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Survivor: Backing the Steelers (but really the Chargers)

Chris Liss

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

Surviving Week 3

Last week was uneventful. We won easily with the Steelers, but virtually nobody lost unless you were crazy enough to take the Ravens on the road. This week, there's one overwhelming favorite in the Chargers, and two other double-digit options in the Pats and Steelers.

Let's take a look:

Team Opponent % Picked* Vegas ML** Vegas Odds
CHARGERS Chiefs 53.0 765 0.88
Steelers COLTS 16.7 487.5 0.83
TITANS Broncos 8.0 290 0.74
Patriots BILLS 7.5 370 0.79
PANTHERS Jaguars 4.0 177.5 0.64

Home Team in CAPS
* according to
** average of the two moneylines

Let's assume there are 100 people left in your pool, and the total prize is $1000, i.e., you each have $10 worth of equity heading into Week 3. If the Chargers were to lose, and you had another team that got through, you'd be one of 47 people left, i.e., you'd have $21.3 in equity. If, on the other hand, you took the Chargers, they won and the Steelers lost, there would be 83 people left, and your share would be worth $12. That means the payout from a Steelers-win, Chargers-loss is worth 21.3/12 times the payout of a Chargers-win, Steelers-loss, or 78 percent more.

But the Chargers, according to Vegas are 88/12 favorites while the Steelers are 83/17. That means, the chances of the Steelers losing are 17/12 times greater or 1.42. So you can see that while the Steelers are at 42 percent greater risk of losing, the payout should they win and the Chargers lose is 78 percent more. Hence the Steelers are the better choice this week.

Unfortunately, I've already taken the Steelers, so for me it's between the Patriots and Chargers. If the Patriots lost, and you had the Chargers, there would be 92 people left, or $10.87 worth of equity. So the ratio between payouts is 21.3/10.87 or 96 percent more. But the Pats are only 79/21 favorites - and the Chargers are 88/12. So the Pats are 75 percent more likely to lose - at least if you buy the Vegas numbers. Bottom line, in that case, the Pats are a better pick than the Chargers.

Nonetheless, I put the Pats at closer to 75/25 as I think they're a little overbet in Vegas, and playing on the road against a scrappy division rival is dangerous. So if it's 75/25, then the chances of losing compared to the Chargers go to 25:12 or more than 2:1. In which case the Chargers are the better pick.

As you can see, it's pretty close between the two, and I'll add a third consideration that makes the Chargers better: the notion that your equity is slightly understated even with 100 people left. Because 10-20 percent of your pool is probably dead money, i.e., consists of people who will take undue and unncessary risk with teams you'd never consider and are therefore incredibly unlikely to make it through more than a few weeks. For that reason, there's some hidden value in staying alive when it's close - as you have slightly more equity than you think.

My picks

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Going on the road into a dome isn't the easiest task, but Jim Caldwell looks like a lame duck coach on a team that's merely waiting for the season to end so they can draft Andrew Luck and/or get Peyton Manning back. Kerry Collins is going to have serious problems avoiding the rush, and it's hard to see Indy being able to run. I give the Steelers an 83 percent chance to win this game. (Again, I can't take the Steelers because I had them last week).

2. San Diego Chargers (my pick)

The Chargers are home against a banged-up league doormat and have the added incentive of coming off a disappointing loss - in other words, it's hard to see them taking anyone for granted. The downside is that San Diego usually plays below its capacity, especially early in the year, and the Chiefs are a wounded animal. Still, the talent gap here is large. I give the Chargers an 88 percent chance to win this game.

3. New England Patriots

I don't love that they're on the road and facing a scrappy Bills team that took Pittsburgh to overtime last year and came back from a 21-3 deficit last week against the Raiders. Moreover, the Pats defense is nothing special, and there's little doubt the Bills will be up for this game. I give the Patriots a 75 percent chance to win this game.

Notable Omissions

Tennessee Titans - Let's not get crazy just because they played one good game against the Ravens. Remember - this is a team that lost to the Jaguars in Week 1.

Carolina Panthers - The Jaguars beat the Titans in Week 1. They could certainly beat winless Carolina in Week 3.

Philadelphia Eagles - With Michael Vick banged up and facing a bitter rival, I'd stay away this week.

Dallas Cowboys - Way too many injuries and facing an improved Redskins team.