Week 3 Survivor Pick Strategy & Advice (2023)
Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season has some bigger favorites and lots of options for your survivor pools. Which ones should you take?
Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars have entered the survivor chat for Week 3 (David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)
Through two weeks, we haven’t seen any big public losses. Teams favored by six points or more are a perfect 6-0, and teams with 12% or higher public pick popularity are 5-0. That record of bigger favorites will be put to the test in Week 3, as we get some of our biggest spreads of the year. Three teams are currently favored by double digits entering the week (all bigger than any favorite so far) and four other teams are favored by 6.5 or more this week.
In these weekly columns, we explore strategies to maximize your edge in NFL survivor pools, also known as knockout pools or eliminator pools. We also provide some of the rationale behind picks potentially recommended by our product.
We plan to periodically update this post until Sunday of Week 3 arrives, and we will also be posting video updates throughout the week as well, so check our articles section for those. Here’s what’s available now:
- 9/24: Week 3 Sunday AM Pick Overview
- 9/22: Friday Strategy Rundown: Ravens, Chiefs, and More
- 9/21: The Differing Future Value of Dallas, Kansas City, and San Francisco
- 9/19: 5 Most Popular Week 3 Picks
- 9/19: Week 2 Recap
- FYI: Survivor Strategy Articles
- FYI: About Our Survivor Pool Advice
Week 3 Sunday AM Pick Overview
NOTE: We will have a live chat from 11:45 a.m. ET to 12:30 p.m. ET this morning to answer questions about survivor Week 3.
Here’s where things stand as of Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. ET, comparing public picking trends to the percentage of picks we’re recommending to PoolGenius subscribers (the “PoolGenius” column).
The last five columns in the table show how our recommended picks vary by subscriber pool format/rules. The table shows every team with at least 2% public popularity and/or is drawing at least one recommendation from PoolGenius to one of your pool entries.
Entries can fall under more than one category. For example, a pool that requires multiple picks in future weeks and also allows a strike would be separately included in the percentages for each.
We have the same top four as Friday, and even the same order. However, Jacksonville’s percentage has been dropping throughout the weekend, as their point spread is down to -7.5, and Kansas City and Dallas have been rising. The gap between the Chiefs and Jaguars has grown, as they were near-equal on Friday.
Splits Based on Pool Type and Size
As you can see in the above table, we have a few differences based on pool type. Dallas replaces Jacksonville as the third most-common recommendation in standard pools, while Jacksonville is ahead in specialty rules pools because of lower future value. Kansas City has climbed over 30% for standard pools, and may be the most common recommendation in the smaller standard pool types.
Week 3 Expectations
This will likely be one of the highest average survival expectation weeks we will see this year, with so many entries on teams with win odds well above 70%.
The public already has a chunk of entries through with San Francisco, and as a result, has between 83% and 85% average survival expectation, with Kansas City as the most common.
Our recommendations featured fewer San Francisco picks, and thus have more outstanding. We also have fewer overall on the top three of Dallas, Kansas City and San Francisco, on future savings grounds. As a result, our average expectation is 79% using our model odds, and 81% using market odds.
Baltimore is the high leverage play, being far less popular with the public, and will dictate whether it is an overall good week versus the public picks. Meanwhile, Miami (5%) is the team that the public is taking that we have no picks out on at the moment, and we are also lighter on Seattle (2% vs. 6%) and have no picks on a lot of riskier choices where the public collectively has about another 5% of their picks.
Friday Strategy Rundown: Ravens, Chiefs, and More
We are going to go through our Friday Strategy rundown below. But first, we’d like to announce that we will be live with a chat if you have any questions on how the picks are shaping up. Today from 1 p.m. ET to 1:30 p.m. ET feel free to join us. We will also be live on Sunday morning from 11:45 a.m. ET to 12:30 a.m. ET to answer Sunday pick deadline questions.
San Francisco is in the clubhouse with a win
The 49ers won the Thursday Night game 30-12 over the Giants. About 19% of public entries advanced. Our recommendations were lighter on San Francisco, and you can read yesterday’s note on Dallas, Kansas City, and San Francisco to see some of the rationale why they were the strongest preferred save of the high future value teams.
While we would have loved to have used San Francisco with 100% hindsight of a win, nearly all of your entries should have San Francisco still available. Meanwhile, one-third or more of all public entries may have already used them entering next week. San Francisco is likely to be a high value choice, even at high popularity, next week, when they are at home against Arizona. The picks on the 49ers the last two weeks will keep it from getting astronomically high with the public.
So we anticipate that the 49ers will be among the top options available to most entries next week, and a big part of the portfolio strategy.
As a final note, you’ll see that the EV numbers are across the board lower this morning. That’s because they are accounting for the SF entries advancing, which lowers the payoff potential for other picks and relatively increases the value of also safely getting through.
Pick Recommendations Concentrated on Four Choices
Our pick recommendations are concentrated on Baltimore, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Dallas. Over 95% of all pick recommendations this week are on one of those four teams.
You can divide that quartet into two duos, the high future value/highest win odds pairing of Kansas City and Dallas, and the Baltimore/Jacksonville duo.
Baltimore Over Jacksonville
Baltimore and Jacksonville are the relative future value savers this week, and nearly 60% of our entries are taking that tact. This is especially important in larger pools and specialty pools.
Of the two, Baltimore has emerged as the preferred option in most pools. This is an EV play, as the relative pick rate with the public is providing higher value on Baltimore than Jacksonville at similar win odds.
Jacksonville’s spread has also dropped to 8.5 points, with a slight drop in win odds, so that may be enough to cause a little more shift away from Jacksonville with some entries.
Kansas City Over Dallas
The Chiefs are our 2nd-most common recommendation this week, and more common in standard rules pools and smaller pool sizes. They are the preferred choice over Dallas, narrowly, on future value ranking, as they have similar win odds this week. Dallas has a lot of potentially valuable weeks through the middle of the season, a part of the schedule that tends to be important whether you are in a smaller pool getting close to the end, or a larger pool.
San Francisco got about 2% of our recommendations, coming in behind Kansas City and Dallas but sprinkling in some larger portfolios.
Seattle is the most common other option, at about 3%. The Seahawks show up occasionally in portfolios that have strikes, future multi-picks, or pools that extend into the playoffs.
Besides that, there are a small number of picks out there on Las Vegas, Carolina (all strike pools, presumably where strikes are expiring), and Buffalo.
The Differing Future Value of Dallas, Kansas City, and San Francisco
Dallas, Kansas City, and San Francisco are the three largest favorites this week, and all inside the top four in popularity. They are also our three highest future value teams. But the shape of that value is different, and impacts strategy.
- Has immediate good value next week, vs. Arizona at home. The current look-ahead line is -14.5.
- After that, there’s a long stretch where they are not one of the bigger favorites, not re-emerging again until Week 11.
- Projects as one of the top options in Weeks 14, 15, and 18, making them even more valuable in late multi-pick week pools.
- After this week, won’t be one of the higher win odds options for a month.
- Then, from Weeks 8 to 13, are one of the top options in five of those six weeks.
- Their value is mostly done after that, though they do have a Week 18 game at Washington (though final week motivations may change the outlook).
- Multiple potentially useful spots over the next month.
- Highest win odds in Week 16 vs. Las Vegas, which could be a really high value week in larger pools.
All three have similar win odds and EV this week. Of the three you are least likely to see San Francisco. Being lighter on San Francisco this week is potentially valuable in both smaller and larger specialty pools. In smaller pools, having San Francisco as an immediate option next week against Arizona is desirable. We wouldn’t recommend your entire portfolio on San Francisco next week, but having the option on most entries, to see how the value proposition falls, is worth the near-term save.
And in larger pools, they have the most value late in the year, when those multi-pick weeks are likely to emerge. Add in that it’s a Thursday Night game and picking them now forecloses benefiting from any later news or line changes, and San Francisco is the third of the three right now this week.
We’ll have a full overview of the pick strategy for Week 3 tomorrow.
Five Most Popular Week 3 Survivor Picks
Here are the most popular teams early on for Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season:
- Kansas City Chiefs (21%) vs. Chicago Bears
- Jacksonville Jaguars (21%) vs. Houston Texans
- Dallas Cowboys (19%) at Arizona Cardinals
- San Francisco 49ers (15%) vs. NY Giants
- Baltimore Ravens (7%) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Let’s go through those options and hit on some of the arguments for and against them.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are currently the biggest favorite of the week, in a week where we have more teams with higher win odds than either of the first two combined. That makes Kansas City the largest favorite of the year, and their 87% market win odds are easily the highest we have seen. The Chicago Bears have not looked very good for two weeks now, and the Chiefs have, if anything, underperformed because of turnovers and miscues.
The popularity also isn’t prohibitively high, so Kansas City has a pretty good EV.
The primary question is Future Value. The Chiefs rank, along with Dallas and San Francisco, at the top in that category. They should be sizable favorites (though maybe not by 13 points) both next week (at the Jets) and in Week 6 (vs. Denver) as well as in later season matchups against the Raiders.
The Jaguars are probably as big a favorite this week (-9.5 vs. Houston) as they will be all year. Because, though, there are three bigger favorites and they are more popular than two of them, and identical to the other, they have an EV below 1.00.
Using Jacksonville, though, is a consideration to save those other high future value teams.
Jacksonville does have a couple of potential spots where they could be more valuable. In Week 6, they could be an alternative (vs. Indianapolis) to the Rams or Dolphins. And for larger pools, they could be important late in Week 17, when they host Carolina, especially for entries that have already used Philadelphia (the Eagles play Arizona that week).
Dallas, playing on the road at Arizona, is only slightly below Kansas City in win odds, and has similar EV at slightly lower popularity. They also have a similar future value rating. So the case for Dallas is similar to Kansas City.
The weeks when Dallas has future value are different though, so you might check that as you decide. Dallas’ highest value spots look to be in the middle of the season, in Weeks 8 to 12.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco joins Dallas and Kansas City as another double-digit favorite, with a similar EV this week.
The 49ers also have high future value. Theirs is the opposite of Dallas, which comes in the middle of the season. For San Francisco, they immediately play Arizona at home next week, when they project as a favorite of two touchdowns or so, and then they go through a relatively tougher stretch.
From Week 11 onward, though, San Francisco projects as one of the biggest favorites in five different weeks. That means they are probably the most versatile and important team for later season multi-pick weeks.
Baltimore was the most popular pick for Week 1, and are back again as a Week 3 option. This is the highest remaining win odds spot for Baltimore based on our projections, even though they are below the more popular options this week based on point spread.
So relative to the other options, they have lower future value. Baltimore is also less popular than Jacksonville, while having similar win odds to the Jaguars, providing them a solid, if not spectacular, EV for this week.
Week 2 Survivor Recap
Week 2 featured some of the biggest contenders in key spots. Buffalo, Dallas, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are all teams who should be favored in a lot of future weeks. All of them won their Week 2 matchups, some in more dominating fashion than others.
The other options, the teams with lower future value, were a mixed bag. The Giants came back and won a close won on the road, and the Saints and Bucs both won. The Lions lost in a shootout with Seattle, and Denver did the same at home to Washington, while the Chargers came up short again, this time at Tennessee.
Here is a full summary of the most popular picks for Week 2, and the results:
|Buffalo||Las Vegas||28%||W 38-10|
|Dallas||NY Jets||20%||W 30-10|
|NY Giants||Arizona||12%||W 31-28|
|San Francisco||LA Rams||10%||W 30-23|
|New Orleans||Carolina||3%||W 20-17|
|LA Chargers||Tennessee||2%||L 27-24|
|Tampa Bay||Chicago||2%||W 27-17|
Our picks were spread across four teams, and we were saving future value by largely not using Dallas and San Francisco. We had recommendations mostly on Buffalo, Denver, the Giants, and Philadelphia.
Denver and the Giants were a tale of two games. The Giants fell behind 14-0 right away, but came back to win. Denver jumped out and had a 21-3 lead in the first half, but a Russell Wilson fumble set up a closing stretch where Washington scored twice in a short span at the end of the half to get back in it. Denver then trailed late, hit a Hail Mary to get within two points, but the attempt to tie it failed (and looked like a missed penalty on Washington).
That Denver exchange was rough, as they were the least popular of our picks with the public, and the type of pick trying to set up entries in larger pools to have a lot of good options still available if they got through.
As a result of mostly the Denver loss, our picks advanced 69% of the time, while the public got through at an 88% rate, with those public losses being spread across Denver, Detroit, and the Chargers mostly.
Survivor Strategy Articles
If you’re serious about winning more survivor pools, it pays to learn the strategies that give you a long-term edge.
You can start with our free survivor strategy articles, which explain a number of the concepts we apply to our customized survivor pick recommendations:
- Don’t just try to survive the week
- The “Holy Trinity” of survivor strategy
- Expected Value: What it is, why it matters
- Future value: What it is, why it matters
- Why pool size should influence your picks
- How survivor pool rules affect strategy
- Playing multiple entries in survivor pools
About Our Survivor Pool Advice
We break down the pros and cons of various survivor pick options in this column, but none of our advice is ever absolute.
Why can’t we just tell you the “best” survivor pick of the week? Because there is no universal “best pick” for all NFL survivor pools.
The best weekly pick for your pool depends on a variety of factors, including the number of entries still alive and your pool’s rules. For example:
- Bigger survivor pools reward more risk-taking.
The more entries in your pool, the lower the chance you have to win it. In addition, you have a fixed number of weeks to send hundreds (or even thousands, in really big pools) of opponents to slaughter while you survive unscathed. As a result, your best strategy for bigger pools generally demands more of a focus on avoiding the most popular picks.
- Non-standard rules change optimal pick strategy.
If your pool requires double picks late in the season, or if it’s a strike pool (i.e. your first incorrect pick doesn’t eliminate you), you don’t want to use the exact same pick strategy that you’d use in a standard-rules survivor pool. Those rule variations significantly influence decision factors, such as whether you should be more inclined to save a good team for later vs. use it now.
And then there’s all this stuff:
- What if you’ve already picked the team (or teams) that some article says is the best pick this week?
- What if the point spread for that “best pick” has gotten several points worse since the article was published?
- How should you spread your picks across multiple teams if you’re playing more than one entry?
Technology to the rescue
As far as we know, we’re the only site that has built algorithms that evaluate all of the strategy factors that matter in survivor pools and provide you with customized survivor pick recommendations based on the data updated multiple times a day.
The result? Since 2017, our subscribers have reported over $5.7 million in survivor pool winnings using our data-driven picks and tools.
If you want to see all the picks we recommend for your pool, use our NFL Survivor Picks product.
Why we write this column
At the same time, we know our subscribers like to understand the rationale behind picks the product may recommend, especially when those picks go against the grain. So, over the years, we’ve started to write more about the “whys” behind our approach.
This column can also help educate our readers about survivor pool strategy. We highlight tactics proven to result in more survivor pool wins over the long term and point out common pitfalls to avoid.
We hope you enjoy reading, and we encourage you to check out more of our survivor pool strategy articles.