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 Picks – Week 2

CLEVELAND BROWNS vs Houston Texans (Browns -13)

The Browns will be without a doubt one of the top picks in your survivor pool this week. While you do want to be smart about your picks and we tend not to side with consensus for that reason, there are some weeks where it just makes sense to take the best matchup in the best situation.  Cleveland falls into that camp this week. They are 13 point favorites at home against a Houston team that earned a win last week over the Jacksonville Jags. The fact is that the Texans won last week in large part because Jags’ rookie QB Trevor Lawrence threw three interceptions. The Browns are off a disappointing loss at Kansas City, a game they most definitely could have won, but I expect they will still perform in their home opener behind the support of the Cleveland faithful. There are no guarantees in the NFL, but the Browns being big favorites coupled with the fact that there aren’t many attractive options to take them later in their schedule makes them an easy choice.

TAMPA BAY BUCS vs Atlanta Falcons (Bucs -12)

Not much to break down here. The Bucs are clearly the better team and if you want to make sure you advance to next week, go ahead and take Tampa. I’d recommend holding onto them for later in the season, but every week you advance is a win and there is no use in saving teams you don’t get to use if you go bust early.

Top Value Plays

DENVER BRONCOS  vs Jacksonville Jags (Broncos -6)

We don’t love road teams for survivor pools, however, you could do a lot worse than the Broncos at Jacksonville this week. Denver won’t be a super popular pick this week because they aren’t huge favorites and they aren’t on the road, but they are one of the best value picks here for that reason. If the Browns or Bucs lose this week and you back a winning Broncos team, you’ll have eliminated an estimated 20-30% of the other pool entries and be looking great for the rest of the season.  I think Teddy Bridgewater was exactly what this team needed to make them a real contender.  Their defense should create all kinds of problems for Trevor Lawrence just like the Texans did last week. It’s always risky taking a road team in the NFL, even one favored by a touchdown, but this big risk could reap big rewards.

GREEN BAY PACKERS vs Detroit Lions (Packers -11.5)

Oddsmakers expect the Packers to bounce back against the Lions and we tend to agree. Division games are always a bit of a wildcard and the Packers obviously looked awful last week, BUT we’d be shocked if Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay came out flat in back-to-back weeks. Many in your pool will be scared to take the Pack after last week, but keep in mind, with their current schedule, there probably won’t be a better opportunity than this to pick them this season.

Suicide Team to Avoid

PITTSBURGH STEELERS vs Las Vegas Raiders (Steelers -6.5)

We think the Steelers are ripe for a big letdown this week against the Raiders.  Pitt won surprisingly last week in Buffalo, but they were out-gained in every facet of that game and scored 17 of their 23 points in the 4th quarter. The Steelers might very well win this week, but we do not feel confident in them based on what looks like an impressive win their last time out.

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