I wrote about strategies and looking ahead in Survivor Pools before the season started. Now, we’re a third of the way through the regular season, so it’s time to update some of our long-term outlooks. I will briefly discuss who all 32 teams are through the first six weeks. I’ll then identify the best survivor pool matchups for most of the teams in the league.
I went into opening day with 10 active survivor pool entries. I’m now down to seven overall, which includes three in the DraftKings Millionaire Survivor tournament. I’ll include some thoughts related to my own entries.
The Gold Standards
My plan going into opening day was to save both the Chiefs and the Bills until the second half of the season. Entering Week 7, I’m very happy about that decision.
Kansas City Chiefs
Who are the Chiefs: One of the true reliable football operations in the NFL, with an elite quarterback and a Hall of Fame head coach.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 15 at Texans, Week 16 vs. Seahawks.
Who are the Bills: Josh Allen drives the league’s best offense. Buffalo’s improved pass rush has kept the Bills defense on track despite the deluge of injuries in their premium secondary.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 11 vs. Browns, Week 12 at Lions, Week 16 at Bears.
The League’s Best Roster
I’ve been high on the Eagles all offseason, and Philadelphia has exceeded my already lofty expectations. I have only used Philadelphia in one of my remaining survivor pool entries.
Who are the Eagles: I’ve said this many times, in many different places: If Jalen Hurts continues to play at his current level, the Eagles have the best overall roster in football. They also entered the season with the league’s easiest schedule.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 9 at Texans (TNF), Week 10 vs. Commanders (MNF), Week 15 at Bears.
Each of these teams enjoys high-level quarterback play, which gives them a substantial advantage against most opponents. In general, I’m comfortable playing these teams against below-average opponents in survivor pools.
Who are the Ravens: Lamar Jackson carries the offense, while the defense is more of a middle-of-the-pack unit. If Jackson has a middling outing, Baltimore is usually in trouble.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 11 vs. Panthers, Week 16 vs. Falcons, Week 17 vs. Steelers.
Los Angeles Chargers
Who are the Chargers: In most instances, Justin Herbert drives this offense, while the Chargers’ defense continues to be an unreliable unit. Major injuries to LT Rashawn Slater and Edge Joey Bosa have reduced the Chargers’ ceiling.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 7 vs. Seahawks, Week 9 at Falcons.
Who are the Bengals: Joe Burrow might have the league’s best collection of skill position players. The Bengals defense has continued to be an overachieving unit, while Cincinnati’s offensive line is still underachieving.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 7 vs. Falcons, Week 9 vs. Panthers.
The Struggling Gold Standards
I intended to use these three teams heavily early in the season. In all of my remaining survivor pool entries, I’ve now used all three of these teams in all of them. Considering each of these teams has at least one unsolved problem, I’m thrilled I’ve already used them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Who are the Buccaneers: The defense has been good, while the offense has been underwhelming this season. A big reason for that is Tampa is significantly worse at left guard and center than they were last year.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 7 at Panthers, Week 10 vs. Seahawks, Week 17 vs. Panthers.
Green Bay Packers
Who are the Packers: The Packers have a talented but underachieving defense. Aaron Rodgers’ offense is struggling as Rodgers tries to get in sync with his receivers. After back-to-back losses to the New York teams, there is genuine cause for concern in Green Bay.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 7 at Commanders, Week 9 at Lions, Week 13 at Bears.
Los Angeles Rams
Who are the Rams: The defending champs have an offensive line problem, while their defense has become a middle-of-the-pack unit.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 13 vs. Seahawks.
Good Rosters, But…
Each of these teams has a playoff-caliber roster, but I don’t have complete confidence in any of them. At least, not yet.
Who are the Vikings: The Vikings are 5-1, but I don’t think they’ve played their best football yet. Minnesota is a nerve-wracking survivor pool option, as they often let mediocre teams hang around.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 9 at Commanders, Week 13 vs. Jets, Week 16 vs. Giants.
Who are the Cowboys: Dallas is 4-2 behind their talented defense. Dak Prescott could return in Week 7 against the Lions. Prescott tends to shred below-average teams while often underwhelming against contenders. That’s a beautiful thing in survivor pools.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 8 vs. Bears, Week 14 vs. Texans.
San Francisco 49ers
Who are the 49ers: San Francisco is still a physical, defensive-minded football team. The 49ers have a talented group of pass catchers, but their interior offensive line has been a problem this season. Quarterback isn’t exactly a strength, either.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 15 at Seahawks (TNF), Week 16 vs. Commanders.
The Miami Dolphins
Who are the Dolphins: Miami is a talented team that has endured multiple quarterback injuries during its three-game losing streak.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 7 vs. Steelers, Week 9 at Bears, Week 12 vs. Texans.
I do not trust any of these teams as a survivor pool option, but they are no longer targets in the format.
New York Giants
Who are the Giants: Brian Daboll’s coaching staff is highly self-aware, and they are getting the most out of their roster.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 10 vs. Texans, Week 13 vs. Commanders.
New York Jets
Who are the Jets: The Jets have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. However, they’ve suffered some injuries on the offensive line, and quarterback remains a volatile position for New York.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 12 vs. Bears.
Who are the Seahawks: Geno Smith’s high-level play has been one of, if not the biggest surprise of the NFL season. I doubt this continues, but Smith’s Seahawks are far more dangerous than I expected.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 14 vs. Panthers.
Who are the Falcons: Atlanta has really exceeded expectations this season, going 6-0 against the spread. More importantly, they beat a team like the 49ers last week. Atlanta was a primary team to target in survivor pools entering the season. That is no longer the case.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 8 vs. Panthers.
Old School, Physical Football Operations
These teams are well coached, with good defenses. That said, these teams don’t have an overwhelming talent advantage against many teams, making them vulnerable to upsets.
Who are the Titans: Tennessee remains a rock-solid, physical football team that keeps chugging along even when they lose key players. I lost one of my survivor entries on opening day by taking Tennessee over the Giants.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 8 at Texans, Week 16 vs. Texans.
New England Patriots
Who are the Patriots: Bill Belichick is the greatest football coach of all time. In some ways, he’s doing some of his best work right now with a limited Patriots roster.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 7 vs. Bears (MNF).
Who are the Colts: Much like the Titans, the Colts are a good, physical football team that has remained competitive despite being down multiple key players.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 8 vs. Commanders, Week 12 vs. Steelers (MNF), Week 18 vs. Texans.
A Realistic Path to Better Days
These teams are all below .500 at the moment, but they each have the tools to turn their seasons around.
Las Vegas Raiders
Who are the Raiders: The Raiders are 1-4, but they’ve lost those four games by one score against teams with winning records last season. There are several teams with winning records in the league that I’d rather play than the Raiders.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 7 vs. Texans, Week 12 at Seahawks, Week 16 vs. Steelers.
Who are the Broncos: Denver has an unexpectedly non-functioning offense, while their defense has kept them in most games. We need to see more out of Denver before using them in survivor pools.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 12 at Panthers.
Who are the Browns: Cleveland has a good roster, but we should avoid using them in survivor pools until Deshaun Watson returns.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 13 at Texans, Week 17 at Commanders.
Who are the Cardinals: If Kyler Murray doesn’t carry the Cardinals’ offense, they have limited paths to victory.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 9 vs. Seahawks, Week 17 at Falcons.
You May Have to Use These Teams
When you get to the season’s final weeks in survivor pools, your options are limited. You’ll have to take some chances, whether you do it early or late. These are the sorts of teams you may eventually have to take in survivor pools.
Who are the Lions: The Lions have a talented, well-rounded offense. They also have a bottom-tier defense.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 16 at Panthers, Week 17 vs. Bears.
Who are the Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence has shown considerable improvement this season. Jacksonville’s defense is young and better than expected. Jacksonville is not currently usable in survivor pools, but that may change as we get deeper into the year.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 17 at Texans.
New Orleans Saints
Who are the Saints: New Orleans is a talented but injury-ravaged roster. If the Saints are close to full strength towards the end of the year, they are an interesting survivor pool option.
Best Survivor Matchups: Week 15 vs. Falcons, Week 18 vs. Panthers.
Who are the Steelers: Pittsburgh has significant talent at several important position groups, but they are a rebuilding team.
Best Survivor Matchups: at Panthers Week 15.
Targets in Survivor Pools
There are some positives about each of these teams, but you can’t confidently play any of them in survivor pools. You can, however, try to target them when they face a significant opponent.
Who are the Commanders: Washington is an underachieving team with underwhelming quarterback play. Right now, this looks like a team that will enter next season with a new quarterback and head coach.
Best Survivor Matchups: None.
Who are the Texans: Houston is a high-effort team that lacks enough high-end talent to be a consistent winner. I don’t want to use Houston in survivor pools, but I don’t fully view them as a target.
Best Survivor Matchups: None
Who are the Bears: Chicago is a high-effort team that is playing well on defense. Their offensive line and below-average group of pass catchers are hampering their offense.
Best Survivor Matchups: None
Teams You Definitely Shouldn’t Use
Who are the Panthers: A team that has already waived the white flag on the 2022 season. Don’t expect them to lose every game, but they are the primary target in survivor pools.
Best Survivor Matchups: None