Survivor pools are great because they are an easy way to bet on the NFL season. You also don’t have to worry about finding an even number of teams or a draft time that works for everybody like in season-long fantasy.
You get a group of friends or coworkers together, throw some money in the pot and then make one pick per week. With a game so simple, there can’t be that much strategy, right? Wrong.
Before we delve into the strategy, I realize there are different versions of the game that you can play, but for this article, I’ll be assuming you are in a pool where you pick one team to win each week and get only one strike.
With that disclaimer out of the way, there are two pieces of information that are vital to making your survivor pool pick each week: schedule and pick percentages.
Upcoming schedule is more basic, and even the most novice of players take a look at games coming up in the next few weeks that could alter their strategy for the current week.
The second piece of information is looking at pick percentages or how often each team is getting picked in your pool.
While you may not be able to know with 100% confidence how your pool will pick teams, you can get a good estimation by looking at sites such as ESPN and Yahoo, which host giant survivor pools.
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If you’re smart, you can save yourself some time and just visit my weekly column, and I’ll have the numbers broken down for you. Pick percentages are so important because they allow you to be contrarian, which increases your odds of winning the entire pool.
It’s hard for some to grasp the concept, but picking the most likely team to advance to the next week isn’t the same thing as picking the team most likely to help you win the entire contest.
Let’s look at a real example from the 2017 season. In Week 11, the Chiefs were 13-point favorites on the road against the Giants, the biggest favorite on the board.
Nearly 57% of players were taking the Chiefs to survive and then, of course (spoiler alert), the Chiefs lost, 12-9. However, whether or not the Chiefs lost is irrelevant to the actual decision. If the Chiefs had won by 30 points, it still would have been a poor decision.
You want to be contrarian, so you aren’t knocked out with a large group of others in your pool when big upsets happen. You want to be one of the few left standing when that occurs.
When 57% of your pool gets knocked out in a single week, your odds to win increase dramatically. When you follow along with 57% of players and you all survive, you haven’t realized that same equity within your pool in that instance (and then sometimes you still lose anyway).
If you are looking to get a head start on your competition, I’ve included the projected win percentages for all 256 games below.
Projected NFL win percentages
Note: This table is best viewed on a computer, not your phone.
I look for games with at least a 70% win percentage when mapping out my future schedules. The Patriots lead the way with nine games, while the Vikings and Eagles both have seven games that fit that criterion.
Those are teams you can wait on and use later in the season if the option presents itself.
Meanwhile, teams such as the Saints and Rams are Super Bowl contenders, but tough schedules give them only three games that reach the 70% threshold. The Ravens, Lions and Browns all have one game each and could be early season targets in a lot of my entries.