Week 3 NFL Survivor Strategy: With 50% Eliminated, We Soldier On

posted in NFL, NFL Survivor Pools

Welcome to the Week 3 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, public pick trends, future week schedules, and other data. This post presents our PRELIMINARY Survivor pick of the week; we publish our final pick on Fridays.

Note: Our final pick & analysis has now been posted.

OK people…we’ve got great news, good news, and bad news this week.

First, the bad news. TR’s resident Survivor guru, David Hess, is on vacation this week and next week. (Audience groans.) Seriously, I am still not sure why I even entertained his request to take time off during football season, primarily for a family wedding of all things. I mean, how important can those be?

So you have a replacement survivor analyst crunching the numbers this week and next. Hopefully, I will do better than the replacement NFL refs. Similar to them, though, this post is taking me like 18 times as long.

I am looking at this task not unlike a 16×1 week relay, where I have been chosen to run Weeks 3 and 4, after my all-star teammate has already built us an enviable early lead. All I can hope to do is hold the lead until Week 5, at which point I can hand the baton back to the Usain Bolt of Survivor pool strategy, collapse to the ground in pain, and never be heard from again. Which would be fine with me, because this is some serious pressure here.

OK, now the good news. David doesn’t just write down a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper, chew it up, cough twice, and then spit out our Survivor pick each week. The brunt of our Survivor analysis and data lives on various web pages and spreadsheets, and yours truly got the crash course last week. So I’m not exactly entering the Indy 500 having never driven a car before. I’ve at least practiced a bit in the parking lot.

David’s analytical skills when it comes to custom analysis of your questions are far better than mine, so don’t expect much wizardry from me in that department. But I should be able to get us to an official pick of the week that’s defensible to people who aren’t idiots.

Week 2 NFL Survivor Review

And let’s not forget the great news. In case you just got back from a Mars Rover expedition, the Patriots choked last week, the Redskins (picked by ~5% of people) also lost, and the Bengals, Giants, Steelers, and Texans — all of whom we thought were decent picks — all won!!! All that means the typical follower of our Survivor advice more than doubled their odds to win their pool in one single week, as a total of around 57% of entries in Yahoo!’s Survivor contest bit the big one in Week 2. Cha-ching.

Admittedly, we did see a case for picking the Patriots in very small pools, where the winner is likely to be determined well in advance of Week 17, or in small pools that allow multiple losses during the season. If you’re in that group, I know it stings, but the Pats were still a reasonable decision. Fluke losses happen, and you’re just playing the odds.

We’ll see how things play out during the rest of the season, but most advanced power ratings systems and Vegas futures odds still imply that the Pats are a top-tier team even after the loss to Arizona. If Arizona again played New England in Foxboro during Week 3, I don’t think the Vegas line would be too much different than it was for Week 2. Sure, it would be lower, but I’d bet it would still be as high or higher than any other team in Week 2, and the Patriots would again be considered the safest pick of the week.

Some Updates To Our Methods

One last bit of news before we get to the Week 3 breakdown. In talking through our Survivor analysis methods last week, David and I discussed a few minor tweaks that I am going to put into practice this week. None will make a huge impact on our numbers, but they could make a difference on the fringes, for example in “close call” situations between two appealing picks.

  • Future value fudging. How we’ve calculated future value for teams in the past was OK, but not all that sophisticated. We basically looked for future weeks where our power ratings gave a team 75%+ win odds, and counted them. So we’re going to make this process a bit smarter. First, every power ratings system can be a bit wonky in the very early weeks of the season, so we’re going to do more cross-checking of our projected win odds for future games with other intelligent sources of similar information. Second, we’re going to discount some future value if a high-probability win comes in Week 17, when resting starters stand a decent chance of making our current projections for Week 17 games look horrible. Third, we’re going to look more at possible alternative picks on a week-by-week basis. Instead of blindly giving credit only for a 75%+ win odds game, for instance, we’ll give some future value credit for a 72% win odds game, if it comes in a week when good alternatives look very scarce.
  • Spread adjustment to consistent -110 payout odds. On our site we publish and use spreads from Pinnacle Sports, a reliable offshore sports book. But not all of Pinny’s point spreads are at typical -110 (bet 11 to win 10) payout odds. As a result, to compare apples to apples, in our Survivor analysis we will now use a “consensus” spread obtained by looking at various sports books and figuring out what the -110 number is or inferring what it would be. Thanks to Greg Matthews at Stats In The Wild for pointing this out and prompting the update.

Week 3 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 at -110 payout odds & 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: the number of future games where the team is expected to have win odds of 75%+ from our NFL Survivor Tool, modified by some manual fudges for Week 17 and special-case weeks)

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.

Teams We Already Picked: Houston Texans (WIN), Cincinnati Bengals (WIN)

TeamOpponentLine (@ -110)TR OddsPick %Future ValNotes
Tier 1: Top Options
Chicagovs St Louis-7.078%14.5%1High safety + contrarian
Dallasvs Tampa Bay-7.070%7.5%2.5Oddly unpopular
Tier 2: Might Be Worth A Look
New Orleansvs Kansas City-8.077%33.5%1.5Best chance to use them?
Tier 3: AVOID!
San Franciscoat Minnesota-7.074%20.7%5Too much future value

Weighing the Options

Chicago Bears (vs. St. Louis Rams) — Our Decision Tree model, our most reliable and sophisticated algorithm, likes the Bears this week, giving them higher win odds than even New Orleans. The Bears sit in a pack of four teams with point spreads of 7, 7, 7, and 8, yet they’re only being picked by around 14% of the public — compared to 34% and 21% for the Saints and 49ers — and they have little future value.

While we’re as frightened by Chicago’s volatility as the next guy, the contrarian nature of this pick is intriguing. It’s relatively unpopular; everyone thought Jay Cutler and company looked horrible last week, but the score wasn’t a blowout despite Green Bay’s +2 turnover advantage; and the Rams are coming off their fist win, which was at home against a Redskins team that the public may be vastly overrating right now because of the Week 1 upset of the Saints, who themselves could be much worse than the public currently believes. With all that said…we’re talking about Jay Cutler and the Bears here. There’s a non-zero chance that he throws 17 interceptions and gets sacked 41 times.

Dallas Cowboys (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) — Ah, the Enigma Team. I don’t think anyone is sure what to make of the Cowboys at this point, but our models are more pessimistic than the spread implies this week. In addition, it’s not a secret that public money can put a “point spread premium” on Dallas, especially playing at home. Another negative is that from a schedule standpoint, based on what we know today, the Cowboys have the most future value of any of our top three considerations this week. Still, their off-the-charts ratio of safety to (lack of) popularity vaults them into must-consider status.

New Orleans Saints (vs. Kansas City Chiefs) — I can’t imagine it’s that common of a case for an 0-2 team to have the highest spread of any team in Week 3. Enter New Orleans. Are we dealing with an unwarranted extension of preseason hype here, or is this just a fluke bad start? 34% of the typical pool is betting on the latter, and that seems a bit risky. Make no mistake, the Saints have the highest spread of the week, and by the numbers they are the safest pick, albeit by a very slim margin. And according to our models and other sources, they also have almost zero future value. No-brainer, right?

Not so fast. First, when 34% of people (and almost double the percentage of next most popular team) are taking a team that doesn’t have significantly better win odds than the alternatives, it starts to smell like opportunity. Second, I keep thinking about the likely outcomes for New Orleans this year, given their shaky beginning. Let’s say it turns out the Saints aren’t a very good team this year, and the public’s unwillingness to believe that (yet) is a factor behind this week’s -8 spread. In that case, despite the fact that Kansas City may well suck, the odds that New Orleans loses this game could be significantly higher than what the current spread implies. Tough to tell if that is the case.

On the flip side, if this is just a fluke start to a season that eventually rights itself, New Orleans could have significantly more future value than we’re giving them right now. If that happens, and you don’t pick the Saints this week, you’ve saved a potential gem for later on. There’s not a much safer pick on the board this week anyway, and it’s not like either the Bears or Cowboys have far greater future value. Right now our models think that the Saints are downright useless from here on out; if that ends up being wrong even by a little, the Saints quickly would drop to being a modestly worse pick than those other teams. So we’re passing right now.

San Francisco 49ers (at Minnesota Vikings) — Don’t even think about it. There are three other alternatives on the board with far less future value and equivalent or better win odds, that are not playing on the road (granted, that’s already factored into the spread/win odds), and two of them are significantly less popular. When looking at the Niners, Saints, Cowboys, and Bears, does it feel safest to pick undefeated San Fran, who put a hurt on the mighty Packers at Lambeau, and then beat the Lions, who most people think are a good team? Yeah, a lot of people will be thinking that way, but guess what…they’re wrong. It’s clearly a sub-optimal decision given the other options. The Niners would likely be our top rated pick if you didn’t have any of the other three teams listed above in your quiver. But that’s impossible since it’s only Week 3, so just like that, San Fran goes from a #4 pick ranking into dreaded STAY AWAY status.

The Rest — It’s not like last week, when a bunch of teams were running close. After the Niners, the Bills and Lions rate as our next best picks, but there’s a significant gap and it’s not worth considering them or any other teams. The fact that more people are picking Pittsburgh than Dallas right now strikes us are particularly barf-worthy.

Preliminary Week 3 NFL Survivor Pick: Chicago Bears over St. Louis Rams

The Bears and Cowboys look similarly safe, and the Cowboys are less popular. Still, Dallas looks to have more future value than Chicago on account of some favorable future home matchups, and that’s enough to tilt the overall scale to Chicago for this week, provided nothing major changes by Friday.

Our preliminary pick is the Chicago Bears.

If the Cowboys looked to be a decently safer pick than Chicago, we’d probably lean the other way, because it’s always tricky to predict the far future in Week 3. But they’re not. If you’ve already used Chicago, though, Dallas still grades out as a decently better pick than New Orleans.

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

(And btw, do you get the headline now?)

Update Thursday 9/20 at 2:30 pm Eastern: There has been some line movement over the last 18 hours that might impact our final pick on Friday. In short, Dallas’s line has made a favorable move to -8/-110, Chicago a slight favorable move to -7.5, and San Fran has retreated to -6.5. Public picking percentages look to be holding pretty steady. The quick read on this is that Dallas looks better, New Orleans looks worse, and San Fran now looks even more worse. It’s going to be neck and neck between Chicago and Dallas based on where lines and our TR odds end up tomorrow.

  • John

    The pool I’m in wants picks in by 5:00 Wed. I hate these Thursday games!!!!
    I picked Bears as well I just wish I could say I put in as much research as you.
    Thanks really enjoy the blogs and info!!!

  • Robert

    If future value was not important because my pool allows me to repick teams indefinitely what is your opinion of SF? In other words saving SF because NO, Chi and Dallas has better future value is irrelevant in the pool I am playing. If SF is the best current team in the NFL should I consider them as this week’s play?

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

    Right there with you brother. It would be nice to have a little more time to do our analysis, especially if we’re shorthanded like this week. Glad you enjoy the site, appreciated.

  • NJR

    Great post! Just as analytical and informative…really appreciate it. With that being said, does your opinion change at all if forte is a no-go? Or is it irrelevant because of bush?

  • Scott Turner

    Not sure where you are getting your pick percentages — the top pick @ESPN is Chicago at almost 24%! Followed by NO at almost 20%.

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

    Not necessarily. Assuming your pool is one-loss-and-you’re-out, all this means is that future value doesn’t matter, but you still need to consider the safety of your pick AND how your opponents are picking.

    Example: if you were playing against 10 other people in a pool with your rules, and all 10 of them picked San Fran this week, would San Fran be your best pick week? No way. NO, DAL, and CHI all have similar win odds to San Fran this week. So if you picked ANY of those three teams, there would be an almost 20% chance that your team would win, San Fran would lose, and you’d win your Survivor poll THIS WEEK. That would be amazing.

    I just re-ran our analysis assuming 0 future value for all teams, and — key point here — assuming that your pool’s pick percentages are close to what we list in the table in the post. The results are that Dallas is the #1 pick (since so few people are picking them), then San Fran, then (barely trailing SF) Chicago.

    So if you think ~30% or more of your pool is going to be on one team this week, it still pays to avoid that team, even with your rules allowing re-picks. All the top picks are close enough in terms of safety this week that picking against the crowd still generates value.

  • Tyson

    They get them from Yahoo and OfficeFootballPool.com

    ESPN isn’t a good place to get pick percentages from. The reason is that they allow you to pick multiple weeks in advance. So this week’s numbers include everyone that picked the entire season and lost already, so they probably won’t be updating their picks for this week.

  • rcc22

    im scared…whats Davids number to be reached…lol…

    no slight to you…ok…?


  • Robert

    Great advice thanks for tackling this assignment over the next 2 weeks. Well done!

  • geddy1001

    Im in two pools that got whacked by NE last week. One with 5 left and one with 14. The one with 5, 3 have picked Chicago already and the one with 14, about half have already picked CHI. Does it make it a no brainer to pick CHI or should I keep options open, maybe for DAL? Thanks!

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

    Couldn’t have said it any better myself, NJR. Although it does seem a bit odd that the numbers for the Bears would be that far off given that it’s only Week 3. Still, ESPN’s reported public pick percentages have looked really dumb in the past, so we ditched them last year. We replaced them with OFP as a second source so we could still have another perspective than just Yahoo!

    Scott, just remember that most important number is how your pool is picking, and no public pick % number is going to reflect that exactly. So we show you the numbers we’re using as a baseline, and if you think your pool will be different, you just need to make some calls. If you think Chicago will get 24% of your poll and NO 20%, NO becomes the clear #1 pick (best win odds + not the most popular anymore), followed by Dallas, then Chicago. (Just re-ran our numbers with those ESPN public pick percentages to confirm.)

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

    Ha, and just like that I caught a minor data entry error double-checking things in response to your question. NO’s public pick percentage right now by the average we use is 33.5%, not 35%. Just updated the post accordingly, makes no difference in the preliminary pick or guidance though.

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

    We don’t even try to make manual adjustments for injuries…we let the Vegas odds do it for us, and generally trust them. If the spread moves as a result of some final decision before our final update on Friday, we’ll be re-running the analysis. You have to assume that the potential risk of him being out is already priced into the line.

    BTW, I will say that we believe pretty strongly that the public tends to grossly overvalue NFL injuries, outside of a very short list of key players, mostly all QB’s. In fact, I was just reading about a conversation today with the managing director of Cantor Gaming, where he stated something to the effect of, “By our analysis, there aren’t more than 15 players or so in the NFL that are worth more than half a point per game.”

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

    Haha…I think David’s in the Caymans, he said something about some huge bet he placed on the Arizona Cardinals last week, setting up some offshore bank accounts, and hanging out with some new Russian friends of his. That’s the last I’ve heard from him, will keep you posted…

  • wile

    I am in 3 pools with 4 total picks. I have used CHI in 2 pools. I am hesitant to go CHI – CHI/DAL – DAL. It feels like I am piling on risk. Although it sounds a little off the wall, the dreaded “stay away” tag has always worked out in the past. What do you think of CHI – CHI/MIN – DAL? It appears riskier as I type it but somehow feels safer. Thoughts? Thanks in advance.


  • Phil

    First off, thanks for stepping in. Second, what do you think about Sportsbook.com’s pool policy? Specifically: “If there are at least 300 entries alive after Week 14, each contestant must select three teams that will win their Week 15 game. Moreover, if there are between 80 and 299 entries alive after Week 14, each contestant must select two teams that will win their Week 15 game”

    They also talk similarly about week 16 and 17. What is the play here… more aggressive picks to save better teams for later because there is a possibility of having to pick 3 teams for a week. Or play like normal and just be thankful you made it to week 15.

    Thanks! – Phil

    SB.com Initial pool size: 13,541
    Remaining: 5,368 (Thank you NE!)

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


    You are in prime game theory territory with so few people left. Well, not much theory seems to be needed, actually, since you seem to know what teams these people are picking. Either they’re putting their picks in early and you can see them, or they’re telling you who they picked before you make your pick? In either case, what the hell are they thinking!

    Anyhow, with so many people on Chicago in such small pools, you gotta stay away.

    Pool 1: Consider DAL, NO, and SF. Make your best guess as to which team the one remaining person is going to pick. If it’s one of the three teams above, pick one of the other two. In that case, you’ve got a ~5% chance of winning your pool this week and a ~75% chance of surviving to Week 4. If you pick Chicago, you have no chance to win your pool this week, and the same chance of surviving. Pretty clear which is better…

    Pool 2: If 50% is taking CHI, I’m guessing that between New Orleans and San Fran, one of them is being picked by 3-5 people, and the other by 2-3 people. If you think there is a good chance that no one in this pool will be picking Dallas (quite possible if 50% are on CHI), that’s the best play, I think. If you think at least one or two people will be on DAL, SF, and NO, then I’d lean NO, since they are the overall safest pick and unpopular in your pool.

    Finally, I probably wouldn’t pick the same team in both pools, to diversify your risk. Not knowing much about pots, etc., you’ve got a better chance to win Pool 1 right now, so I’d optimize for that pick, and then make sure my pick for Pool 2 was a different team. JUST NOT CHICAGO!

    Good luck, dang, I wish I was in your situation.

  • wile

    By the way – before I sound ungrateful – thanks for stepping into the breach. Pools before this were “best guess”.

  • Chris

    I’m really feeling the Steelers this week. I guess my pick, as it stands now, helps account for the 9.83% on yahoo.

    According to pinny lines they have the next best winning % after the 4 teams you listed.
    SF has too much future value, and I just don’t have any faith in the other 3 teams.
    They all seem like inconsistent enigmas.

    Is Pittsburgh really ‘barf’ like you say?

  • Anonymous

    Hey may mean that those still alive have already picked Chicago in a previous week, not this week.

  • Greg W

    In a few pools, large one (started 3k, down to about 1k), mediumx2 (started 100, down to 50), and small (started 20, down to 6). Do I try to split up my picks? Go Dal, Dal/Chi, Chi? Or split even further and put NO in the mix? Thanks for the help!

  • Chris

    I just realized in my pools, in one: 12 of 30 remaining have already taken Chicago, which makes that pick more promising to me. In the 2nd one 6 of 25 have taken Chicago.

    No one left has ever taken Dal, NOR, or SF.

    I think that means in pool 1 CHI should be my clear choice. Because I’d like to separate my picks I’m leaning towards DAL for pool 2. I’m not sure how confident I feel about those picks, but I think statistically it is the correct thing to do. Still have this feeling of confidence to pick PIT tho.

  • geddy1001

    Eddie is right..The folks had already picked Chicago in previous weeks. Wosh I had insight to what they were picking this week!

  • Steve

    I’m sitting here trying to decide between DAL and CHI. Down to 33 players already (half the field). Nobody has used DAL yet and 10 of them used CHI in week one. The fact that appx 30% can’t choose CHI makes them a safe bet, no? My fear is that the remaining 70% or so will choose CHI too considering how unpopular DAL is although NO and SF seem to be much more popular than CHI. Thoughts? We have to pick by tomorrow.

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

    I would let my primary guidance be the fact that you’re in a huge pool, and so you need to take some educated risks on a week-in, week-out basis to increase your odds to win the thing, vs. picking with the crowd each week.

    The whole week 15-17 deal would be a secondary consideration, and I don’t think it should have a huge impact on your early strategy. My first inclination was, let’s look only at Week 15, but not further than that. Week 17 is a crapshoot due to resting starters, so no point in even trying to plan for that now. Week 16 can be affected by resting players as well.

    As it turns out, in Week 15 we’ve got the Rams hosting the Vikings and the Dolphins hosting Jacksonville. Both those teams (Rams/Fins) are highly doubtful picks before Week 15 as of now, but in the top tier of Week 15 picks. So my conclusion would be to not let the Week 15-17 stuff affect your decision process at all right now. Play like “normal” for a huge pool, which often means avoiding the most popular play(s).

    If you think there’s a chance that Chicago will be more popular in your pool than the percentage we used for this post, I’d be taking a strong look at Dallas.

  • Brinley

    Down to 2 in our tiny pool. Many NE lemmings last week. My opponent has used PHI & HOU. I’ve used HOU & NYG. This week is important as there is dominant chalk in Weeks 4 & 5 and we are more likely to agree. Leaning toward DAL or CHI, think he might go with NO as his previous picks have seemed to be directed at lame opposition (CLE & JAX). Any thoughts on head-to-head strategies?

  • Want to win

    With all injuries to Giants how bout Carolina as a pick?

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

    Ack, sorry, misunderstood, my bad. For the tiny pool, assuming your entry is one of the five, my first inclination is to stick with Chicago and hope the last person doesn’t pick them.

    The one exception: if you think that there’s a decent chance the other guy who can pick Chicago will pick them, and the three who can’t pick Chicago ALL will go for either NO or SF, then I’d be temped to pick Dallas. All the win odds are close enough this week that I’d focus on maximizing my chance for a big score by being the only person to pick a team, while all of my opponents are concentrated on 1 or 2 other teams.

    If your 4 opponents end up split among 2 teams, and you go with a third/different team as your pick this week, you’ve got about a 5% to win the pool this week, 75% chance to survive.

    If they all pick the same team (e.g. NO) and you pick a different team (e.g. CHI or DAL), you’ve got almost a 20% chance to win the pool this week, same chance to survive. This scenario isn’t likely, but it’s not completely farfetched either.

    If you think your opponents will end up spread out across 3+ teams, though, the chances of them all losing get much slimmer and I’d just stick with Chicago.

    The general point is with so few people left in Pool 1, these public percentages we use in our analysis don’t mean much. It’s all about coming up with your own best guesses for who’s going to pick whom, and adjusting for that. What you’re hoping for is concentration of your opponents on one or two picks, which usually presents a nice opportunity to pick another team and go for the kill.

    With more people in Pool 2, the odds are much lower they’re all going to concentrate on 1-2 teams. So first preference, treating each pool independently, is to stick with Chicago there, unless you’ve got reason to believe that most of the seven people who have them available will pick the Bears too.

    Finally, the curveball. The diversification point is still valid. If you double up on Chicago, there’s about a 1 in 4 chance you lose both pools this week. If you split your entries, that chance is a much less stress-inducing 1 in 16. This early in the season, I would lean toward splitting the picks, still leading with Pool 1. If you go Chicago there, in Pool 2 I’d pick whatever team out of (DAL, NO, SF) I thought would be the least picked.

    Why is SF back in the mix here? Because with so few people left, future value becomes MUCH less important. It’s improbable that Pool 1 is going to last that deep into the season. So if you think very few people will go for SF in Pool 2, they are totally in play.

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

    Wow, quite the line move there. Our analysis today was based on Carolina +1, now they’re -2.5. Still need to wait for our models and Survivor predictor tool to update based on that latest line move, but extremely doubtful that as only a -2.5 favorite they will even come close to cracking the top three. (Just did a little sensitivity analysis with our spreadsheets to confirm that, too.) So unless this line continues to move strongly in Carolina’s favor tomorrow, my answer is, no, I definitely wouldn’t consider the Panthers right now. I’ll keep an eye on it tomorrow though.

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

    Oooh, fun, head to head. I wouldn’t be in a particular rush to go for the jugular this week. Bottom line is, if you pick any team other than NO and they pick NO, you’ve just put yourself at an EV disadvantage, and that’s no good.

    If you had two opponents left and you both thought they’d be on one team, that’s a totally different story, but that’s not the case here.

    My advice is don’t try to outsmart yourself, or try to force a win quickly. I think the best option is to keep picking the most likely winner each week in the short term, and see if a war of attrition baits your opponent into picking another (i.e. sub-optimal) team one week, in which case you’re at an advantage.

    If that doesn’t work in the short term, I still think you have the upper hand with PHI available. NYG may be a consideration pick in Week 5, but they’re not projecting as top three in that week right now. Same case with Week 14. But if the Eagles can gel a bit, they could likely be the #1 pick of Week 12, and the alternatives could be poor. That could be the lethal strike. Overall, I’d feel better about holding the Eagles than the Giants right now.

    Finally, one basic thing to remember is stay on top of the data. If your picks aren’t due until Sunday, or 10 minutes before the game you’re picking, etc., make sure you wait as long as you possibly can to see how lines are moving before submitting your final pick. You may be able to get a nice edge on him/her if they submit a pick on Thu/Fri, and by Sunday, the biggest favorite of the week has actually changed, but they keep their original pick. Little stuff like that matters when you only have one person left to beat…

  • Brinley

    Very much appreciate the detailed answer. Thanks.

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

    I just checked Yahoo!, and 16% of entrants picked Chicago in Week 1. They all survived, while 9% of people got eliminated in Week 1, which means about 17.5% of surviving Yahoo! contestants after Week 1 had used Chicago.

    In Week 2 pretty much nobody picked Chicago on Yahoo!, so that proportion should have held steady, assuming the 57% of the overall pool that was eliminated by various losses (Pats, Redskins, etc.) affected Week 1 Chicago pickers and Week 1 non-Chicago pickers equally.

    So on Yahoo!, about 83% of users should be able to pick Chicago this week. If only 70% of your pool can pick the Bears, then unless there are some local/team biases in play that would cause more players than the Yahoo! average to pick them, then the Bears would be an even more attractive pick.

    The one hesitation I have, though, is that it seems like significantly more people in your pool than the national average picked the Bears in Week 1, so perhaps your pool’s players ARE biased toward them in aggregate. Or maybe just some of them were, and all those people took the Bears in Week 1, but the rest of the pool is by and large Bears-neutral. Tough to tell.

    There’s not much flexibility inherent in the Bears pick this week if you expect more than 15% of the people in your pool to pick them. As soon as you hit around 17-18% pick percentage for Chicago, Dallas starts looking like the more attractive pick. If Chicago’s pick percentage is lower than 14-15%, they are the clear pick.

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

    See the geddy1001 thread below for my advice on the 6 — optimal strategy there primarily depends on your best guess of what teams your opponents will pick.

    I do think Dallas looks attractive for a large pool this week, and a Chicago/Dallas split sounds good for a midsize pool.

    In terms of splitting your picks between 2 and 3 teams, it depends mostly on your risk tolerance.

    If you split 4 entries among 2 teams (2/2 even split), you’ve got around a 6% chance of losing all four entries this week, a 38% chance of losing two entries, and a 56% chance of all four entries surviving.

    If you split 2/1/1 among 3 teams, you’ve only got around a 2% chance of losing all four entries, but you also only have a 42% chance of all four entries surviving. So you sacrifice best-case scenario odds for worst-case scenario protection.

    Personally, I wouldn’t overthink it. Your odds to win the large pool are low, your odds to win the small pool are high. So Dal, Dal/Chi, and [optimal pick for your tiny pool, given who you think your opponents will pick], whether that ends up being 2 or 3 teams overall, sounds fine to me.

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

    Part of it is that our models are more pessimistic on PIT than the Vegas odds, part of it is that a -4 spread / -200 moneyline is significantly worse than a -7 (adjusted to -110 payout odds) / -361 money line, which is what the Cowboys are getting right now on Pinnacle. And both teams are being picked equally in our public picking index — although as you mentioned, PIT is getting even more love on Yahoo! (almost 10%) than OfficeFootballPoll (around 5%), which makes Dallas look even better if your pool tends to reflect the Yahoo! percentages.

    I think the real reason here is your “lack of faith” in the Cowboys that contradicts the market. :-) In the grand scheme of things, choosing PIT over DAL isn’t likely to be a gigantic impact decision in terms of expected returns. It’s clearly not optimal, but it’s also not worth tearing your hair out over and throwing a rock through your TV screen if you go Dallas and they lose. If you’ve got the PIT feeling, go for it, it’s always more fun to make your own decisions.

    As for the Chicago picking stuff, see the Steve post above. 12/30 is indeed a lot to have picked the Bears already, so yeah, Bears look good there. In the second pool, that’s a significantly higher proportion of people than expected to still have CHI left. So I think you’re right that it could be a good candidate for pick diversity, and in that case, I think NO (who start to look better in a pool where CHI is picked more often, plus it’s a relatively small pool so being a little safer isn’t a bad idea), DAL, or if you’re feeling it, PIT, could all work.

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

    You’re welcome, no worries. It’s been great to see the audience for this analysis (and the interaction around it) grow so rapidly over the last couple years. I give David the credit though…

    Nah, I wouldn’t even sniff MIN. SF’s “STAY AWAY” alarm wasn’t prompted by the thinking that they look ripe for an upset — just the fact that it makes no sense to pick them this week given their popularity and the available alternatives.

    As for splitting your four picks between 2 or 3 teams, I addressed that very point in the GregW thread above, please check that out.

  • http://twitter.com/swamiluv Russ Aragon

    I am in a large pool (4200 start 1900 now) have used Houston, Cin. 20% of the pool has used the bears, should I factor this in this weeks pick? Thanks for the help!

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

    Locked in with Chicago. For a ‘replacement survivor analyst’, a very well-written article and well-thought-out. Kudos & thanks!

  • Mike

    I am in a pool of 1100 with insurance (1 loss) through Week 5. Have picked MIN & NYG so far. I am tring to preserve as much future value as possible and am thinking of taking IND this week. Do you feel it is better to take a safer pick this week such as CHI and take more risk in either Week 4 or Week 5. Insurance is lost after Week 5 even if it is not used.

  • JoeP

    Good lord man, Minnesota in week 1? How do you walk with that enormous pair of brass balls?

  • AL

    We Soldier On…LOL.
    With the spread between Chi and NO close, Is there a tipping point in pick % where NO would be a better pick than Chi?

    For instance, if in the next few days, Chi and NO were even or if Chi was slightly ahead of NO in Pick %, would that move you to select NO? Or would that push you to Dallas pick?

  • Mike

    Large Pool- 10,174 started, 5,232 enter week 3. Start picking 2 teams in week 11, and 3 teams in week 13. Last year the pool ended in week 13. I’ve used Chicago, and Houston.
    What are you thoughts on taking Indy at home vs Jax? The way I look at it Jax has a terrible defense and Indy has a terrible defense. Jax has a terrible offense but Indy has a decent passing game especially at home on the turf.
    Basically, I think Jacksonville is the worst team in football, and won’t win a road game this year.

  • Craig

    I may be bias (Chicago fan here), but how do the Bears not have more future value? They will be playing the Jags, Titans, and Viking (x2) in the future.

  • Frank

    I agree wholeheartedly! Not a fan of either team, but the only favourable home matchup Dallas has is Cle in week 11, otherwise I would stay away from them completely. Bears also have Seattle at home in wk13 and are in Ari in wk 16… for those big pools that last that long, either of these could end up being your only or best possibility after you’ve exhausted all the big guns… week 11 on the other hand when D plays Cle has several options

  • rcc22

    Im seeing some problems with the Chicago pick…The Rams look they are a different team this year with Fisher as the coach, Defense is tough..and Braddford has some weapons it seems to throw to. If this game was at St.Louis i would pick them easily…I see this as a upset this week. The Bears are going threw some problems with cutler and chemistry, yelling and some fighting on the team (turmoil) …im thinking NO or Pitt, and maybe NYJ.

    I think the cowboys and Bears get picked off this week…

    any thoughts to my rational?

  • vidviddy

    down to 11 in my pool. 5 saints picks this week along with 3 49ers picks. 1 cowboys 1 lions, i took the bears. seems like a no brainer?

  • AC

    Great job filling in. I’ve got six entries into a large pool (4K+ entries) – lost two of six the first week with NO and lost 1 of 4 the second week with NEP, this leaves me with three entries left in week 3 and about 60% of the pool has been eliminated (thank you NEP). As of now, I’ve got SF, CHI, and NO – SF being the safe pick and CHI and NO being our 2nd and 3rd (based on my confidence, research, etc) – I just don’t trust DAL….Seem Reasonable or am I crazy for not taking DAL with one of the three entries?

  • Shane

    Rams played an overrated Redskins team at home who were playing back to back road games. Bears played Packers on the road on a short week (and will get more time to prep for the Rams at home). Bears will be fine, vegas loves it when people overreact.

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

    Just a quick update…will get to the lastest comments as soon as I can…got a bunch of other stuff on my plate today. In the meantime, see the update in red I just added to the post if you haven’t yet. Dallas is looking relatively better compared to yesterday, it’s gonna be a close call for our final pick on Friday based on where the markets and our projections are at that time.

  • NYJoe

    I’m in the same pool as Mike below (5,200+ left), I have 2 picks:
    Pick One already used Texans and Giants, Pick Two already used Bears and Bengals. What do you suggest?

  • R Dog

    Awesome post! So my pool of 60 people is down to 14 as New England eliminated 44 people in the people. My question is do I think of things much differently than you do now that I’m down to a pretty small pool? Is it more important now that I just try to survive each week rather than worry about the future value of teams?

    To give you more specifics, of the 14 people left, 4 have already picked Chicago and 1 has picked SF. Dallas and New Orleans (obviously) have not been picked. The pool is located in SF, so there might be a slight local bias, but I assume people wouldn’t let that affect them too much. Who should I pick given this information? Should I play it safe and pick New Orleans? Or should I pick away from the (theoretically) more popular team and pick either Chicago or Dallas?

  • Chris

    I’m seeing Chicago and Dallas both at -9 on Pinnacle now.

  • geddy1001

    Thanks! So in my Pool Two, since only 4 of 14 people have picked Chicago so far and the overall Yahoo pick distribution has them picking Chicago at 12% while picking Dallas is 4%, then for diversification sake Dallas wouldny be a bad play there? Thanks!

  • devastator

    taking chicago right now, good luck

  • FlorenceNixeon

    Do you know if David agrees that it should be between these two teams?

  • Greg

    Any update between Chicago and Dallas before my deadline? I’m thinking Dallas has an edge because there are much less of a popular pick.

  • JO’C

    Have you considered using the money line on a game rather than the spread as a factor in determining which team the public is favoring? Right now at Matchbook the following are the money lines to win the game straight up:

    Chi -340
    Dal -370
    SF -282
    NO -375

    BTW, love the write up every week. Excellent work.

  • Steve

    thanks for the detailed response. Stuck with Dallas as most I play against are from the East. Picks are all over the place, but CHI was picked by just 3. I am the only one who picked DAL! True to the overall percentages, 11 picked NOR and 8 SF.

  • Nikeal

    The Saints won’t go 0-3

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

    @Craig — I think you’re either over-estimating the Bears or under-estimating the likelihood of winning on the road. Of those games you mentioned, the “1” future value credit we’re giving Chicago is for playing the Vikings at home in Week 12. The Bears are projecting as a middle of the pack team at best right now; in fact, our season simulations give them a better chance of a losing record than a winning record. Could that change if they pull it together in the near future? Sure, it’s only been two weeks. But at this point the odds are against the Bears blossoming into an elite team. And when non-elite teams go on the road against even bottom-25% opponents, they’re not favored by a ton.

    @Frank. Couple points. I disagree about Week 11. The only better options the pop out right now than Dallas vs. CLE involve two teams we’ve already picked (Texans, Bengals) and the Patriots and 49ers, who have a lot of value and whom we could need in other weeks. So Dallas looks like a great play there as of now. Beyond that point, I think you are definitely underestimating Seattle and playing at Arizona; the Eagles, who project WAY better than the Cowboys, are only 4-point favorites in Arizona this week. And finally, DAL plays both the Bears and Saints at home. The general public still seems to think both of those teams will be good this year. Divorcing myself from our Survivor pick, you have to objectively say that there is a decent chance one of those teams ends up being much worse than people expected this year. Based on what we know now, the Cowboys are getting some future value credit for playing New Orleans at home in Week 16. If you think that’s bunk, than Dallas should look better to you as a pick this week.

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

    If I had to pick a side, I’d agree with you. With far less certainty.

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

    Yeah, we do look at money lines too as a cross-check. Making sure we’re adjusting all spreads to -110 equivalents (per the note in the week’s post) serves a somewhat similar purpose, although in theory money lines should be more precise.

    With money lines, you do have the challenge of guessing how much vig/commission is baked into each team’s line, in order to back out true implied win odds. That number could well change based on the sports book, the game, the specific teams playing, etc. It’s not as stone cold simple as most people think it is to back out true implied win odds from a money line, especially in cases where teams are close like Chicago and Dallas this week.

    For example, in your examples above, the true win odds for both CHI and DAL could actually be the same, but since Dallas is such a public team, Matchbook may just be making DAL bettors pay a premium to bet their money line. You can look at the rest of the money line market, at spreads and payout odds, at other books, etc. to try to see if that is actually the case or not. The main point, though, is that no method is going to be 100% accurate because you’re still guessing at some things.

    Overall money lines are probably better, we do look at them, and will probably update our calculations/spreadsheets to be driven by them at some point in the future. But it shouldn’t make a big difference based on how we’re already doing things today.

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

    Just getting to responses now, not sure if we missed it or not. Going to have to run the final numbers tomorrow, until then it’s super close. If you only use Vegas implied win odds as your predictor, Dallas probably has the edge now. If you use our models as a factor too (which we do), they are more pessimistic on Dallas and as of this afternoon, Chicago still had the tiniest of edges.

    By the way, one new Wildcard is that the Giants are beating the piss out of Carolina on the road right now as one-point underdogs, so we’ll see if that gives the Cowboys any additional bump in power rating and/or Vegas odds by tomorrow. Oh, I guess that’s past your deadline though!

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

    Nope. His spreadsheet does though. If you wire me $1,000 I can try to get him on the phone to confirm. Only kidding.

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

    Even if the pick ends up switching to Dallas tomorrow, it’s going to be pretty darn close I think, so definitely not worth pulling hair over. The biggest guidance as far as Survivor strategy is concerned is avoid SF like the plague, and avoid NO.

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

    Just checked myself, and Chicago is -9 +122, while Dallas is -9 +106. That’s a non-negligible difference. And as JO’C pointed out above, the Dallas money line is also higher than Chicago’s as of this morning. So Pinny’s odds, both spread and money line, imply that Dallas has a slightly better chance to win. Our predictive models aren’t quite so bullish on Dallas though.

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

    Oh and by the way, +122 and +106 payout odds also mean that the equivalent point spread at -110 payout odds for CHI and DAL would NOT be -9, it would be worse (e.g. Bookmaker currently has Dallas at -8.5 -110)

  • Chris

    Is the methodology to your predictive models posted somewhere or is that a secret?

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

    In general, you should play more conservative, and discount future value. However, as you’re reasoning through in your comment, the smaller your pool gets, the more your optimal decision will be determined by how the rest of your pool is going to pick, rather than the numbers we use for this post, which are based on picks from hundreds of thousands of people across the nation. With 5, 10, or 15 people in a pool, just one or two people going a different way than the national averages could completely invalidate the entire foundation of our analysis in this post.

    Based on our latest info, New Orleans and Dallas are neck and neck for safest pick if you only use Vegas implied win odds. If you factor in our models too, NO has a very slight edge still. We only don’t like New Orleans because so many people are picking them the the national indices, but your pool could end up very different, it sounds like.

    Chicago is already highly picked in your pool, so I’d definitely avoid the Bears. It’s a tougher call between NO and DAL. I would go with whichever of those two teams you think will be picked by the fewest other people. Their respective win odds are close enough.

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

    That’s not far off what most pools nationally should have in terms of Bears availability, in fact it’s higher, so if anything slightly fewer people should be picking the Bears this week, making them a more attractive pick. The flip side is in a huge pool, Dallas also looks nice and juicy because even fewer people will likely pick them. Let’s see where the numbers fall out tomorrow, but for a 2000-person pool, I think I’d go Dallas, even in your case with the Bears availability.

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

    Thank you sir, and good luck.

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

    It sounds to me like you’re thinking about getting a bit too aggressive with your insurance policy. The “safe” picks this week don’t have much future value, based on what we know right now, so you’re not giving up much picking them instead of a way more risky pick like IND.

    Looking ahead, Denver looks great in Week 4 (OAK at home) especially if you have insurance; they have high win odds but not much future value, and you can save the Texans, who have tons of future value. But in Week 5, the 49ers and Ravens and Patriots are the picks right now, and ALL of those teams have significant future value.

    So I’d definitely play it safe in Week 3, and use your insurance as it was designed: to protect you in the case of a fluke loss. Then, if you’ve still got insurance by Week 5, shoot, go ahead pick the Bills that week, and you’ll save a much better team than Dallas, Chicago, or New Orleans for the future. And you also avoid the added risk of getting burned with the Colts this week, having to use your insurance, and then consequently having to burn a really good team in Week 4 and/or 5.

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

    That is quite impressive. Hey, he’s got 2 lives, so he’s living hard with his first one.

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

    Assuming you’re not in a very small pool, right now the Chicago pick does appear pretty sensitive to pick percentage. It would all depend on the exact numbers, but a very possible scenario is that Chicago gets picked by a few percentage points more than the national average in some pools, and New Orleans’ pick percentage goes down, but I seriously doubt it would ever get below 20% or so in a non-small pool. Or maybe Chicago goes all the way up to 20% which becomes slightly higher than NO. In either case, the primary result is that Dallas clearly becomes the pick.

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

    You speak in terms I do not understand, Jedi. What is this “offense” and “defense” and “passing game” to which you refer?

    Obviously joking around there, but only sort of. We’re just not in the business of subjectively handicapping games. And I’m sure we’d be terrible at it. We’ve got computers and the betting markets to do that for us.

    Indy’s only a three point favorite, and you’ve got a highly unpopular 8-8.5 point favorite on the board with not much future value. So yeah, I think that’s nuts — Dallas looks like a great pick for a huge pool this week.

  • WorldCup82

    Here’s the specifics of my pool: if you lose before week 10, you can rebuy once for 2x the entry fee.
    Started with 95, 56 people left. I have 3 entries that haven’t lost at all yet.
    Here are the percentages for my pools picks

    Team Picks Picks
    1 Saints 41.5% 22
    2 Bears 17.0% 9
    3 49ers 17.0% 9
    4 Cowboys 11.3% 6
    5 Steelers 7.5% 4
    6 Redskins 1.9% 1
    7 Packers 1.9% 1
    8 Colts 1.9% 1

    Who do I go with? I was thinking Chi/Dal/NO but I may stay away from NO since so many people are picking them. Should I go Chi/Dal/Chi?

    Love your site!

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

    I think the universal challenge with high level subjective rationale like this is, do you really believe that your ability to process the information you bring up is far better than the thousands of people out there betting lots of real money on games? It’s not like anything you brought up about Chicago and St. Louis is inside information that nobody else knows about. And the market is valuing it — the Bears are by no means a lock this week, they are just favored by around a TD.

    Second, when you do this type of analysis, you tend to fixate on 1-2 angles (good coach, tough defense, etc.) and drastically oversimplify things. In reality, there are hundreds, thousands of factors that end up determining the outcome of a football game. Betting markets and computers provide much better ways to evaluate the big picture than most human brains do.

    That said, this stuff is supposed to be fun, and it’s always the most fun to make your own decisions. I think picking NYJ as 1-point favorites on the road is nothing short of ludicrous; you don’t. You think CHI is one of the biggest upset risks this week; we don’t. So go with what you think is best.

    I will say in closing that I think NO is by far the smartest pick of the three considerations you list, and if you really do think the Bears and Cowboys are both more likely to lose than win this week, you can get on a flight to Vegas and get some pretty solid odds on that!

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

    Vegas does love a nice public overreaction…

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

    The best move is of course to lay off the Saints and Niners. But that weirdo who picked the Lions is annoying because he/she singlehandedly lowered the odds that everyone else in your pool (except for you) gets eliminated this week by 60%.

    But yeah, with no one on the Bears, that’s compelling. We may conclude tomorrow that Dallas’ win odds are slightly higher based on how lines have moved since the initial post, so you’d be trading off a percentage or so in week survival odds for a ~0.5% chance that you win the pool this week. I’m not 100% sure that’s mathematically optimal, but it sounds close enough, since if you picked the Cowboys and everyone else lost, you’d still need to defeat one other surviving person.

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

    As far as the numbers go, SF is by no means the “safe” pick anywhere else but in your mind. Their money line at Pinnacle is currently -285, compared to -377 for Dallas and -380 for New Orleans — that’s significant dropoff in implied win odds.

    In that large a pool, Dallas looks like a great pick, but if you can’t get on board with it the least I would do is take a little more risk and pick 2 teams total (doubling up on one), not 3, for a pool that big. The more you diversify your picks, the higher the odds you will lose at least one team. (You do also lower your odds of losing all your teams, of course, but that’s too conservative of an approach for a 4,000 person contest.) Picking 2 teams still gives you some downside protection, while being more aggressive for a big pool.

    Picking SF in a pool this big is a bad decision on several fronts, but taking New Orleans — a team that almost 1/3 of most pools are picks — really makes no sense either. I’d split 3 entries between Dallas and Chicago, but if you just can’t do it, I’d go 2 Chicago and 1 NO. The future value of SF could matter a lot in a big pool like this.

  • Tyson

    I’ve be hesitant to pick a road team with these replacement refs. Even including last night’s big Giants win on the road, the home teams are outscoring the road teams by about 5 points per game, vs. the usual 3. It is a small sample size, but I believe this is attributable to the refs (read the chapter in the book Scorecasting about homefield advantage).

  • mike37

    what does everyone think about Det over Ten? Ten has not looked good the first two weeks and det have alot more play makers on offense and defense.

  • mike37

    The bucs are a scary team everyone. they should have beat the giants. they usually play well against the cowboys even when they were bad. its not the same bucs team that lost 10 straight last year or the year before. be careful. i live in tampa and hear and read alot of info about them. that is my source.

  • PL

    I’ll try to make the question brief…

    80 team league…29 left after NE loss last week dumped 30something teams…I have 3 teams left in it (some people have 2 teams left but im the only one with 3)

    Would it be smarter to split my 3 teams among CHI, DAL, and NO or pick one team twice…I would think CHI, CHI, DAL (or some other variation of the above two options)??

    BTW…just discovered this site a couple days before my first pick was due and you guys do a great job. Thanks

  • devastator

    in my pool that only has 8 left (over 50 picked NE last week), 4 picked SF and 2 picked NO so hopefully they lose.

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

    Gotta love the 4 on SF part. Good luck.

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

    Thanks, appreciated.

    Re: Doubling up on a pick or not for a 30 person pool in Week 3…my initial response is, there’s a math problem lurking in there to figure out the “right” answer given the dynamics of your pool, but it’s complicated and to get the optimal answer, would require knowing what teams everyone else in your pool had picked so far.

    My quick reaction is it all depends on your risk tolerance. Pick 2 teams, you’ve got (roughly):

    – 6% chance of losing all three entries this week
    – 19% chance of losing two entries
    – 19% chance of losing one entry
    – 56% chance of all three entries surviving

    Pick CHI, DAL, and NO each once, you’ve got:

    – 2% chance of losing all three entries
    – 14% chance of losing two entries
    – 42% chance of losing one entry
    – 42% chance of all three entries surviving

    In the 2 teams case, your most likely outcome is that all your entries survive, but you’ve got 3 times the odds of getting wiped out entirely.

    In the 3 teams case, your odds of all three entries surviving aren’t THAT much worse, but a more likely outcome is that you lose at least one team this week.

    Since the win odds of all three of these teams are pretty much the same (~75%), your expected outcome is the same in either case: 2.25 winners. Just depends on whether you want to maximize your odds of getting all three picks into next week, or minimize the odds of a worst case scenario.

    I kind of like going with 2 teams, personally.

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

    Our projections agree with you that the Bucs should improve this year. Beyond that, looking at individual games/weeks, we just put a lot more stock into what Vegas and our game prediction models are saying about the specific matchup at hand. No team is ever a lock in the NFL, just ask the Patriots!

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

    Not sure where you’re going with this exactly, but DET is about 4% picked in Survivor pools this week (not much less than Dallas), they do have some future value, and they’re not as safe a team as CHI/DAL/NO by the Vegas odds. (And they’re on the road.) So the numbers don’t back it up. On a more general front, I’d be careful about reaching conclusions about teams after only two weeks.

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

    Thanks, appreciated. Plugged in the numbers for you — basically a dead heat between CHI and DAL. And yeah, I’d stay off NO.

    Take a look at my response to PL above for the outcome probabilities of taking 2 vs. 3 teams with 3 picks. I like the 2 option better, but it also depends slightly on your pool rules (if multiple people can win prizes, etc., you may want to be a bit more conservative).

    If you’re in it to win it or bust, I think the best move is split the three picks between Chicago or Dallas, your call on which gets 2.

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

    See the final pick post we just published for the explanation, but I’d definitely go either Cowboys or Giants. Your big question, though, is do you go both ways or double up on one pick. That’s a pretty freakin’ huge pool, I assume the pot is gigantic (if it’s for money), and your baseline odds of winning it right now with 2 entries are around 0.04%. That’s pretty low. :-)

    I’d have to do the math to prove it, but my strong inclination is that doubling up on a relatively unpopular pick this week is your best decision to maximize your odds of coming in first place in a gigantic pool. If that’s your goal, I’d go 2x CHI or 2x DAL, and if I get knocked out, so be it, it was still the right call.

    If there are lots of random prizes besides coming in first, then it may pay to be a bit more conservative and split your picks CHI/DAL.

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