Week 3 Survivor Pick Strategy & Advice (2021)

We break down the Sunday morning outlook with our survivor pick recommendations for Week 3, and also have some Loser Pool thoughts on teams to consider.

Week 3 Survivor Picks

Lamar Jackson and Baltimore are back in survivor consideration (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

The first two weeks of the 2021 NFL season have featured a trio of favorites who were safer and not too popular in survivor pools. Week 3 gives us an interesting changeup.

Six different teams are favored by between 7.5 and 10.5 points in early point spreads. Survivor pool decisions this week are driven by future value and pick popularity concerns.

In these columns, 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.

Book Release!

But first, a quick announcement. We just published our first-ever e-book, Survivor Pool Strategy: What It Takes To Win. It’s free right now, so download your copy here.

The book covers a lot of topics that should be of interest to survivor newcomers and veterans alike. It includes chapters on basic strategy concepts such as risk versus reward and future value, as well as a variety of case studies on pool-winning entries and historical pick decision scenarios.

There’s also a fun chapter breaking down the results of the 2020 Circa Survivor Contest, in which winners split $2 million in prize money.

Week 3 Survivor Updates

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

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Tuesday 9/21

Week 3 Early Most Popular Teams Summary

Here are the most popular teams early on for Week 3. Barring big injury news, these will likely be the most popular picks:

  • Denver (35%) vs. New York Jets
  • Arizona (14%) at Jacksonville
  • Buffalo (12%) vs. Washington
  • Baltimore (12%) at Detroit
  • Carolina (10%) at Houston

No other team is drawing 5% or more of the public picks, though nearly 17% of the public entries so far are on teams other than the five listed above.

Let’s quickly hit each one:

Denver Broncos

Denver is the biggest favorite of the week at -11.5 against the Jets. With that said, there isn’t a huge drop-off in win odds from Denver to the other popular choices.

Denver also has decent future value, ranking sixth entering this week in a 100-entry pool. That value is higher in larger pools, where Denver gets Detroit and Cincinnati at home in Weeks 14 and 15, respectively.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have solid-but-not-great expected value this week. They’re the second-most popular pick at the moment, but they have as much risk as the other top five options.

They also have some future value potential, particularly in Week 7 (vs. Houston) and Week 15 (at Detroit).

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo has the second-highest future value behind only Tampa Bay. Some of that future value will be realized soon, as they host Houston next week and will likely face rookie QB Davis Mills.

The Bills could be the biggest favorite of the season next week in that matchup.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are favored by eight points at Detroit, making them the third-largest favorite of the week. They have less future value than you might expect, as they have a lot of decent future matchups but not many great ones.

We have them with the ninth-highest future value entering this week, which makes them a reasonable option in Week 3 as a an alternative to the other popular picks.

Carolina Panthers

The case for the Panthers right now is pretty straightforward.

They have less future value than the other popular options, allowing you to save those teams for other weeks. They also have high win odds, making them a nice present-value play as well.

With that said, the Panthers’ popularity is already on the rise in early data. Given that the public may be processing the news of Houston’s QB situation, that popularity may rise over the next two days before the Thursday kickoff.

Where that popularity ends up will dictate how good of a pick option the Panthers are. You can get the most up-to-date popularity data in our Data Grid.

Tuesday 9/21

Week 2 Survivor Recap

The public picks mostly got through Week 2, with only two notable elimination games. It was a week with three big favorites who split the majority of public picks, and all three won.

Here were the top five elimination results for Week 2.

PittsburghLas Vegas-5.52.7%
New OrleansCarolina-3.00.9%
Kansas CityBaltimore-3.50.5%

About 92% of the public advanced out of Week 2, with the biggest losses being due to Seattle and Pittsburgh getting upset. Over 98% of our recommendations advanced, with the losses due to Pittsburgh. (We also had eight Detroit “losses” in strike pools with expiring strikes, but those are strategic, as we covered in our e-book chapter on strike pool strategy.)

In a high survival week, our entries were more focused on Green Bay, Cleveland and New England compared to the public, who were heavier on Tampa Bay and Denver. The latter group has higher future value, so the pick recommendations did preserve more value than the typical advancing entry in Week 2.


Survivor Strategy Articles

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.


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 9/22

Future Value Takes Center Stage in Week 3

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