from over 900.
    As it stands these are the teams I picked along with the other two remaining. Mind you one the three remaing is a coworker of mine, I guess that an advantage.
    There is nice pot, rumblings of splitting pot, question should I keep going with i have left?I do have some leverage with having co worker and knowing his next pick.
    I still have Atlanta if that means anything for future picks….I am thinking Seattle for this week, knowing that Coworker is going with Jets and assuming B5 is going with Jets too.
    What to do this week and the following.

  • Anonymous

    Disqus generic email templateDavid,
    just the opposite, me and 1 other have Pitt, 5 have Balt, 2 GB, 2 Tex, 6 Jets, 12 lions and all have Sea. Does this change your opinion. Thanks
    —– Original Message —–
    From: Disqus
    To: jmadsen@apgarassociates.com
    Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2011 11:34 AM
    Subject: [teamrankings] Re: Week 14 NFL Survivor Strategy: Ravens, Steelers, Packers or Jets. Which Is Ideal For You?

    David Hess wrote, in response to oscarmadison:

    Oscar — The drop off from Pitt to Cincy in Week 16 is way bigger than the drop off from Pitt to Det/Sea this week, and it looks like there are enough people in your pool that you’ll need to survive 2 more weeks to win. So based on just the info above, I’d lean Det/Sea. That position is even stronger if it looks like a big chunk of your pool will be on Pittsburgh this week.
    Now, this is kind of a risky move, as you are more likely to get eliminated this week. But I think it’s a smart calculated risk on your part.
    Link to comment

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

    John — I think your opponents have slightly better teams remaining, so I would probably take an even split. Of course, if they keep picking the same teams (which they might — NYJ, TEN, CAR over the next three weeks), then you gain some of that back, by being able to root for only one loss to knock out both of the other guys. I think a big part of the decision should come down to how important the money is to you, honestly.

    If you keep playing, however, I think Seattle is definitely the right choice for you this week. I also think B5 will go with the Jets.

    Future weeks looks like SEA, ATL, CAR, JAX for you. That’s slightly worse, I think, than NYJ, CIN, TEN, JAX/DEN for your opponents.

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

    Wow, a lot of good teams left there. If you’re the only one on Pitt this week, that could be nice. Though the same situation will apply in 2 weeks. So I think I’d still go w/ Det/Sea.

  • Mjmidili

    Only 2 of us left.. I have used Houston, Pitt, SD, TB, NE, GB, NO, NYG, Dal, Det, Atl, 49ers. I know Baltimore is the safest, but if he picks it to week 16, my choices would be very limited?  Should I go with the Jets or trust the safest pick this week?

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

    The Jets line has moved to -10.5 since I posted this, so they are looking even better than before. I’d take the Jets and save Baltimore, for exactly the reason you outlined.

  • Justin Geoghegan

    I’m in an interesting position – three strike league with two players remaining. I have 1 strike and my villain has 2 strikes.

    From this point out it I would be in a win-win situation if I picked the same team as him. If we’re both right we both advance, if we’re both wrong he gets his 3rd strike and I win the league.

    I have followed your advice to the T (except for the Oakland/Dallas cause I missed the update). Of your top eight this week he has already picked Baltimore, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, NY Jets, San Diego and New England.

    So of your top eight he has Detroit and Seattle available, while I still have Baltimore and Seattle.

    Should I still pick Baltimore? Or should I go with Seattle – a team he is probably 50% likely to pick?

    This is a rare situation where I actually WANT to choose the same team my opponent chooses. But I should also honor the statistics – I still have a top tier team available and he’s picking from the third tier.

  • B to the K

    I’m in a two-strike pool.  There are five us left, and only one person (not me, thanks to not listening to your advice on the NYG/SEA game) does not have a strike yet.  Here are the teams I’ve used:


    The problem is if I take Baltimore this week, I’ll have no good choices in week 16 – no available team has win odds higher than 65% for that week right now.  So I am very tempted to take Seattle this week and hang onto Baltimore, but I don’t know if having one opponent without a strike means I need to take on more risk or be more risk averse, especially when taking more risk this week gives me much better odds in week 16.

    (My one-strike opponent has NYJ, DET, and SEA available this week if that helps your analysis.)


  • cjjbeantown


    Thanks for the great info every week.  I’m still alive along with 52 others in our pool.  I have  the Ravens, Lions and Jets availbale.  I was going to play the Ravens this week as they seem to be the safest option, but I would like to choose them in week 16 instead of relying on TJ Yates and the Texans to beat the Colts on the road.  Would you still reccomned the Jets over the Lions with the new odds in the predictor tool?  Or should I just play it safe and go Ravens and hope for a better option than the Texans to pop up in week 16? 



  • Ruch66

    David, have you seen the line for the Seattle game?  You have it @ -5 above.  I cannot find the line anywhere.  I do have the Lions as a 10 point fav.  Thanks

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

    Justin — Just to be clear, if you both survive the year without losing another game, will you lose the pool because you have less strikes? Or will it be a split pot? I’m assuming the first option.

    I think one important question is what does your Week 16 look like? Any good options besides Baltimore? It’s a big drop from Baltimore to Seattle this week, but it could be an even bigger drop from Baltimore to whoever your Week 16 option is.

    If you have a decent option in Week 16, I’d go Baltimore now. If not, I’d go Seattle.

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

    B to the K — I see two main strategy implications of being up against a guy with zero strikes. (I’m assuming here that if he finishes with zero strikes, he wins the pool outright.)

    1) You need to avoid picking the same team as him. You’re playing catch up here, and you only have four weeks to do it. If you pick the same team, that eliminates one of your four chances to catch up. My guess is he’ll take NYJ. SEA doesn’t look too likely, since he has a couple of better options. So no worries there. And he won’t have BAL available in Week 16, if you end up saving them. So no worries there, either.

    2) He’s more likely to survive the rest of the year, meaning you need to also. Which means you need to put more emphasis on future value. I think the drop off from BAL to SEA this week is less than the drop off from BAL to CAR(?) in Week 16, so I’d probably go with SEA.

    The other concern, though, is the three remaining players. Any idea who they will pick? If you think a couple of them will be on SEA, and none on BAL, then my choice would switch back to BAL.

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

    Chris — Yes, I would save the Ravens for Week 16, and take either Jets or Lions this week. To be honest, those two are basically a toss up in terms of win odds. They also are quite close in public pick %.

    If you can see who others in your pool are taking, I’d go with the least popular of NYJ and DET. If you can’t see, I’d lean NYJ since slightly fewer Yahoo contestants are choosing them. But really, this is just a coin flip at this point, unless new info comes out about injuries.

  • B to the K

    Thanks, David!  First of all, let me clarify how the pool works – if anyone is still alive at the end of the season, we continue picking into the postseason.  By the time the Superbowl ends, if there is more than one person still left, we split the pot.  (The teams get reset when the playoffs start so we can pick any team again.)

    Of the other three players, only one has BAL still available (as well as DET, NOR, and NYJ).  The last two guys both have NYJ, and one of them also has SFO.

    (And of course no one has any other top teams left at this point – unless you count ATL as one.)

    Based on all of that, it appears to me that everyone will most likely take NYJ this weekend, meaning I would go with SEA.  (And they owe me after upsetting the Giants!)

    Of course, that assumes that the clarification in my first paragraph of how the pool works doesn’t change my approach…

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

    Well, the clarification does weaken point #1 above. You do still want to avoid picking the same team, just for the normal reasons, so you can root for the upset. But it’s not AS important.

    Looks like the main thing is to avoid NYJ, and also to plan ahead to survive to the postseason. So, yes, I think I’d still go with Seattle.

    *OOH* I just checked Pinnacle, and they finally released a line on the Seattle game… -9.5! So that one looks much safer than I expected. I’d definitely go w/ Seattle.

  • JR

    Only viable choices are Baltimore and Sea this week, what would your Sea odds be if the spread went up to 9.5 or 10 if Bradford is out.  Would be nice to save Baltimore, but not if the dropoff is huge, which is where we sit today.  Thanks for all your help

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

    You can always see our most up to date win odds here: http://www.teamrankings.com/nfl-win-picks/ … And from the matchup page, you can see that we now are accounting for the -9.5 spread: http://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/matchup/rams-seahawks-week-14-2011

    So Seattle (at 83% win odds) looks like a GREAT choice at this point. No future value, and you get to save Baltimore.

  • RP

    Our 50 team league got reduced so quick, we started a 2nd pool beginning with Week 6.  There are 6 teams left in this pool but obviously we have more teams left than a full season league, so better teams remain available in many cases.  One team has already moved on this week with Pittsburgh.  Here’s who I have used:

    Of the 5 left in the league that have not picked yet for this week, I’m one of only 2 that can pick BAL this week, so I’m 99.9% sure thats who I’m taking.

    Was trying to think ahead to the last 3 weeks though, because I’d hate to hate to reach in any week if I don’t need to.  The way I’m seeing it though, looks like my best bet would be to take NO in week 15, TEN in week 16 and SF in week 17.

    Unless of course I change my pick this week to SEA or SD and save BAL for week 16.  I think I may be starting to overthink this.  Any thoughts?

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

    RP — Since we posted this, the line for Seattle has moved to -10, probably because of Sam Bradford’s injury status. As a result, our TR Win Odds for Seattle are now all the way up at 82%. I’d say they are very nearly as safe as Baltimore.
    At any rate, looks like there is less of a drop off from BAL to SEA this week than there will be from BAL to TEN in Week 16. So my move would be to take SEA this week and save BAL for later.

  • Justin Geoghegan

    We would split the pot if we both make it to the end of the year.

    In week 16 still have Houston available, which you are currently projecting to have an 87% win odds.

    So that’s looking like Baltimore this week then.

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

    Yep, if you have Houston available, I think Baltimore makes sense for you.

    Apologies for typos and/or brevity; sent from my cell phone.