How To Survive An NFL Survivor Pool

Surviving to the end of a survivor isn’t an easy task. One upset could send you packing. Get some tips and strategies on how to make smarter NFL survivor picks with Covers.

Posted: Aug 27, 2021 1:54 PM ET Updated: Aug 27, 2021 1:54 PM ET
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess (11) reacts after picking up a first down against the Houston Texans in the first quarter at Lambeau Field.
Photo By - USA Today Sports

Sports gaming has plenty of options under its wide-reaching umbrella, from handicapping spreads and totals to the lighter touch of pick’em contests, including the popular NFL survivor pool.

Below we'll get into how I approach survivor pools and be sure to check out my Week 1 survivor picks now that the NFL season is upon us. 

How to make value picks in a survivor pool

Winning your NFL survivor pool is simple enough: each week of the NFL season, you select one team to win its game. If that team comes through with the victory, you advance to the following week. If they lose, you’re eliminated from the pool.

There is a hook, though. You have to be very selective about picking top teams because you can only select a team once for the whole season. 

Here are some tips and strategies to make more strategic survivor pool picks.

Don’t jump on top teams

Siding with the NFL’s best teams is a viable NFL survivor pool strategy for only a few weeks. Once you burn through those elite clubs, you’re left with the bottom half of the league and relying on some shaky sides to get you deep into the season. Try to save those stronger teams as much as possible, as there will be weeks in which you need a bailout.

If you’re not a huge NFL fan and you don’t know which teams are the top NFL teams this season, we can help. Check out our NFL power rankings or the odds to win the Super Bowl (where the team with the lowest odds is considered by oddsmakers to be the best team in the league).

Let the odds be your guide

NFL moneyline odds will give you an idea of how safe a team is for your survivor pool pick. Using the odds to win outright, you can calculate the implied win probability of any NFL matchup. 

For example, a 7-point favorite will have moneyline odds around -350 which carries an implied win probability of 77.78 percent. A 3-point favorite would have moneyline odds around -160 and an implied win percentage of 61.54.

We can help when it comes to odds. Our NFL odds comparison tool lets you see the odds of all games in a given week and our moneyline calculator helps you convert odds into implied probability. 

Counter the consensus

Zigging when everyone zags is a proven NFL survivor pool tip. Pay attention to the popular survivor pool picks or the pick percentages each week and see if there’s an opportunity to go against that consensus with a solid selection. If you’re sharp, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to slim the pool field and advance to the following week.

Covers gathers NFL consensus numbers from all the picks made by our contest players. Use this information to help you predict what the most popular survivor picks will be each week. 

Outside factors

When making NFL survivor pool picks, there are several outside factors to the win/loss column at play, including injuries, schedule, and weather. 

  • Be sure to monitor critical injuries to leading skill players like quarterbacks or cluster injuries at certain positions, such as the offensive line. 

  • Watch the weather reports and see how game conditions could impact a team’s performance. 

  • Size up the schedule and matchups to see if a potential selection is susceptible to a letdown, lookahead, or playing in a tough spot, like back-to-back road games or on a short week.

How to use a survivor grid or matrix

Most survivor pool providers produce a weekly survivor pool grid, matrix, or sheet to display each team’s win probability and the pick percentage in your respective pool.

You can use this grid to quickly sort the teams still available for selection, compare win probabilities, and find those picks with a higher expected value based on the pool’s pick percentages. 

Some of these sheets will also showcase each team’s future value, helping you set a winning NFL survivor pool strategy for the coming weeks.

2021-22 NFL schedule grid

Team Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
ARI @TEN MIN @JAX @LAR SF @CLE HOU GB @SF CAR @SEA BYE @CHI LAR @DET IND @DAL SEA
ATL PHI @TB @NYG WSH NYJ BYE @MIA CAR @NO @DAL NE @JAX TB @CAR @SF DET @BUF NO
BAL @LV KC @DET @DEN IND LAC CIN BYE MIN @MIA @CHI CLE @PIT @CLE GB @CIN LAR PIT
BUF PIT @MIA WSH HOU @KC @TEN BYE MIA @JAX @NYJ IND @NO NE @TB CAR @NE ATL NYJ
CAR NYJ NO @HOU @DAL PHI MIN @NYG @ATL NE @ARI WSH @MIA BYE ATL @BUF TB @NO @TB
CHI @LAR CIN @CLE DET @LV GB @TB SF @PIT BYE BAL @DET ARI @GB MIN @SEA NYG @MIN
CIN MIN @CHI @PIT JAX GB @DET @BAL @NYJ CLE BYE @LV PIT LAC SF @DEN BAL KC @CLE
CLE @KC HOU CHI @MIN @LAC ARI DEN PIT @CIN @NE DET @BAL BYE BAL LV @GB @PIT CIN
DAL @TB @LAC PHI CAR NYG @NE BYE @MIN DEN ATL @KC LV @NO @WSH @NYG WSH ARI @PHI
DEN @NYG @JAX NYJ BAL @PIT LV @CLE WSH @DAL PHI BYE LAC @KC DET CIN @LV @LAC KC
DET SF @GB BAL @CHI @MIN CIN @LAR PHI BYE @PIT @CLE CHI MIN @DEN ARI @ATL @SEA GB
GB @NO DET @SF PIT @CIN @CHI WSH @ARI @KC SEA @MIN LAR BYE CHI @BAL CLE MIN @DET
HOU JAX @CLE CAR @BUF NE @IND @ARI LAR @MIA BYE @TEN NYJ IND SEA @JAX LAC @SF TEN
IND SEA LAR @TEN @MIA @BAL HOU @SF TEN NYJ JAX @BUF TB @HOU BYE NE @ARI LV @JAX
JAX @HOU DEN ARI @CIN TEN MIA BYE @SEA BUF @IND SF ATL @LAR @TEN HOU @NYJ @NE IND
KC CLE @BAL LAC @PHI BUF @WSH @TEN NYG GB @LV DAL BYE DEN LV @LAC PIT @CIN @DEN
LV BAL @PIT MIA @LAC CHI @DEN PHI BYE @NYG KC CIN @DAL WSH @KC @CLE DEN @IND LAC
LAR CHI @IND TB ARI @SEA @NYG DET @HOU TEN @SF BYE @GB JAX @ARI SEA @MIN @BAL SF
LAC @WSH DAL @KC LV CLE @BAL BYE NE @PHI MIN PIT @DEN @CIN NYG KC @HOU DEN @LV
MIA @NE BUF @LV IND @TB @JAX ATL @BUF HOU BAL @NYJ CAR NYG BYE NYJ @NO @TEN NE
MIN @CIN @ARI SEA CLE DET @CAR BYE DAL @BAL @LAC GB @SF @DET PIT @CHI LAR @GB CHI
NE MIA @NYJ NO TB @HOU DAL NYJ @LAC @CAR CLE @ATL TEN @BUF BYE @IND BUF JAX @MIA
NO GB @CAR @NE NYG @WSH BYE @SEA TB ATL @TEN @PHI BUF DAL @NYJ @TB MIA CAR @ATL
NYG DEN @WSH ATL @NO @DAL LAR CAR @KC LV BYE @TB PHI @MIA @LAC DAL @PHI @CHI WSH
NYJ @CAR NE @DEN TEN @ATL BYE @NE CIN @IND BUF MIA @HOU PHI NO @MIA JAX TB @BUF
PHI @ATL SF @DAL KC @CAR TB @LV @DET LAC @DEN NO @NYG @NYJ BYE WSH NYG @WSH DAL
PIT @BUF LV CIN @GB DEN SEA BYE @CLE CHI DET @LAC @CIN BAL @MIN TEN @KC CLE @BAL
SF @DET @PHI GB SEA @ARI BYE IND @CHI ARI LAR @JAX MIN @SEA @CIN ATL @TEN HOU @LAR
SEA @IND TEN @MIN @SF LAR @PIT NO JAX BYE @GB ARI @WSH SF @HOU @LAR CHI DET @ARI
TB DAL ATL @LAR @NE MIA @PHI CHI @NO BYE @WSH NYG @IND @ATL BUF NO @CAR @NYJ CAR
TEN ARI @SEA IND @NYJ @JAX BUF KC @IND @LAR NO HOU @NE BYE JAX @PIT SF MIA @HOU
WSH LAC NYG @BUF @ATL NO KC @GB @DEN BYE TB @CAR SEA @LV DAL @PHI @DAL PHI @NY

When to bet against popular picks

As mentioned above, sometimes going against the grain is a successful strategy for football survivor pools. 

Suppose you feel there is value to that side. In that case, you can either do this by picking against the most popular selection that week or looking elsewhere for similar win percentages but a lower number of picks. One lousy week from a firm favorite can clean out a good portion of the pool and instantly increase your chances of winning. 

If your survivor pool has 50 contestants, you automatically have a 1/50 shot at winning before you even make a pick (2 percent). If 12 contestants pick Kansas City that week, that’s 24 percent of the total pool picking the Chiefs to win. 

If you’re skeptical about Kansas City, you may go with the other side or look elsewhere for your selection. If the Chiefs do lose, you win your weekly pick, and you’ve instantly increased your chances to 1/38 (2.63 percent) with just that game alone.

What is a survivor pool?

A survivor pool is a contest that runs week-to-week of the NFL season, with contestants selecting one team straight up per week to win their game. If a chosen team wins, that member advances to the next week, but that contestant is out of the pool if the team loses. However, a contestant can only select a team once during the duration of the survivor pool, forcing contestants to be strategic about their picks each week.

Alternate NFL survivor pool rules

Most NFL survivor pools have the same basic rules, such as you can only select a team once during the duration of the pool. But depending on who runs it, rules can vary. Such as:

  • You get one do-over or mulligan if you are eliminated before a specific date.

  • Some pools allow you to buy back in if eliminated before a specific date.

  • Some pools allow for multiple entries from one person, while some limit it to one per contestant.

NFL survivor contests

For those who don't mind spending some money for a chance at millions, two major sportsbooks offer massive survivor pool contests. Circa in Las Vegas hosts its $6 million Circa Survivor contest. It costs $1,000 to enter and you must do so in person, but picks can be made using a proxy service.

Online sportsbook DraftKings is also in the survivor contest game with its DraftKings Survivor contest. It costs $333 to enter with a chance at $1 million for winning. You must enter the DraftKings survivor from a state where it's licensed and picks must also be made from within the state. 

Free pools are available all over the internet. FanDuel Sportsbook offers a free survivor pool with a chance at winning $100,000.

Covers Streak Survivor 

Start your streak in the most popular free betting contest on Covers — Streak Survivor. Simply put together a streak of against the spread (ATS) or Over/Under bets from a variety of games to choose from — MLB, NFL, College Football, NBA, and more! Continue your winning streak for a chance at the top prize of $100,000.

NFL survivor pool strategy FAQs

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