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. New York Giants (vs Dallas Cowboys) – I have to think anyone who has made it this far hasn’t used the Giants, making them my favorite play for Week 17. New York’s been out of the playoff race for a while now, but have continued to play extremely hard. I think there’s going to be a little extra motivation this week with it being potentially the last game for Eli Manning in a Giants’ uniform. At the same time, Dallas is going to treat this like a preseason game, as they got the No. 4 seed locked up and all of their focus is on Wild Card weekend. 

Top Teams to Back This Week

  1. Green Bay Packers (vs Detroit Lions) – There’s a ton of massive favorites on the board. If you got any of those, go ahead and take them. I’m trying to dig a little deeper and find some games with teams you might still have available. Green Bay could be one of them and while the Packers are out of the playoff picture, I really like their chances of closing out the season with a win at home over the Lions. I think Green Bay is playing here for interim head coach Joe Philbin, while Detroit is ready for the offseason.
  2. Buffalo Bills (vs Miami Dolphins) – This is for those that are really desperate. Buffalo should be able to win at home over the Dolphins. Miami had a glimmer of hope going into Week 16, but they had already thrown in the towel, as they laid a massive egg in a 17-7 home loss to the Jaguars. I just think the Dolphins are going to want nothing to do with playing in Buffalo this weekend.

Suicide Teams to Avoid This Week

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (@ Denver Broncos)  – The Chargers have to be kicking themselves. Just one week after their epic come-from-behind win at Kansas City to pull even with the Chiefs in the AFC West, they lost at home to the Ravens. Even though KC also lost at Seattle, the Chiefs still hold the tiebreaker. If Kansas City beats the Raiders at home, they win the division and secure the No. 1 seed. Chargers have to decide if they want to lay it all on the line and hope for a miracle upset by Oakland or rest some guys up for Wild Card weekend.
  2. Chicago Bears (@ Minnesota Vikings) – The Bears are in a very similar scenario, expect they are actually playing against a team that needs to win to make the playoffs in Minnesota. In theory, Chicago is still alive for the No. 2 seed and a first round bye. However, in order for that to happen the Rams would have to lose at home to the 49ers. If I was the Bears, I think you have to assume LA will win and strongly consider resting some of your starters to make sure you are 100% ready for Wild Card weekend.
  3. New Orleans Saints (vs Carolina Panthers)  – Chances are you don’t have the Saints tucked away in your back pocket, but I would be extremely cautious about playing them if you do. New Orleans has absolutely nothing to play for, as they have the No. 1 seed locked up. Even if the Saints play their starters, I can’t see them playing more than a few series. 

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