Week 5 NFL Survivor Pick Strategy: Patriots, Panthers, Bengals, Saints, Rams Notes from the Sports Nerds

Week 5 NFL Survivor Pick Strategy: Patriots, Panthers, Bengals, Saints, Rams

October 4, 2018 – by Tom Federico

In the post, we’ll analyze the pros and cons of five of NFL Week 5’s most popular survivor picks: the Patriots, Panthers, Bengals, Saints, and Rams. We’ll also recap the impact of last week’s results on NFL survivor pools.

Although the Patriots are the biggest favorite of Week 5 according to betting lines, keep in mind that the safest team isn’t always your best option. To maximize your edge in survivor pools, you need to consider other critical strategy factors like pick popularity and its future value.

Want expert Week 5 picks for your NFL Survivor Pool? In all four weeks of the NFL season so far, our recommended picks have out-survived the public, and last season TeamRankings subscribers reported over $1 million in NFL survivor pool prize winnings. Check out our NFL Survivor Picks product.

Last Week’s Survivor Pick Recap

After the bloodbath of Week 3, in which nearly 80% of still-alive survivor entries were eliminated, almost 95% of survivor entries that made it to Week 4 survived. The five most popular survivor picks last week all won, with the small percentage of people who got knocked out picking either the Eagles or the Falcons, both of which had 2% pick popularity and lost.

Overall, roughly 8% of the public’s survivor entries from the beginning of the season are still alive entering Week 5.

TeamRankings Survivor Pick Performance

For the fourth week in a row, the pick recommendations we made to our premium subscribers survived at a higher rate than the public’s picks, although the difference this week wasn’t huge. 99% of our pick recommendations survived, compared to a 95% survival rate for the public.

Still, we came very close yet again to a huge week. Our three most popular picks (Packers, Jaguars and Saints) collectively made up 90% of our subscriber pick recommendations, and all three teams won their games by over two touchdowns. Our next three most popular recommendations (Bears, Rams and Patriots) all won as well.

Our biggest strategic bet for Week 4 was to advise the vast majority of our subscribers to avoid picking the Chargers, who were the most popular survivor pick among the public. About 33% of picks nationwide were on the Chargers, in contrast to only 1.2% of TeamRankings subscriber picks. A 49ers upset win would have provided a huge boost to our subscriber base, but San Diego managed to hang on to their very slim 4th quarter lead and win the game by two points, after a back-and-forth battle that was tied at halftime.

Week 5 NFL Survivor Pick Analysis

Now let’s get to some Week 5 survivor pick analysis. As usual, we’ll focus on five of the most popular picks of the week, since you’re probably considering at least one or two of them, and review some of the pros and cons of each.

IMPORTANT: The teams highlighted below are five of the most popular public picks this week. This is NOT a list of our top recommended picks for your pool. In fact, we often recommend avoiding extremely popular teams, which can increase your expected winnings. If you want to see our recommended picks for your pool(s), you can subscribe to our and get customized pick advice for each of your survivor entries.

Data referenced below was current as of Wednesday afternoon, and could change between posting time and kickoff time; our survivor picks product update multiple times per day with the latest information. Also, we estimate survivor pick popularity based on picking trends data from popular nationwide survivor pool hosting sites.

1. New England Patriots (vs. Indianapolis): 43% popularity

After a convincing home win over 3-0 Miami, New England is a 10-point favorite against Indianapolis in Week 5’s Thursday night game. With no other team being more than a 7-point favorite this week, the Patriots are the safest choice of Week 5 by a decent margin, and 43% of survivor entries nationwide are picking them. However, it’s worth noting that New England is still a riskier pick than the safest teams of several past weeks, such as the Rams in Week 2 and the Vikings in Week 3 (and we all know what happened to the Vikings). The biggest downside of going with the Patriots this week is their very high popularity, as they are twice as popular a pick as Carolina and more than four times as popular a pick as any other team. So your potential to gain a lot of ground on your pool opponents this week is significantly reduced if you pick New England. In addition, you’d be burning a team that is expected to be a solid favorite in at least two near-term games: Week 8 (at Buffalo) and Week 9 (hosting Green Bay).

2. Carolina Panthers (vs. New York Giants): 19% popularity

The second most popular pick this week is the Carolina Panthers, at 19% pick popularity. The Panthers are significantly less popular than the Patriots, but also much more popular than the third most popular pick, the Bengals. The Panthers, Saints and Bengals all have similar win odds this week according to the betting lines; all three teams are a solid step down in safety from the Patriots (Carolina is a 7-point favorite) and slightly more risky than the Rams. In addition, all three teams are similar in terms of having modest but not particularly high future value. However, with the Panthers at 19% pick popularity and the Bengals and Saints at 8% and 6% popularity, respectively, it’s tougher to make a case for Carolina this week.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Miami): 8% popularity

Despite Cincinnati’s Week 4 upset victory over Atlanta and Miami’s blowout loss against New England, only 8% of the public is picking the Bengals this week. That may not be too surprising though, as the Dolphins are still 3-1. As a 5.5-point favorite, the Bengals are marginally less safe than Carolina, but they are also less than half as popular a pick. Depending on the number of entries still alive in your pool, the Bengals may have slightly more future value than the Panthers, with Cincinnati projecting as almost 70% win odds favorites in Week 8 (against Tampa Bay) and again in Weeks 12, 13, and 15. However, Cincinnati will still be outside the top tier of safety in all of those weeks, so the Bengals don’t have a great deal of future value overall.

4. New Orleans Saints (vs. Washington): 6% popularity

New Orleans may have a 3-1 record, but one of those victories was a narrow 3-point win against Cleveland and another was an overtime win at Atlanta. The Saints also lost in Week 1 as the NFL’s most favored team. Finally, they are playing on Monday night, and facing a 2-1 Washington team coming off a Week 4 bye. Some or all of those factors may be causing the public to stay away, but as 6-point favorites, the Saints are still worth consideration as an alternative to the Bengals and Panthers, especially as the least popular pick of the three. Looking ahead, the Saints do have some future value, and project as being among the safest teams in Week 11 when they host Philadelphia. Other than that, though, there looks to be few remaining future weeks when using New Orleans might make sense. Our models also give the Saints a slightly higher chance to win than the betting markets do.

5. Los Angeles Rams (at Seattle): 5% popularity

After four weeks, the Rams are 4-0 with an average margin of victory of over 18 points, and they sit atop our NFL predictive rankings by a solid margin over the No. 2 Patriots. Helped by the fact that they have been a popular winning pick in the past (with 36% pick popularity in Week 2), the Rams have the advantage of being a very unpopular pick given their relative level of safety this week. Going by point spread, the Rams are tied for the second safest team with the Panthers, but roughly four times as many survivor entries are picking Carolina than LAR. The big downside here is future value. Burning LAR means that you’ll lose the flexibility to use the Rams in multiple upcoming weeks where they likely will have the great combination of high win odds and relatively low pick popularity. Our models project LAR as having nearly 70% win odds in Week 6 against Denver, and then with over 75% projected win odds in Week 7, Week 8, and Week 10. In total, our models currently give the Rams at least 67% win odds in a whopping 8 out of their last 12 games.

Which Team Should You Pick In Survivor Week 5?

The five teams above are the most popular picks this week, but that doesn’t mean one of them is the best pick for you. Your best NFL Week 5 survivor pick is the one that offers the ideal balance of safety, pick popularity, and future value for your specific pool. Every possible pick has an expected value associated with it, and it takes a lot of data and math to figure out which pick will maximize your expected profits from your survivor pool(s).

Why? Because factors like the size of your pool and its specific rules can make a big impact on your optimal Week 5 pick strategy. For example, the more entries your pool has, the more aggressive your picks need to be. In very large pools, you know going in that you’ll probably need to survive all 17 weeks to have any shot at prize money, so if there’s a very good option to pick a mediocre team early on, you should take it. In smaller pools, you should play it safer.

Similarly, if you’re in a “strike pool” that allows you to take one loss without being eliminated, then you don’t need to be quite as conservative with your picks, compared to playing in a traditional “one loss and you’re out” pool. Need to start making two picks per week later in the season? Then you’d better put a higher priority on saving better teams for later use, starting right at the beginning of the season.

The list of strategy implications goes on…

Get Our Week 5 Survivor Pick Recommendation

We built our tools to do all of this analytical work for you. You answer a few questions about your survivor pool’s size and rules, and we provide customized pick recommendations based on the latest matchup data, Vegas odds and public picking trends.

The product even does a second layer of optimization if you are playing multiple survivor entries, recommending exactly how you should split a “portfolio” of survivor pool entries across one, two, or more teams. (Our product optimizes picks for up to 30 unique entries.)

The result? Last year, our subscribers reported winning over $1 million in survivor pool prize money, and their share of winnings from survivor pools they entered was .

Survivor pools are incredibly risky games, and it’s never easy to win. Even with the edge our advice gives you, in most years you won’t take home the prize. But in the long term, our subscribers are winning football pools much more often than their opponents, and that performance typically translates into fantastic financial returns.

If you’re new to TeamRankings, you can get a free 3-day All-Access trial subscription. It includes all of our premium football content, such as NFL game winner and spread picks, plus customized picks for your NFL survivor pools and pick’ems.

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