It’s officially time to start sweating your 2020 Week 1 NFL Survivor Pool picks. The opening week this year gives us quite a few legitimate survivor options, and there is no general agreement on which team is the best pick. At least five different teams, including the Ravens, Chiefs, and 49ers, are drawing 10 percent of the public’s picks, but no team is being selected more than 20 percent of the time.
We will analyze the five most popular survivor and knockout pool picks of Week 1 using the “Holy Trinity” of survivor pick strategy data: Win odds, pick popularity, and future value. Over the past three years, our subscribers have reported nearly $2.5 million in survivor pool winnings thanks to this data-driven approach.
This analysis is brought to you by TeamRankings, the only site that provides customized picks that maximize your edge in football pools. Check out their NFL Survivor Pool Picks, Football Pick ’em Picks, and NFL Betting Picks.
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Week 1 NFL Survivor Pool Advice: Tips, strategy for picks
This analysis should cover the picks that you are most likely considering making in your survivor or knockout pool in Week 1.
To be clear, we are not saying that the first team listed, Indianapolis, is the absolute best Week 1 survivor pick for your specific pool(s). Rather, we’re just telling you that Indianapolis is the most popular Week 1 pick in survivor pools nationwide. We then break down the major pros and cons of potentially picking the Colts and the other four teams listed below.
To get our specific pick recommendations, just hop over to our NFL Survivor Picks product, which is free for Week 1. Using the My Pool Picks feature, you tell us some things about your pool(s), and then the product shows you which Week 1 picks give you the best chance to gain ground on your opponents.
Note: Data referenced below was current as of Wednesday evening and could change between posting time and kickoff time. Our product updates multiple times per day with the latest information.
Indianapolis Colts (at Jacksonville Jaguars)
Survivor Pool Pick Popularity: 18% (most popular)
Point Spread: -8
The Colts are the second-largest favorite of the week, drawing a Jacksonville team that appears to be in full rebuilding mode in the opener. Indianapolis has also been rising in popularity all week, so you will want to check where it ultimately settles. The Colts were the fourth-most popular choice entering the week, but have been climbing to 18-percent popularity as of Wednesday.
But by “most popular” standards, the Colts are not very popular. In fact, it’s been five years since we’ve seen a week with no single team drawing more than 20 percent of the public’s survivor picks in a single week before Thanksgiving.
Of course, there’s a reason why public picks are so diverse this week, and it’s tied to the future value of Kansas City and Baltimore, who are discussed below. Plenty of entries appear to be saving the Chiefs and Ravens for other weeks. As of post time, the Colts are slightly ahead of everyone else as the “other” choice for those saving those two prime teams, offering relative safety without burning a ton of future value.
Indianapolis does have some future value, though, with a fairly easy schedule in coming weeks. They also have some possible near-term use cases in both Week 3 (vs. the Jets) and in Week 6 (vs. Cincinnati) if you don’t use them in Week 1.
WEEK 1 FANTASY PPR RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker
Buffalo Bills (vs. New York Jets)
Survivor Pick Popularity: 16%
Point Spread: -6.5
Buffalo, as a 6.5-point favorite at home against the Jets, offers a little less safety than the Chiefs, Colts, or Ravens. The counterpoint is that Buffalo has far less future value, which is a big plus.
The Bills’ 2020 schedule is more balanced than what they faced in 2019, and it gets a lot tougher after their opener. Other than a Week 17 matchup at home against Miami, which could be subject to funky team motivations like resting starters, Week 1 looks like one of the choicest spots to use Buffalo this year.
The Bills’ pick popularity is moderately high but not prohibitive given their win odds. However, you are taking a slight step up in elimination risk compared to some other most popular choices. So, when it comes to the Bills’ decision, it’s taking a little more risk now to be in better shape for future weeks.
MORE TEAMRANKINGS: Week 1 Pick ’em Pool advice
Baltimore Ravens (vs. Cleveland Browns)
Survivor Pick Popularity: 15%
Point Spread: -7.5
Baltimore slots in above Kansas City in terms of pick popularity. The Ravens, who had a dominant 2019 with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, are expected to pick right up where they left off and be a top contender in 2020.
As a result, the Ravens have the second-highest survivor future value of any team. In fact, Kansas City and Baltimore are both pretty far in front of all other NFL teams in terms of the number of future weeks in which they will likely be a strong survivor pick. We project Baltimore as having the highest win odds in no fewer than five future weeks on the 2020 schedule.
Meanwhile, the Ravens’ win odds are good but not significantly different than alternative options this week. With our models giving them a 74-percent chance of beating the Browns, they slot in below Kansas City and Indianapolis in the safety category and just above several others.
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Houston Texans)
Survivor Pick Popularity: 13%
Point Spread: -9.0
Kansas City starts as the largest favorite of Week 1, but the reigning Super Bowl champs also have the most future value of any NFL team right now.
There are 10 other weeks in the 2020 season where we project the Chiefs to have win odds of 70 percent or higher, making them a tremendous asset to keep available in your quiver. We project Kansas City to have even higher win odds than this week in four future weeks. That includes a stretch in Week 8 and Week 9 when they host the Jets and Panthers back-to-back and should be heavy favorites in both games.
The decision to use Kansas City this week primarily comes down to deciding whether it’s better to save them for a hopefully more advantageous situation later in the year. It’s not completely cut and dry, though. Looking at just Week 1 in a vacuum, Kansas City probably is the best value pick. The Chiefs’ are the safest team of Week 1 and not wildly popular, a very rare combination this early in the season.
However, you’ll need to survive a lot longer than Week 1 to win your pool. So, the decision comes down to whether another option is close enough to save Kansas City for a hopefully even higher value situation in a future week.
San Francisco 49ers (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
Survivor Pick Popularity: 10%
Point Spread: -7.0
San Francisco is the fifth-most popular survivor pick among the public this week. Last year’s NFC champions also have the fifth-highest future value in survivor pools this year.
The 49ers are a reasonable pick option in several future weeks and look like they will be the safest pick option in both Week 5 (vs. Miami) and Week 14 (vs. Washington). In terms of relative safety, San Francisco’s win odds in Week 1 are about even with Buffalo and behind the other three slightly more popular choices.
When you have two alternatives (the Bills and Colts) that are similarly safe and also reasonably close in pick popularity, it makes for a more challenging case for burning San Francisco’s better future value this early.
Football Picks From TeamRankings:
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Get our Week 1 survivor pick for your pool!
As we mentioned above, every possible NFL Week 1 survivor pick has an expected value and future value associated with it, and those values can vary significantly based on the characteristics of your pool.
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, which is why we spent years building our NFL Survivor Picks product.
You answer a few questions about your pool’s size and rules, and it provides customized pick recommendations for your pool using the latest matchup data, betting market odds, and public picking trends. It tracks the picks you’ve already made with each of your entries, and even recommends how to split your picks for up to 30 different entries across a mix of teams.
We invite you to try it out, and good luck in your survivor pools this week!
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If you want to dig deeper into some specific topics, you can also check out our full survivor pool strategy guide, where you can learn about things like expected value, future value, different survivor pool rules variations, and how to play multiple entries.
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