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 Pick – Week 17

  1. Tennessee Titans  (@ Houston Texans) – My favorite play this week is the Titans, who will be on the road against division rival Houston. This is all about what this game means to these two teams. For Tennessee, the path to the postseason is simple. Beat the Texans and they are in as the No. 6 seed. Lose and they are more than likely home for the playoffs. As for Houston, they have already clinched the AFC South title and are a lock to be playing on Wild Card weekend. Good chance the Texans either sit some of their key guys or pull them after a few series.

Top Teams to Back This Week

  1. Dallas Cowboys (vs Washington Redskins) – The Cowboys hopes of winning the NFC East took a massive blow with their loss at Philadelphia this past Sunday, but they aren’t out of it yet. A decimated Eagles team still needs to win on the road for them to take the division crown. a loss by Philadelphia and win by Dallas puts the Cowboys back in the playoffs. Expect Dallas to show up and take care of business against the Redskins.
  2. Green Bay Packers  (@ Detroit Lions) – If Green Bay is still an option for you, it would be hard to pass up Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. While GB locked up the NFC North title with their win over the Vikings on Monday Night Football, they still have homefield and a first round bye to play for and no way they are letting that opportunity slip by at Detroit. Lions have lost 8 straight and 11 of 12 overall, so it shouldn’t take much for the Packers to get a win.
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (@ Baltimore Ravens) – With Lamar Jackson and likely some other notable starters for Baltimore not expected to be in action for Week 17, I think Pittsburgh is definitely worth a look. Steelers need a win to have any shot at making the playoffs as a Wild Card and with Baltimore looking ahead to the postseason they should be able to find a way to win this game.

Suicide Teams to Avoid This Week

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (@ New York Giants)  – I mentioned the Eagles need to win at the Giants to lock up the NFC East. I’m not saying they will lose, but I wouldn’t trust Philadelphia at all in this spot. Not only are they dealing with a ton of injuries, but they could be in for a bit of a letdown after that emotional win over the Cowboys.
  2. Buffalo Bills (vs New York Jets) – No question the Bills are the better team, but Buffalo is locked into the No. 5 seed and with that have nothing to play for in Week 17. Bills will almost assuredly rest some starters and that will likely be enough for the Jets to end the season on a high note.
  3. Cleveland Browns (@ Cincinnati Bengals)  – Some might be tempted to fade the 1-15 Bengals, but I would be cautious of that approach. Cincinnati has shown a lot of fight the last few weeks and have already locked up the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, so there’s no reason for them to not show up with another big effort. As for the Browns, they might struggle to get up for this one. 

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