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Survivor: Backing the Steelers

Chris Liss

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

Surviving Week 2

Week 1 could not have gone better from a picking standpoint, as my top choice, the Texans, rolled early and easily, while two of my "notable omissions", the Browns and Chiefs, lost. But the result could have been better had the Panthers held on against the Cardinals, and at one point, even the 49ers and Chargers were in jeopardy. If you had Arizona especially, you're lucky to be alive, though I don't think you can win your pool without at least a couple of those life and death games going your way.

Let's take a look at this week's slate:

Team Opponent % Picked* Vegas ML** Vegas Odds
STEELERS Seahawks 44.3 -775 88.57%
JETS Jaguars 18 -400 80%
Packers PANTHERS 11.9 -450 81.82%
LIONS Chiefs 10.4 -330 76.74%
Ravens TITANS 4.2 -230 69.70%
GIANTS Rams 3.2 -250 71.43%
*according to
**average of the two moneylines

My picks

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Vegas gives them an 88.6 percent chance to win, and I think that's probably about right. But 44 percent of the pool is on them, so they're not a slam dunk first choice. To illustrate, let's assume you had 100 people in your pool ($10 entry fee), and 44 lost with the Steelers, leaving 56 survivors. The value of their equity share heading into Week 3 would therefore be $1,000/56, i.e., $17.86. If you took the Steelers, on the other hand, and the Packers - the team with the next highest win percentage - lost, there would be 88 people left. $1000/88 = $11.36. The ratio of $17.86 to $11.36 is 1.57. In other words, you'd have 57 percent more equity in Week 3 by avoiding the Steelers and taking Green Bay, should things work out for you.

But according to Vegas, the Steelers have an 88.6 percent chance to win (or a 11.4% chance to lose), vs. Green Bay's 81.8/18.2 split. So the ratio of 18.2/11.4 = 1.60. In other words, according to Vegas, Green Bay is 60 percent more likely to lose than Pittsburgh but offers just a 57 percent better payout. This is splitting hairs, of course, and you might differ in your opinion of Green Bay's or Pittsburgh's chances, so adjust accordingly. Moreover, your pool could skew more heavily toward picking either the Steelers or Green Bay, and that, too, will change the equation. Bottom line - I don't know which way my pools will skew (they could go in either direction), and I think the Vegas odds are roughtly apt. So Pittsburgh is my choice this week. That they're at home and coming off an embarrassing loss to a rival doesn't hurt, but you do have to wonder whether this is the same Steeler team we've seen the last few years.

2. Green Bay Packers

As the math above demonstrates, it's a very close call between the Packers and Steelers. Green Bay looks unbeatable when they're on, but after an exciting home opener against the playoff-caliber Saints, I could see a letdown on the road against Carolina, particularly after the long layoff between games. I give the Packers an 81 percent chance to win this game.

3. New York Jets

I don't trust the Jets to pull away from teams typically, and you never want to be in a situation (especially this early) when one big play can beat you. Of course, I don't see how the Jaguars will generate much passing offense, and New York probably will against Jacksonville's secondary. I give the Jets an 80 percent chance to win this game.

Notable Omissions

Detroit Lions - A year ago, the Chiefs would have been a pick 'em in this spot, and I don't want to throw that out the window after just one week.

Baltimore Ravens - It was an impressive home win, but Pittsburgh might have lost a step, and you have to expect an emotional letdown after that huge win. Moreover, this game's in Tennessee.

New York Giants - I saw nothing in last week's game against the Redskins that would make me trust the Giants against anyone but the league's worst doormats, and even then I'd be nervous.