Week 8 NFL Survivor Strategy: Which NFC North Team Should You Pick?

Welcome to the Week 8 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.

Well, Week 7 was fairly uneventful.

The Jets almost knocked out the 33% of our opponents who chose New England, but ended up falling in overtime. In the final tally, twelve out of thirteen favorites won in Week 7, resulting in only 2.5% of Yahoo! contestants being eliminated. We’re happy we saved New England for later; we’d definitely miss them more than we will Minnesota.

This week, Green Bay is far and away the safest pick of the week. And, of course, they have the popularity to match. Is it finally time to join the crowd, or is there a good alternative to the Packers this week?

Let’s check out the data.

Week 8 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
Chicagovs Carolina-7.5-375 / +32678%15.6%0.51.0
Minnesotavs Tampa Bay-6.5-275 / +24472%10.0%0.00.0
San Franciscoat Arizona-6.5-280 / +24872%2.3%0.51.0
Tier 2: Worth A Look
Green Bayvs Jacksonville-13.0---- / ----88%56.7%2.52.5
New Englandat St Louis-7.0-305 / +26974%5.3%3.33.3
Denvervs New Orleans-6.0-257 / +22869%1.4%2.51.1
Tennesseevs Indianapolis-3.5-185 / +16659%1.1%0.00.0
Pittsburghvs Washington-4.5-218 / +19566%1.0%1.52.1
NY Giantsat Dallas-2.0-124 / +11255%0.2%1.82.2
Philadelphiavs Atlanta-2.5-136 / +12355%0.1%0.50.5
Kansas Cityvs Oakland-2.0-118 / +10754%0.2%0.00.0
Detroitvs Seattle-2.5-124 / +11250%0.3%0.00.0
NY Jetsvs Miami-2.5-126 / +11445%0.9%0.00.0
San Diegoat Cleveland-2.5-136 / +12348%3.7%1.82.2

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), Minnesota Vikings (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), Minnesota Vikings (WIN)

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 Survivor Pools” section at the end of this article that provides quick strategy tips for smaller pools.

Chicago Bears (vs. Carolina Panthers) — The Bears have a pretty solid lead over New England in the race for the second safest team of the week behind Green Bay’s near-lock. They also don’t have a ton of future value. There are a few weeks where they could be a borderline choice if you’re in a tough spot, but nothing that really stands out as a gimme. Their main negative is that they are the second most popular team of the week, at about a 16% pick rate. But that level of popularity is an acceptable trade off, so we think at this point Chicago looks like the best choice in nearly all pool sizes.

Minnesota Vikings (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) — The Vikings are definitely a step below the Bears in terms of safety, but they partly make up for it by being slightly less popular and having less future value. We prefer the Bears, but the Vikings are a reasonable alternative.

San Francisco 49ers (at Arizona Cardinals) — The risk profile for the 49ers is almost identical to Minnesota’s. The difference between the two options is that San Francisco is less popular, but has more future value. The difference between 10% and 2% popularity is less important than preserving SF as a backup option in Weeks 10, 14, and 17, so we slightly prefer the Vikings. Either way, both teams are a clear notch below the Bears.

Green Bay Packers (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) — Ordinarily, a 57% public pick rate would send us running for the hills. However, the Packers are huge favorites compared to all other teams this week. So huge, in fact, that their immediate expected value is nearly on par with Chicago. In other words, the normal strategy of avoiding a very public team in the hopes they get upset is not as important this week, because the odds of a Packers upset are so low. However, we still have to account for Green Bay’s future value, which is much higher than any of the Tier 1 teams. If future value doesn’t matter in your situation, then the Packers are a decent pick. For most pools, however, we recommend saving the Packers for a week when they are less popular. We’ve already used them in Week 4, anyway.

New England Patriots (at St. Louis Rams) — The Pats are the third-safest team of the week, and aren’t very popular (5%). However, they have tons of future value, so in most pools it seems silly to use New England this week when Chicago, Minnesota, and San Francisco are all roughly as safe but have less future value. That said, in very small pools where future value is of little importance, it’s worth considering them as a safe-but-unpopular pick.

Tennessee Titans (vs. Indianapolis Colts) — The Titans are way too risky for most people to consider. However, in some cases you really need to preserve future value; perhaps your season extends into the playoffs, or perhaps you are in a pool where season wins is a tiebreaker, and you need to take a big risk in order to gain some ground. Basically, if you need to pick a bad team off the junk pile, cross your fingers, and hope for a win, then our preference would be to try it with the Titans. Otherwise, stay away. Out of all the teams with losing records, the Titans seem like the safest option this week.

Denver Broncos (vs. New Orleans Saints) — In most pools, the Broncos are a bad pick. There are safer teams with less future value that aren’t super popular. However, the future value of the Broncos is very heavily back-loaded. Their easiest games are in Week 16 (vs. CLE) and 17 (vs. KC). So if you are in a small pool where it’s unlikely that the final two weeks will matter, Denver looks like an acceptable option. They’re still a cut below the top tier, but they’re basically on par with Green Bay at the top of Tier 2.

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Washington Redskins) — The only real strength of Pittsburgh’s profile this week is that they are not very popular (1%). However, there’s a good reason for that, as the Steelers are pretty risky compared to the top options this week, and also have some future value. We’d avoid taking Pittsburgh this week, unless your hand is forced.

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

Preliminary Week 8 NFL Survivor Pick: Chicago Bears Over Carolina Panthers

This week, the decision is pretty clear cut.

  • Green Bay is easily the safest option of the week, but with such high popularity (56%) and so much future value, we recommend saving them for a future week when they are less popular. And we’ve also used them already.
  • Chicago is the next safest team, and they do have a bit of future value, but not a lot. They are picked by 15% of the public, but that’s not a scary number. So they’re superior to Green Bay.
  • The next safest tier includes Minnesota, San Francisco, New England, and Denver. New England and Denver both have more future value than the Bears, so there’s no way they’re leapfrogging into the top spot. The 49ers are less popular, and the Vikings are less valuable going forward, but in both cases the safety gap outweighs the popularity/future value gap..

That leaves us with the Chicago Bears as the preliminary pick in Week 8.

Like last week, it seems unlikely that lines will move enough to change our official pick, but that’s partly because we’ve already used the second and third best options. For those of you that haven’t yet used San Francisco, it’s possible that the 49ers could look like the best option in a couple days, so we would definitely recommend checking back in before finalizing your selection.

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 8 for those in smaller pools:

Pools With 10 – 20 People — Future value is less important here, so Chicago and San Francisco both look a tiny bit more attractive. Overall, for smallish pools the rankings above barely change, and Chicago is still the best option. Denver does move up a couple spots so that they are on par with Green Bay, but no other teams shuffle around.

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 take Green Bay if you think less than half of your pool will choose them, and otherwise try to take the team you think will be least popular out of Chicago, New England, Minnesota, and San Francisco. 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 Green Bay or Chicago.

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 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 many of you, that’s probably Green Bay or Chicago.

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, and you’re not likely to pick Minnesota in Thursday’s game, please hold off asking questions until Friday.
  • 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!