NFL Survivor Pool Picks - General Tips and Advice

Apr 23, 2010

Over the last few years, our most popular single type of football pool has been our NFL Survivor Pools (also known as Suicide, Eliminator, or Last Man Standing Pools). Pick one NFL team each week, straight-up without the point spread. If they win, you survive and advance. If they lose, you are eliminated. The catch, in most pools, is you can only pick each NFL team once during the season.

Here are a few tips that might help you narrow down your Eliminator pool choices each week:

  • Know your football pool's rules! - While obvious, this is often overlooked. Does your pool allow re-use of teams? Does it use "buybacks"? Are you allowed more than one wrong pick before you're eliminated? Your pool's rules have a major effect on your pick strategy.
  • Use the spread as a guide ONLY - If you make your pick based solely on the spread without looking at other factors, you'll be unlikely to win your Survivor Pool. Point spreads are based as much on public perception as on actual team strengths. If you are a fairly knowledgeable NFL fan, my suggestion is tolook at the spreads only AFTER you have evaluated the games yourself, mainly as a double check of your potential picks. This may lead you to a more careful consideration of those games. If you are a more casual NFL fan, you may want to use the spreads as a starting point each week until your are more comfortable picking on your own.
  • Don't over plan - Some might argue with me on this point, as some people plan out all their Survivor Pool picks before the season even starts. In my opinion, this strategy doesn't allow for the type of flexibility necessary to be successful in an Eliminator Pool. The NFL is riddled with injuries, surprising teams (both good and bad), and other factors that can drastically change how you'll pick 5 weeks from now.
  • Don't stockpile good teams - If you're holding off on picking a top NFL team as insurance later, don't fall into that trap. Remember, a saved team does you no good if you've already been eliminated. You need to pick good football teams, sometimes, to ensure you survive to pick another week.
  • Ignore the preseason - Hopefully, this one is crystal clear. Preseason records almost never correlate to regular season performance.
  • Beware of divisional matchups - OK, pay close attention to this one. I can NOT overstate this one. Early in my Suicide Pool career, I paid no attention to divisional matchups and rivalries ... and paid dearly for it. Remember, divisional opponents play each other twice a year every year. They know each other very well. This often results in much closer games and occasionally upsets, even of top tier NFL teams against very weak divisional teams. Stay AWAY from divisional games altogether if possible, especially on the road!
  • Beware of "Trap" games - The road to Survivor Pool victory is littered with trap game victims. A trap game is a game played the week before or after a tough opponent or division rival. Usually, the trap game opponent is considered weaker than the team being picked. Teams often suffer a hangover after winning a tough, highly anticipated game. Also, teams tend to overlook weaker opponents when preparing for a tough game the following week. It is smart to look at a teams previous and following weak opponent and try to avoid falling into these traps.
  • Be careful the first few weeks - As already mentioned, there are a few surprising NFL teams every year who play way above their heads or, conversely, severely underperform. This often results in some serious early season upsets. Just because a team went 3-13 last year doesn't mean they can't eliminate you in Week 2 of your Survivor Pool. Again, watch those division rivalries specifically.
  • Pick road teams carefully - From 1996 to 2006, only 6 teams had winning road records. Winning on the road in the NFL is tough, so if you have to pick a road teams, make sure it is a VERY favorable matchup at all levels. Be especially careful when picking a team that has to travel all the way across the country, as this travel can take a surprising toll on a team.
  • Beware of the "short week" - A short week is when a team plays on a Thursday following a Sunday game or plays on Monday night. Fewer days to game plan and for players to recover physically can result in short week letdowns.

While having a system for making your Suicide Pool picks is something I'd recommend, there will be a week or two where you're intuition leads you elsewhere. I find, in these situations, it is often smart to go with your gut and don't over-analyze your pick.

If you have any other NFL Survivor Pool tips or feedback, please leave a comment below. We want to hear from our readers.

Are you still running your NFL Survivor Pool by hand? We can help save you time and frustration this NFL Season by hosting your private pool online for you. Please click for more information on our Surivor Pools Pools or our other NFL Pool offerings!



Graham wrote on 05/22/10 5:29 PM

Have you boys considered setting up an NHL Pool?
That would be sweet
Matt Kornguth

Matt Kornguth wrote on 05/23/10 5:09 AM

We have definitely considered creating an NHL Pool format. The challenge has been determining the format that is most interesting to our customers that follow the NHL and would run a hockey pool.

If you have a specific NHL Pool format, we'd love to hear it via email at
Gary Brown

Gary Brown wrote on 09/12/10 6:00 AM

Great advise and insight Matt !

Bobby wrote on 10/04/10 2:12 AM

I must be a relative of yours. I preach the same exact points
In my pool..

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