Week 17 NFL Survivor Strategy: 6 Picks Stand Out Above The Rest As Motivation Plays A Huge Role

Week 17is here, which means — if you’re still alive — that there is only one more game standing between you and a share of the prize pool!

The decisions this week get much easier, as there is no more future value to consider. The choices can be based purely on immediate expected value. No more “saving” teams for later.

Burn ’em if got ’em!

[Welcome to the Week 17 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 16 Survivor Review

Last week saw the most popular pick (Houston) fall to the Colts in a pretty big upset. Luckily for readers of this column, they were our lone STAY AWAY rating in Week 16, so hopefully you survived while watching a big chunk of your opponents take a tumble.

Our official pick, the Carolina Panthers, destroyed Tampa Bay, 48-16. The Panthers are on the road against the Saints this week, so there was no future value lost there.

Overall, 29% of Yahoo players were eliminated, leaving only 125 people remaining. Wonder how many of those read this column …

Week 17 Survivor Decision Factors

As we mentioned above, future value doesn’t really exist any more, so we’re simplifying the table a bit this week, and leaving that out.

The other important thing to note this week is that playoff positioning plays a big role in Week 17. Some teams are in must win games, others are playing for seeding, and still others are locked in a certain spot and may rest starters. So, we’ve tried to point out these situations wherever relevant.

TeamOpponentLineTR OddsPick %Notes
Atlantavs Tampa Bay-12.082%10.8%PICKED
New Englandvs Buffalo-11.081%4.0%PICKED
San Franciscoat St Louis-10.572%19.1%PICKED
New Orleansvs Carolina-9.080%4.9%PICKED
Philadelphiavs Washington-9.077%35.3%
Pittsburghat Cleveland-7.077%3.7%PICKED; Ben R sitting?
Denvervs Kansas City-3.568%5.5%only DEN alive
Jacksonvillevs Indianapolis-3.559%3.3%
Detroitat Green Bay-3.558%0.6%PICKED; will either rest starters?
NY Giantsvs Dallas-3.065%3.1%PICKED
Oaklandvs San Diego-3.062%1.2%must win for OAK
Arizonavs Seattle-3.061%0.4%
Tennesseeat Houston-3.056%0.4%result only matters to TEN
Miamivs NY Jets-1.552%0.5%must win for NYJ
Minnesotavs Chicago-1.057%0.3%
Baltimoreat Cincinnati-1.053%0.3%PICKED; must win for CIN

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), Baltimore Ravens (WIN), Atlanta Falcons (WIN), Carolina Panthers (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

Atlanta vs Tampa Bay — Atlanta must win (and have Detroit lose) to make the playoffs, while Tampa Bay is out of the hunt, so the motivational edge goes to the Falcons. They have the highest line of the week, the best TR win odds, and are only being picked by 11% of Yahoo. They’re the best pick this week, if you have them available.

New England vs Buffalo — The Patriots are very, very, similar to the Falcons, with their line and win odds just a hair behind. Their lower public pick percentage nearly makes up for that. New England is an excellent pick. They don’t have the #1 seed locked up, so a win is still important to them.

San Francisco at St Louis — A win would ensure a first round bye for the 49ers, so they should be fired up. However, our models project SF as the riskiest pick out of the six teams that are favorites of a touchdown or more. Plus, they are the second most popular pick of the week, at 19%. Therefore, the ‘Niners are a decent pick, but we’d slot them behind ATL, NE, NO, or possibly even PIT.

New Orleans vs Carolina — The Saints are still alive for a first round bye (though it would take a Rams upset of the 49ers), so they should be fairly motivated, and shouldn’t rest starters. They are a tick below the first few teams in terms of the betting spread, but our models actually have them nearly on par with ATL/NE. Combined with their low pick rate (5%), this makes them a great choice, just a hair behind the top two in terms of immediate value.

Philadelphia vs Washington — While the Eagles are solidly in this top tier in terms of the line and TR win odds, they are the most popular pick, at 35%. That lowers their immediate value enough that they are the worst pick of these large favorites. Still, they are a solid pick, and better than any of the small favorites (-3.5 or closer). The main plus for us is … we haven’t picked them yet, unlike these other big faves.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland — While the numbers place this game in the top tier in terms of being low risk, we are a tiny bit dubious because of reports that Ben Roethlisberger may not play the full game. Still, the game matters seeding-wise to the Steelers but not to the Browns, so we’re inclined to go ahead and trust the numbers. That makes the Steelers a solid choice, just behind the top triumvirate of ATL/NE/NO.

Favorites of about a field goal — Denver, Jacksonville, Detroit, the New York Giants, Oakland, Arizona, and Tennessee all are favored by 3 or 3.5 points, have TR win odds between 56% and 68%, and are being picked by between 0.4% and 5.5% of Yahoo players. All these choices are a definite step down from any of the teams we listed individually above. The best of the bunch is Denver hosting Kansas City, the worst it Tennessee traveling to Houston, and the rest are fairly jumbled in the middle. Stick to one of the bigger favorites if possible. Otherwise, we’d rank them according to our TR win odds.

Other Teams — If you’re forced to take one of the remaining teams, you are in extremely precarious territory. Hopefully you’ve got a better choice available. If not, just use our win odds or the Vegas line to find the best option.

Official Week 17 NFL Survivor Pick:  Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins

As we explained above, the Eagles are not the ideal pick this week because they are so popular, but they’re the only one of the big favorites we have left, so they’re our choice.

If you’ve actually got more than one of the big faves left, first of all, congratulations on making it this far without burning the top teams. Second, here’s how we rank the top choices this week:

  • 1. Atlanta Falcons
  • 2. New England Patriots
  • 3. New Orleans Saints
  • 4. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 5. San Francisco 49ers
  • 6. Philadelphia Eagles

Beyond that, you’re taking a steep hit to your odds of surviving the week, so hopefully you have one of the above available. If not, we’d basically rank the remaining teams in order of our win odds, with one big caveat — if one of the teams in this lower tier appears to be pretty popular in your pool, stay away and pick the next safest option. The differences in win odds down here are fairly small, so being able to root for an upset to knock out a chunk of your pool has more value than the small difference between the safety of the picks.

Good luck!

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