Week 7 NFL Survivor Strategy: Finally, A Clear Best Pick

posted in NFL, NFL Survivor Pools

Welcome to the Week 7 installment of our NFL Survivor contest advice column. We apply a data-driven strategy to get an edge in Survivor pools, using analysis based on NFL predictions from our algorithmic Team Rankings models, public picking trends, future team schedules, and other data. This article presents our preliminary Survivor pick of the week; we publish our final, official pick on Fridays.

Sometimes kickers make all the difference.

Last week, the Atlanta Falcons made a field goal with one second left to top the Oakland Raiders. The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, missed a last-second field goal that would have won the game, and eventually fell in overtime to the Buffalo Bills. For those of you who were following our Wednesday picks, those two kicks made the difference between being eliminated or having one of the best weeks of the season.

Unfortunately for us, the wrong kicker missed.

Last week started out promising, as 20% of Yahoo! Survivor contestants were knocked out by a Pittsburgh loss on Thursday. Things almost got way better on Sunday, as Atlanta nearly fell to Oakland at home. A loss by the Falcons would have eliminated another 55% of most Survivor pools.

The Falcons survived, however, and our preliminary pick, the Cardinals, met their demise. Hopefully, you’re one of the lucky ones whose league commissioner set up your pool to allow picks up through game time on Sunday, and you caught our Week 6 NFL Survivor Update that switched our official pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Last week’s switched pick stemmed from the lack of a clear best option — there was essentially a four-way toss up at the top. Week 7 is a totally different beast.

Week 7 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? (consensus sportsbook Spread at -110 payout odds, Pinnacle Money Line, and 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 estimated number of future games where the team is expected to have win odds of 75%+, based on averaging projections from our NFL Survivor Tool [which uses data from only this season] and our NFL Season Projections [which incorporates our preseason team projections]. Near Value: a modified version of Future Value that places more emphasis on near term value and is more relevant to players in very small pools.)

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
Minnesotavs Arizona-6.0-270 / +23972%7.7%0.00.0
San Franciscovs Seattle-7.0-317 / +27975%11.0%0.50.5
Tier 2: Worth A Look
Oaklandvs Jacksonville-4.0-206 / +18562%7.1%0.00.0
Houstonvs Baltimore-6.5-300 / +26473%1.7%3.53.6
NY Giantsvs Washington-5.5-240 / +21461%3.3%1.81.8
AVOID
New Englandvs NY Jets-10.5-460 / +39377%36.1%4.84.6
Buffalovs Tennessee-3.5-186 / +16754%2.0%0.50.3
New Orleansat Tampa Bay-3.0-143 / +12959%1.3%0.30.1
Indianapolisvs Cleveland-3.0-157 / +14255%3.7%0.00.0
Chicagovs Detroit-6.0-265 / +23566%5.7%3.34.1
Green Bayat St Louis-5.0-226 / +20266%18.6%3.03.4
Dallasat Carolina-2.0-130 / +11852%1.0%0.00.0
Pittsburghat Cincinnati-1.0-116 / +10552%0.5%1.31.5

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

Teams We Already Picked (Wednesday Picks): Houston Texans (WIN), New York Giants (WIN), Chicago Bears (WIN), Green Bay Packers (WIN), San Francisco 49ers (WIN), Arizona Cardinals (LOSS)

Weighing the Options

Please note that the discussion below is designed for people in large pools. In pools with under 25 people left, where the contest may not last all season and where your pick actually changes the pool pick rates to a significant degree, please see the “Advice For Smaller Pools” section at the end of this article that provides quick strategy tips for smaller pools.

Minnesota Vikings (vs. Arizona Cardinals) — When you factor in both the Vegas lines and TR odds, New England is clearly the safest pick of the week, and Minnesota is in the next tier along with San Francisco and Houston. Given that the Vikings are the only team in that relatively safe tier that have no future value, they’re the best option. You’re taking only a marginal extra risk compared to the 49ers or Texans, but you’re saving those two bullets for later (unless you’ve already spent them, like we have). Plus the Vikings are less popular than the ‘Niners.

San Francisco 49ers (vs. Seattle Seahawks) — We’ve already used the 49ers, so they’re not an option for us. However, they are a decent alternative to Minnesota. San Fran is a bit more popular (bad), and has a bit more future value (bad), but they are also a bit safer (good). If you have them left, and if you’re in a smallish pool, where future value is less important, or you think that Minnesota may actually be more popular than San Francisco in your pool, then the 49ers are an attractive alternative to the Vikings.

Oakland Raiders (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) — After the top two teams, the pickins get pretty slim pretty quickly this week. That’s because the safer teams have tons of future value, and the riskier teams … well, they’re quite risky. The Raiders are in the third tier in terms of safety this week, but that’s not saying much. Last week I was pretty nervous about picking the Bucs, and they were a good 5% safer than Oakland is this week. If you really want to pick a team with no future value, and Minnesota’s not an option for you, then Oakland’s really your only reasonable choice. For most people, Minnesota is a clearly better option, as the Vikings have similar popularity and future value, but are safer.

Houston Texans (vs. Baltimore Ravens) — For those of you in small pools, where future value is less important, the Texans are a decent choice, as they present a great combination of safety (73% win odds) and low popularity (2% public pick rate). Unfortunately, Houston has a lot of future value, so for most people the smart choice is to save the Texans.

New York Giants (vs. Washington Redskins) — The profile of the Giants is middling in all respects this week. Their spread and money line place them as the 6th safest out of the 13 favorites. They are the 8th most popular. They have the 5th-most future value. Our TR odds are a bit down on them, and give them only the 7th highest win odds. It’s not an awe-inspiring resume. But frame it this way and you can see why they’re at least “worth a look”: No team with higher win odds is both less popular and has less future value. However, we think Minnesota is a better choice because their increased popularity is more than offset by their lower future value and higher win odds.

New England Patriots (vs. New York Jets) — As often happens, the Patriots are both the safest team this week, and the most popular. By now most of you probably know how we feel about this situation. When there’s a 20%+ chance that 35% of your pool will be knocked out, the smart move is usually to STAY AWAY from that team and hope for the upset. (For very small pools, things change dramatically, and New England may be a good choice, so please see our advice at the end of the column.)

Chicago Bears (vs. Detroit Lions) / Green Bay Packers (at St. Louis Rams) — Both of these teams have too much future value to justify using them this week, when their win odds are only in the middle of the pack.

The rest of the teams have spreads and money lines low enough that we can dismiss them with barely a second thought.

Preliminary Week 7 NFL Survivor Pick: Minnesota Vikings Over Arizona Cardinals

What a drop for Arizona — from our preliminary pick in Week 6 to the team we’re picking against in Week 7. That’s what losing at home against the Bills will do to you, I guess. Despite their red hot start, though, we never really considered the Cardinals to be an elite team this year, so it’s not a huge shocker.

Several of you were able to predict this pick a couple days ago, in last week’s comment section. If you’ve been following the column for a while, the signs were pretty obvious:

  • The clear safest team of the week (New England) is also very popular and has a lot of future value, so we want to save them for later, and hope for an upset to knock out a third of the pool.
  • Out of the next safest tier of teams, Minnesota has the least future value and is middling in popularity, so they are the most attractive option.
  • The only little-to-no-future-value teams that are significantly less popular than Minnesota are all 2 to 3 point favorites, so they are too risky.

That leaves us with the Minnesota Vikings as the clear preliminary pick in Week 7. This week looks a little more settled, and it would take a much larger line change for our pick to change before the weekend. Still, it’s always best to wait as late as possible before finalizing your pick, so be sure to check back Friday.

Advice For Smaller Survivor Pools

Remember, all the discussion above is designed for large pools, where future value is still very important. Many of you are probably in pools with only a few people left. It’s important to remember that in small pools, the correct strategy can change considerably. Here’s a refresher on key three points about Survivor end-game tactics:

  • It’s less likely that your opponents’ picks will closely mimic the national public picking averages.
  • Future value means less.
  • Resist the urge to play overly conservative just because you’re close to winning.

For an expanded discussion on these points, see the Week 4 NFL Survivor post.

Here is some specific advice for Week 7 for those in smaller pools:

Pools With 10 – 20 People — Future value is less important here, so San Francisco looks a tiny bit more attractive, and Houston looks quite a bit more attractive. The Texans join the top tier with the Vikings and 49ers. We lean San Francisco here, with Minnesota close behind, and Houston as the third best option. If it’s clear one of those teams will be fairly popular in your pool (over 10%), you should probably avoid them.

Pools With 3-10 People — 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 poolIn 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 New England, San Francisco, Houston, and Minnesota. 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 to San Francisco (if you have them available) or Minnesota.

Head-to-Head Pools — Strategy totally changes here again, 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 almost nothing, 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 New England.

As always, feel free to ask questions about your specific situation in the comments section. However, please note that the volume has gotten high enough that we can’t commit to giving everyone a detailed answer. But we’re doing our best and can make it work if we all follow a few guidelines:

  • First, please read the “Advice For Smaller Pools” section and see if that answers your question.
  • A lot can change between now and Friday, when we publish our finalized pick. So if your pick isn’t due until Friday or the weekend, please hold off,  just because double-answering questions on Wednesday and Friday has been sucking up a lot of our time.
  • If you do need advice now, and 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, 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.
Good luck!
  • David

    I’m head-to-head now. My opponent and I both have New England, but I’m the only one who has Minnesota. Should I still go with New England as the biggest favorite, but perhaps end up with a wash this week? Or should I gamble and take advantage of the fact that I’m the only one who can pick Minnesota?

  • dan

    Me and 2 other teams left…they took NE…what do I do

  • dan

    and i used Hous,San Fran

  • TheTinDoor

    Played my gut last week (Philly) and the Lions burned me. Really feels like they “should have” won, but here we are. Always next year…

  • chicago Bill

    Love the site and the advice-well done. I have a problem as I have already taken SF, MN, Houston and am forced to look at NE (most pop pick) or the Giants. 19 people left in a pool of 320 and double picks coming in week 9. Fear the Gmen trap after beating SF and Oak scares me deeply, but want to stay off NE and try and win this thing..what to do? thanks!

  • Anonymous

    So I’ve got two teams in a league where its double elimination through week 8 and have to pick two teams week 14 through 17 (so future value is at a premium, i.e., I am saving SF, NYG, NE & Hou). I don’t have any loses yet. Already burned through Vikings. I am picking Oakland with one team. So the question is, should I pick Oakland with my other team, or go with Buffalo.

  • Tuscaloosa Bob

    I think a lot of people in my pool read this site or play the numbers similarly. Only 30% of my very large pool took Atlanta last week. We are now down to 8.2% of the entries being left, but we still have over 500 entries left.

  • Mark Hulett

    I like the Vikings as my pick, but as my pool is down to 5 people and i am the only person with Houston left – should i just take them right off the bat, or wait to see if anyone else might take Minn?

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

    Please see the head-to-head section in the article. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage to taking Minnesota here. You get lower win odds in exchange for … ?

  • greg w

    I’m in 3 pools: heads up I know you say to take ne. But every week we both take the same favorite, is it worth going to minn (no hou or sf left for either of us)? Or just know we’ll probably both take them and look at it again next week? Overall I’m thinking Large (438ppl) minn, small (10ppl) sf, heads up ne. Make sense to spead out like that over those 3, or if I’m would you make both my non-headsup picks minn or sf to avoid spreading out my picks over 3 teams? Thanks.

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

    They both took New England? In that case, I would follow my advice from the post:

    Pools With 3-10 People – 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 New England, San Francisco, Houston, and Minnesota. 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 to San Francisco (if you have them available) or Minnesota.

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

    Then that would leave Minnesota.

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

    Sorry to hear that. Good luck next year!

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

    Seems like OAK or NYG would be the right (but risky) choice, assuming your pool pick rates are fairly normal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21721315 Carlo Ferri

    I can’t speak for David but after reading the entire article I’m pretty sure he will say to pick Minnesota. But if you don’t have to submit a pick yet, wait till the Friday article comes out.

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

    Hmm, interesting. I think the fact that it’s double elimination does make a difference here. I usually spread out picks because I don’t want one upset to eliminate me. But that doesn’t apply here. So spreading out onto a riskier team only serves to increase your average expected losses, without actually protecting you from elimination (since that isn’t on the table anyway). So, I guess doubling up on Oakland it is. Wow.

  • Daniel C

    I’m in a pool with 29 people left and most have already picked the giants or bears. What do you think about those picks?

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

    Haha, yeah that can be a problem. Anybody who understands how to properly calculate expected value for Survivor pools is going to arrive at similar conclusions. You just need to adjust, and figure out what the pick rates will be for your pool. Then we can make a guess as to the right team in your situation.

    Though I just did some quick scenario analysis, and unless the odds are just crazy, Minnesota still seems like a good pick simply because they have no future value.

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

    Are you saying that later in the week you might be able to see your opponents’ picks before you have to make yours? In that case I would definitely wait. Always better to have more info when making a decision. <——— That's advice for life, right there. :)

  • James D.

    Your advice has been carrying me through my pool, and is very much appreicated. It started with 300 people and now down to 14. I can not take SF, HOU, and NYG this week. Should I have more confidence in taking MIN or NE? I like the MIN pick this week, but they did not show me a lot last week. I was going to be like everyone else and take NE this week. Any advice is appreciated.

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

    If your opponent is also playing smart in the head-to-head, then it’s worth looking at the teams you guys have used. If he has better options left, then at some point it could be a good idea to take the 2nd-safest option in a week, and roll the dice. Otherwise, like you said, you will keep tying until finally you get to a week where he has the advantage. … That said, it seems like there might be a chance to do this in a future week where the second best team is closer to even with the best.

    The spreading out question is a matter of personal preference, really. I would stick with the three different teams, And actually, if I were going to go 2/1, I think I might go MIN for the large & small, then NE for heads up (unless you clearly have worse options left, as I discussed in the first paragraph).

  • jmike718

    I’m in a midseason start-up pool. Is Minnesoata still the pick?

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

    I think your pool sounds basically like the public pools I use to make the main table and discussion, where many people have already taken those two teams. So I would stick with what I wrote in the post.

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

    “I was going to be like everyone else”

    This is almost never a good Survivor strategy. :) … New England is going to be popular, and they have a ton of value, so I would not take them.

    “Should I have more confidence in taking MIN or NE?” … Not sure exactly what you are asking here. Confidence in what? Assuming the Vegas lines are reasonably accurate, and the public pick rates are similar to those in your pool, New England gives you a better chance to survie this week, but Minnesota will give you a better chance to win your pool.

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

    That’s tough to say, because I don’t know what the pick% will look like in your pool. But my guess is that they still are the pick. I doubt MIN will be MORE popular in your pool — if anything they should be less popular, because more people have SF/NYG/HOU/NE available. So I would think MIN is still the smart pick according to the numbers. One key here is that they have basically no future value, and THAT won’t change based on the pool starting at midseason.

    Though I suppose future value is less important due to having more options available. … So actually, San Francisco is also a decent pick. I lean MIN, but it’s soft, since the actual pick distribution in your pool is tough to guess.

  • Mark Hulett

    it is through office pools and once 50%+1 of the picks are submitted you can see overall the picks (not specifically who they are attribued too) … so, most weeks i can tell roughly what the picks are, although they often change right up until a few hours before game time.

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

    Wow, that is crazy. Definitely wait, then.

    Actually, can you select a team, then change it later? I wonder if you can play mind games by skewing the distribution with a fake pick. :)

  • Muse

    I picked Minnesota in week 1 before I discovered this site. I choose tampa last week and almost won. Everyone else choose atl. Any advice…I’m thinking oakland because everyone else will choose gb or Min and hope for an upset in gb. What you guys think? Or go with the safe gb option? 

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

    How big is your pool? Who do you have left? If *everybody* picked ATL last week, it seems like most might pick NE or GB this week. Do you have Houston left? They are less popular nationally than Oakland, and if your pool is small enough then their future value doesn’t matter much.

  • Mark Hulett

    The short answer is yes you could – so long as in this case 2 other people also have their picks in, i.e. once 3 picks in all is revealed … So, maybe best case is to choose Minn early, see if that scares people off and i am the sole Vikings pick, or if others also then take the Vikings change to Houston last minute

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

    Yeah, I think that makes sense. Stake your claim on MIN! … Of course … if nobody takes NE for some reason, they’re not a bad pick either in such a small pool. Seems unlikely, though.

  • Tommy (NY)

    I have been writing to you each week and so for the most part have been following your advise. My pool started with just over 5000 people and I had 13 entries. I still have 8 entries so I am happy with that. I have used San Fran with 2/8 picks and have not used Vikings yet. I am just curious how you would handle my specific situation with 8 picks left. Last week I put 4 of 8 picks on Atlanta to hedge my picks which was your advise. What do you think? Oh this pool has 438 people left out of 5000.

  • Steve

    The NE/NYJ line has moved quite a bit from -460/+393 to -550/+461 since you posted the article. Does that bump NE’s TR odds into the 80%+ range?

  • Shish

    Loser Pool: 2 left. Do I take Jets or Seahawks?

    Survivor: 9 left: I’ve used Vikings, 49ers, and Texans already. Pats or someone else?

  • Muse

    Have not chosen Houston yet. Got 7 people left in my pool. But they have good future value.

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

    Given that you have used SF on a couple, I think I would probably go 5 MIN / 3 SF, assuming you think the picking trends will look relatively normal.

    An alternative if you want to get riskier is to go 4 MIN / 4 OAK

  • survivor13

    David your colum is great so firstly thank you as you have kept me alive. I need your help I am in a pool that only has 3 people left including me . I have taken all the same teams as you have suggested. What do u think would be the best pick given how close to the end I am.

  • Hugh

    In a 2 strike pool. 197 survivors of which I’m one of 33 with no strikes. Have used all your winning picks thus far. Any differarnt strategy to apply??

    Hugh

  • tampamike37

    Great stuff Dave. There are a lot of people on here that owe you some of their winnings if we win, me included. I run a pool with 5 left and my wife and I are still in. She has used NE but I have not. We both used SF. last week she took atlanta and I took miami. Do you think I should take NE and she can take Min and let the other 3 know early to maybe steer them clear of those two teams? of the other 3 with teams you mention this week, none has used NE 1 used Hou and Min and the other 2 used Bal and NYG.

  • Taylor

    I think I might be in a situation to actually pick NE, but I’m not sure. It’s a small three strikes and out pool, and I’m now the only person left with 0 strikes (thanks to that awesome Tampa pick last week!). 4 people with just one strike and 5 with two strikes. This week is actually an unfortunate perfect storm of good options that I’ve already used up–I’ve used MIN, SFO, NYG, HOU, DAL, and TAM.

    I know you said that in smaller pools like mine I shouldn’t get too conservative, but five people have already used New England (though they’re mostly the 2-strikers). I’m really hesitant to pick Oakland and potentially risk giving up my advantage, but I’m not sure. What do you think here?

  • Daniel C

    great, thanks!

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

    The latest TR Odds can always be found on our Game Winner Picks page: http://www.teamrankings.com/nfl-win-picks/ … Looks like they haven’t budged, but if the spread moves as well, I’d guess they might.

    Regardless, when there are other decent options, it’s probably not the right move to take New England unless you are heads-up, or in a 3-5 person pool where you’re sure at most 1 other guy will take them.

  • Jerry

    Dave, I found your article today as I’m trying to survive a pool that started with 600 people and 36 remain ($12k at stake). I’ve already picked DET, SD, DAL, HOU, NYG, ATL.
    20 of 36 have already picked SF. Only a few have picked NE. No one has picked GB.
    I am thinking should I pick SF as many will probably pick NE and GB hoping for an upset. Should I go with MIN?
    I’m torn right now…for the last 24 hours I cannot decide. If I win this pool, with your tip and advice, I WILL give you a nice TIP!! I can wire you via PayPal. I am a man of my word!! :)

  • Jerry

    Dave, I forgot to add…I mentioned that one picked GB. I’m thinking of picking SF this week and using GB next week (they play JAX). Bad idea?

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

    Loser Pool: Jets

    Survivor: Interesting spot. The Pats will be really useful in Week 11, but then again the pool may not last that long. I’d say it’s a close call between Pats & Raiders. If you think more than 2 opponents will pick the Pats (higher than the 35% public rate), go Raiders. Otherwise, Pats.

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

    OK? I agree, that’s why I have them listed down in tier 2.

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

    If you think both other guys will take the Pats, I’d go with Minnesota. If you think only 1 will, I’d go NE.

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

    I assume that no strike entries have an advantage over 1-strikes if you both survive to the end? In that case, I think I’d play it pretty similarly to a 33-person regular pool. Which would mean taking Minnesota, unless your pick percentages have been way different than the public in past weeks.

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

    If you really think you can bully the other teams into not taking New England, I would go for it. Being the only team on New England sure sounds nice. Even if not, I think I like your strategy of hedging with one safer pick each week, given that you guys account for almost half the pool. So I am on board with NE/MIN.

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

    So, just to be clear — if you survive the year with no strikes, you win, right?

    It sounds like with your rules, there will most likely be people left at the end. So if you use Oakland this week, yes you have a better chance of giving up your advantage. But if you use New England now, you won’t have them available in Week 11, and you’ll have to make a shakier pick then. Either way, you’re going to have to take a non-NE pick one of those weeks. The advantage to making that risky pick now is that New England will probably be less popular in Week 11 than they are this week (because more people have used them). PLUS the non-NE alternative now is Oakland (no future value) but the alternative in week 11 might be Denver (who you’d rather use elsewhere).

    So, I’d lean Oakland. Because remember, your goal isn’t to maintain your advantage only this week. It’s to maintain your advantage for the whole year.

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

    I think San Fran or Minnesota are both good options for you this week. I think the main benefits of picking MIN are that you save SF for Week 10 (vs STL), and the fact than SF seems a little more popular than MIN this week. The main benefit of SF is that they are a couple percent safer.

    In most pools, I lean MIN. But in your pool, it sounds like fewer people have SF left than usual, so … yes, I think I’d go with SF.

    Good luck!

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

    I’m guessing that GB will be pretty popular next week. But you definitely don’t want to take GB this week, or SF next week, so I don’t think next week’s possible GB pick affects this week much.

  • Shaun

    It is down to just me and one other person in my pool. Everyone gets one mulligan pick and since I have been following your picks, I have yet to use mine. I am almost certain, my opponent will pick NE as he seems to go with the favorite most weeks. He also has no mulligans left. My thinking is that I should go with Minnesota and hope for the NE loss. Even if I’m wrong and he’s right, I at least get to use my mulligan and I still have NE to use later. Does this seem like a good strategy or should I not mess around and just start picking the favorite every week knowing that I still have a mulligan that he doesn’t have? Maybe my goal instead should be to try and guess what he is picking and choose the same? That way, I’m in a win/win situation either way. What’s your opinion?

  • Dan

    Pool of 20 with a catch – we get to pick every week and whoever has the most correct picks at the end of the year wins. Tie breaker goes to the longest win streak to start the season, and I’m one of two left in that department.
    For the two of us undefeated, niether of us has taken NE or Minnesota. We’ve both used Houston and NYG. She has SF available and I don’t. She’s pretty irregular in her picks but usually doesn’t take the top favorite (I’m guessing <50% chance she takes NE).
    I was debating between NE and Minnesota before your post and still going back and forth. Head to head dictates NE, but the fact that you have to pick all year dictates Minnesota. What's a guy to do? I will need to have my pick in tomorrow or Friday AM at the latest…

  • Dan

    With a one-game advantage over the competition, I think your strategy would be to play it conservative. If you both pick NE, like you said, you can’t lose :)

  • Dan

    So for example, she picked the Lions last week while I played it safe with ATL. I don’t know how she does it but she keeps winning…

  • R Dog

    R Dog here — same situation as last week (primary pool and a secondary pool — people in the primary pool need to be eliminated twice to be fully eliminated). 3 people left in the primary pool and 14 including myself left in the secondary pool. Based on your advice, it seems like I should pick SF this week, but I just wanted to verify by giving you guys more info on past picks made by the other people left in my competion.

    2 out of the 3 people in the primary pool have previously used SF and 7 of the 14 people in the secondary pool have previously used SF. 1 person in the secondary pool has previously used Minnesota. No one has previously picked Oakland. 2 out of the 3 in the primary pool have already used Houston, and 12 out of the 14 (including myself) have already used Houston. Everyone in the primary pool has used the Giants, and 11 of the 14 people in the secondary pool have used the Giants (I have NOT used the Giants). No one in the primary pool has used New England, and 5 out of the 14 people in the secondary pool have used New England (I have NOT used New England). No one in the primary pool has used Green Bay, and 3 people including myself in the secondary pool have used Green Bay. Who would you guys go with this week? P.S. feel free to ask if you want info about how many people have picked other teams like Chicago, Indy, etc.

    Probably gave you guys a ton of unnecessary information, but I kind of think of you guys as magical survivor math genies, and I want to put my best foot forward to win the secondary pool. Thanks so much in advance.

  • R Dog

    Also, the pool is located in SF if that makes a difference

  • Anonymous

    Down to me and two others. They’ve both taken SF already, so likely to choose NE. I’m going with SF I think???

  • Bob Sanders

    Hey Dave. Just a question. Does the thought process ever change for making the decisions as the weeks go by and the number of poolies goes down? I was just curious, because here was my mentality. Initially, avoiding big favourites is necessary, because you want the pool to lose a lot of people to maximize your chance of winning the whole thing, rather than just a small portion of the pot. However, as the weeks go by, and as has happened this year lots of people are already out, does it not make sense to skip the “avoid the favourite” mentality? I would think that since between 80-90% of most players (if not more) are gone in most pools, we can now rely on the fact that it gets harder to pick winners later in the season, as everyone has fewer options. We no longer need a huge chunk of people to get eliminated (which only happens if a heavy fav goes out). Over the next 10-11 weeks, people should/will get elminated from the pure fact that it’s just hard to pick winners when you have so few options

  • Shish

    Good thing I went with the Jets. The other guy took the 3-0 at home Rams to lose!

  • Tbone

    Thanks for the advice this season! 5 left, looks like 2 or 3 on NE, 1 or 2 on SF. I have NE & Minn left. Play it safer w/ NE or go with MInn?? Thanks again!

  • Tommy (NY)

    Dave, as long as I have been doing these survivor pools I was always told that a “golden” rule was to stay away from division games especially two teams fighting for best record like tonight. I know what the numbers say but what is your philosophy on this and does it ever factor in to yoru decsion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/D.AllenParker D Allen Parker

    Got three people left and the other two are not really running on a system just picking to pick. I somewhat have followed your picks on this pool but not sure how to do this week. Was thinking about Minnesota and just running the rest with your picks. Any help would be appreciated.

    My picks Houston, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta

    Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Green Bay, New York Giants, Baltimore

    San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, New Engalnd, Baltimore, Atlanta

  • PA

    Dave, 77 people left out of 1160. 61 picks on Atlanta last week.
    Minnesota based pool. 75% of Remaining Entries have used NYG. 9% have used MIN. 0% On Oakland. Can’t Use SF or Houston. 0% on New England. I’m leaning NYG over Oakland. Thoughts?

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

    I think I agree with Dan. I assume the tiebreaker goes to you (no mulligans) if you both get every game right the rest of the way. If so, matching his pick every week guarantees you a victory in the pool. If the pick loses, he’s out and you use your mulligan. If it wins, you get one step closer to winning via tiebreaker.

    Think of it this way: he needs to catch up to you. That’s only possible if you make a different pick than him. So, try not to do that.

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

    Hmm, tough spot. I’m having trouble figuring out how the tiebreaker changes things. Clearly it makes the current week more important than it would be otherwise, but how much more important?

    Given that it sounds like she may have better future opportunities left, I think it may be smarter to try to conserve some future value and go with Minnesota. The head-to-head advice of picking New England is based on the idea that you can win your pool this week if things go well. That’s not the case for you, so the value of New England H2H goes down. … I think I’ve talked myself into MIN, but I’m not real confident about this one.

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

    I’m not real clear on how the pool is set up. Are you basically saying that your situation is equivalent to being in a double elimination pool, and that you have 1 loss? And there are 3 people with no losses, and 17 people left?

    Then I think in your situation SF and MIN are basically a toss up. I lean SF by a smidgen.

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

    Oh, wait. I totally spaced on this addendum. If you think SF will be popular due to the location (seems like a reasonable bet), then I think MIN is a better way to go. The break even point seems to be around 4 people. So if you think half of the people with SF remaining will take SF, I’d go MIN instead.

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

    Yep, sounds like the right move to me.

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

    No, the basic thought process (in regards to avoiding popular teams) doesn’t change because the math doesn’t change. Your expected value is still higher when a bunch of your opponents pick a single team, and you avoid them. … There is one tweak though — as your pool size dwindles, your own pick makes up a bigger fraction of the pool pick percentage, so that affects the math. But the main concept stays the same.

    Now, the value of saving teams for later definitely changes as the year goes on. To take it to the extreme, if you have several good Week 17 options available, then you’re not going to pay attention to future value at all in Week 16.

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

    Nice! Good spot for you.

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

    In the 2 NE / 2 SF spot, the immediate value is pretty even between NE and MIN (though future value gives MIN the edge). But in the 3 NE / 1 SF spot, MIN is definitely the better choice by the numbers.

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

    No, I trust the numbers. Vegas, the gamblers, and our models all know it’s a division game.

  • Dan

    Thanks, that’s about where I was in my thinking.
    The way the tiebreaker works is- if 2 people end the season with 15 wins, whoever went the longest before getting thier first “strike” wins the pool. So basically whoever wins that has a 2 game advantage over everyone else (1 less strike + tiebreaker).

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

    Given that one of your opponents has already picked New England, I think the Pats are the right choice for you. Especially because he has already taken NE, SF, HOU, and CHI — that means there’s a pretty decent chance he takes MIN, since he doesn’t have a lot of other good options (mostly just GB). It would be really bad if BOTH of you were on MIN.

    It seems like your only other option this week is Chicago, but you don’t want to be on Chicago when your opponents are on New England and GB/MIN. Being the second guy on NE is better than being the first on CHI … and there’s even a chance you’ll be the ONLY guy on NE, which would be great.

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

    61 on Atlanta last week is pretty crazy. Sounds like you have a bunch of favorite pickers. And it sounds like you’re wanting to avoid MIN, which I think is the right move since your pool is in MIN. Everybody well be on them, since this is probably their only chance to choose the home town favorite.

    I lean OAK over NYG based on future value, and the fact that our models actually project Oakland as equally as safe as NYG thus week. If you want to put more trust in Vegas’s numbers than in ours (perfectly understandable) then it becomes basically a toss up.

    In other words, I think NYG is fine in your situation.

  • Dave

    I’m with you this week with liking Minnesota. Last week I had trouble liking either Arizona or Tampa Bay – though I should have trusted your official pick of TB. I went with Pittsburgh, and they laid an egg. In my pool 75% of people picked Atlanta last week, so I expect almost everyone to pick New England this week. (also on this point if Pittsburgh had won and Atlanta lost I would have almost won the pool right there, my pool is double elimination).

  • http://twitter.com/Coco_Drila12 CocoDrila

    So I really need help with my pool. We are only 4 left and out of the 4 I ‘m the only one that picked NE already (I kknow!!!) I ‘m also the only girl. I’ve also picked the Vikings, NYG, Bears, Ravens. I was thinking I should pick a team with no future value, for example, OK, just because there’s one guy in my pool that started picking the worst teams in the league and he made it to this point so he is for sure my biggest opponent. I don’t want to pick the popular teams I have left yet. What do you think about my strategy? If it is a bad one, which team would be my better choice for week 7?

  • R Dog

    So basically everyone starts in the primary pool, where it’s single elimination for first place money. There are 3 people remaining in the primary pool competing for this first place money (meaning they haven’t lost yet). Once the primary pool is down to one person, that person wins the primary pool and first place money. If more than one person makes it to the end of the season without a loss in the primary pool, those remaining in the primary pool split the ENTIRE prize money (there is no money awarded to the secondary pool). If you’re in the primary pool and get a loss, you get knocked down to the secondary pool and compete to win second place money (which is what happened to me when I was knocked down with Green Bay’s loss to Indy). If all remaining entries in the primary pool lose in the same week, there WILL be a primary poool winner determined (according to a tiebreaker), and those who lost the tiebreaker will of course be moved down to the secondary pool. There are 14 people including myself in the secondary pool (but of course, keep in mind up to two more people from the primary pool will be joining the secondary pool if they suffer a loss). When you’re in the secondary pool and lose on more time (in addition to the loss you suffered while in the primary pool), you’re out of the competition entirely. Similar to the primary pool, once the secondary pool is down to one person, that person wins the secondary pool and second place money. If more than one person makes it to the end of the season without a loss in the secondary pool, those remaining in the secondary pool split the second place prize money. This competition is only for the regular season (no playoffs).
    Hope that all makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions or want more info, as well as your final recommendation given these details. The reason of course I think all these structural details matter is for future value considerations. Thanks so much, you guys are awesome.

  • R Dog

    So basically everyone starts in the primary pool, where it’s single elimination for first place money. There are 3 people remaining in the primary pool competing for this first place money (meaning they haven’t lost yet). Once the primary pool is down to one person, that person wins the primary pool and first place money. If more than one person makes it to the end of the season without a loss in the primary pool, those remaining in the primary pool split the ENTIRE prize money (there is no money awarded to the secondary pool). If you’re in the primary pool and get a loss, you get knocked down to the secondary pool and compete to win second place money (which is what happened to me when I was knocked down with Green Bay’s loss to Indy). If all remaining entries in the primary pool lose in the same week, there WILL be a primary poool winner determined (according to a tiebreaker), and those who lost the tiebreaker will of course be moved down to the secondary pool. There are 14 people including myself in the secondary pool (but of course, keep in mind up to two more people from the primary pool will be joining the secondary pool if they suffer a loss). When you’re in the secondary pool and lose on more time (in addition to the loss you suffered while in the primary pool), you’re out of the competition entirely. Similar to the primary pool, once the secondary pool is down to one person, that person wins the secondary pool and second place money. If more than one person makes it to the end of the season without a loss in the secondary pool, those remaining in the secondary pool split the second place prize money. This competition is only for the regular season (no playoffs).
    Hope that all makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions or want more info, as well as your final recommendation given these details. The reason of course I think all these structural details matter is for future value considerations. Thanks so much, you guys are awesome.

  • Pizzaman

    Dave- 80 folks left, 44 have already used SF vs only a few that already used MIN…I have two entries and have both available, does SF become a better play in that scenario then MN on both entries or would you pick SF on one and MN on the other? Total cumulative wins is tie-breaker if it goes full season….so i know most likely best chance to use MN this week. Is oak worth a shot knowing total wins is tiebreaker.

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

    If you’ve already taken the Vikings, you don’t really have any good options this week that have zero future value. Given that nobody else has used the Patriots, I’m guessing a couple people will take them this week. I would probably either go with the 49ers (safest unpopular pick in your pool, hopefully) or take a big gamble and go with the Raiders (best option if you want to focus on teams with no future value). I’d lean SF.

  • Anon

    3 entries in a big pool. Future value is important as you get multiple strikes. Going with one MIN and one NYG. For third entry do you go safe (NE), risky (OAK, BUF), or double up on MIN? Leaning double up on MIN then BUF/OAK.

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

    OK, sounds like for *your* purposes it’s basically a double elimination pool where you have 1 loss and 2 people have zero losses (since the third no-loss guy won’t drop down to the second pool). So my original comment stands.

  • ML

    Dave – GREAT stuff as always. Thanks! Still a little confused about variations when pool rules differ. Specifically, I’m in a “three strikes and you’re out” pool. 20 people started, 14 left. Only 1 with no strikes, 5 with one strike (including myself), the other 8 have two strikes. I have MINN, OAK, NE, CHI still available. Have already picked SF, HOU, NYG. Appreciate the guidance.

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

    Hmm, sounds like your pool is right on the edge of the size where the tiebreaker might come into play.

    I would either go SF/MIN or MIN/OAK. Like you said, OAK would be mainly because of the tiebreaker. Do you know what condition you’re in with regards to the tiebreaker right now?

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

    How big is big? How many strikes do you get? How many do you have? How have people picked in past weeks (loaded up on favorites, picked a lot of risky teams, etc)?

    In general, I prefer doubling up on one team when you have 3 entries.

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

    Yeah, variations are tough. In multiple strike pools, I think pool pick rates matter a bit less, since upsets don’t knock people all the way out of the pool. Future value I don’t think changes that much — because even though you know you’ll need to make more picks (raising importance of future value) you also don’t get penalizes as harshly for a loss (lowering importance of future value).

    So, I would lean MIN still in your situation, to save NE for a week when they are less popular (and just as safe). But NE isn’t as bad in your case as it is on most other pools, I think.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you want to avoid picking the same team as the guy with 0 strikes, if reasonably possible — otherwise you can’t catch up to him.

  • Anon

    400 left, you get 2 strikes, we have 1 strike in two entries and 0 strikes in the 3rd. Double up sounds good.

  • SD

    Dave, I just found this site while searching for Survivor input and it is great. The pool I am in is for $50k and there are only 17 people left. What is different about my pool is that you can pick whatever team you want as many times as you want. It looks like you put a lot of weight on future value, which for me doesn’t mean anything since I can pick any team any week. Do I go with a safe pick like NE this week or go with a 2nd level pick (in my eyes) with NYG, GB, or MN? Oh, and you can’t pick Thurs night game. Thanks!

  • R Dog

    Your original comment being
    “Oh, wait. I totally spaced on this addendum. If you think SF will be popular due to the location (seems like a reasonable bet), then I think MIN is a better way to go. The break even point seems to be around 4 people. So if you think half of the people with SF remaining will take SF, I’d go MIN instead.”?

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

    Yes, the picks above to take future value into account, which is irrelevant in your case. Your case will also be different because the pick percentages will probably be very, very different. For example, San Francisco is not very popular this week in normal Survivor pools, because many people have already used them. In your case, they’ll probably be more popular.

    The main concept of avoiding teams that are too popular still applies, but which teams those are will change drastically in your pool. If you think one of NE, HOU, MIN will be very unpopular, they may be the right choice. But it’s pretty tough to tell without knowing anything about your pool. You might want to check out past weeks and figure out what the picks pattern is, and see if you can guess what this week’s picks will be like. Then you can use that info to figure out the “correct” pick according to the math.

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

    Yes.

  • Chris

    Wouldn’t you say MIN has some near future value next week vs TB?

    I like keeping them as a possible option.

    Only 6 remaining in my pool. 3 have taken NYG (and not MIN – 2 of those also taken SF), and the other 2 have taken MIN (but not NYG). No one has taken NE.

    I have all 3 available. Was leaning towards taking Giants at first but I’m liking NE more and more. My pool has made the habit of not taking the most popular team. Only 1 of 10 then remaining took ATL last week. I’m also the only person with BAL remaining so like my chances on week 10, if I can get there. If the other managers are looking ahead, which I assume they are, they’d probably also want to save NE for week 10, meaning there’s a decent chance I could be alone on them this week.

    Worst case I can imagine is 2 others being on NE this week. Which to me is better than trying to differentiate, and ending up on a team like OAK or MIN with 2 other managers.

  • Chris

    I’ve also taken HOU, SF and GB so they aren’t options for me.

  • R Dog

    Went with the Niners instead of the Vikes — mainly because it looks like their odds just went up 2 points

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

    Yes, I agree with your reasoning here. Being the third on NE is better than being the second on MIN/NYG. And you have Baltimore to mitigate some of the future value you’re losing. Week 11 may be a bit rougher, but maybe the pool won’t even last that long.

  • Taylor

    That’s correct.

    I guess I’m just overvaluing the facts that half of my pool already has 2 strikes and around half has already used NE. My thought was that a generally poor team like Oakland should always be around for picking if/when it comes down to it. But I see the advantage of taking risks now to get the rewards later. Thanks!

  • John F.

    David,

    I live on this site. I’m all worked up because I just found out that had Oakland pulled it off in Atlanta this past week, there would be 17 entries left – of my pool that began with 1,680 entries – and I have 3 of those entries. Oof.

    Alas. Predictably, my question is regarding my strategy going forward. When I had 5 entries, I was using 2-3 on the top pick here, and splitting the remainder over the next best. I lost one on GB vs NO and one this past week on SF vs NYG.

    It’s hard to not say, “Crap, had I just loaded all 5 entries on the recommended pick, I’d still have 5.” But having dropped 2 of my entries the past 2 weeks, I’m a little unsettled and not sure how to proceed with dividing my 3 remaining picks, if at all.

    In any case, the pool is down to 159 and needless to say, pulling this out would literally change my life.

    Any help would be appreciated, as always!

  • Tim

    Love your weekly insight…used it last year to win my pool. This year, I’ve used all your picks and am one of three remaining. Below are the other two’s picks followed by mine. Any thoughts are appreciated. I’m a Vikings fan and am leaning toward picking them, but I’m just not sure… Thanks in advance!

    CHI. CINN. DALL HOUSTON NYG ATL

    DET. NYG CHI. GR. BAY BALT ATL

    TIM = HOUSTON CINN DALL GR. BAY SAN FRAN TAMPA

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

    The point about the prize being so big it’s life changing is actually something that might matter in your strategy. Check out these two hypothetical options (numbers and rates are made up, they are just to demonstrate the concept) …

    A) You win $10K 10% of the time.
    B) You win $50K 3% of the time.

    Option B has the higher expected value. You win money LESS OFTEN, but when you do win, you split the prize with fewer people, so you win a much bigger share, which increases your AVERAGE value. Our advice here is designed to guide you towards option B. If even a small share of the prize would be a life changing amount, you may actually want to shoot for option A instead. It would decrease your average expected value, but increase your chances of at least winning SOMETHING.

    So, option B is our standard advice. Option A is to go the safer route, and stop paying attention to public pick rates. It’s a personal choice.

    Anyway, on to your main question, about splitting teams up. Actually, this is kind of similar. Splitting your picks between your entries is similar to option A — you are taking a second (less attractive) team in order to increase the odds that at least one of your entries survives. With 3 entries, I would probably go with 2 on MIN and one on another team. If you want to go the safe route for the third entry, maybe NE. For a riskier route that is technically better for your average expected value, maybe OAK or NYG

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

    Given that they both picked Atlanta this week, I wouldn’t be surprised if they both picked NE this week. Or maybe one on NE and one on SF.

    If they both pick NE, your best option would be MIN and hope for a NE upset.

    However, if only one of them picks NE, then your best choice would actually be NE and hope the non-NE guy loses.

    So, if you are pretty sure they’ll both take NE, I’d pull the trigger on MIN. If you think there’s a good chance one of them may pick a different team, NE may be the better choice. Even then, MIN wouldn’t be terrible. You’d be taking on additional risk this week, but if you survive you’ll be able to use NE a few weeks from now.

  • matt

    David, have you heard at all the news surrounding Peterson’s bum ankle? Any cause for concern?

  • Mcg woman

    There are only six left in our pool, we can choose the same team twice….all my options are still open, NE or Minny?

  • J.F.

    Thank you so much for responding – I for one am so appreciative that you take the time to respond to individual comments and posts – that is quality. You seriously kick ass.

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

    Seems he is still likely to start: http://www.sbnation.com/fantasy/2012/10/19/3526628/adrian-peterson-injury-fantasy-football-vikings

    If the Vikings’ money line drops a bunch, then I’ll get concerned.

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

    Depends on who you think your opponents will pick. If you think 2 more people will pick NE than MIN, I’d go with MIN. If only 1 more or 0 more will pick NE, I’d go with NE.

  • Frank_Elways

    Great call!

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

    Haha, I would have phrased it as “Whew!”