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 12

GREEN BAY PACKERS vs Chicago Bears (Packers -7.5)

Congrats to anyone who has made it this far. You got your work cut out for you this week. The options aren’t great and probably even worse when you eliminate the 11 teams you have already used up to this point. If you have them available, the Packers would be my top recommendation for Week 12. Green Bay will host the Bears on Sunday Night Football. I like getting Aaron Rodgers and the Packers off a loss at home against a Bears team that just can’t move the football on offense.

Top Value Plays

LOS ANGELES RAMS vs San Francisco 49ers (Rams -7)

The Rams are the second biggest favorite on the board for Week 12. You might be thinking LA is a safe bet after watching them win on the road against Tampa Bay and the Bucs on Monday Night Football. There’s just something about this 49ers team that scares me. One week San Francisco looks like a playoff team, the next they look like a bottom feeder. They are extremely well-coached. With the 49ers coming off their bye and the Rams off that big win on a short week, don’t be surprised if you have to sweat LA.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ Baltimore Ravens  (Steelers -4)

Some survivor pools play Thursday’s Thanksgiving slate as a week in its own. That’s why I’m including Pittsburgh on this list of teams I would consider. I just don’t see how the Ravens can go on the road and beat this Steelers team. They just aren’t the same team and are now dealing with covid. If you don’t Pittsburgh available, I feel for you, as there’s no way you can feel good with the Texans, Lions, Cowboys or Redskins.

MIAMI DOLPHINS @ New York Jets  (Dolphins -7)

Taking a division road team in a survivor pool is considered a sin by a lot of people, but there’s no many teams you can feel more confident with in fading than the Jets. New York only los to the Chargers 34-28, but that was a very misleading score. LA dominated that game and while Miami didn’t look great last week, you have to believe the Dolphins will bounce back with a win.

Suicide Teams to Avoid

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS  @ Atlanta Falcons (Raiders -3)

The Raiders are coming off another strong showing against the Chiefs and I think that performance has really pushed this team up a notch in the eye of the public. Thing is, Las Vegas is built for that KC team. I just would be cautious backing the Raiders on the road against a Falcons team that has continued to play hard. Could be really tough for Oakland to get up for this game after that crushing loss in the final seconds against the Chiefs.

ARIZONA CARDINALS @ New England Patriots (Cardinals -2.5)

This is one where you just have to look at the odds and know that if you take Arizona, bad things could happen. The public is going to absolutely pound the Cardinals laying less than a field goal against a Patriots team that hasn’t played well in weeks. When something looks to good to be true, it usually is. Take the Cardinals at your own risk on Sunday.

CLEVELAND BROWNS @ Jacksonville Jaguars (Browns -6.5)

The Browns could be the death of a lot of people this week. I could definitely see people rolling the dice with Cleveland. I mean the Browns are a near touchdown favorite on the road against a Jaguars team that hasn’t won a game since Week 1 and is going with another starter in Mike Glennon. I just don’t trust Baker Mayfield and this Browns team on the road. I’m not saying they won’t win. I just can’t do it.

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