NFL Week 4 Survivor Picks, Strategy: Target These Juggernauts
Getty Images. Pictured: Christian McCaffrey.
The survivor concept is simple: Pick one team to win an NFL game every week. No spreads or totals – just winners. Once you use that team, you can't use them again – creating an element of strategy and long-term planning that makes these contests deceptively difficult.
Fortunately, this year we're partnering with our friends at Pool Genius to make things easier. They've built slate-leading tools to help conquer a variety of pool contests, including survivor.
Week 3 was a perfect example of why it's so difficult to make it through the entire season in survivor pools. Two of the week's heaviest favorites — the Cowboys and Jaguars — both lost.
Along with the Ravens, three teams favored by more than a touchdown lost their Week 3 matchups. Collectively, those three teams eliminated 44% of the remaining field in Week 3. That means we're already down to about 43% of the field remaining in average pools, including the losers from Week 1 and Week 2.
We'll assume you made it through if you're still reading here in Week 4. That probably means either the 49ers or Chiefs were the choice in Week 3, and we'll move forward with the assumption that one of the two is no longer available.
My favorite feature of the site is the ability to customize for your pool type. Factors such as contest size and payout structure are a huge factor in survivor contests as smaller fields generally don't have any entries that survive all 18 weeks.
To give a glimpse of how that works, I'll be providing Pool Genius' top option for small (fewer than 50), and large (1,000+) pools.
Besides that, Pool Genius tracks pick-selection data to help figure out contrarian options. This is helpful in larger pools since we're trying to optimize for expected value more than just the odds of winning.
Finally, Pool Genius uses projected future spreads to assign a future value to each team – which includes considering the scarcity of strong options on certain weeks. This is crucial as we don't want to burn the best teams when there are other strong options that week.
To get the full data, you'll need to sign up for the site. It's well worth it, though, and also includes tools for taking down the increasingly popular pick'em contests that feature massive prize pools.
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Large Field: Philadelphia Eagles
There aren't as many huge favorites in Week 4 as we saw last week, though that didn't work out as expected anyway. The Eagles, 49ers and Chiefs are the only three teams implied at 75% or better odds of winning this week.
Given the unusually high elimination rate last week, even larger pools have a relatively small amount of entrants left. That shifts the priority from saving teams for later in the season to just making it another week, as the odds of anyone in your pool surviving the entire season have dropped considerably.
Even so, the Eagles have the lowest future value of the top-three teams this week, making them a solid choice on both accounts. The Eagles aren't expected to have odds this strong until Week 16, and there's no guarantee anybody makes it that long, even in big pools.
Additionally, enough could happen between now and then that could lower the Eagles' value. We're also getting a nice popularity discount on the Eagles compared to the chalky 49ers, which is a valuable tiebreaker in larger contests.
Small Field: San Francisco 49ers
We defined smaller pools as those with around 50 entrants at the start of the season. Based on that, the average pool of that size has fewer than 25 entrants left following Week 3's surprising upsets.
With that limited number of entries remaining, that means the only thing that matters is making it through to the next week. That makes the 49ers an easy pick, as their 87% implied odds of winning are nearly 10% higher than any other team. While they'll be the chalk, we can live with that when we're only competing with a few other players.
They aren't without a cost though, as the 49ers have three more weeks where they're the top option. Still, none of those weeks come before Week 11, and pools of this size are somewhat likely to be wrapped up before that point anyway.
Using Pool Genius' Optimal Path tool, the best odds of surviving even to Week 11 are about 1/8, and by Week 14 (the next week where the 49ers are the best option), they drop below 1/20.
With around 20 entrants left in the average pool of this size, that means the expected end date is around Week 14 anyway, so there's no reason to save the 49ers that long. If need be, we'll hopefully find emerging value by then anyway.