IS THIS THE TOUGHEST WEEK IN THE CIRCA SURVIVOR CONTEST?
SAINTS AND BROWNS EXPECTED TO BE CO-CONSENSUS CONTEST FAVORITES
Last week was the most uneventful of the 2023 Circa Survivor contest, so far. Out of 1,234 contestants who went into Week 8 still alive, only 36 were eliminated. That now leaves 1,198 survivors who will advance on into Week 9.
WEEK 8 REVIEW
The reason why 97 percent of the field survived Week 8 is simple. Few upsets happened, which meant all of the most popular contest picks won.
There were 1,057 entries attached to just three teams – Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, and Detroit Lions. That trio of big favorites won easily, resulting in a relatively stress-free weekend for most Circa Survivor contestants.
The breather was a welcome departure following the chaotic carnage of NFL Weeks 1 through 7, which were wildly unpredictable. In fact, more than 80 percent of the starting field was eliminated within just the first six weeks, which comprises only one-third of the regular season.
Last week also revealed – and reinforced – the wisdom of a popular survivor pool strategy. It’s not so important to select good teams so much as it’s often wise to identify and then pick against the bad teams. Consider that the three most popular “fades” in Week 8 were – Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, and Las Vegas Raiders. None of those struggling teams put up much of a fight. In fact, the Raiders’ (lack of) effort was so appalling, the head coach and general manager were fired after the game. No word on whether Raiders owner Mark Davis had his own team in a survivor pool.
Moreover, proving the validity of picking “against” some teams rather than “for” others as a viable strategy, consider the most popular Circa Survivor contest pick for Week 8 was by far – the LA Chargers. At first glance, picking a struggling 2-4 team that’s surrendered more points than they’d scored this season seemed like a crazy decision. However, the Chargers were “due” for a breakout game and the hapless Bears who were starting a rookie quarterback in Week 8 appeared to be the perfect punching bag. There were 635 picks on the Chargers, constituting 54 percent of the pool selections. Incredibly, that’s the highest percentage of picks on any team in any week of the contest, thus far in 2023. And again – all those contestants placed their faith in an inconsistent 2-4 team.
The biggest upset for contestants was the Houston Texans who were upset at -3 point favorites playing at previously winless Carolina. Like the other so-called “mismatches,” the 35 picks on the Texans were likely based on expectations that the Panthers would continue losing. Carolina didn’t cooperate as they kicked a last-second field goal and ended up winning their first game of the season 15-13.
Moving forward, look for more of these seemingly bizarre situations to occur. As the best teams get used up by contestants, an increasing segment of the pool will have to get creative and do things like picking mediocre, and even some teams with losing records.
WEEK 9 PREVIEW
Fourteen NFL games are scheduled this week (Thursday through Monday).
Unlike recent weeks, there appears to be few, if any, absolute standout contest picks. Such uncertainty could foretell a return to contest chaos again, meaning a sizable number of surprises, upsets – and, by consequence – eliminations.
For example, Week 8 included six games lined at more than a touchdown. Week 9 includes just 2 games lined at -7 points, or higher. And, both of those favored teams have similar characteristics to the Chargers situation last week. That is to say, the two teams many contestants are expected to pick are deeply flawed and don’t inspire lots of confidence, despite the high spreads. However, their opponents are simply so bad that they’re hopelessly outclassed by inconsistent and mediocre opposition. Hence, the two choices are obvious.
New Orleans is likely to be the most popular contest pick for Week 9. The Saints host the Chicago Bears, who looked awful in last week’s 17-point loss to the Chargers. New Orleans is 4-4. Despite playing a creampuff schedule. Just one of the eight teams they’ve faced, thus far, have a winning record (and that was Jacksonville, which beat New Orleans by a touchdown last week). If any team is ripe for an upset, it could be the Saints. Nonetheless, given so few picking this week, look for New Orleans to be a “hold your nose” selection based on the hope the Bears will continue to struggle.
Cleveland is expected to be the other co-consensus selection among pool survivors. The Browns host the Arizona Cardinals, losers of 5 straight games (all by more than a touchdown, and 4 by double digits). Cleveland is 4-3, despite playing a tough schedule. The Browns quarterback situation remains uncertain this week. Backup P.J. Walker could start for the fourth consecutive week. Even if Deshaun Watson returns following an injury, his questionable status and erratic play won’t win much confidence from bettors/contestants. So, I expect more survivor pool picks to be on the Saints rather than the Browns.
As for the other 12 matchups, all are lined at less than a touchdown, and 8 have pointspreads of +/- 3 points. Hence, this is a very tough week to predict, especially for those who have already used up the best teams (mostly favorites) in their earlier pool selections.
This makes it highly probable that 60 to 70 percent of the remaining Circa Survivor pool will likely be on either New Orleans or Cleveland. Naturally, this also opens up some avenues for the boldest contrarians who might be inclined to select a marginal team pick, and then hope for mass carnage, including the Saints and/or Browns losing in an upset.
PLAYING CIRCA SURVIVOR – FOR FUN
Will the Washington Commanders’ devastating loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 5 end up costing me $9.4 million in prize money?
We shall see.
Even though I’ve been eliminated, it’s still fun to play along.
Several weeks ago, I created my season-long strategy plan. This was based on scheduling. I wanted to conserve as many good teams as possible. Most important, my goal was to keep my options open on later week when there are expected to be few standout choices.
We’ll continue to see how this plays out. That said, I’m posting it here for public consideration. Perhaps there’s even something to be learned which might apply to future survivor contests and survivor strategy.
Here are those notes I made back after Week #3 (with my tentative upcoming picks):
LIKELY CIRCA PICKS (LOOKING AHEAD):
Week 4 — SFO vs. ARZ …. winner
Week 5 — DET vs. CAR or WASH vs. CHI (Note: I picked Washington, and was eliminated)
Week 6 — MIA vs. CAR …. winner
Week 7 — SEA vs. ARZ …. winner
Week 8 — LAC vs. CHI …. winner
Week 9 — NOR vs. CHI or CLE vs. ARZ …. TBD
Week 10 — CIN vs. HOU
Week 11 — DET vs. CHI or JAX vs. TEN
Week 12A — DAL vs. WASH or MIA (road team) at NYJ
Week 12B — MIN vs. CHI
Week 13 — PIT vs. ARZ
Week 14 — NOR vs. CAR
Week 15 — CLE vs. CHI
Week 16A — 3 toss up games….going to be problematic
Week 16B — GB (road team) at CAR
Week 17 — PHI vs. ARZ
Week 18 — NWE vs. NYJ (but could be someone unusual because of “meaningless” final games)
Note: Even if you can’t afford the $1,000 entry fee next season, I advise NFL bettors who want to improve their handicapping skills and learn more about contest strategy to make picks and play, even if it’s just for fun.
The 2023 Circa Survivor contest cost $1,000 per entry. There were 9,267 initial entries.
After just 8 weeks – which is 40 percent of the 20 “weekly” segments of the contest which runs for the duration of the NFL regular season – there are only 1,198 live entries remaining.
Circa Survivor offers a winner-take-all prize of $9,267,000. The implied value per entry is now up to $7,735.