The five most popular NFL picks for survivor pools all won their season-opening games last week, though there were some very close calls that undoubtedly had Seattle, Philadelphia and New Orleans pickers quaking in their boots. Now it’s on to Week 2, where two very big favorites, the Patriots and Ravens, define the survivor pool landscape. In this post, we'll break down the five most popular survivor picks of NFL Week 2 and lay out the pros and cons of each pick from a strategy perspective.
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Week 2 NFL Survivor Pool Pick Tips, Analysis
Your survivor pick in Week 2 comes down to a pretty clear decision: Patriots, Ravens, or some other team.
After impressive victories last week, both New England and Baltimore are double-digit favorites against weak opponents in Week 2. As an 18.5-point favorite at post time, New England in particular offers a level of safety rarely seen in the NFL — especially for a road team.
However, those with good survivor memory will surely recall the fate of a team favored by almost as much in Week 3 of last season: The Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota's upset loss to Buffalo knocked out nearly 60 percent of still-alive entries in survivor pools.
Does that mean you should avoid New England? Let's break down the pros and cons of the most popular Week 2 survivor pick options.
New England Patriots (at Miami Dolphins)
Survival Pool Pick Popularity: 32%
Point Spread: -18.5
New England is a massive favorite this week against Miami. If you use the Patriots now, you are almost certain to advance, and that's not a phrase we throw around lightly. Our models have New England's win odds at 91 percent; the betting markets are slightly more optimistic at 92 percent. And since 1985, NFL favorites of between 16.5-20.5 points have a 51-3 win-loss record (94.4-percent winning percentage).
One argument against using New England this week is that the Patriots have tremendous future value. New England is currently one of the top three teams in projected win odds in nine of 15 future weeks, and the projected most likely winner in three future weeks. If you can get through Week 2 without using New England, you'll have a nice edge over opponents that burn the Patriots this week.
Interestingly, New England's pick popularity, while very high at 32 percent, isn't actually that high for a team favored by as much as they are. You often see the safest team of the week being selected by 40 percent or more of entries early in the year when all options are available. The aforementioned Vikings were all the way up at nearly 60-percent pick popularity in survivor pools in Week 3 last year, and they weren't even favored by as much as New England is this week.
Another key consideration? There is another very likely winner on the Week 2 slate in Baltimore. That dynamic means that compared to the next-safest option this week, the relative safety of New England isn't as big as it would have been if this game was in most other weeks.
Baltimore Ravens (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
Survival Pool Pick Popularity: 26%
Point Spread: -13
Baltimore is the second most popular pick in NFL survivor pools in Week 2. The Ravens' popularity is held down at least somewhat because they were also a top-five most popular pick last week, and just over 14 percent of still-alive survivor entries already have used them.
Baltimore's win odds are lower than New England's, but they are still over 85 percent, which is significantly higher than most survivor picks you typically make. Like New England, the Ravens' pick popularity is also high, but not prohibitively so, as they are effectively splitting the vote with New England.
The Ravens were impressive in Week 1, but you always need to be careful about judging on a sample size of one game, especially if Miami turns out to be an even worse team than expected this year. After one week, our numbers still show Baltimore with significantly less future value than New England, especially since after Week 2 the Ravens will already be past two of their highest win-odds games of the season.
Choosing the Ravens over the Patriots comes down to settling for a slightly less popular entry (good), with less future value (good), in exchange for a higher risk of elimination (bad).
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Houston Texans (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)
Survival Pool Pick Popularity: 15%
Point Spread: -8.5
Houston shot up to third in pick popularity in the early going of Week 2 as the top alternative candidate to the Patriots or Ravens and has continued to rise as of Wednesday (it was at 13 percent on Tuesday morning). The injury to Jacksonville starting QB Nick Foles last week is certainly playing a role here.
Picking a team like Houston — or really any team besides New England or Baltimore — demands an awareness of the risk context of Week 2. In many other weeks, a team like the Texans would be in the top tier of safest plays. In Week 2, though, the Texans are a much bigger risk compared to one of the largest mismatches in recent NFL history.
It's worth mentioning that Houston's future value is fairly low for a team seen as a playoff contender, and this game projects as its best shot to win for the rest of the season. The Texans also have high win odds in Week 8 when they host Oakland.
That's a relative plus, but when the majority of your pool will have an 85-percent chance or better to survive this week with New England or Baltimore -- and when it will take not one but two gigantic upsets to knock all those opponents out -- it may not be the best week for a relatively risky contrarian gamble.
Carolina Panthers (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Survival Pool Pick Popularity: 11%
Point Spread: -7
Carolina is a more risky but less popular version of Houston this week. So, just as the Ravens and Patriots may be splitting the survivor entries of players who are willing to burn a great team in Week 2, the Panthers and Texans appear to be splitting the vote for players zig-zagging the other way.
Carolina also has very low future value, and if you don't use them in Week 2, you may not need to use them at all this year, depending on how long your survivor pool is expected to last. At the very least, you may have plenty of other options that don't make Carolina a clear pick in any future week.
Kansas City Chiefs (at Oakland Raiders)
Survival Pool Pick Popularity: 5%
Point Spread: -7.5
The Chiefs are the fifth most popular survivor choice of Week 2 but are only registering about half the pick popularity (five percent) of the Panthers and Texans.
As a less popular pick with around the same win odds as Houston and Carolina, Kansas City has at least one comparative advantage. However, the Chiefs have far more future value than either of those two teams. The Chiefs, in fact, have the second-highest future value of any team, behind only New England.
If you are in a bigger pool that projects to go deeper into the season, the Chiefs are a highly valuable asset you'd ideally want to keep in your future survivor toolbox.
Add in that Kansas City is more likely to have WR and return specialist Tyreek Hill back with the offense later in the year, and the Chiefs appear to primarily be a potential contrarian Week 2 consideration in smaller pools that do not expect to get to the final five weeks of the season.With a roughly 15-percent higher elimination risk than the Patriots, though, that's no small gamble.
Get our Week 2 survivor pick recommendation
The teams above are the most popular picks this week, but that doesn’t mean one of them is the best pick for you. Every possible pick has an expected value and future value associated with it, and those values change based on the characteristics of your pool. For example, you should be more willing to make a calculated bet on a riskier team in a large survivor office pool than you would in a small pool against a handful of friends.
In short, It takes a lot of data and math to figure out which pick (or combination of picks, if you’re playing multiple entries) gives the biggest boost to your expected survivor pool winnings.
We built our NFL Survivor Picks tool to do all of the necessary analytical work for you. Answer a few questions about your pool’s size and rules, and it provides customized pick recommendations.
We invite you to give it a try, and good luck in your survivor pools this week!
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