Week 2 Survivor Strategy: Should You Sacrifice The Future For The Present?

posted in NFL, NFL Survivor Pools

Welcome to the Week 2 installment of our series of NFL Survivor contest advice columns, where we use a data-driven strategy to get an edge. This post includes analysis based on NFL predictions from our algorithmic Team Rankings models and other relevant data, like public pick trends and future week schedules.

One down, sixteen to go.

Before we get into the Week 2 analysis, let’s cover some housekeeping. In case you weren’t aware, there is at least one NFL game on Thursday in each of the first 15 weeks of the 2012 season. That means we need to get some Survivor analysis done on Wednesday, both in case the Thursday game ends up being a great pick, and to help people who need to have their picks in before the first game of the week.

Wednesday is pretty early to make a final call, though. Most games take place on Sunday, public pick data can change as the week goes on, and a lot of people don’t need to have their picks in early unless they’re taking a Thursday night team.

So, our plan for this season is to publish two Survivor columns per week. The first one will roll out on Wednesday afternoon (Pacific Time), as early as we can get it out. In it, we’ll take a look at the mid-week data, discuss our thought process, and make a preliminary pick.

Then, we’ll publish an second article on Friday afternoon with our official pick, and updated decision data. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section of either post.

Week 1 NFL Survivor Review

Despite some close games and a home loss by New Orleans, Week 1 was fairly uneventful from a Survivor perspective. Only about 8.5% of Yahoo! contestants were eliminated, with the Saints loss accounting for almost half of the casualties.

Our pick was the Houston Texans, and they easily took care of business, beating the Miami Dolphins 30-10. The Texans were a popular pick, but we’re perfectly comfortable taking a conservative option in Week 1, when it’s tough to get a handle on how teams will play.

Our “STAY AWAY” warning last week was bestowed upon the Detroit Lions, and it very nearly proved prophetic. The Lions were forced to come from behind in the fourth quarter against the lowly Rams, and needed an 80-yard touchdown drive to take the lead with only 10 seconds left in the game. Granted, that win counts the same as any other, but hopefully we prevented a few ulcers. There were several pundits out there proclaiming the Lions the lock of the week, which didn’t make sense at all to us.

Week 2 NFL Survivor Decision Factors

This is the heart of our column, the table showing the factors that influence our weekly Survivor pick decision. For every team, here are the three questions we ask ourselves (and the data in our table that helps us answer them):

1. How likely are they to win? (Vegas Line & 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 Val: number of future games where the team is expected to have win odds of 75%+, from our NFL Survivor Tool)

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.

***QUICK UPDATE*** The line on the Giants game has moved from NYG -9 to NYG -7. So, the Giants may not be as safe as originally presumed. What that means is that, if the numbers stay as they are now, Pittsburgh probably passes the Giants for our top pick. As we laid out in the article, we’ll make the official final pick on Friday. But for now, it looks like we’re leaning towards Pittsburgh. ***END UPDATE***

TeamOpponentLineTR OddsPick %Future ValNotes
Tier 1: Top Options
NY Giantsvs Tampa Bay-9.076%11.3%4good, safe pick
Pittsburghvs NY Jets-6.071%1.1%1riskier, but less popular, less future value
Cincinnativs Cleveland-7.069%11.3%0best chance to use them?
Tier 2: Might Be Worth A Look
Houstonat Jacksonville-7.575%9.5%6(PICKED)
San Franciscovs Detroit-6.570%2.4%5
New Englandvs Arizona-13.584%47.1%10save for later; pray for upset
Green Bayvs Chicago-6.065%0.9%3
San Diegovs Tennessee-6.067%4.0%4
Tier 3: Avoid These Favorites
Buffalovs Kansas City-3.561%0.6%0
Oaklandat Miami-2.555%1.8%0
Atlantavs Denver-3.053%0.2%3
Dallasat Seattle-3.060%2.8%7
Washingtonat St Louis-3.054%4.7%4surprised they are so popular
New Orleansat Carolina-1.056%0.8%3
Minnesotaat Indianapolis-1.051%0.6%0
Philadelphiavs Baltimore-1.053%0.1%4

Teams We Already Picked: Houston Texans (WIN)

Weighing the Options

New York Giants (vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers) — The Giants are the second safest pick of the week, behind New England, but they are much less popular, and have less future value. They are a good, conservative pick for Week 2, even if Tampa Bay seems bound to improve this year.

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs New York Jets) — The Steelers are neck and neck with the Giants for our top spot this week. The Giants are a good bit safer, but the fact that almost nobody is picking the Steelers off their Week 1 loss is a plus, and Pittsburgh seems to have a bit less future value than the Giants. Because future value is still a bit tough to estimate after only one game’s worth of evidence, we’re inclined to weigh it a bit less than we will in a week or two. We prefer the safer Giants, but the Steelers aren’t a bad pick either.

Cincinnati Bengals (vs Cleveland Browns) —  The Bengals are roughly as safe as the Steelers this week, but are more popular and have slightly less future value. And while Week 2 looks like it could be your best chance to use the Bengals all year, nobody says you have to use the Bengals at all. At this risk level, we prefer the less popular Steelers, unless you need to save Pittsburgh for the playoffs.

Houston Texans (@ Jacksonville Jaguars) — Houston’s profile looks very similar to the Giants, except they are a bit less likely to win, and have a bit more future value. Unless the lines change, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to pick Houston this week. (We’ve already used them.)

San Francisco 49ers (vs Detroit Lions)There will be much better chances to use the 49ers in the future. If you’re looking for a very unpopular team, the Steelers seem like a better choice.

New England Patriots (vs Arizona Cardinals) — New England is easily the safest pick of the week. However, we’ll probably be able to say the same thing in Week 8 and Week 11. The difference will be that in those weeks, they won’t be picked by nearly half the pool. Sure, the chance of an upset this week is low. But it’s not zero, so it makes sense to save the Patriots for later, and hope the Cardinals play over their heads Sunday and eliminate half of our competitors.

Green Bay Packers (vs Chicago Bears) — The Packers are the riskiest team we’ve mentioned so far. Their profile this week makes them basically a riskier, more future-valuable version of the Steelers. So they are a pass.

San Diego Chargers (vs Tennessee Titans) — Like the Packers, the Chargers are riskier and may have more future value than the Steelers. They also are more popular. So, clearly not a great pick, unless the lines change significantly.

The Rest — We were already getting a little too far from ideal when reviewing Green Bay and San Diego above. Picking any other team is pretty much all risk, no reward.

Preliminary Week 2 NFL Survivor Pick: New York Giants over Tampa Bay Buccaneers

***QUICK UPDATE*** The line on the Giants game has moved from NYG -9 to NYG -7. So, the Giants may not be as safe as originally presumed. What that means is that, if the numbers stay as they are now, Pittsburgh probably passes the Giants for our top pick. As we laid out in the article, we’ll make the official final pick on Friday. But for now, it looks like we’re leaning towards Pittsburgh. ***END UPDATE***

This is a very close call between the Giants and Steelers. The Giants are safer, but are more popular and seem to have more future value. However, it’s fairly difficult to judge future value after only one week, and it’s not as if the Giants are super popular; only 11% of the public is picking them.

There’s also a general strategy point that comes into play here. Sometimes in Survivor pools, it’s clear what teams you should save for later, even if they are safe picks — like the Patriots this week. But there are also close calls. When you’re having a very tough time deciding between two teams, and the choice is between A) picking a safer team this week or B) going with a riskier team now and saving the safe team for later, our philosophy is that you should generally opt for the safer team now.

That’s simply because it’s harder to predict the far future than the near future. A lot can change over the course of a season, like the star QB for that team you were going to save getting injured. Developments like injuries and general team improvements are more likely to alter a team’s win odds farther in the future, so you may end up saving a team only to find out their future value has evaporated. In close calls, take the advantage while you think you have it.

Given the above, we think the Giants’ higher immediate value outweighs their higher future value, so our preliminary pick is the New York Giants.

Let’s be clear, though: New England is the safest pick this week by a substantial margin. But part of maximizing your odds to win a Survivor pool is recognizing that it’s a chess match and not a sprint. New England’s future value and popularity this week are more than enough to justify the incremental short-term survival risk of passing on them.

We should note that though the data right now points to the Giants, a line change or a shift in the public picking percentage between now and Friday could alter the balance in favor of Pittsburgh. We’ll be sure to publish updated data in a separate blog post Friday, and finalize our pick.

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

  • Tyson

    In one of my pools, you can pick each team twice and you have to pick through the end of the playoffs. I have 3 entries. I can see the pick% in our pool in real time and right now it is Patriots 27%, Giants 18%, Steelers 2%. I’m thinking of using the Giants twice, and the Patriots once. Thoughts?

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

    It seems like saving the Patriots for the playoffs is pretty important. Then again, with those pick percentages, New England is by FAR the best immediate EV (ignoring future value). So, yeah, I think using one choice on the Pats works.

    As for the other two … the Giants have higher immediate EV than the Steelers at those pick rates. I’d guess New York also has slightly less playoff value. And their future value penalty (i.e. more valuable than the Steelers, so better to save them) is less severe since you can pick them twice. So, yeah, I like the Giants as choice #2.

    For choice #3, I think doubling up on one of those is good, as you don’t want to spread too thin (it raises the odds of taking at least one loss). So, NYG are good for choice #3.

    Turns out I agree with you!

  • http://twitter.com/gunz4sale Ray P

    I think most leagues are requiring picks before Thursday because of the Thursday night games. Is this pick close to a lock?

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

    This pick is what we would make if we had to choose right now. There is no such thing as a lock.

    The deadline for the pools we’ve entered on Yahoo and ESPN is just before the kickoff of the game you’re picking. So I’d assume there are a lot of people in the same boat, if their pools are run on the major sites.

  • Greg W

    David – Trying to make my picks for the week, 1 pool with 3k, 1 pool with 100 (2 entries), 1 pool with 17. Thinking right now I go NYG, NYG/NE, NE (respectively)? Or should I switch NE in mid pool to Pit and the NE in the small pool to NYG? As always, thanks for the insight!

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

    Any clue what your opponents are picking? If not, I’d assume their picks are similar to what we outlined in the table, and I’d stay away from New England, for the reasons cited above.

    I do like the pattern of A, A/B, B, so you are alive in at least 2 pools (barring two massive upsets). But I would probably go PIT, PIT/NYG, NYG.

    That said, if you *do* want to go super conservative with New England, I think using them in the *small* pool, as you have above, is the right move. Basically, put the less popular of your teams in the large pool, and the more popular in the small.

  • Greg W

    any thoughts on how i should shift this now? I was planning on going your prescribed pit large pool, pit/nyg med, nyg small…

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

    I’d probably sub CIN in for NYG. Though SF is also a decent option.

  • Kevin

    The Giants screwed me against Washington last year in week 14 and I watched Seattle take out half the field last year when they upset the Giants. I’m always weary of them. Any thoughts?

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

    Only that you shouldn’t let your emotions affect your picks. :)

    But seriously, like I said above — it was a really close call between New York and Pittsburgh, so if you want to avoid the Giants, the Steelers are a fine choice.

  • Malachievol

    David, Thank you for the wednesday rundown… I hope to be asking for your Paypal address at the end of the season so that i can send you your cut!!! Good luck to us!!1

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

    Ha ha, that would be a first! I’ll definitely second your good luck wishes, then! :)

  • elvin

    sonday i wanna 3 winner football please help me

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

    Are you saying you have to pick 3 teams in your Survivor pool? Or that you want to know three teams that should win their games Sunday? For the second question, check out our Game Winner picks page:

  • http://twitter.com/LFroment Liz Froment

    Thanks for this, I have been struggling all week with who to pick, went with Bears last week, but am in an office pool (150ppl) in the Boston suburbs, so my gut is telling me that a ton of people are going to go with the Pats. I know I didn’t want to pick them. Was thinking Houston originally but now might switch to Giants or Steelers even though for me you never know what you’re going to get with the Jets.

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

    Yeah, Houston’s not bad this week. I do think they may have a bit more future value than the other two, but it’s pretty tough to tell at this point.

  • Ian

    I wouldn’t touch the Giants. They always seem to play down to their opponent and play best against top teams in the league. Pittsburgh scares me. Their o-line issues will have a hard time with the Jets pass rush. I’d actually be more comfortable picking the Jets and that’s saying a lot since I hate the Jets (I’m a Dolphins fan). :)

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

    OK, well, that seems like an unnecessary risk, but we always recommend you do what you’re comfortable doing. It’s more fun to make picks based on your own judgment than based on ours. And despite the focus on “value” we have around here, having fun is actually an important part of Survivor pools. (At least in my opinion.)

  • Anonymous

    I’m in a casino “last man standing” pool where you can use a team as many times as you wish over the course of a season. I have three entries alive (five is the most anyone could enter with). Given that fact, how would you play this week? At the moment, I’m thinking of picking New England with one or two of my entries and Pittsburgh with the other(s). (I’m more inclined to take Pittsburgh than the Giants due to the information brought up in this video: http://youtu.be/7p-FgU2hlLk).

  • Anonymous

    The ) messed up the youtube link. Here’s the correct one: youtu.be/7p-FgU2hlLk

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

    If you can use a team as many times as you want, then I would rank the teams (keep in mind the SF line is up to -7 now):

    1 New England
    2 New York Giants
    3t Houston
    3t San Francisco
    5 Pittsburgh

    So I’d probably go NE, NE, NYG. But the general strategy is what you suggested — 2 picks of one of these teams, 1 of another.

  • Yunier

    David I have 2 teams in a 9,000 team pool (was 11,000 to start) where most people have 2 teams too so they will be spreading their picks making it slower to eliminate people and it goes all the way through the playoffs, winner takes a huge price. The best strategy here is go 1 with NYG and 1 with PIT right? Even though both have good chance of making it to the playoffs? Thanks again!

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

    It’s tough to say how the playoffs impact things. I *think* NYG and PIT still sound like good picks, but it may make sense to throw CIN in there instead of PIT, simply due to their lower playoff value.

  • joe fast from Canada

    Do not agree, any other team maybe but New England losing is zero, Giants on the other hand have an excellent chance to be upset, the one team I would avoid at all cost is the Giants

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

    No team ever has a 0% chance to get upset. Do you remember undefeated Green Bay losing to the Chiefs last year? :)

    As always, we recommend using your own judgment to supplement our advice. So if you want to avoid the Giants, please do so. You will be happier than if you grudgingly follow our advice.

  • Frank Elways

    Ha, was thinking about this comment during game yesterday. too funny.

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

    I just want to point out that there are quite a few comments below from people saying they don’t want to touch the Giants. We trust the numbers around here (that’s kind of our thing), so I’m not going to even try to argue in support of or against the Giants. Our numbers predict a 76% chance of a Giants win … which means there’s a pretty good chance of a loss (1 in 4). Of course, *every* teams in the NFL has a good chance of a loss this week, and our job is to balance that risk against the potential reward.

    But the comments here are a clue that the Giants are going to be a less popular pick this week than they “deserve” to be, based on the line and odds. Most likely, that’s because the whole country just saw them fail in the first game of the season, on national TV. That scares a lot of people off. And those people abandoning the Giants ship are what creates potential value for smart Survivor players.

    No, the Giants aren’t a lock. But they are less popular than you’d expect, given their line and future value. And that’s all we’re looking for here, not a guaranteed victory.

    Just something to think about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.mccavitt Ryan McCavitt

    Hi David… thank you again for the awesome weekly survivor column. Your picks got me to Top 15 in a 250+ entry pool at work last year. That was with just one entry and I entered two this year to increase my odds.

    Got a question about strategy when you’ve got two distinct entries in a pool. Last week, I selected the Texans with Entry #1 and the Bears with Entry #2. For the entire season (unless in a given week there’s a compelling reason not to), my strategy will likely be to pick two different teams for every week. Heading into Week Two, which of the below options would you think gives me the best statistical chance of winning my pool:

    (A) Keeping Entry #1 as a “Best Recommendation” entry and picking the Giants to go along with the Texans from Week 1. Then, use Entry #2 as a “2nd Best Rec” entry and pick the Steelers to go along with the Bears.
    (B) Spread out the future value (and thereby “burn” it evenly). Since the Texans had (and still have a lot) of future value and the Bears didn’t, should I flip-flop the teams this week based on future value? In my scenario, this would mean picking the Steelers with the Texans in Entry #1, since Pittsburgh has less future value than New York.

    (I’m leaning towards (B) because I foresee an issue in some future Week 12 or 13 decision where all of the best options have already been played in one entry and I’m picking card out of the Tier Two or Tier Three deck, while the other entry is swimming with great picks available.)
    (C) Am I over-analyzing it?

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

    Great question. I think your option (B) is the smarter one, for exactly the reason you laid out. You want to have some picking flexibility in later rounds, and be able to have good picks for *both* entries, should they survive.

  • Gangreen

    I’m in the same situation as Ryan. Can you answer which option would be best? Thanks!!

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

    See below.

  • Dan

    It seems the Giants are hosting Cleveland in Week 5 with an expected 2-touchdown spread. If you were to map out the season, they might be a good bet there. Go Pittsburgh!

  • Dan

    And I’m the only one to pick Pittsburgh in my 200+ pool. Wow. Well, locked in now.

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

    Wow, nobody else on Pittsburgh? Nice. Root for tons of upsets!

  • Dan

    i’m looking at the 49ers in week 5 AT HOME to beat the, *ahem*, bills

  • AL

    David: Based on your summary:

    That’s simply because it’s harder to predict the far future than the near future. A lot can change over the course of a season, like the star QB for that team you were going to save getting injured.

    Why would the selection be the Giants and not the Pats? Doesn’t the Pats carry the same injury risk as the Giants in the future?

    BTW, me being a very numbers oriented person, great column.

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

    You left out the beginning of that quote:

    “When you’re having a very tough time deciding between two teams, …”

    The Patriots are pretty clearly not as good of a pick (according to the numbers) as the Giants or Steelers, due to both their popularity and their future value. The Patriots paragraph in the post has an explanation.

  • Tom

    Is it better to pick 2 different teams every week in survivor pools or go with the same one in each? Mind you, the one only has 20 people in it and the other 75 (17 people elminated already after week 1 though). Appreciate the insight!

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

    I would pick two different teams, so that it takes TWO upsets to end your Survivor season, rather than just one.

  • Tom

    thanks dave.. fairly simple question i asked haha. But thanks for takin the time to respond

  • Jeffro

    Dave – Love the column! That being said I disagree with the Giants pick. I know your numbers love them, but I would put them in the stay away category (and I’m a Giants fan). The Giants have a history of losing some games they shouldn’t. Moreover, they were gashed in the ground game last week and they have trouble with mobile QBs – both elements that the “new” TB team brings to the table. I feel equally iffy about Pitt and Cincy. I know you preach FV, but I think New England is the pick this week. As pointed out, they have good value in weeks 8 and 10, but that is a ways off and it seems there will be other good picks those weeks (GB week 8 and Steelers/9ers week 10).

  • Jeffro

    In addition, as someone mentioned and I forgot to put in my first post, I think using the Giants at home against Cleveland in Week 5 is a better option.

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

    It’s not just our numbers, it’s the entire gambling market. They are the second biggest favorite of the week, at -9. I’m by no means saying they are a lock; no team in the NFL ever is. But my default position is just to trust the markets and our numbers. That said, you should definitely use your on judgment, and if you don’t think the Giants are a safe bet, you shouldn’t pick them.

    I think saving the Giants for Week 5 is definitely a reasonable move. But given how popular New England is, it just doesn’t make sense from an EV standpoint to take them (unless you know they are less popular in your pool, of course). There will be some week in the future where the Patriots are similarly a big step above every other team, but in that week they won’t be as popular, because half the pool picked them this week.

    I also think Week 11 is probably a better spot for the Pats than Week 8 or 10, but that’s kind of beside the point.

  • Brody

    Have 3 picks. Used. Houston,philly, chicago last week. How would you line them up this week if i want to use giants, cincy, and maybe houston again or should i use giants twice.I am having trouble using pitt as i cant root against jets even though it is a better pick and i might do it. Is it that much of o better pick.

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

    Yeah, if you want to avoid Pittsburgh, then I think either of those work:

    But yes, I think PIT is a much better pick than HOU this week. And a bit better than CIN. On par with NYG.

  • Brody

    Would you use san fran at all

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

    They are about equal to Houston, as you can see based on the table above.

  • NJR

    Hi Dave, i’m in a 700 person league (can buy back once up to and including week 8). I have 6 teams (4 with one other partner, 2 solo) and last week I went with NO (me and partner will buy back), CHI, CHI, CHI, HOU, HOU. My two solos were CHI and HOU. WIth that being said, I have two questions: 1. Should I use my team that I loss last week as an ultra conservative team moving forward (i.e. – pick the Pats this week) or still remain somewhat agressive? 2. Would you suggest these picks for the other five? NYG, HOU, HOU (solo), NYG (solo), NYG, CIN? Thanks!

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

    First, let me note that the lines have moved since the original post, so I think we’ll actually end up on the Steelers rather than the Giants. Now …

    1) If you’re planning on buying back in, that would affect your PRE-buyback strategy more than your POST-buyback. Essentially, the penalty for a loss is only a 50% decrease in expected value, rather than a 100% decrease, which means you can worry a tad less about making “safe” picks. You don’t want to just throw caution to the wind, but you can put your thumb on the scale a bit, and prioritize picking unpopular teams, and those with less future value. MEANING: No, I would not necessarily make the 1-loss entry a super conservative one. However, once you decide on your few teams for the week, I *would* give the safest one to the 1-loss entry.

    2) Is there a reason you’re staying away from PIT? Given the line changes since the original column, the top three options are now probably CIN, PIT, and SF. So, 3/2/1 on those seems reasonable. Or if you want to go conservative, sub in NE for SF.

  • NJR

    The only reason why I have NYG everywhere is because I read your post pre-update. But I do like the PIT game and do not like the sf game. With that being said, do you now think the NYG are not worth any pick with my teams?

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

    FYI, here is our update:

    I think if you are picking 3 teams, then you could make an argument for any 3 from this group: CIN, HOU, NYG, NE, PIT. … I might include NE in the trio, simply to have at least one “safe” option.

  • pizzaman

    Emailed you last week….1000 people, cumulative win totals is the tie-breaker in my pool (you wan to survive having least amounts of teams wins) and is highly likely to come in to effect. have a few entries…looking at using Cincy on one this week thoughts? any others projected low win total teams that might make sense this week?

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

    For your situation, I agree that Cincy is probably the best choice. Only other low-win team I can see making much sense is Buffalo, but that is a pretty big risk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.w.morris Russell Morris

    Loving the column, as I’m a numbers man myself! Wanted to ask your thoughts about what to do if I have 3 picks in the same pool of about 250 ppl. Took Houston, Chicago, & Baltimore last week (all winners). Meaning I still have all 3 teams available this week if I move them to other picks–ie, Houston could be a pick for option 2 or 3 this week or future weeks. Also, would you stack the picks such that I go NYG, NYG, PITT, or pick 3 different teams such that I have a better chance of not losing two entries from one game loss?

    My current plan for this week is NYG/PITT/CIN.


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

    That 2/1 vs 1/1/1 question is a tough one. I think it probably depends on what the landscape looks like each week. When there is a clear safe, good option, it probably makes sense to stack 2 on it. Otherwise, I’m on the fence. I think your option of NYG/PIT/CIN is pretty good this week. Given the recent line changes, I might sub in SF for NYG.

  • Joe N

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the help last week. Curious who you would take this week. I have 2 picks in a large survivor pool (started at 10,000, down to about 9,300). Single elimination, Weeks 1-9 I need to make 1 pick, weeks 10-15 2 picks, and weeks 16-17 3 picks. I already picked Houston on one and Chicago on the other. I was thinking Giants and Bengals for my two picks. What are your thoughts?

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

    I think that given the recent line moves, and the fact that future value seems to be more important in your pool, I’d lean towards Bengals and Steelers. But Bengals and Giants isn’t bad, either.

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


    After my schpiel below about trusting the numbers and being fine with the Giants … the line on the Giants game moved. :) So, it looks like the doubters were correct — the Giants may not be as safe as originally presumed.

    What that means is that, if the numbers stay as they are now, Pittsburgh probably passes the Giants for our top pick. As we laid out in the article, we’ll make the official final pick tomorrow. But for now, it looks like we’re leaning towards Pittsburgh.

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

    Or it could be Cincy.

  • heynow

    I would like to point out the line in the Pitt game also has moved opened at -6.5. Pinny has a -5.5 now, some books have a -5 up

  • heynow

    I guess I should also point out the Giants are taking 68% of the ATS action and 62% of the moneyline action. The Pitt game is split down the middle ATS and the Jets are taking 61% of the moneyline action

  • Dan

    Steelers also reportedly without pro bowlers harrison and polamu

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

    Ugh, this is becoming a really tricky week.

  • heynow

    Harrison is out, Troy is a GTD. Also heard Revis will be out as well concussion issues

  • Dan

    David, this week is brutal man. I feel for you with these picks. Check out this Cindy news http://m.espn.go.com/nfl/story?storyId=8378068. Leading tackler IR’d today.

  • Dan


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

    I don’t know much about lines and all so correct me if I’m wrong. But the line could be moving 1) based on injuries/etc. But it can also move based upon where the publics money is going. Is it not true that Vegas wants equals amount of money on each side as much as possible? So if there’s more money on NYG than TB; Vegas can move the line to get more money on TB. I mean NYG could still be the preferred pick still regardless of a line? Love to hear your opinion Dave.

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

    Yes, the line does often move in response the amount of money bet on each team. But that’s kind of the point — the market is voting with their money to say that the Giants are less likely to win than the original estimate. Some of that money is from “squares” who don’t know what they’re doing, but some is from people who *do* know what they are doing, and that is information that is useful. The final Vegas line is a better predictor of a game’s final margin of victory than the opening Vegas line is.

    Also, it’s not always true that Vegas tried to balance the betting on each side of a game. It’s true that balancing the betting would result in the least *risk* fro Vegas. But it wouldn’t necessarily result in the most *profit*. If Vegas “knows” that, for example, the public always overestimates the Cowboys, then they can set the line at a value that is slightly unfavorable to the Cowboys, watch the public money roll in on the less-than-ideal bet, and then end up with more profit (on average) than if they had tried to balance the betting. I’m not saying this happens a lot, but it is at least theoretically possible.

  • happygolucky

    I was just wondering your success record with your survivor picks. I know you went 17-0 last year. How about the previous 2 or 3 years? Thanks!

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

    That was before I got here, so I’m not sure about the answer. I’ll ask Tom to get back to you with the info.

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

    Looks like they only started one year earlier. That season they got knocked out in Week 5 by a Carson Palmer 4th-quarter meltdown.

  • http://www.teamrankings.com TeamRankings.com

    I (Tom) will add my 2 cents here. I’d say our approach to Survivor pools was decent before David started doing this for TR a year ago, but he has clearly amped up the analysis by about 10 notches.

    Honestly, given the dynamics of the game (lose once you’re out, etc.), it’s next to impossible to point to historical results to “prove” so-and-so is a better Survivor analyst than so-and-so. Maybe if you had a 25 season picking history as a basis of comparison, that would be a different story.

    But the bottom line is, I’d read less into the fact that David’s picks happened to go 17-0 last year, than the fact that the level of analysis being done here is heads and shoulders above what the vast majority of your competitors are going to be doing. You’ll always need a few lucky breaks to win a Survivor contest, but you’ll need fewer lucky breaks than the folks you are competing against if your analysis and strategy is better.

  • AL

    David: I know the official pick is a little in flux right now with the shifting odds. Which odds maker do you use, or do you use an average, given that the point spread can vary up to 1.5 points depending on the site.

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

    We use Pinnacle lines.

  • Atha

    David, thanks for all that you do. Great stuff across the board. Though, I am having a hard time making sense out of some of the winning percentages in the survivor predictor grid when I eyeball some of the games. My concern began when i evaluated Pittsburgh’s future value of 4. I don’t understand how the system is predicting a 35% for them hosting Philly in week 5, a 36% for them hosting Wash in week 6, a 39% for them at Cleveland in week 12, etc. Are we presuming they are just that bad? And b/c of that are we assuming that they have that little future value? Seems a little strange…

  • Atha

    I meant future value of 1…I was originally thinking it was going to be about 4…

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

    The future weeks of the Survivor table are based on our old power ratings, which will be a bit wonky this early in the year. Still, if you check an alternate source like
    http://www.survivorgrid.com/ they still don’t look like they’ll have many great spots going forward. Even if you bump their future value up a bit, I think they’re still in the top tier.

  • Willis

    Hey David. Thanks for all the hard work every week! SO I picked da bears last week. That said, I was thinking Houston this week… Good play?

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

    Not a bad pick. They are in the mass of teams in the second tier behind PIT, CIN, and maybe SF or NYG.

  • willis

    Although Cinci would be less popular, do you not think the 69% win probability is a little low for week 2? (this is my first year of survivor pools so I could be wrong.)

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

    Sure, it’s a little low, but look what you are comparing it to:

    Only thing over 73% is New England.

  • rcc22

    Ok..like everyone else here…i have my 3 picks still. Took Houston, Houston & Chicago last week…obviously got through.
    Im leary of the Giants…they tend to play down to there competition.
    So what are your thoughts…the pool has over 700 in it…its down to 650 or so…
    Im thinking…Patriots, Giants, Steelers (with an option of San Diego)


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

    FYI, we posted an update:

    I think your 3 picks are OK, but due to the Polamalu news, I might change in CIN for PIT.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robrodenparker Rob RodenParker

    My picks are due at noon. Went with Pittsburgh and NYGiants for now with my 2 entries. If either changes to Cincy then I hope it gets posted before noon. If that doesn’t happen – what’s everyone’s thoughts? Pick Cincy instead of Pitt/NYG? Leave my picks alone at Pitt/NYG?

  • http://www.facebook.com/robrodenparker Rob RodenParker

    Sucks that I can’t get the official pick until after my picks are due, but I think I’m going with Cincy. Just not sure to take Pitt or NYG at this point.

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

    Sorry, Rob! I just saw this comment. I’m out on the West Coast, so I don’t really start my day until your picks are due, unfortunately. I haven’t started on the final pick analysis yet, but given the news that Polamalu may not play, Cincy certainly seems like a very reasonable choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robrodenparker Rob RodenParker

    Well, I went with Cincy and Pittsburgh. Hopefully that works out.

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

    Honestly, this week is one of those where there is no clear “best” pick. You just take a couple out of the top 5, and hope you got lucky and chose the right two.

  • Brody

    So i think i will get over my fandom and pick against the jets. If i went last week with houston/philly/chicago what is the best way to play them this week with cinn, pitt, and the giants. Or should sf be used. Tough week for so early in season.

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

    Brody, we just posted an update. Pittsburgh is not looking so hot now:

    I agree, this week is brutal considering it’s only game 2. Just no great options.

  • John F.

    Hey David,

    I have 5 entries that made thru wk 1(~1700 entries started). I went HOU, HOU, CHI, CHI, PHI. Going forward, should I spread out the top three options in similar fashion? Or just keep asking you every week :-) (hehe. no, seriously)? Also, should I use the #1 suggestion with the same few entries, or swap that around too. Like having multiple entries but seems to complicate things as well.

    John F.

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

    You definitely want to try and mix up which entries are using which teams, so you have different options available to each late in the year. I think spreading the entries out over 2 or 3 teams each week is good. You definitely don’t want to stack them all on one team. Whether 2 or 3 is optimal is a tough question, and I’m not entirely sure of the answer. I think in a week like this where there is no clear “best” pick, spreading over 3 may be smart. In another week where there is a good safe pick, spreading over 2 may be better.

  • Kletewood

    Remember when Seattle came into New York last year and beat the Giants at home? Everyone lost that pick….I don’t trust the Giants yet. Go Niners!

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

    I find it hard to believe sd has more future value than gb. How do you figure that?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com TeamRankings.com

    Hmmm, that actually looks like a misprint. The number in the table above should be 4, which is equal to San Diego.

    We define future value in a fairly rough way right now, but it gets the job done directionally. We look at future weeks where we project a team to have 75%+ win odds, which usually puts them in the running as a legitimate survivor pick.

    What’s most important to note is that future value doesn’t depend solely on how good a team is overall. It’s a combination of that, plus how their schedule looks in terms of opponent strength, especially for non-division games.

    FYI this is the initial Survivor post of this week, final update and pick is here: http://www.teamrankings.com/blog/nfl/week-2-survivor-final-update-topsy-turvy-edition