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Survivor: Ravens, then Chargers, then Chiefs

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Having used the Giants and Colts already, I had initially picked the Niners, and I wish I had stuck with them. I wound up switching to the Steelers and going down in my last pool on Sunday night.

I specifically steered away from the Bucs because 55 percent of all pools were on them, and hence the payout was poor, even relative to their greater likelihood of winning. While I'm convinced using both variables (win likelihood AND expected payout) is the best strategy for winning your pool, I'm also sure it'll cause me to lose earlier rather than later, and also more frequently (in the column at least).

I accept that completely in my own pools because I know I have a better chance to win it all doing it this way, so if I lose Week 2 or Week 6, no big deal. But in writing the column, frankly it looks bad. It looks better to win for 12 weeks and lose in Week 13, than it does to gamble in Week 2, lose, gamble again in subsequent weeks, lose and keep gambling. Even though *when* you lose doesn't change how much you owe to the pool.

So I have a dilemma here. On the one hand, I can't not pick the teams which give you the best chance to win the whole thing based on pot equity just for cosmetic reasons. On the other, even if I'm 100 percent right, the odds of winning your pool are slim, no matter what method you use. So picking the uglier and riskier one - even if it doubles your chances of winning from say 1 to 2 percent - is likely never to be vindicated - unless I do this for 20-30 more years, and we compare results over a much larger sample.

So I think the answer is to keep doing it this way, but to note even more clearly which team I'd pick if I didn't care about the payout. I don't want to have two teams, so the expected equity pick is always going to be my real one, but for those who just want to play it one week at a time, I'll highlight that separately. (I already do put the percentage chance to win for each team, but it seems people are missing that. Yes, I had Tampa ahead of Pittsburgh and San Francisco as a 1-week propositon. But my pick was Pittsburgh based on the expected equity.

As for this week, let's take a look at the numbers:

Rank Team Opponent % Picked Vegas ML* Vegas Odds
1 Chargers Broncos 24.9% 45081.8%
2 Cowboys Lions 17.9% 24070.6%
3 Saints Seahawks 12.9% 52584%
4 Steelers Raiders 9.1% 29074.4%
5 Jets Texans 7.6% 27573.3%
6 Ravens Panthers 6.6% 45081.8%
7 Titans Redskins6.0% 29074.4%
8 Chiefs Cardinals 6.0% 34577.5%
9 Bengals Bills 4.9% 23069.7%
N/A Other N/A 4.1% N/AN/A
*average of the two money lines

My Picks:

1. Baltimore Ravens

Coming off a loss to Atlanta, the Ravens need this game, and the Panthers don't have the passing game to exploit the weakness in Baltimore's defense. I give the Ravens an 85 percent chance to win this game (and only 6.6 percent of people are on them). Actually, even the most popular choice, the Chargers, have less than 25 percent of the entrants on them, so the "pot odds" angle has a much smaller impact this week.

2. San Diego Chargers

It's a division game, and the Broncos are coming off a big win, but at home, and coming off the bye, I'd expect the Chargers, who should get some receivers back, to take care of business at home. I give San Diego an 83 percent chance to win.

3. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are a lot better at home, and the Cardinals are one of the worst teams in the league right now. I'm a little concerned about the way Denver moved the ball against them, but Derek Anderson is nowhere near as accurate as Kyle Orton, and Arizona's defense is poor, too. I give the Chiefs a 78 percent chance to win this game.

4. New Orleans Saints

Coming off the bye, I think the Saints will handle the Seahawks at home. Seattle played well on the road last week, but that's the exception for them, and it was against the Cardinals who aside from the Panthers might be the league's worst team. I give the Saints a 78 percent chance to win this game.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

I realize taking a two-win team sounds crazy, but wins aren't always the best indicator of how well a team has played or the best predictor of whether a team will win going forward. I like catching the Bills after they got a win under their belts, and I think Cincy, who was very much in the game against both Indy and Pittsburgh, will win easily. I give the Bengals a 74 percent chance to win this game.

Notable omissions:

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Raiders are by no means a doormat, and the Steelers have offensive line problems as well as problems stopping the pass.

New York Jets: The Jets might roll but Houston is the type of team that has the offensive upside to upset anyone.

Dallas Cowboys: Maybe the win over the Giants will jumpstart them, but keep in mind this team was considered one of the league's worst just a week ago. Moreover, they might find this one a bit of a letdown after the big win.

Tennessee Titans: The Redskins will be hungry after the embarrassing Monday night home loss. Moreover, you can't dock them too much for running into a Michael Vick tidal wave.