NFL Survivor Pools: Biggest Elimination Weeks & Lowest Historical Survival Rates

Atlanta has had a disappointing season, but got some revenge on the rival Saints and lots of survivor players with a big upset (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)

Week 10 of the 2019 NFL Season proved to be quite deadly and decisive for survivor pools. The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts came into the weekend as the two most popular survivor choices and both lost.

The Saints were picked by approximately 47% of the public going against the Atlanta Falcons at home. The Colts were a very popular second choice, picked 34% of the time by the public playing Miami at home. That means that over 80% of the public had one of those two as their choice. In contrast, we recommended our subscribers use one of those two teams on only about 19% of all remaining entries.

When both teams lost this past Sunday, it resulted in one of the highest single-week elimination rates of the last decade.

In this post, we’ll first recount the most brutal survivor weeks in recent history. Then we’ll explain why we recommended that most of our premium subscribers avoid picking New Orleans or Indianapolis this past week, giving many of them a huge boost in their survivor pools this year. Here’s just one of the many quotes from our actual customers after this last week, this one from someone who just signed up a week ago to get assistance.

First week paying for the Team Rankings Survivor Pool subscription. Trusted the calls y’all made for my picks for Thursday lock (one of my pools locks before the TNF game) on KC/GB/BAL/SF. Everyone else took IND/NO + one person took TB, I now have 4 of the 5 remaining picks in the pool. In great position to win a HUGE pool for big money! Debating the best way to take it down given I’m in a dominant spot, do I just have one of my picks shadow his/her pick every week [guessing to the best of my ability given his/her pick history] and use the other 3 on different teams? Decisions, decisions…

Oh and I outright won a smaller pool by listening and choosing CHI, split the winnings for ANOTHER pool with 8 others since we all took NO/IND, and it’s down to me and another person in the last pool where the winner gets a game-worn NFL jersey.


No doubt those hashtags are going to start trending soon.

Biggest Historical Survivor Pool Elimination Weeks

How does a roughly 13% weekly survival rate for the public compare to other weeks? As it turns out, using the public pick data from going back to 2010, Week 10 of 2019 is the second-highest survivor pool elimination week in the past ten seasons.

Here are the seven most deadly weeks:

1. Week 2 of 2015 — 10% survival rate

The New Orleans Saints were also responsible for the only other week with a larger elimination rate. Back in 2015, they lost to Tampa Bay as an 8.5-point favorite in a week where 45% of the public went with them. Add in that the next three most popular choices also lost that week, and most entries were done before the season was two weeks old back in 2015.

2. Week 10 of 2019 — 13% survival rate

New Orleans and Indianapolis both lost as double digit favorites, wiping out over 80% of pools alone.

3. Week 10 of 2013 — 16% survival rate

The Tennessee Titans played Jacksonville as 11.5-point favorites, and were the choice of a whopping 69% of the public. But Titans quarterback Jake Locker threw an interception and fumbled before being replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jacksonville held on to the lead. The team with the second-best win odds (Indianapolis) also lost, wiping out another 10% of entries.

4. Week 10 of 2011 — 20% survival rate

The Philadelphia Eagles’ Dream Team disaster season also wrecked survivor entries, as they lost as a 13.5-point favorite against Arizona. That eliminated 56% of entries in Week 10 of the 2011 season. John Skelton replaced Kevin Kolb at quarterback for Arizona and threw three touchdowns against the Eagles. Meanwhile, Baltimore also lost as the second-most popular choice (17%).

5. (tie) Week 3 of 2018 — 23% survival rate

The Minnesota Vikings were a huge 16.5-point favorite at home against Buffalo, but laid an egg and lost big at home. That game ended the survivor season for 58% of entries before Week 3 concluded. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the second-most popular choice, and also lost to the Titans, taking out another 10% of entries.

5. (tie) Week 5 of 2011 — 23% survival rate

In Week 5 of 2011, an incredible 71% of public entries went with the Giants against Seattle. That resulted in the highest single-game elimination of the last decade. Eli Manning threw three interceptions, including the game-clinching Pick Six to Brandon Browner, while Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst combined to throw for over 300 yards in the upset.

5. (tie) Week 16 of 2010 — 23% survival rate

Remember the Joe Webb game? Joe Webb had to start at quarterback for Minnesota against the Eagles when Brett Favre was out injured. Philadelphia was favored by more than two touchdowns, but lost in a game that had to be delayed until the Tuesday after Christmas due to weather. The Vikings’ win eliminated 32% of entries, and another 24% were eliminated when Jacksonville lost in overtime to Washington.

Why Avoiding The Saints And Colts Made Sense (In Most Cases)

Our premium NFL Survivor Picks product customizes survivor pick recommendations on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis, using data algorithms designed to maximize a subscriber’s chance to win their survivor pool(s). Key details such a the specific rules of a pool, and how many entries a subscriber is playing in the pool, factor heavily into our final recommendations each week.

In Week 10, we recommended some Saints and Colts picks to subscribers as their best pick option for the week. However, compared to the general public, we recommended those two teams at a far lower rate. As mentioned above, over 80% of the public’s survivor entries were on the Saints and Colts this past week, while only 19% of our subscriber recommended picks were.

Instead, our four most frequent subscriber pick recommendations for Week 10 were Chicago (23% of our subscriber recommended picks), Baltimore (17%), Tampa Bay (16%), and Kansas City (12%). That wasn’t a random decision, but rather a game theory driven strategy to take unpopular alternative picks. We discussed it in a note to our subscribers this way:

This week presents a pretty rare situation in survivor, one where you have two different teams at very high popularity. In fact, going back to 2010 with’s historic survivor data, the Colts, currently at 39% popularity, would be the highest among the “second-most popular weekly options” in over a decade. Only two other weeks in the last ten years have had two different teams with greater than 33% popularity: 2016 Week 10 with Arizona (42%) and Baltimore (36%), and 2013 Week 5 with St. Louis (42%) and Atlanta (36%).

Having two very popular teams increases the value for unpopular teams. That’s because while any individual upset may be a longer shot, the odds of at least one of them losing is more realistic. Looking at Saints/Colts, using our win odds, there’s a 35% chance that at least one of them loses. Using the betting market implied win odds, there is a 32% chance that at least one of them loses. That means there is roughly a one-in-three chance that at least 39% of a typical pool is eliminated this week.

In short, in most cases, the potential rewards of at least one loss by the Saints or Colts justified the risks of avoiding picking either of them. Was it a riskier decision (going in)? Yes. But maximizing your odds to win a survivor pool is all about balancing risks with potential rewards. It doesn’t always work out, but in the long term, making positive expected value decisions like this one will pay off.

Thanks to our product’s frequent and automated data processing, the Bears shot to the top of our recommendations this past Sunday for many customers, after the news that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was ruled out. And Chicago’s victory, combined with both the Saints and Colts losing, ended up being a bonanza for a good portion of our premium subscribers.

Overall, our subscriber recommended picks survived at a 61.4% rate this week, compared to only a 12.6% survival rate for the public.

[If you are not yet a subscriber, you can sign up for our NFL Survivor Pool Picks at a discounted rate for the rest of the season.]