Survival football is a style of fantasy (or gambling, if you will) similar to pick’em. It’s a simple premise: You pick the winner of one game per week. The catch is that once you select a team, you cannot select them for the rest of the season.* If you choose incorrectly, you are eliminated. At the end of the year, the person in the pool who made it the furthest into the season wins.
*In some survival leagues, if your team wins, you are allowed to play them the next week as well. But for this site, we are going to stick to the first set of rules
My first few years playing this, I had no strategy at all. “How hard could this be?” I foolishly asked myself. Pretty damn hard is the answer. Anyone else get eliminated last year during Week 1 because you picked the Chargers? That’s right, about half of you.
There seem to be two strategies that are used in Survival Leagues:
1) Save the easy picks for later. A majority of the people in your pool are probably going to save the simple guys the middle of the season (assuming they make it that far). Their strategy is to not vote for the Eagles, Patriots, Packers, Saints, Steelers, etc. in the beginning of the season, thinking that if they make it out of the first 4-5 weeks, then they can coast to the finish line on their sure-things.
2) Pick the best. Each week. No matter what. This strategy is simple. Look at the teams, and find which one appears the most obvious. If you gamble in Week 1, you have less of a chance of making it out of Week 1. If you so with a sure-thing, then you have a better chance to progress further.
I am against the first strategy. It makes little sense to me, personally. The entire point of the game is to make it to the next week. So, if you don’t make the smart pick in Week 1, the chances of you getting past that week are greatly decreased. I would much rather pick the Patriots beating the Dolphins in Week 1, then going out on a limb and picking, say, the 49ers over the Seahawks.
This game is all about endurance. If every member of your pool goes with the first strategy, they will drop like flies before even seeing Week 5. Meaning that if you employ the second strategy and play it safe in the early rounds, you win.
So go with the obvious ones early. Stay in as long as you can. When there are fewer competitors in the pool, then you can start taking your gambles. It’s a lot easier to gamble on a team in the middle weeks when you have been able to watch them all season and can predict the outcomes more easily.
Now, how do you go about picking a sure-thing? There are a couple factors here. First is pretty basic, you look at their record. This is where you are going to find the teams that do well every year. By seeing who they play well against and how often they win games, you can be pretty confident when they go up against a ‘less than perfect’ team.
Second is home-field advantage. It definitely matters. The Kansas City Chiefs are by no means one of the obvious teams to pick, but their record in 2010 was 7-1 at home. I’d be much more confident picking them in a home game in the middle of the year, knowing that they perform better there, than picking them at the beginning of the year so I could save the bigger names for later down the road.
Number three, look at the loser. It’s an awkward fact, but I feel that it is way easier to pick which team will definitely lose the game than it is to pick the team that will definitely win. I’m sure there is a psychological term for it or something. But think about it, there seem to be fewer loopholes and it is a lot easier to be confident saying the Redskins will definitely lose to the Giants, than saying the Giants will definitely beat the Redskins. So make a point to analyze the other team, if you can confidently say that they are going to lose, then pull the trigger.
Hope this strategy clears some things up for all of those playing in Survival Leagues. If you are not already signed up for one, they are a fun little game that will take about two minutes of your life, so go on your favorite fantasy football host and sign up!
And of course, you can expect to hear from GHL. When we post our Pick’em predictions, we will also add our guarantee of the week that we’ll be using in our own Survival Pool Picks.