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.

Week 11 Survivor Pool Recap

For one of the few times this season, survivor players could relax and move on. The five biggest favorites of the week (San Francisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Buffalo, and Kansas City) all notched victories, though some were in more doubt than others (looking at you Philly). Based on this week’s lines, you would expect another predictable week. As we’ve seen, that’s not always the case. We’ll do our best to identify the right teams to back.

Our Best Survivor Picks – Week 12

Best Available

These are the best teams available this week regardless of relative value. If you are in a pool that lets you reset during the year or lets you re-use teams, these are your top options.


Kansas City Chiefs (-14.5)

vs LA Rams
The Chiefs are the biggest favorites on the board this week and I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to use them to advance to next week. The only caveat here is that KC is definitely one of the most valuable teams to have later this season, so saving them would also be a great move.

Miami Dolphins (-12.5)

vs Houston Texans
There are no such things as easy wins in the NFL, but the Dolphins over the Texans this week seems pretty close. Compared to the other teams in the top tier this week, Miami doesn’t have as much value later in the season, so they could be your best option.

Buffalo Bills (-10)

at Detroit Lions
Buffalo is going to be favored in just about every matchup this season. They are clearly the better team here, but I do think there are better spots for them left this season. Taking them on the road doesn’t seem like the optimal play here, even if their chances to lose are slim.

Top Value Play

Our top value play of the week is a combination of a low projected number of pool picks, high percentage chance to win, and lower value later in the season. These are the top teams to target if you want to really maximize your chances of winning your pool. These teams do usually come with more risk than the “top” teams listed, but ultimately you want to put yourself in position to win by pivoting away from the most popular picks.


San Francisco 49ers (-9.5)

vs New Orleans Saints
The Niners hit our value play for the second time in a row simply because it seems most pool players are ignoring them at this point in the season. They are expected to take up a very small portion of picks this week, making it a great time for you to take a team that will be under-represented.

Suicide Team to Avoid

Our team to avoid can fall into one of two categories – and sometimes both. The first is simply that the team has too much value down the line to take them this week. If there are enough viable options, you should hold on to them for later on in the season. The second category are teams that look appealing, but that have some red flags going against them this week that you should consider before picking them.


Dallas Cowboys (-9.5)

vs NY Giants
The Cowboys fall into two categories here. First, they still have value down the line in better matchups. Second, this is exactly the kind of divisional rivalry game we’d like to avoid. Sure, Dallas will likely win, there’s just enough risk here that I’d recommend going another direction.

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