We got by easily with the 49ers last week, but pretty much everyone survived along with us. Let's take a look at this week's slate:
Home Team in CAPS
* according to OfficeFootballPools.com
** average of the two moneylines
Clearly, one team stands out, and that's Atlanta. While the percent-taken number isn't as reliable as in most seasons because it includes a lot of second-chance pools, I don't think a lot of people used Atlanta so far, so I'm going to assume it's in the ballpark
The question then is whether the relative safety of Atlanta (21 percent chance to lose) is offset by the 54 percent of people taking them. Let's compare them to the 49ers (or Steelers), both of which have a 31 percent chance to lose. That means the 49ers/Steelers are 1.48 times more likely to lose than the Falcons.
And for the purposes of the example, let's use Pittsburgh, as most people have taken the 49ers already. There are 20 percent of pools on the Steelers. That means in a hypothetical 100-person, $10 entry-fee pool, if the Falcons win and Steelers lose, your equity would be $12.50.
But if the Steelers win and Falcons lose, 54 people are knocked out. Your equity would be worth $21.74. The ratio of $21.74 to $12.50 is 1.74. So you're taking on 1.48 times as much risk, but getting 1.74 times as much payout.
That means – if you believe these win percentage and pick percentage numbers, you should take the Steelers. Or especially the Niners if you have them available.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers - This is purely a pot odds play, as so many people are on the Falcons. The Steelers have to travel on a short week and are missing arguably the lynchpin of their defense, Troy Polamalu. But the Titans haven't simply been bad - they've been abysmal, with a past-his-prime QB, a gimpy top WR and an offensive line that simply cannot open holes for Chris Johnson. The defense has been similarly bad. I think the game will be close, but I give the Steelers a 70 percent chance to win this game.
2. Baltimore Ravens - The Cowboys are a good team on paper, and they're coming off a bye, but it's tough to win in Baltimore, and the Ravens are a better-coached, more disciplined team. I give the Ravens a 68 perecnt chance to win this game.
3. Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins are stout defensively, and Ryan Tannehill is playing much better than anyone had expected. The Rams are also improved, but they lack playmakers on offense, and the game is in Miami. I give the Dolphins a 67 percent chance to win this game.
4. Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons are the most likely team to win, but given the number of people likely to be on them, you should fade them. The Raiders are bad, but they beat the Steelers earlier this year, and Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden could have success against a Falcons defense that struggled at home against Carolina two weeks ago. I give the Falcons a 75 percent chance to win this game.
San Francisco 49ers - They're arguably the best team in the league, but the Giants are no slouches and usually rise to the challenge of tougher competition. Plus, Eli Manning has become one of the last QBs you want to see leading his team on a final drive down less than one score.
Philadelphia Eagles - The Lions are bad, but they're desperate, have the game's biggest playmaker and are coming off a bye.
New England Patriots - It's best not to mess with Seattle at home.
Arizona Cardinals - The Bills match up well against this team and are a desperate animal after getting blown out twice in a row.