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 17

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Colts -14)

Even after last week’s 2nd half collapse against the Steelers, it would be really hard to pass up the Colts in Week 17 if you still got them available. While Indianapolis is on the outside looking in the AFC playoff picture, they still have a really good shot of making it with a win. That’s because they are tied with the Dolphins, who have to play at Buffalo and the Bills will be motivated to win that game to get the No. 2 seed. Not to mention they are facing a Jaguars team that appears to have mailed it in on the 2020 season.

BALTIMORE RAVENS @ Cincinnati Bengals (Ravens -13)

Another great option is Baltimore, but my guess is most of you don’t have the Ravens at your disposal. If you do, lock it in now. While the Ravens don’t have to win this game to get in (would also get in with Colts or Browns loss), it’s unlikely they would get the help needed if they were to lose to the Bengals. Baltimore is surging down the stretch and I just don’t see a scenario where they don’t find a way to win this game against a depleted Cincinnati team.

Top Value Plays

TENNESSEE TITANS  @ Houston Texans (Titans -7.5)

The Titans can get into the playoffs via a number of different scenarios, but they won’t be leaving anything up to chance. Not to mention, they need to win this game to lock up the AFC South title, which means they get to play at home on Wild Card weekend instead of on the road. This should be an easy game for the Tennessee offense against an awful Texans defense. Deshaun Watson will do his thing, but Houston just doesn’t have the weapons offensively to keep pace.

CLEVELAND BROWNS vs Pittsburgh Steelers (Browns -9)

The Browns need to win at home against the Steelers on Sunday to lock up a playoff spot and couldn’t have walked into a better situation. The Steelers seem to be content with the No. 3 seed and have stated that they will be resting several of their starters, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The only concern here is Cleveland has had to shutdown their facility again this week because of Covid. You definitely want to wait and see how that plays out, but it’s hard to see the Browns not finding a way to win this game.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS  vs Atlanta Falcons (Bucs -6.5)

If you still have Tom Brady and the Buccaneers available, they are definitely worth a look. While the Bucs have already secured a playoff spot as one of the three Wild Card teams, there is plenty of incentive for Tampa Bay to win this game. With a win the Bucs would secure the No. 5 seed, which means they would get to play the NFC East winner in the first round. A loss and they could fall back to the No.6 and have to play on the road against either the Saints or Seahawks.

Suicide Team to Avoid

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ Carolina Panthers (Saints -6.5)

It’s not so much that I expect the Saints to lose this game, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they did. Even with a win and a Packers loss, the Saints can’t improve to the No. 1 seed. There is some incentive to get the No. 2 seed and ensure a home game in the Divisional Round, but they could also decide to rest some guys knowing they have to play next week. Carolina only lost by 3 at New Orleans earlier in the year and I got a feeling they show up to win on Sunday.

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