We had another tame week in NFL Survivor Pool World last week. The Falcons and Patriots were possibly teams you took a shot at trying to fade the chalky Saints and Browns. I did not think that was a bad play as I did it in one of my two entries I had left in a pool that required double picks. The Falcons got me knocked out of that one. I was advocating early in the week that the Saints were the better play over the Browns. With Doubs being traded, the line went up to 13 for Cleveland. This changed the strength of fading Cleveland. I wound up using them with my other pick and faded the Saints. It made little difference this time, but be aware that the advice on Wednesday morning may be different come Sunday morning as new information appears and the lines change. I never try to predict the outcome of the matchups. Each week, I try to use game theory to get an edge over my competitors. To do this, we have to look at the numbers and use some math and creativity. There is no perfect way to play these. If there were we would win every time.
- Win Projection: I calculate win probability based on each game’s mid-point of the money line.
- FV (Future Value): This value comes from look-ahead lines. Lower numbers indicate more future value for a team.
- Pick%: This shows how frequently a team is selected across major websites, according to survivorgrid.com.
- # Unique teams: If you have multiple entries, you can decide how many teams to spread your risk across.
We are now in week 10 of the season. The future value of teams becomes less critical as the future is now. But we still want to look out a few weeks, depending on the pool size, to make sure we are picking teams optimally. First, let’s look at the spreadsheet for Future Values 0, 50, and 100.
When we look at no future value the teams with the greatest chance to win are always the best plays. This week, the obvious play is Dallas. They have a 91% chance to beat the Giants. You will not get a better probability all season. If you were able to get to this point without picking Dallas, then now is the time. You may wonder why we would have been looking to fade the popular pick in other weeks, but this week, we are backing them. The reason is the high probability of a Dallas win coupled with the fact that we have another team that has a very high pick %. That team is Cincinnati. When we make the contrarian play, we do not want the pool’s risk spread amongst several teams. We want it as focused as possible. If you were the only one in your pool who picked a team with a 75% chance to win while the rest of your pool all picked a team with an 80% chance to win. You should be excited. You are more likely to lose than your opponents, but they have no chance to win the pool this week, and you do. This scenario doesn’t play out typically until we get down to a few entries left, but this extreme example should shed light on why we want to fade teams that are being taken by large numbers in the pool. This week, you won’t be able to win the pool with Dallas, but you are in a position where you can advance while knocking out 30-40% of your competitors.
For those of you who can not take Dallas this week, you will have a decision to make. Buffalo would undoubtedly be the next choice, but it is unlikely you have them at your disposal. If you do not then I much prefer Seattle over Cincinnati. The reason is what I just wrote about. You are fading Cincinnati with a team with a similar chance of winning and little future value. Just think if there were no Dallas this week and everyone in your pool had Cincinnati, and you were the sole Seattle. It’s an excellent position to be in, regardless of the outcome. Cincinnati also has some terrific matchups in the near future. Week 12 home for Pittsburgh, Week 14 home for Indianapolis, Week 15 home for Minnesota. Seattle, on the other hand, will never be as big a favorite as they are this week.
There are some other options, like Baltimore, but it is unlikely you still have them to pick from. When we move to 100% future value Chicago pops as a team to consider. Because FV becomes less critical at this point in the season we can achieve the same thing by taking a team with a higher probability of winning than Chicago has. If you are out of options or in a pool that is guaranteed to make it to week 18 they are a team you could consider, as they have little value in future weeks.
In all formats, Dallas is worth taking if you have them. If not, you must use some game theory and avoid Cincinnati.
Ultimately, you have to decide how you will play your pool.
Hopefully, you will be around for many weeks with me as we try and survive!