An increasingly popular way to bet on the NFL and stay involved for most of the season is a survivor pool (pick one winner of an NFL game each win, but you cannot use the same team twice). Some pools with a hefty entry fee or many participants can have prize pools in the tens of thousands.

Depending on the size of the pool, one may employ different strategies. For example, if a pool does not have many contestants, one may use a less risky strategy and pick a big favorite each week. On the other hand, if one is trying to best a pool of thousands of people, they may employ a contrarian style. A way to be contrarian is to pick teams that are less likely to be selected by others and save the better teams for later in the season while others may already have used them.

Each week I will be providing advice for which teams are best to select in survivor pools. Bettors that don’t enter these types of pools can still use this information from a betting perspective if they are comfortable laying big odds on money lines.

Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their matchups in Week 1 (odds courtesy of FanDuel).

NFL Survivor Pool Strategy & Advice for Week 1: Picks & Predictions (2022)

Safest Picks

Indianapolis Colts (-405), Baltimore Ravens (-290), Tennessee Titans (-240)

The Colts have not lost to the Texans in two seasons, and last year, they won their two meetings by a combined 62-3. Trends suggest Indianapolis is even safe from an ATS perspective as the week’s biggest favorite, as it is 9-1-1 ATS in its last 11 road games against Houston. The Colts are breaking in a new quarterback, Matt Ryan, but most view him as an upgrade over Carson Wentz even this late in his career. However, as long as Indianapolis has leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor in the backfield, the offense should be fine.

Baltimore was arguably the most disappointing team in the league last year, finishing 8-9 and under .500 for just the second time since 2008. However, even though they may be without running back J.K. Dobbins to start the season, they are a much healthier team heading into this matchup, particularly on defense, after experiencing a secondary ravaged by injuries last year. In addition, New York will have Joe Flacco under center, and we do not see a “revenge game” coming as he takes on his former team.

Tennessee was without All-Pro running back Derrick Henry for half the season last year but still steamrolled to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Meanwhile, New York was tossing around the idea of getting more extended looks at Tyrod Taylor as its starting quarterback, as the team does not seem fully confident in Daniel Jones. We expect many New Yorkers to make the trip to Nashville for this game, but the Titans are not in danger of losing outright to a team that went 0-6 down the stretch last season.

Riskier Plays That Will Be Popular

San Francisco 49ers (-310), Cincinnati Bengals (-270), Denver Broncos (-255)

San Francisco has officially moved on from Jimmy Garoppolo as its starting quarterback, though he remains on the roster, which means the Trey Lance era has begun. Lance is an upgrade athletically from Garoppolo but is still very much an unknown with two starts (1-1 record) under his belt. I prefer to wait and see the kind of success the team has under his leadership before risking my survivor pool life on him and the 49ers.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow did not play in the preseason after undergoing surgery for his ruptured appendix. We are not concerned about his availability to play Week 1, but we figure he may look rusty with limited reps in training camp. In addition, it was likely difficult for Cincinnati to gameplan for Pittsburgh without knowing if Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett would be the starting quarterback. Pittsburgh is 4-1 as underdogs in its last five against the Bengals, so an upset here would not be shocking.

Russell Wilson returns to Seattle for the first time as a visiting player. And while the Broncos have a much superior roster to the Seahawks, there are too many emotions and off-field distractions for me to feel safe about backing Denver on the road in survivor pools. Wait for a better spot.

Contrarian Play to Beat a Large Pool

Washington Commanders (-164)

I personally do not have the courage to make this play, even though being successful with it would give survivor pool competitors a big leg up over the competition. Jacksonville has lost 17 consecutive road games, but the feeling around the Jaguars is that Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson will get the team turned around quickly after the failed Urban Meyer experiment. However, new Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz finished ninth in total QBR this season. So, by all means, take a stab with Washington if you are trying to best hundreds or thousands of other competitors, not in a smaller pool where a safer pick is more warranted.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RadioPublic | Breaker | Castbox | Pocket Casts

Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our How To Section — including How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Sports Betting Mistakes — or head to more advanced strategy — like Thinking Like an Expert Sports Bettor — to learn more.

Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

NFL, Picks


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here