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Survivor Pools: Looking Ahead

survivor pools

Winning a large-field survivor pool is exceedingly difficult. You essentially have to hit an 18-leg (or greater) parlay that spans over four months. You have to do all of that with a pool of options that decreases every week. We’re going to help you prepare for your survivor pool.

What is a Survivor Pool?

Each week you pick the winner of one game. If that team wins, then you advance to the next week. The catch is you can’t use that team again for the rest of the year. Some survivor pools make you pick two teams, every week, starting around early December.

DraftKings and Circa Sports have survivor tournaments with millions of dollars in prizes. There are a variety of other tournament options with various entry fees on a number of platforms. Some platforms even host free survivor pools.

General Strategies 

Setting realistic expectations is a big part of any form of betting, including survivor. The size of your survivor pool and the level of competition in it matter greatly. If you’re in a big-ticket tournament like DraftKings or Circa, then the pool will be deep with tough competition. You’re most likely going to have to win out to cash in tournaments like those. That’s not impossible, but it is highly unlikely. If you’re in a casual pool with some of your buddies, I’ve seen some of those wrap up in November. Having any kind of plan will give you an edge on most of your competition in a casual pool.

I play multiple survivor entries every year, and I rarely load up on one team in a given week. There are a few exceptions, as an example I went heavy on Rams vs. Jaguars late last year. By and large, though, if I have ten survivor entries, I’m not putting all of them on one team.

Don’t get too cute, too early unless you already have a history of success in survivor pools. 

Game theory is an important aspect of playing in a survivor pool. When the chalk fails, large amounts of entries fall out of survivor tournaments. Figuring out which options are going to be the most popular can give you an edge. To be clear, I do not play contrarian options every week in survivor. But I do use game theory as part of my betting process, which includes survivor.

I prefer to avoid games played in Europe or in game-altering weather when possible. When it comes to divisional matchups, I try to avoid those unless there is a significant talent disparity. I’m comfortable taking a reliable team like the Chiefs on the road in an advantageous matchup. I’m only going to consider taking a less reliable team like the 2022 Saints at home, in New Orleans.

I am very big on detailed schedule analysis. I want to know which advantageous matchups every survivor option has before I make any decisions. Similarly, I want to know which weeks have the worst survivor options before the season even starts. I update my original plans as the season progresses, but I want to be well prepared in advance. I do that as follows:

Reliable, Veteran Teams I’m Willing to Use Early

The Bucs, Rams, and Packers are all perennial contenders with elite quarterbacks and talented rosters. However, Tom Brady is 45, Aaron Rodgers is 38, and Matthew Stafford is 34 with a lingering elbow issue. The Ravens have had two losing seasons since Jon Harbaugh took over in 2008. But Lamar Jackson has exceeded 125 carries every season, and he missed five games last year. With older quarterbacks, injury or regression can change a team’s course. I’m willing to use these options early if it makes sense to do so. With a running quarterback like Lamar, I only want to use his Ravens in survivor when he has no limitations.

Buccaneers: Week 5 vs. Falcons, Week 10 vs. Seahawks (Germany), Week 17 vs. Panthers

Rams: Week 2 vs. Falcons, Week 6 vs. Panthers, Week 13 vs. Seahawks

Packers: Week 2 vs. Bears, Week 5 vs. Giants (London)

Ravens: Week 1 at Jets, Week 6 at Giants, Week 11 vs. Panthers, Week 16 vs. Falcons

Reliable, Veteran Teams I’m Interested in Holding

The Bills and Chiefs are both perennial contenders with MVP-caliber quarterbacks. In the Chiefs' case, they have one of the best head coaches in history. They both start the season with difficult schedule stretches, making it natural to use them late.

Bills: Week 11 vs. Browns, Week 12 at Lions (Thanksgiving), Week 14 vs. Jets, Week 16 at Bears

Chiefs: Week 10 vs. Jaguars, Week 15 at Texans, Week 16 vs. Seahawks

Talented Rosters with Reliable Quarterbacks

These teams have the potential to contend, but they have not been consistent threats. At least not yet. I’d be comfortable using the Bengals or Chargers at any point in the season. I’d prefer to use Denver after Russell Wilson gets a few games under his belt. That said, Week 2’s matchup vs. Houston is very appealing.

Bengals: Week 7 vs. Falcons, Week 9 vs. Panthers

Chargers: Week 3 vs. Jaguars, Week 4 at Texans, Week 7 vs. Seahawks, Week 9 at Falcons

Broncos: Week 2 vs. Texans, Week 7 vs. Jets, Week 8 vs. Jaguars

Talented Rosters with Volatile Quarterbacks

The Eagles were a playoff team last year that has significantly improved their roster. Jalen Hurts is an inconsistent passer, but we know what his floor looks like. I’d prefer to take a wait and see approach on Trey Lance in survivor. The issue there is the 49ers three best matchups come in the first six weeks. We’ll know who Miami is by mid-season, which happens to be when they’ll draw their best matchups.

Eagles: Week 4 vs. Jaguars. Week 9 at Texans (TNF). Week 18 vs. Giants. 

49ers: Week 1 at Bears. Week 2 vs. Seahawks. Week 6 at Falcons.

Dolphins: Week 10 vs. Browns. Week 12 vs. Texans.

I Want to See Who These Teams Are First

All four of these teams have good quarterbacks and talented rosters. They’ve also undergone significant change this offseason. The Raiders and Vikings have new head coaches. The Cowboys and Raiders have undergone considerable roster turnover. The Colts have a new quarterback in Matt Ryan. Ideally, I’d like to see a few games out of these teams before deploying them in survivor.

Cowboys: Week 8 vs. Bears, Week 12 vs. Giants (Thanksgiving), Week 14 vs. Texans

Vikings: Week 5 vs. Bears, Week 13 vs. Jets, Week 16 vs. Giants

Colts: Week 1 at Texans, Week 6 vs. Jaguars, Week 18 vs. Texans

Raiders: Week 7 vs. Texans, Week 9 at Jaguars, Week 12 at Seahawks

Viable Options I Have Little to No Confidence In

Ryan Tannehill’s Titans are the exact kind of survivor option that scares the daylights out of me. And I don’t scare easily. The Patriots lost their offensive coordinator and a number of quality players this offseason. Bill Belichick is the very definition of reliable, but New England has a middle-of-the-pack roster. Kyler Murray is capable of carrying the Cardinals against anyone, but their roster has a number of holes. The Saints have a very good roster, but Jameis Winston can be maddeningly inconsistent. The Browns are going to be a much different team once Deshaun Watson returns. However, we should expect Watson to return with considerable rust. All of these options are potentially usable, but they are definitely not safe. 

Titans: Week 1 vs. Giants, Week 14 vs. Jaguars, Week 16 vs. Texans

Patriots: Week 5 vs. Lions. Week 7 vs. Bears (MNF). Week 11 vs Jets

Cardinals: Week 6 at Seahawks, Week 9 vs. Seahawks, Week 17 at Falcons

Saints: Week 5 vs. Seahawks, Week 15 vs. Falcons, Week 18 vs. Panthers

Browns: Week 13 at Texans, Week 17 at Commanders

Difficult Survivor Weeks

Week 1: I’m not crazy about opening day for survivor purposes. If Joe Flacco starts the opener for the Jets, the Ravens are a very viable road option. I’d prefer to save the Colts for when they host the Texans, rather than using them in Houston here. The 49ers are a viable consideration in Chicago, but Trey Lance comes with some dangerous uncertainty. The Titans are the most usable home team option against the Giants. However, in the final moments of their playoff loss to Cincinnati, Tennessee showed that they don’t entirely trust Ryan Tannehill. Neither do I. Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle comes on this year’s first installment of Monday Night Football. Denver is a significantly better team than Seattle, but this game is the Seahawks' Super Bowl.

Week 3: The Chargers vs the Texans is the only obvious option on this slate. Taking the Cowboys at the Giants on Monday Night Football warrants consideration, however. But I’d rather not use Dallas on the road, in a primetime game against a division rival. Vikings vs Lions is also a dangerous divisional game I’d prefer to avoid.

Week 4: If you don’t take the Chargers in Week 3, you can consider them at Houston here. The Eagles vs. the Jaguars will likely be logical chalk on this slate. Taking the Lions vs. Seahawks or the Steelers vs. Jets are two aggressive options. The Cardinals at Carolina also has some potential.

Week 8: The Cowboys vs. Bears and the Broncos against the Jaguars in London are the two top options. Otherwise, you’re looking at something like the Patriots at Jets or the Titans in Houston.

Week 15: On a slate where you might have to pick two teams, you want to be prepared. At least one of my entries will have the Saints vs. Falcons and the Chiefs at Texans saved for this spot. The Eagles at Bears, Cowboys at Jaguars, and 49ers at Seahawks on Thursday night have viability.

Week 16: Ravens vs. Falcons, Chiefs vs. Seahawks, and Bills at Bears are all strong options. Vikings vs. Giants, Titans vs. Texans, and 49ers vs. Commanders all also have viability. That said, you’re going to have to purposely save two of those options.

Week 17: This slate could be brutal if you’re not prepared. The Buccaneers vs. Panthers will likely be the biggest favorite in Week 17. Deshaun Watson will be back, and he’ll have a months’ worth of games under his belt at this point. Watson’s Browns could be a popular pick here at Washington. The Cardinals at the Falcons and the Colts at the Giants could have some viability here.

Week 18: The final week of the regular season is about motivation. It’s also filled with divisional games. Packers vs. Lions, Buccaneers at Falcons, and Rams at Seahawks look like strong options. Colts vs. Texans and Eagles vs. Giants also look good. Saints vs. Panthers and Dolphins vs. Jets also have some potential.