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NFL Survivor Contest Strategy for the 2020-21 Season (and Beyond)

NFL Survivor Contest Strategy for the 2020-21 Season (and Beyond)

*Use MATH (or not!) to win your contest this year

Whether you are new to playing NFL Survivor contests, or you’re just looking for an edge over the other contestants, our strategy primer below has some of the most powerful tips to help you succeed this year and be the last one standing.  If you hate math like most people, just skip to the end of the article and we’ll make it math-free for you!

Tip #1:  Use the Point Spread to Figure Win Percentages

Survivor contests don’t use point spreads, but you can use them to your advantage.  We all know a team favored by a touchdown has a good chance to win, but most of us don’t know exactly how good that chance is, or how it compares to teams favored by 3 points or by large spreads like 10 or 14 points.  The chart below converts key spreads to chances of victory.





Pick ’em














Tip #2:  Go Against the Grain

This is most powerful tip you may never have heard of.  It can sometimes be a bit difficult to understand, but we’ll simplify it for you. The basic principle is to figure out what team or teams most entrants will pick this week, and don’t pick one of those teams.

Step 1:  Identify the team(s) most entries will pick this week.

Whether you have access to a site which accurately predicts team choice percentage or not is not really important.  If you follow football at least casually, you know that if a week has a matchup or two like Ravens (-13) vs Dolphins or Chiefs (-14) vs Jets, a huge portion of the entries will choose one of those teams to try to ensure a victory and move on to the next week.

Step 2: Identify a team with a good chance to win that not many people will pick.  There are a few ways to do this, but some of our favorites are:

a) Choose a team that a lot of entries have already picked, because you know many entries cannot pick that team again.  Example:  If the Browns had a really easy matchup last week at home vs the Dolphins and a lot of entries picked the Browns and they won, then you can figure they can’t and won’t be picked much this week, even if they have a decent matchup.

b) Choose an unpopular team with a softer matchup.  Example:  Nobody really likes to pick the Chargers because they are a middle-of-the-pack team with few fans and an unexciting offense.  But the Chargers might be playing at home vs the Jaguars this week as a 5 point favorite against a team travelling 3 time zones, therefore having a really good chance to win.

c) Pick against a team with a late change of situation.  Example:  The Vikings and Lions might be playing Sunday morning in a close matchup, and news breaks 45 minutes before kickoff that the Vikings running back had an injury setback and will miss the game.  In this case you can take advantage of a couple of things, the first being that the Lions now have a much better chance to win the game than they did before the news, and the second being that most entries owners will be too busy cooking Sunday BBQ or attending church service or coaching their kids’ soccer team to change their Survivor pick.  Advantage: YOU.


Let’s make this an easy example to understand.  In this example, your contest has 100 surviving entries and the prize pool is $1,000.  Your entry’s “value” or “equity” is exactly $10.00 at this point ($1,000/100=$100.00).  Let’s also say there is one “big favorite” this week, the Ravens (-10) at home vs the Dolphins.  To simplify, let’s say the other 15 games are 3-point spread games. (We know this is unrealistic a bit, but it will help illustrate the strategy.) We can figure maybe 70 entries will pick the Ravens this week, and the other 30 entries pick evenly among the other 15 teams that are favored by 3 points.  You happen to choose the Raiders who are 3-point favorites at home vs the Panthers.  Let’s also assume about 18 of the 29 others who picked 3-point favorites win their matchups (since 3-point favorites win about 60% of the time).


Ravens and Raiders both win (50% probability):

In this case you survive along with 88 other entries and your entry “value” is now ($1000/89) = $11.24

Raiders win and Ravens lose (10% probability):

In this case you survive along with 18 other entries and your entry “value” is now ($1000/19) = $52.63

Raiders lose (40% probability)

In this case you are out and your entry value is $0 because you cannot win the contest.

So, because you passed on the Ravens chose the Raiders, we can see this strategy overall has increased your $10 entry value to

(.50*$11.24)+(.10*$52.63) = $10.88

So what if you had picked the Ravens instead?  If the Ravens won (83.6% probability), you would survive along with approx 87.5 other entries and your entry value would be

$11.30 ($1000/88.5).  If the Ravens lose (16.4% probability) you would lose and your entry value would be $0.  By choosing the Ravens, you can see this strategy has decreased your $10 entry value to $9.45 (.836*$11.30).

Just by picking the Raiders in this example:

You have increased your entry value by almost 9%

The vast majority of entrants have decreased their value by more than 5%

You STILL have a powerful Ravens team to pick in the future, while most others do not.

Tip #3:  Take Chances Early in the Season, Not Later On:

Sportsbooks are really good at setting point spreads and totals, but early in the year the spreads are not as accurate.  Why?  Just like us, the sportsbooks have a lack of information early in the year.  Their computer programs need data to work, and there just isn’t much recent data early in the season!  Even when they use human opinion to adjust the spreads it is the same scenario… there just hasn’t been very much game film to watch early in the year.  At some point in the contest, you are going to have to take a  chance or two… we recommend doing that earlier in the year, because later on the sportsbooks are going to be solid with their opinions and you are going to be glad you saved strong teams like the Ravens and Chiefs for the endgame while others are grasping at straws.

The “NO MATH” Survivor Strategy:

As promised, we’ll just make it easy here… no math at all!

1) Don’t pick really heavily favored teams in the first half of the season, you want those teams available in the endgame when others have already used them up!

2) Be different.  If you think most people will choose a heavy favorite like the Ravens or Chiefs this week, choose a different team.  You don’t want to burn a valuable team-pick one week just to find out 90% of everyone else survived along with you… that doesn’t do you any good or make any money for you in the long run.  Save that strong pick for the end of the contest!

3) Unpopular teams with soft matchups are gold.  Hey, we get that you don’t really want to pick the Browns or Bengals (nobody else does either!)  But if you do find one of these teams has a good matchup (at home vs another weak team with injuries that had to travel on a short week for instance), you know it is time to strike!

GOOD LUCK this season and we hope to see YOU take all the money!

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Written by Ryan

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