NFL Survivor Pool Picks & Expected Value Chart: Jaguars Give You Leverage in Week 1

NFL Survivor Pool Picks & Expected Value Chart: Jaguars Give You Leverage in Week 1 article feature image
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Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured: Trevor Lawrence.

  • There aren't a ton of clear-cut options in NFL survivor pools for Week 1.
  • Travis Reed outlines why you need to be contrarian to survive the entire season in a big pool. So he's going ugly in the first game of the year.
  • Below he details his strategy, plus his expected value chart given the win probability and the average number of people expected to pick each team.

Welcome to another season of survivor pool analysis!

Survivor pools are great because they are simple enough that anyone can play but have enough strategy and intricacies to give sharp players an edge.

If you are new to this weekly article, I am not here to tell you to pick the team with the best chance to win every week. If it were that easy, everybody would win. Unfortunately, it’s not easy. Even if you found a team projected to win 75% of the time each week, the chance of making it through 18 weeks is less than 1%.

But fear not, there is still an edge to be gained. By using game theory, we can reasonably project what other people are going to pick and use that data against them to make better picks.

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Each week I’ll provide my model’s win probabilities for every game. Some of these will not be in line with the betting market. That’s a feature, not a bug. Even if I’m wrong on some games (which will surely happen) I will be differentiated from other players using the consensus betting lines.

Without further ado, here are the projected win probabilities for Weeks 1-17 of the 2021 NFL season:

And below are the teams with the best chance to win this week along with some of the most popular choices this week.

For those uninitiated, here are what the columns are showing in the data above.

  • Pick %: The projected percentage that team will be picked in your pool
  • Model: My betting model’s projected win percentage for that team
  • Expected Value: How much value you gain or lose making that pick. Anything above a value of one is positive, anything below is negative.
  • Games Left: Games remaining on the schedule that have a projected win rate of 60% or more for that team.

Let’s start our discussion with the 49ers. My model is very much in disagreement with the betting market and gives the Lions a much better shot to win. Even if it didn’t, I still would not be picking the 49ers though.

With nearly a third of selections on San Francisco, your best way to gain equity in your pool is to fade them and hope a third of your pool is eliminated in one fell swoop.

The Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Ravens are all technically good choices this week, but with so many options remaining for all three teams, it seems unwise to use them this early.

The Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars (at HOU)

Do I feel confident about this pick? No, not really. A rookie quarterback making his very first start on the road isn’t the dream scenario by any measure.

However, the Jaguars being a contrarian pick with less than 5% of picks is exactly the kind of uncomfortable bet we should be making.

Losing in Week 1 pays out the same as losing in Week 12, so the idea of being cautious early has little merit. By being contrarian, we can avoid going down with 30 or 40 percent of the entries, which is the best way to gain an edge in your pool.

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