Week 4 Survivor Pick Strategy & Advice (2023)

Week 4 of the 2023 NFL season starts with San Francisco and Kansas City, the two big favorites that just survived last week intact

Brock Purdy and San Francisco are heading to Las Vegas (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Well, that was a wild week. We had a bunch of big favorites, and the dogs prevailed. As a result, we head to a Week 4 that looks like Week 3, in that San Francisco and Kansas City, the two teams that survived the mess, are now popular again.

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 4 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:


Five Most Popular Week 4 Survivor Picks

Here are the most popular teams early on for Week 4 of the 2023 NFL season:

  • San Francisco 49ers (39%) vs. Arizona
  • Kansas City Chiefs (18%) at NY Jets
  • Philadelphia Eagles (15%) vs. Washington
  • Dallas Cowboys (6%) vs. New England
  • LA Chargers (4%) vs. Las Vegas

Let’s quickly go through each of these options:

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have the highest win odds, and the highest EV of the week, by a pretty good margin over most options. They are very popular at close to 40%, but that popularity is capped to some extent because they were used at moderate amounts in each of the last two weeks.

They probably make more sense in smaller pools than larger ones, given that they have a lot of value late in the season for larger multi-pick week pools. The 49ers likely won’t be as big of a favorite at any point, but they could have extremely high EV in future weeks where they are among the top win odds options, at very low usage.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are the second-largest favorite of the week at the New York Jets on Sunday Night. Because San Francisco’s win odds are so high (87% to 88%), and are getting just under half the picks, Kansas City’s EV is only average (though it is better than most other options that are riskier).

The Chiefs have more future value than Philadelphia, and that’s value that comes up sooner than the Eagles’ other weeks do, as the Chiefs will get Denver twice in the span of the next month.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are the alternative to using San Francisco, at a little more risk but future value savings. After this, they will get the Jets on the road in Week 6, but their other top win odds weeks are late, in Weeks 16 and 17.

Like Kansas City, Philadelphia has modest EV in a vacuum, but this week it is better than any other options besides San Francisco and Kansas City.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas laid an egg in the first game after CB Trevon Diggs’ season-ending injury, at Arizona, in the biggest upset of the year so far. We still have Dallas rated similarly to Kansas City and San Francisco in future value. Since they have lower win odds and lower EV, this probably isn’t the best week to use them as they will have a variety of weeks to consider mid-season.

Los Angeles Chargers

We’ll see where the win odds for this matchup with Las Vegas ends up, as we await word on whether Jimmy Garoppolo (concussion protocol) will be able to start at QB for the Raiders. Right now, the Chargers have lower win odds and lower EV than the top options.

They do have less future value than the Chiefs, 49ers, and Cowboys (more similar to the Eagles). But they do get Chicago now in Week 8 at home, and the Bears’ continued poor form has increased the win odds’ outlook for that future matchup.

 


Tuesday 9/26

Week 3 Survivor Recap

Week 3 gave us our biggest favorites of the year, and the most chaos. Five different teams were favored by more than a touchdown, and three of the five lost. How rare was this week? We have spread data going back to 2003. This marks only the seventh time in that span that three different teams favored by more than a touchdown lost in the same week. It’s tied for the worst win percentage in that span (2-3, for 40%) for teams favored by more than a touchdown in the same week, among weeks with 4 or more such teams. And every other week with at least three big favorites losing came in Week 10 or later.

Here is a full summary of the most popular picks for Week 2, and the results:

TeamOpponentPopularityResult
Kansas CityChicago23%W 41-10
JacksonvilleHouston20%L 37-17
San FranciscoNY Giants19%W 30-12
DallasArizona18%L 28-16
BaltimoreIndianapolis7%L 22-19 OT
SeattleCarolina6%W 37-27
MiamiDenver5%W 70-20

Baltimore was our most frequent pick, due to their low popularity, relatively better EV than Jacksonville, and lower future value. We were also heavier than the public on Kansas City. We were lower than the public on Dallas and Jacksonville, but they still were being recommended to over 10% of entries each.

It’s hard to overstate how costly, and painful, the end of that Baltimore game was. They had a three-point lead and the ball just before the two-minute warning, after sacking Gardner Minshew for a safety. They had three clear chances where just one more play could have won it, after that possession, including Justin Tucker coming up short on a 61-yarder, and a clear uncalled pass interference on fourth down that swung the game in overtime. The opposing kicker, in a game involving Tucker, set a record by hitting four different field goals from over 50 yards. That game was the definition of running cold.

As a result, yet again, our most common pick lost. And almost all advancing PoolGenius entries in Week 3 used Kansas City, burning a team with high future value. After three weeks, only about one of every six PoolGenius entries is still alive, compared to a public that is expected to be at about 35% or so in a typical pool.

We got this question, and I am sure it’s what several of you are feeling. So we thought we would address it:

I hope this email finds you well! As an avid user of your survivor algorithm and strategy, I wanted to reach out and inquire about any potential changes you might be considering making. As you may be aware, your advisement picks for the year are currently sitting at less than 20%, and naturally, this has caused some concern for me (I can only speak to my league, and it does have a rebuy, but I’m not loving the approach). While I understand that upsets and unexpected results can occur in any given season, it does seem as though an adjustment to the algorithm or strategy might be in order. Thoughts?

Our most frequent weekly recommendations are now 0-3. Based on the betting market odds, there was a 3% chance those three picks would go 0-3 for the reverse parlay. On the other hand, there was a 35% chance they would go 3-0. So based on the generally accepted best available win odds estimates, there was more than a 10 times higher chance of going 3-0 and being in a dominating position than of what actually transpired.

There have been seven picks where we suggested a team at a higher than the public was using them, and to at least 10% of entries. Those picks are 3-4. Based on betting market odds, the average expectation for those seven games was 5.0 wins, so we’ve run two wins under expectation overall on our highest leverage picks.

So it’s been a very bad run to start 2023, and we share your frustration. But we can’t overreact to bad variance. We have a track record of success, and many of you have been with us for those successes, using the same philosophy. Last year, our most frequent weekly recommendations went 15-2-1 (that tie was the Colts in Week 1, which knocked out a bunch right away). In 2021, our most frequent weekly recommendations went 16-2. So yes, we’ve taken more losses on our biggest stands so far in 2023 than we did in all of 2022 or 2021. We ran hot in those years, and it’s been very cold now, but the process is the same.

The last time we had a rough patch was in 2020, when our most common recommendation lost in three of the first five weeks, including the Colts (again) in Week 1 and back-to-back weeks with San Francisco as a big, somewhat unpopular favorite (some of you might remember the game Jimmy Garoppolo tried to play against Miami, got knocked out, and the Dolphins won big at the 49ers). We got questions then. Things closed out on a hot run of 12-1 on our most common recommendation.

The results this season have been disappointing, and for those of you who have never been with us before, we are sure that you have questions. We’ll always review the process at the edges, but changing how we do things on some sort of larger basis would be like completely gutting your offense because you happened to have a game with a bunch of turnovers and miscues. It happens, but good organizations maintain their cool and bounce back.

We’ll still be here, planning, working, and trying to do as well as we can with all the entries that are left.


FYI

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:


FYI

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.


Wednesday 9/27

San Francisco, and When the Most Popular Pick Has Highest EV

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