Week 2 Survivor Final Update: Topsy-Turvy Edition

What a difference two days make.

As we mentioned in our Week 2 NFL Survivor column a few days ago, this year we’ll be following up our initial Wednesday articles with an additional post each Friday. In these, we’ll publish another Survivor data table with up-to-date spreads, win odds, and pick percentages, plus we’ll finalize our official pick for the week.

First, let’s take a look at the updated 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? (Vegas Line & TR Odds from our NFL win picks page)
2. How popular are they? (average public Pick % from sites like Yahoo! and OfficeFootballPool)
3. Should I save them for later? (number of future games with win odds of 75%+, from our NFL Survivor Tool)

Week 2 NFL Survivor Decision Factors

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.

TeamOpponentLineTR OddsPick %Future ValNotes
Tier 1: Top Options
Cincinnativs Cleveland-6.569%12.9%0best chance to use them?
Houstonat Jacksonville-7.077%9.2%6(PICKED), OK "safe" pick
NY Giantsvs Tampa Bay-7.071%12.4%3line dropped from before
New Englandvs Arizona-13.584%45.1%10highest immediate EV
Tier 2: Might Be Worth A Look
Pittsburghvs NY Jets-5.069%1.2%1Polamalu & Harrison out?
San Franciscovs Detroit-6.573%2.6%7
Tier 3: Avoid These Favorites
San Diegovs Tennessee-6.067%4.6%4
Buffalovs Kansas City-3.561%0.6%0
Washingtonat St Louis-3.558%4.0%4
Oaklandat Miami-2.552%1.7%0
New Orleansat Carolina-2.556%0.8%3
Dallasat Seattle-3.560%2.5%7
Atlantavs Denver-3.053%0.1%3
Minnesotaat Indianapolis-1.551%0.6%0
Philadelphiavs Baltimore-2.053%0.1%4

Teams We Already Picked: Houston Texans (WIN)

What Has Changed Since Wednesday?

This week there have been a couple big changes at the top of the table:

1. The line for our preliminary pick, the New York Giants, has dropped from -9 to -7, which makes them less attractive.

2. There are reports that Troy Polamalu will likely miss Sunday’s game for the Steelers. They are already without James Harrison, so this would be a second big blow to their defense. Probably in response to this news, the line for the Steelers has dropped from -6 to -5.

3. As will happen every week, our game winner projections have shifted a bit due to line changes and power ratings changes (the power ratings change slightly after any game, since all team ratings are interconnected).

As a result of those changes, there’s been a reshuffling of the top options. There is now a virtual  tie for the optimal pick, according to our numbers. And then just a hair behind, there is a tie for third place. (Actually, the Steelers should be included in that third place tie according to our numbers, but we’ve bumped them down to the second tier simply because our models don’t “know” about Polamalu’s injury, so they may be slightly overrating Pittsburgh’s win odds.)

These updated numbers have caused us to change our pick for the week….

Official Week 2 NFL Survivor Pick: Cincinnati Bengals over Cleveland Browns

Our original pick was the New York Giants, and we said it was a close call over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Well, for the reasons laid out above, both of those teams look less attractive now than they did Wednesday, while the Bengals have retained most of their value. As a result, the numbers are now telling us to go with Cincinnati as our official pick.

The Bengals are well behind the Patriots in terms of win odds, but so is every other team on the list. The difference is that Cincy has less future value than any other top option. It’s worth taking a slightly bigger risk this week (69% win odds compared to 71% for the Giants or 73% for the 49ers) in order to preserve our future options.

The Houston Texans are also a good pick this week. They have much more future value than Cincinnati, which is bad, but at this point they look like the second-safest pick after New England, which is definitely worth something in a rough week like this one. Of course, we already used them in Week 1, so we don’t have to make a tough decision between the Bengals and Texans.

Despite the line for the Giants dropping by a couple points, they are still a reasonable choice. However, their main advantage over Cincinnati had been their win odds and Vegas line. As those have fallen, that advantage has virtually disappeared. Because of their future value, it seems like saving them is now a better choice. The Bengals are roughly as safe and as popular, but won’t be as useful in the future.

The New England Patriots are an interesting option this week. For people in large pools, where you’ll likely need to survive through the entire season, we think it’s smart to save the Patriots. They are clearly the safest option this week, but there will be other weeks in the future where that is also true — but those weeks they’ll be less popular, which means we’d prefer to wait and use them later. However, for people in small pools, the future value is a bit less important, as you may not need to make it all the way to Week 17 to win. Therefore, in pools with less than 20 people the Patriots could be worth a pick, assuming your pool pick percentages are similar to what we have listed in the table above.

So to recap: we’re taking the Bengals in large pools, but in small pools the Patriots are a decent option. Of course, as always feel free to ask questions about your specific situation in the comments section.