Week 12 Survivor Pick Strategy & Advice (2021)

Survivor pools will be tested in a tough Thanksgiving week, where the Dallas Cowboys are the biggest favorite.

Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will hope to survive the playoffs (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

In this column, we explore strategies to maximize your edge in NFL survivor pools, also known as knockout or eliminator pools. We also provide some of the rationale behind picks potentially recommended by our NFL Survivor Picks product.

Week 12 Survivor Updates

We’ll add to this post every day until the Sunday kickoffs, so check back for updates.

Tuesday 11/23

Week 12 Early Most Popular Teams Summary

This is an early summary of the most popular picks so far in Week 12.

  • Dallas Cowboys (26%) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
  • Baltimore Ravens (10%) vs. Cleveland Browns
  • Chicago Bears (10%) at Detroit Lions
  • Los Angeles Chargers (9%) at Denver Broncos
  • Philadelphia Eagles (8%) at New York Giants

You’ll notice these pick rates are fairly flat. The top five only account for 63 percent of all picks right now, and seven other teams have at least 3 percent popularity.

This is a rather unusual week, which we’ll cover in detail tomorrow. We’ll look at the past weeks with the highest expected elimination rates and where this week ranks historically.

Also, because this is a short week with several key games, make sure you get your recommendations as close as you can to Thursday morning kickoffs, but get them in time to see where your picks fall. With three games on Thursday that could all have survivor implications, this is going to be a wild one.

Now, let’s get to the top five most popular picks.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are probably going to have a lot of variability in pools depending on how much they’ve already been used. You should check your pool availability numbers to see how they match up to the pick projections.

At their current pick rate, the Cowboys are going to have a pretty good EV. That’s because 74 percent of a typical pool will be spread out on other picks with lower win odds. If your pool opponents have been saving Dallas at a high rate, that could change.

We’d estimate that roughly half of all entries across pools have used the Cowboys since they were one of the key picks to get through a tough Week 9. But that number is highly variable. In some of our pools, Dallas’ availability ranged from 32 percent to 63 percent.

So, the Cowboys are probably a good play, especially if less than half your pool even has them as an option. However, they do have some future value if you don’t use them and have a good alternative. They could be a useful pick in Week 15 (at the Giants) or Week 16 (vs. Washington).

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens, like a lot of options, are an OK choice. They have a fair amount of risk (64 percent win odds), but that’s typical this week.

Nearly as many entries will be on picks that are riskier than the Ravens, as will be on choices that are safer. Baltimore also doesn’t have much future value after this week, as its schedule gets tougher.

You normally wouldn’t want to put your survivor fate at risk in a Ravens-Browns game with 64 percent win odds, but this isn’t a normal week.

Chicago Bears

Our models also give the Bears a 64 percent chance of beating the Lions. They also have zero future value after this week, which makes them an acceptable choice in this high-risk week.

With all of these choices, especially in smaller pools nearing the end, considering who else your opponents have available will determine whether the Bears are a decent pick this week.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are only a 2.5-point favorite at Denver, and our models only give them a 54 percent chance of winning. Even at their market odds of 58 percent, they are a poor choice based on EV.

Add in that they have more future value than several other options this week, and the Chargers are an “avoid” right now.

Philadelphia Eagles

After surging to a couple of wins and now facing the struggling Giants, the Eagles have emerged as a survivor option this week with 64 percent win odds. They do have some near-term future value, as they are projected as a 74 percent favorite at the Jets next week.

So, you may want to check your other options for Week 13 and let that factor into your decision on whether to employ the Eagles this week.

Tuesday 11/23 

Week 11 Survivor Recap

Week 11 didn’t have the volume of big upsets we have seen in the previous weeks, but it did have a big one. The most popular choice across all pools, the Tennessee Titans, lost to the Houston Texans.

Here is a summary of the most popular picks for Week 11, and the results:

TennesseeHouston43%L, 22-13
ClevelandDetroit27%W, 13-10
Tampa BayNY Giants9%W, 30-10
San FranciscoJacksonville6%W, 30-10
New EnglandAtlanta6%W, 25-0
BaltimoreChicago2%W, 16-13
LA ChargersPittsburgh2%W, 41-37
MiamiNY Jets2%W, 24-17
CarolinaWashington1%L, 27-21
BuffaloIndianapolis1%L, 41-15

Almost entirely because of Tennessee’s loss, only 54 percent of the public entries advanced out of Week 11.

Meanwhile, our picks mostly avoided Tennessee, with just over 2 percent of entries recommended to use the Titans. As a result, 97 percent of all TR subscriber recommendations advanced in a week that may prove to be very high-leverage in the ultimate results for the 2021 season.

While the last four weeks have produced high elimination rates (55 percent or fewer of the public advanced out of each), TR subscriber entries have advanced at a higher rate in all four weeks.

As a result, we estimate about 2.5 percent of entries in a pool that started in Week 1 are still alive in a standard-rules pool. Meanwhile, about 8.5 percent of TR subscriber entries from Week 1 in standard-rules pools are still alive entering Thanksgiving week.


Survivor Strategy Articles and E-Book

If you’re serious about winning more survivor pools, you need to learn the key strategies that create edge. You can start with our free survivor strategy articles, which explain a number of the concepts we apply to our customized survivor pick recommendations.

We’ve also published a strategy e-book, “Survivor Pool Strategy: What It Takes To Win,” available for free download.


About Our Survivor Pool Advice

We break down the pros and cons of various survivor pick options in this column, but none of our advice is ever absolute.

Why don’t we just tell you the “best” survivor pick of the week? Because there is no universal “best pick” for all NFL survivor pools.

The best weekly pick for your pool depends on a variety of factors, including the number of entries still alive and your pool’s rules. For example:

  • Bigger pools reward more risk-taking.
    The more entries in your pool, the lower the chance you have to win it. In addition, you have a limited number of weeks to send hundreds or thousands of opponents to slaughter while you survive unscathed. As a result, bigger pools demand more focus on avoiding the most popular picks.
  • Non-standard rules change pick calculus.
    If your pool requires double picks late in the season, or if it’s a strike pool (i.e. your first incorrect pick doesn’t eliminate you), you don’t want to use the same pick strategy you’d use in a standard-rules pool. Those rule variations significantly influence decision factors, such as the value of saving good teams for later use.

Plus, what if you’ve already picked the team (or teams) that some article says is the best? What if the point spread for that “best pick” has gotten several points worse since the article was published? How should you spread your picks across multiple teams if you’re playing more than one entry?

Technology to the rescue

Other sites don’t understand this stuff, or they just ignore it because it’s complicated and hard. We’re the only site that has built algorithms to evaluate all the strategy factors that matter and provide you with customized survivor pick recommendations every week.

The result? Over the past four years, our subscribers have reported nearly $3 million in survivor pool winnings using our data-driven picks and tools.

So if you want to see all the Week 1 picks we recommend for your football pool, you need to use our NFL Survivor Picks product.

As another bonus, the product updates multiple times per day with the latest win odds and pick popularity data, so you’re never forced to make pick decisions based on stale data.

Why we write this column

At the same time, we know our subscribers like to understand the rationale behind picks the product may recommend, especially when those picks go against the grain. So over the years, we’ve started to write more about the “whys” behind our approach.

We also utilize this column to help educate our readers about survivor pool strategy. We highlight tactics proven to result in more survivor pool wins over the long term and point out common pitfalls to avoid.

Our goal with these articles is to dig deeper into the world of survivor pools than anyone else does, using an objective and data-driven lens. We’ll recap key results from the previous week, identify the most compelling picks of the current week, and evaluate the implications of breaking news on survivor strategy.

We hope you enjoy reading, and we encourage you to check out more of our survivor pool strategy articles.

Wednesday 11/24 

Week 12 Overview and Thanksgiving Reminders

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

With today being a travel day and the games starting early tomorrow, here is your early reminder to have a plan on when you are going to update and check your picks.

I am not planning a further written update tomorrow unless breaking news dictates a quick note. In exchange, you get two updates today: this one, and the one just below discussing the historical context of how this unusually tight week ranks.

We have the most popular Week 12 pick in action Thursday, and two other games that could also have survivor relevance, so this week gets started with a bang.

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