by Celso T. Castilho - 09/22/2005
Click Here for updated weekly advice for Survivor Pool contests.
Yes, it's possible to have 16 different favorite teams!
Whether you're familiar with it as a survivor, suicide, or eliminator pool, the drill remains the same: pick the winner (straight up) of one game, then indulge yourself with next week's schedule. If your team loses, then you indulge yourself with other endeavors because you are out of the contest.
These tournament-style pools combine the competitiveness of the office pool with the pressure and thrill of sports betting. The one-time entry fee is usually fairly reasonable (although there are many high-roller versions of the survivor pool), and the payout could earn you up to 50 times your entry fee. Participants must choose one winner each week, and cannot pick the same team twice in a season. If your team wins, you advance to the next week, and proceed until there is only one person left. If you lose, sayonara.
As opposed to fantasy football that emphasizes individual performances, playing in a survivor pool forces one to think exclusively along team lines. Clearly, the approach and research involved with playing these pools will aid any bettor. As I'm discovering, it may be a hidden blessing to evaluate the games straight up, and without excessive thought to the spread. An article today in Vegas Insider showed that through week two in the NFL, 90 percent of the teams that won also covered the spread.
There are a plethora of strategies to choose from in a survivor pool. Like myself, many people that enter these pools also wager regularly. Initially, this type of competition may appear deceptively easy. How can someone that plays regularly or someone that follows sports closely not pick a winner? Well, sometimes the line is interpreted a little too literally, and people assume that the point spread reflects the talent differential between the two teams. This might not always be the case. Point spreads often reflect public perception and are dictated by the action the bookie receives on a particular game.
Let's call it the reverse trap. Trap games, of course, refer to situations where the outcome is supposed to be easily discernible. Well, the reverse trap lies in reading the weekly lines too superficially, and hence concluding that the best team is the one that's favored the most. Remember, the lines are set to induce action on both sides, period.
This happens most in the first quarter of the season, as I think people overvalue preseason analyses. Those that played against the Texans in season openers during their first two years will remember how Dallas and Miami suffered unthinkable upsets. Also, weren't the Cardinals, Vikings and Ravens supposed to take the proverbial step forward this season?
The aforementioned tendency of picking a team with the highest spread can work out on given weeks, but will rarely carry someone to total victory. Every week, a couple of games stand out, and I think it wise to avoid those contests that appear to be the most popular. As we all know, upsets happen. Be careful!
Other players prefer to employ long term planning when making selections, and actually save a good pick for a future week. I strongly disagree with this strategy because injuries can completely change the complexion of a team, and say, the Colts without Peyton Manning, are hardly a strong choice. Also consider that if you avoid taking the obvious favorite on most weeks, you will have a decent set of teams to choose from during the second-third of the season.
I'm of the brand that looks for the best, decent home team vs. poor road team, combination. After a careful look at the schedule, I pare down the choices to a few games. From there, it becomes a process of elimination. Here are a few factors to take into consideration:
• HOME TEAM-Obvious, I know, but assume that between 2-4 teams will be upset every week, and most of those upsets come at the hands of home underdogs. Do not underestimate the impact of a home crowd in a tight game. (See Niners week 1, Carolina week.2)
• WEAK OPPONENT-An often overlooked point, and a factor distorted by point spreads. Some big road dogs, like the Niners in week 2, had the smallest of chances to win at Philly, while others, such as the Jags, played a close game and have in the past won in Indy. Again, spreads do not indicate the difference in ability between two teams.
• SCHEDULE-Short weeks affect teams, sometimes positively, but usually negatively. Long travel distances are not good (Seattle in week 1 and Atlanta in week 2). Also be wary of supporting teams playing on the back end of consecutive road games.
• RECENT HISTORY/RIVALRIES-When making your selection, respect the trends in recent games between the two squads, but remember that the extra energy surrounding a rivalry can trumps statistics (Ask those who had the Rams and Cowboys in the last 2 weeks).
Even at the cost of sounding formulaic, I strongly urge you to consider those factors when making a selection. Before signing off, I'll put my theory into practice and offer some possibilities for this week. I have already played the Giants and Cincinnati. With these games, I am not taking the point spread into account. Preferred team is in bold.
Arizona at SEATTLE: Seattle has beaten the Cards at home since 2002. The Cards cannot stop the run (Stephen Jackson avg. over 4 yds/carry, imagine what kind of day Shaun Alexander has in store), and Arizona is not one of the 0-2 teams that I think will win this week. Overall, this is the best combo of a good home team versus a bad road team.
Cleveland at INDIANAPOLIS: The victory over Green Bay was impressive. Romeo knows how to defend against Peyton, albeit with Patriot players. Lee Suggs is due back. The positives for Cleveland end here. These teams last played in Indy in 2002, so not much to draw from there. As has been very well documented everywhere, the Colts defense is for real and should hold Cleveland to 10-14 points. I trust that Peyton and Co. will better that. Cleveland is also coming off a road game.
The 0-2 ers:
Saints at MINNESOTA: I had to say something more about the 0-2 teams. I can see either Minnesota or the Chargers winning, but with the Giants in town, I'd take my chances with the Vikings. This is the third consecutive road game for the Saints, and it's off of a short week. Minnesota has not impressed-to say the least--, but they have played decent teams. The Saints have a pass on this season, while this is for Tice's job.
All commentary and opinions are of the writer and not intended to reflect the positions of this page. Good luck and I hope to report back next week.