Survivor Strategy: How Long Is Your NFL Survivor Pool Expected To Last?

Like Saquon Barkley, you will often need to go on long runs to win a survivor pool (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

What are the chances that you’re going to need to survive until the very end of the season this year to win your NFL survivor pool? What about just until Week 12 or Week 15?

A big reason why our subscribers have reported nearly $1.5 million in survivor pool winnings since 2017 is because our survivor pick optimization algorithms take into account how long their pools are expected to last.

Armed with that data, you can make the highest expected value decisions when you need to choose between “burning” a great team or saving that team for use in a future week.

This post provides data and guidance to help you understand what your future planning horizon should be.

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Week By Week Survival Rates in NFL Survivor Pools

Due to the nature of survivor pools, there is significant variability in how long a pool lasts in a given year, compared to the longer-term average expectation.

Because of that variability, it’s also helpful to look at the median long term survival rate instead of the average.

The following table, using data from SurvivorGrid.com, shows the general public’s cumulative weekly survival rate in survivor pools by year, going back to the 2010 season.

Percentage Of Original Survivor Pool Entries Still Alive After Each Week, 2010-2018

Here are some observations from the survival rate data:

  • Over half of all survival pool entries were eliminated by the end of Week 4 in every single season
  • In a couple years, survival rates were already below 10% by Week 4
  • Two thirds of the time, the survival rate dropped below 5% after Week 10. That corresponds to when a pool of 20 entries would be down to one survivor, on average.
  • The earliest week in any season that the survival rate dropped below 5% was Week 5, during the 2015 season.
  • The latest week in any season that the survival rated dropped below 5% was Week 14, in both the 2010 and 2016 seasons.
  • In the majority of years, the survival rate dropped below 1% after Week 14. That corresponds to when a pool of 100 entries would be down to one survivor, on average.

How Long Is YOUR Survivor Pool Expected To Last?

In survivor pools, an average of 73.2% of entries survived each NFL week between 2010 and 2018.

In other words, on average, 26.8% of survivor entries (a bit more than 1 out of 4) that were alive at the beginning of a given NFL week were eliminated that week.

Based on that statistic, here is how long you should expect your survivor pool to last, based on the total number of entries at the start of the pool.

The columns in the table below show the 5th percentile expectation (that is, how long the pool would last in outlier-type years when survival rates are lower and eliminations come earlier) all the way up to the 95th percentile expectation (the opposite scenario). The 50th percentile column is the “average” expectation.

Expected Length of A Standard-Rules Survivor Pool, By Pool Size

Pool Size5th Percentile25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile95th Percentile
10Week 5Week 7
Week 9Week 11Week 17
25Week 7
Week 10Week 12Week 14Past Week 17/Tiebreakers

50Week 10Week 12Week 14Week 17Past Week 17/Tiebreakers
100Week 12Week 14Week 16Past Week 17/TiebreakersPast Week 17/Tiebreakers
250Week 15Week 17
Past Week 17/TiebreakersPast Week 17/TiebreakersPast Week 17/Tiebreakers
1000Past Week 17/TiebreakersPast Week 17/TiebreakersPast Week 17/TiebreakersPast Week 17/TiebreakersPast Week 17/Tiebreakers

In short:

  • Survivor pools are rarely expected to finish before Week 7, no matter what the size.
  • If your pool has 50+ entries, you’ll likely need to survive into the final month of the regular season to win it.
  • Up above 100 entries (the inflection point is around 140 entries), you should expect that in the majority of years the pool winner will have to survive the entire season (i.e. go a perfect 17-0).

Note: These calculations are based on “standard rules” survivor pools with no buy-backs (which let you re-enter the pool if you get eliminated early), strikes (which let you get one or more picks wrong without being eliminated), or additional complexities like making double picks in later weeks, if you survive that long.

Non-standard rules will impact how long a similar-size survivor contest is expected to last. Buy-backs and strikes, for example, will extend the expected length of a contest.

On the other hand, a requirement that you start picking multiple games later in the year should increase the elimination rate in those weeks, and shorten the expected length of the pool.

The Impact On Survivor Pick Strategy

When you are making your weekly survivor picks this year, make sure you think about how long your pool is expected to last. You’ll probably need to survive longer than you would assume in order to win it.

And if you don’t prepare your survivor house accordingly for the storm ahead, you’re going to have a hard time making it through.

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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