NFL Survivor Pool Strategy: Zag When They Zig - Prediction Machine

NFL Survivor Pool Strategy: Zag When They Zig

NFL Survivor Pool Strategy

NFL Survivor Pool Strategy

With increased parity in the NFL in recent years, survivor pools have been as entertaining as ever. If you can handle carnage and mayhem that would make Stephen King squirm, survivor pools provide a highly entertaining form of betting.

One of the gifts survivor pools provide is how simple they are to understand for beginning bettors or novice sports fans. Simply pick one team every week and advance if they win and you’re out if they don’t. There’s no point spread and the most important quirk that if your team advances, you can’t use that team again for the rest of the season.

It sounds easy, but with upsets so common in the NFL today, your “sure thing” selection can quickly turn into a nightmare. For instance, in 2022, 50-60% of entries in most survivor pools were eliminated in Week 1 after the Texans upset the Colts, the Giants upset the Titans, and Seattle beat the Broncos (among others).

Survivor pools provide one of the simplest forms of betting to understand with complex strategy that would make a rocket scientist squint. In this article we’ll explore some of that strategy.

Welcome To The Matrix

Several websites provide an interactive matrix, or grid, you can manipulate before a season for strategic purposes. For instance, this one allows you to forecast what the end of your season will look like based on which selections you pick early.

Obviously you don’t want to use up all your powerhouse teams early on and be left depending on an underdog to win late in the season. Survivor grids allow you to plan ahead and set yourself up for success late in the season. However, too much planning ahead and concern for the future can leave you vulnerable for an early-season upset, so there’s a delicate balance.

The matrix also gives a birds-eye view of the entire NFL schedule which allows you to target weak opponents and capitalize on scheduling nuances.

Targeting A Weakling

Before an NFL season begins, I like to ask myself who the worst 2-3 teams in the league will be. Sportsbook season win totals are a good piece of data to try and answer that question. Once you’ve identified those weak teams, you can try to stack wins by fading them when they play average teams, because this will allow you to save your powerhouse teams for later in the season.

Consider Bye Weeks

Preparation is important in the NFL so if you can bet on a team off a bye week vs. another team who is less rested, it’s often a nice edge. You can also research historically which coaches perform better after a bye week. Andy Reid for instance is 27-4 the week after a bye. 

You may want to think twice about using a powerhouse team vs. a bad team if that bad team has extra rest.

Also, consider other rest advantages like fading teams on a short week because of Monday Night Football or getting extra rest from Thursday Night Football the prior week.

Zag When They Zig

It’s not hard to find consensus survivor pool picks during the season. It’s obviously tempting to jump on that band wagon because these consensus picks are often viewed as “safer” selections, or games with a higher likelihood of advancing.

However, if 80% of your pool is on one team, you want to be the contrarian with another selection who is rooting for chaos. The size of your pool and how many participants are left will often impact how often you want to be “zigging” when others are “zagging.”

Predict Hot/Cold Starts

Consider which teams and coaches are more likely to get off to a hot start. For instance a team with a new offensive and defensive coordinator may need some time to reach their potential.

Some coaches are known for having their teams Ready for Week 1, while others don’t take the preseason as seriously and it shows early in  the season. Some units need some time to gel (Bengals offensive line in 2022 for instance) and are better bets late in the season.