NFL Survivor Pool Strategy: How Often Does The Safest Pick Actually Lose?

Kirk Cousins knows there are no locks in the NFL (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

There is no such thing as a lock in the NFL.

Even the biggest NFL favorites lose sometimes. Just last season, for example, Minnesota was favored by 16.5 points over Buffalo in Week 3. In the 16 NFL seasons preceding last year, there had only been 22 games with a favorite that big, out of over 4,000 total games played. Those favorites went 22-0.

Lo and behold, the Vikings lost. As a result, nearly 60% of still-alive survivor pool players who took “mortal lock” Minnesota that week were eliminated from their pools.

In short, there is always a chance that the safest team of each week loses, and based on the historical numbers, picking the safest team each week may not get you nearly as far as you think it would in your NFL survivor pool.

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Below is a summary of data from the last five NFL seasons. The tables show the team with the highest win odds in each week, along with its game result.

Note: Teams can show up more than once in each table below, if they were the safest team in more than one week during the season.

2018’s Safest Survivor Picks

In 2018, picking the safest team of the week would have eliminated you in Week 1.

WeekTeamOpponentWin OddsPublic Pick %Result
1NOTB80%31%L
2LARARI85%35%W
3MINBUF89%59%L
4LACSF80%33%W
5NEIND83%43%W
6HOUBUF79%24%W
7LARSF78%22%W
8NEBUF89%19%W
9CHIBUF80%31%W
10KCARI89%21%W
11LACDEN74%13%L
12LACARI85%9%W
13KCOAK87%6%W
14LACCIN89%5%W
15LARPHI87%9%L
16LARARI84%9%W
17KCOAK86%6%W

2017’s Safest Survivor Picks

In 2017, picking the safest team of the week would have eliminated you for sure by Week 6.

WeekTeamOpponentWin OddsPublic Pick %Result
1PITCLE79%28%W
2SEASF87%21%W
3NEHOU88%28%W
4SEAIND87%40%W
5PITJAC74%37%L
6ATLMIA87%21%L
7DALSF71%29%W
8PHISF86%25%W
9SEAWAS 77%12%L
10LARHOU84%19%W
11KCNYG78%48%L
12NEMIA90%17%W
13LACCLE86%56%W
14NEMIA81%14%L
15NONYJ89%19%W
16BALIND86%18%W
17NENYJ89%8%W

2016’s Safest Survivor Picks

In 2016, picking the safest team of the week would have eliminated you for sure by Week 4.

WeekTeamOpponentWin OddsPublic Pick %Result
1SEAMIA81%36%W
2CARSF82%39%W
3SEASF80%8%W
4ARILAR79%22%L
5NECLE80%49%W
6ARINYJ76%9%W
7CINCLE83%43%W
8NEBUF69%10%W
9GBIND75%11%L
10ARISF87%42%W
11NESF81%10%W
12NENYJ80%3%W
13NELAR86%15%W
14DETCHI74%54%W
15SEALAR90%13%W
16NENYJ92%8%W
17SEASF82%13%W

2015’s Safest Survivor Picks

In 2015, picking the safest team of the week would have eliminated you in Week 2.

WeekTeamOpponentWin OddsPublic Pick %Result
1NEPIT76%10%W
2NOTB79%45%L
3SEACHI91%39%W
4SEADET81%13%W
5KCCHI79%26%L
6GBSD82%25%W
7ARIBAL80%35%W
8NEMIA79%8%W
9NEWAS89%13%W
10GBDET83%18%L
11SEASF89%28%W
12CINSTL79%7%W
13PITIND80%9%W
14KCSD83%19%W
15NETEN89%18%W
16SEASTL84%4%L
17PITCLE85%19%W

2014’s Safest Survivor Picks

In 2014, picking the safest team of the week would have gotten you all way through the season — again, if you were in a pool that let you pick the same team as many times as you wanted.

(Denver shows up five times in the table, for example.)

If you were only allowed to pick a specific team once per season, it could have been a much different story.

WeekTeamOpponentWin OddsPublic Pick %Result
1PHIJAC81%43%W
2DENKC87%27%W
3NEOAK88%53%W
4SDJAC85%58%W
5NOTB81%32%W
6DENNYJ79%31%W
7NENYJ82%20%W
8DENSD79%3%W
9SEAOAK85%33%W
10DENOAK84%14%W
11SDOAK83%17%W
12INDJAC86%42%W
13INDWAS 76%16%W
14GBATL86%11%W
15BALJAC87%32%W
16GBTB84%15%W
17DENOAK91%14%W

Observations and Notes

  • The overall winning percentage of the safest team of the week was 70-15 (82.4%).
  • Performance varied from year-to-year, as you would expect. None lost in 2014; Five did in 2017.

Survivor pick popularity for the safest team goes down drastically over the course of the season, since most players tend to “burn” the best teams early on:

  • Over the last ten weeks of the season, 56% of the safest picks had a pick percentage of 15% or lower.
  • Over the first seven weeks of the season, 54% of the safest picks had a pick percentage of 30% or higher.

So if you plan ahead wisely, you can really get a big edge over your survivor pool opponents in the later weeks.

If you’re in an NFL survivor pool, make sure you check out our NFL Survivor Picks. We also provide Football Pick’em Picks and NFL Betting Picks.

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