The NFL season is finally here! Each week in this column, I’ll break down my favorite survivor pool picks for the upcoming slate of games. If this is your first year in a survivor pool, it’s important to remember that you can’t use the same team twice. For example, if you select the 49ers to beat the Bears this week, they won’t be an option for you for the remainder of the season.
First and foremost, of course, we want to select a team that we have a high degree of confidence will win their game this week. However, there’s more strategy to it than just that. You can make your own survivor pool matrix, but there’s an excellent site at Survivor Grid that does all of the hard work for you. You can work through each week and see how the results play out if you select a particular team in any given week. I’ll be using that site for analysis in this column.
Week 1 Survivor Options
Baltimore Ravens: The projected most popular selection on the Survivor Grid site is the Baltimore Ravens at 18.1%, and for good reason. In Week 1, they are facing a Jets team that has already lost starting quarterback Zach Wilson and left tackle Mekhi Becton to injury. With Lamar Jackson now healthy along with tons of talent on both sides of the ball, we should expect the Ravens to start their year off strong – they have a 72.2% win probability and are one of my best bets to cover their seven-point spread.
Indianapolis Colts: There has been some line movement towards Houston on the spread in their game, but the Colts are still favored to beat the Texans by a touchdown this week. The Colts are also the second-most popular selection per Survivor Grid at 17.2%. Indianapolis won their two matchups in 2021 by a combined 59 points, and their offense should be even more efficient this year with the introduction of Matt Ryan at quarterback. However, with their easy schedule, I want to save the Colts for later in the season.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos are on the road this week to play the Seahawks in Russell Wilson’s first game back in Seattle. It’s also his first game in a Denver uniform. While the Broncos undoubtedly have the much better team, and the Seahawks could be in for a very long season, this one scares me. There will be a ton of emotions with this game, and the atmosphere could make Wilson’s life difficult. At 11.7% usage, the Broncos aren’t the most popular option this week, but that’s not enough for me to take them here.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers travel to play the Bears this week, and they will surely be a very popular survivor pool team. I have confidence in their ability to win in this game, but I believe the Bears’ roster deficiencies are overblown somewhat. I expect Chicago to be feisty in some of these games, and there are significant question marks for San Francisco in the secondary and the interior offensive line. Add in the volatile situation at quarterback, and I’m staying away here.
My Week 1 Survivor Picks
The Giants have taken a ton of public money against the spread, but the Titans check a ton of boxes for what I like to target in survivor pools. The Titans are playing at home this week, where they compiled a 7-3 record, and they face a Giants team that won’t have any sort of edge in familiarity as this is an inter-conference matchup. I hate using divisional matchups in survivor pools, as I believe that introduced unnecessary variance.
Tennessee has an excellent coach in Mike Vrabel, while New York is integrating an entirely new coaching staff with Brian Daboll the team’s new head coach. I believe Daboll will be the guy to lead this team out of their recent slump, but it’s difficult to have much confidence in Daniel Jones or the team’s skill position talent.
The Titans are a team that I expect to regress a bit this year, at least from getting the #1 seed in the AFC last season. However, Derrick Henry is healthy to start this season, and he should see a heavy workload against a Giants’ defense that has struggled to stop the run – they were the worst team in the NFL in rushing defense DVOA last year.
Derrick Henry should not be able to run this fast. 💨 pic.twitter.com/eqBQ5J0c9T
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) October 19, 2021
Week 1 is a tough survivor pool slate given the lack of non-divisional, big home favorites, but the Titans fit the bill. I also like knocking out this team early as I have some serious question marks for their rest of season outlook. Yes, they play in a division with the Jaguars and Texans, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if either of those teams upset Tennessee this season.
The Titans are being selected at a 14.3% rate for survivor pools per Survivor Grid, making them the third-most popular option of the week. While I’d typically be inclined to select a team outside the top three, they check my other boxes. If you want a true contrarian option, I like the Eagles at a 3.9% usage or even the Panthers at a 1.7% usage, if you feel like getting risky.
I’m on my way to Nashville this weekend, so I’m hoping my presence in the city will bring good energy to the Titans. Let’s get it done in Week 1!
NFL Week 1 Odds
Find the best NFL Week 1 odds and lines across the major sportsbooks.