NFL survivor pools are becoming more and more popular every season. While “Survivor” is the most common used name for this contest, several will refer to it as a Knockout, Elimination or Suicide Pool.

The goal is pretty straight forward. In order to win the pool, you simply have to be the last person left standing.

How it Works:

Unlike fantasy leagues, where you often will look to cap your league at a certain number of players, the more people the better in a Survivor Pool.

Most of these pools will require an entry fee. How much is really up to you and the people you are playing with. I think a good starting point is $50.

The number of people and entry fee all needs to be taken care of prior to the season starting.

Using the Week 1 schedule, all contestants will submit one team that they think will win. If the team you selected wins, you advance to Week 2.

If the team you pick loses, it’s game over (some leagues do offer people the chance to buy back in if they lose prior to like Week 5 or something).

The big catch is that you can only use each team once. For example, if you pick the Packers to win in Week 1, they are no longer an option the rest of the way.

You keep repeating the process until there is only one person left in the pool. If by chance multiple people go all 17 weeks without losing, the pot is typically split between all remaining survivors. However, it’s pretty rare that it comes down to this.

General Game Theory & Strategy for Survivor Pools

Basic Guidelines

  • Use Vegas Point Spreads – It would silly to not at least take a look at the NFL betting lines for the games. The books are straight up telling you who they think the better team is. You are going to last a lot longer in this thing picking teams who are -7 or more than trying to sneak by each week with a small favorite or underdog.
  • Try to Avoid Road Teams – It’s not easy winning on the road in the NFL. In 2018 there were only 7 teams in the entire league that posted a winning record away from home.
  • Be Careful of Division/Rivalry Games – Crazy things seem to happen in division/rivalry games. You see a lot of upsets in these matchups. Try to avoid these unless there’s a significant gap in talent.
  • Check Injury Report/Suspensions – I think this is pretty straight forward. The big point I want to make, is that it might not be a bad idea to wait until closer to the deadline to make your pick for the week. More and more injury information becomes available the closer we get to game time. Why not wait and use that info to your advantage.
  • Don’t Just Focus on the Best Teams – Too many people get caught up in picking the best teams, while this could lead to some early success in your pool, it’s going to be difficult to maneuver your way through the second half of the season with a bunch of bad teams to pick from.

Pro Tips

  • Advanced Scheduling – Don’t just look at things on a week-to-week basis. If you want to consistently be one of the last people left in your pool, you need to start looking at the schedule as a whole. Vegas sets early odds in the spring/summer for every game Week 1 – Week 16. Use these odds to see how many easy games (-7 or more) each team has. Teams with a lot of easy games are ones you want to save until later. Good teams with only a few elite spots to back, are ones you want to look to play early on. If you got the time, try to map out your picks for every week before the season starts.
  • Pick Percentages – This is the contrarian approach to Survivor Pools. You want to use whatever resources you can (ESPN, Yahoo, Etc.) to try and find out what the consensus picks are for that week and avoid these teams. The goal here is to take less obvious choices who are maybe playing against a bad team and hope that there’s some big upsets. If 60% of the pool is on one team and that team loses, your chances of winning go up drastically.

Free NFL Expert Last Man Standing Pool Picks

Each week I’m going to give my thoughts on some teams. I’m going to give you my favorite team to play, some others you might want to consider and a few that I recommend avoiding.

Note that a lot of the logic used for survivor pool picks go hand-and-hand with handicapping the point spreads.

My Best Survivor Picks – Week 11

TAMPA BAY BUCS at NY Giants (Bucs -11.5)

Sorry to all that took the Bucs in their survivor pool last week. It’s safe to say that nobody saw that coming. I’d feel confident in taking them this week, however, as it’s unlikely they come out flat two weeks in a row.

CLEVELAND BROWNS vs Detroit Lions (Browns -11.5)

The Lions have been actually been pretty good at covering the spread this season, but they’ve yet to win a game. I think that trend continues this week. At 5-5, the Browns are far from out of contention for the playoffs and they desperately need a win in a spot like this. There won’t be many more favorable matchups for Cleveland this season, so jump on them if you still have them in your holster.

Top Value Plays

BUFFALO BILLS vs Indianapolis Colts (Bills -7.5)

Coming purely from a game theory point of view, the Bills are a good pick here this week because they are both likely to win and unlikely to be the most popular pick this week.  We do expect Buffalo to hold value later in the season though, so we couldn’t blame you for holding back on them this week.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at Atlanta Falcons (Patriots -7) [Thursday Night Game]

Similar to the Bills, the Pats value here comes from not many pool players taking them this week. New England also won’t have a ton of value down the road, so don’t be afraid to get an early winner in the bank Thursday with New England.  There is some concern here with a road team on a Thursday, however, so take a look at the teams above if you don’t want to take the high-risk road.

Suicide Team to Avoid

TENNESSEE TITANS vs Houston Texans (Titans -10.5)

The Titans should be fine here, but if you are looking for the best chance to win your pool, you shouldn’t take them here. They are far-and-away the most popular pick this week and they have less of a chance to win than teams like the Browns and Bucs. Much like Tampa Bay last week, this is the kind of pick that could end up winning or losing you the pool.  That said, it is extremely unlikely that Tennessee goes down here, just be sure to think about it in terms of winning your entire pool and not just which team should win this week.

For more great free content this week check out my teaser of the week.