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 3

  1. Cleveland Browns  (vs Washington Football Team) – In terms of value, the Browns are the best play on the board. After what we saw in Week 1 against the Ravens, Cleveland is not going to be a team you can trust often. With that said, the Browns are much better than the Redskins. Washington just doesn’t have a lot offensively and I don’t think there defense can do enough to keep them in this game.

Top Value Plays

  1. Los Angeles Chargers (vs Carolina Panthers) – With Justin Herbert expected to start for the Chargers and Christian McCaffrey out for the Panthers, there’s a lot to like with Los Angeles this week. Maybe even more so than the Browns, the Chargers are not a team you will be thinking about playing down the road. If you trust Herbert, this might be worth the gamble.
  2. Indianapolis Colts  (vs New York Jets) – If you are reading this, good chance you didn’t have your Survivor Pool ruined by the Colts in Week 1, who a lot of people were on against the Jaguars. The boxscore didn’t agree with that upset loss to Jacksonville and Indy showed that with a convincing win at home over the Vikings. The Jets couldn’t have looked much worse. Hard to see the Jets winning this game.
  3. Arizona Cardinals (vs Detroit Lions) – I know we are just two weeks into the season, but Kyler Murray is playing at a MVP level. It’s not just his throwing. He’s rushed for 158 yards and 3 scores on 21 attempts. If your QB is running like that, defenses have no shot. Lions haven’t showed us much on that side of the ball in two games. Cardinals might be more than just a sleeper team. They could be for real.

Suicide Teams to Avoid

  1. Minnesota Vikings (vs Tennessee Titans)  – I would hope this isn’t a serious option for anyone. There’s absolutely nothing Minnesota has done in two games that could make me trust them in this spot. The defense that has carried them is as bad as it’s been in the Zimmer era and Kirk Cousins isn’t playing well. Titans have started out 2-0, but haven’t looked pretty. It might have them a bit undervalued coming into this game.
  2. Atlanta Falcons (vs Chicago Bears) – I’m not about to write the Falcons off, but I just think this is a good week to pass on them. Sure they could come out motivated to avoid going 0-3, but they also could still be trying to figure out what the hell happened in the 2nd half of that game against the Cowboys. Bears aren’t a sexy team, but they are going to be in most games with that defense.
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (vs Cincinnati Falcons)  – The Eagles are a team that we all kind of thought was going to be decent, but the early results aren’t all that promising. Sure Philadelphia could get this figured out, but Carson Wentz continues to struggle to get back to that MVP form of a couple years ago. Eagles just need to show me something before I even consider using them. 

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