Week 6 NFL Survivor Final Update: Top Tier Teams Play Musical Chairs

Well, that was a nice start to the week for most of us.

Pittsburgh, the second most popular team of the week (picked by 20% of the public), and the second biggest favorite when Wednesday’s Week 6 NFL Survivor article was posted, laid a giant egg in Tennessee, falling to the Titans on a last second game-winning field goal by Rob Bironas.

For those in large contests, this is great news, as your pool just shrank, and you’re still alive. Way to go, Tennessee!

In very small pools, the news was good for most and bad for a few, as the smart choice according to game theory in small pools depends heavily on predicting who your foes will choose. In some cases Pittsburgh looked like a smart gamble; unfortunately for a few, the Steelers rolled snake eyes.

As for our Wednesday pick, are we sticking to it?

Nope; it looks like for the third time this season, line movements have changed the landscape enough to alter our pick. (Note to NFL: These Thursday games are really screwing with our Survivor blog schedule. Thanks for nothing!)

Here’s a look at the updated Survivor data table. As a reminder, this helps us answer the three main questions we ask ourselves about each team when making our Survivor pick.

1. How likely are they to win? (Vegas Line 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 Value: 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. Near Value: a modified version of Future Value that assesses near term value and is more relevant to players in very small pools)

Week 6 NFL Survivor Decision Factors (Updated)

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.

TeamOpponentSpreadMoney LineTR OddsPick %Future ValNear Val
Tier 1: Top Options
Tampa Bayvs Kansas City-4.5-200 / +18068%3%0.00.0
NY Jetsvs Indianapolis-3.5-180 / +16268%1%0.00.0
Tier 2: Worth A Look
Miamivs St Louis-4.0-200 / +18067%1%2.01.1
San Franciscovs NY Giants-6.5-260 / +23175%1%3.53.9
Arizonavs Buffalo-4.5-215 / +19363%8%0.00.0
Baltimorevs Dallas-3.5-190 / +17162%2%1.51.3
Philadelphiavs Detroit-3.5-181 / +16363%3%1.51.1
Atlantavs Oakland-9.5-390 / +33874%52%2.52.5
Cincinnatiat Cleveland-2.0-130 / +11851%1%0.50.5
Houstonvs Green Bay-3.5-190 / +17162%0%5.05.4
New Englandat Seattle-3.5-170 / +15363%2%6.06.6
San Diegovs Denver-1.0-109 / -10148%0%2.52.5
Washingtonvs Minnesota-1.5---- / ----34%0%0.00.0

Teams We Already Picked: Houston Texans (WIN), Cincinnati Bengals (WIN), Dallas Cowboys (WIN), Green Bay Packers (WIN), San Francisco 49ers (WIN)

What Has Changed Since Wednesday?

OK, remember on Wednesday, we said there was a group of four teams that were nearly interchangeable: the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, and Philadelphia Eagles. The advantages of Arizona and Philly were they were a bit safer. The advantages of Tampa Bay and the Jets were an utter lack of future value, and a bit less popularity.

Well, there’s been a reshuffling, and now a couple of that group seem to be a step ahead of the other two.

Philadelphia Eagles — The money line for the Eagles has dropped from -210 to -181, which is equivalent to about a 4% decrease in win odds. Partly as a result, the TR Odds have dropped by a couple percent. The Eagles no longer look like a good pick as they are riskier than Tampa Bay and have more future value, and are no less popular.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The money line for the Bucs has risen from –177 to -200, which is equivalent to about a 3% increase in win odds. Partly as a result, their TR Odds have improved by about 3%. They now look about as safe as Arizona — their money line is slightly lower, but our models actually give them a slightly better chance to win. Combine that with their lower popular and the fact they have zero future value, and Tampa Bay now looks like the best pick.

San Francisco 49ers — The 49ers spread,  money line, and TR Odds have all shifted favorably since Wednesday, yet they’ve moved from the top tier to the second tier. Why? Well, mostly because Tampa Bay and Miami’s profiles have improved — though San Francisco is still the safest remaining non-Atlanta option, the alternatives are looking a bit better than they were a couple days ago. However, there is an exception worth noting. In pools of around 10 to 15 people, where future value is less important but it’s still useful to look at public pick rates, San Francisco looks like the top pick. In large pools, saving their future value looks more attractive.

Miami Dolphins — The money line for the Dolphins is up from -180 to -200, and their spread has moved from -3.5 to -4. Their game against Tennessee in Week 10 now also looks like a tougher matchup, so their future value has gone down. Those improvements in their profile bump the Dolphins up into the second tier.

Arizona Cardinals — Nothing about the Cardinals profile has really changed. The Cardinals drop down from the top spot mainly because the alternatives are looking more attractive (particularly Tampa Bay). [**UPDATE** I just thought of another, hidden reason that Arizona dropped down. Public pick values are misleading now that the Steelers are out. The 8% listed above is more like 10% now, which seems like a small change, but does matter when you’re looking at teams with very similar profiles. **END UPDATE**]

Official Week 6 NFL Survivor Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Kansas City Chiefs

As a Chiefs fan, it pained me to type that official pick out. But I have accepted reality — the Chiefs are bad. Actually, I accepted it in the preseason, when we projected they would finish last in the AFC West.

Let’s take a quick spin through our reasoning on this pick:

  • Atlanta is obviously the safest pick, but with 52% of the public selecting them, there’s no way we’re taking them. Go Raiders! (Another thing it pains a Chiefs fan to type…)
  • San Francisco is the next safest, but A) we’ve already used them, and B) they have a lot of future value. It’s better to save them.
  • The next tier, in terms of safety, is Tampa Bay, Miami, Arizona, and New York Jets (who have lower Vegas lines, but are liked by our models).  Out of that tier, Arizona is the most popular, Miami has the most future value, and the Jets have a notch lower Vegas lines. That leaves Tampa Bay as our official pick in medium and large pools.

The Bucs are definitely a risky pick, but we went over the math for a very similar situation Wednesday. Atlanta is so popular that the downgrade in safety is worth it, because the benefits of an Atlanta loss are huge … but only if we don’t pick the Falcons.

Advice For Other Pool Sizes

Now, all this discussion is designed for large pools, where future value is still very important. If you’re in a smaller pool (under 20 or so people), then San Francisco could be a good choice, and Miami creeps up into the top tier as well.

If you’re in a very small pool, where you can take some rough guesses about who your opponents will choose, all bets are off. Our picks are made based on the assumption that these public pick percentages roughly match the pick rates in your pool, and that won’t be true for your pool.

In very small pools, the general strategy this week is to ignore future value, and try to take the team you think will be least popular out of our top two tiers plus Atlanta. Any tie in projected popularity goes to the safer team. If you’re having trouble predicting who your opponents will choose, you may want to just default San Francisco (if you have them available) or Tampa Bay.

There is one more special case worth mentioning — head-to-head pools, with only you and one other person left.

Strategy totally changes here, as the pick percentages will always be 50% or 100%. It’s impossible for you to pick an unpopular team, because you are half the pool. And future value means very little, as the pool may be over this week. In those cases, safety becomes the number one priority.

So in head-to-head pools, we recommend taking the biggest favorite you have available. For most of you, that’s probably Atlanta.

As always, feel free to ask questions about your specific situation in the comments section. If you’re in a small pool, be sure to include information about pool size, who you have available, and who you think your opponents will choose (or, failing that, who they have picked already), as those are the key factors in small pools. If you’re in a large pool, please include info on why you think your pool is different than the generic Yahoo! and OFP pools.