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NFL Survivor Pool Advice: Week 18 (2021)

by January 5, 2022
Terry McLaurin

If you are still alive in your survivor pools entering the last week of the season, congratulations! You are about to embark on unchartered territory this week, as this is the NFL’s first-ever Week 18 in the regular season. Thus, completing a full year of a survivor pool gets that much more challenging, with one more week to navigate.

As a whole, favorites went 13-3 SU last week (depending on what odds you got Pittsburgh and Cleveland at). The three favorites to lose were the Colts (-335), Chiefs (-230), and Cowboys (-230).

And now, the real fun begins. The last week of the NFL regular season is one of the most bizarre weeks in any sport. It takes a lot of research to know which teams have something left to play for and which coaches plan to rest players. However, the good news from a survivor pool perspective is that many mediocre teams are now in play. Poor teams can become favorites over playoff-bound teams if their seeding is locked.

Even if your survivor pool days did not last long this year, hopefully, our readers are gaining an edge betting-wise, with money to be had on the money lines of each game.

This week’s column will outline the following categories: safest picks, riskier plays that will be popular, and contrarian plays to beat a large pool. Even though survivor pool rules say you cannot pick the same team twice, I will outline multiple scenarios if bettors wish to navigate their own path.

Thank you for reading this column all year, and I look forward to providing even better advice in 2022.

Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their matchups in Week 18 (odds courtesy of FanDuel).

Safest Picks 

Buffalo Bills (-1400), Indianapolis Colts (-1150), Tennessee Titans (-560), Kansas City Chiefs (-480), New Orleans Saints (-205)

The first four teams on this list all have something in common. Each team has clinched playoff spots and is still motivated to play for playoff seeding and/or division titles against opponents that have been eliminated from playoff contention. Buffalo needs a win over the Jets to clinch the AFC East. Indianapolis needs a win over Jacksonville to clinch a wild-card spot. Tennessee locks up the No. 1 seed with a win against the Texans, while Kansas City keeps themselves alive for the No. 1 seed if they win at Denver. All four of these teams should be motivated to win and are in great spots against teams relegated to playing spoiler.

The New Orleans Saints are also playing a team eliminated from playoff contention (the Falcons), and they need a win to stay alive for a playoff spot. The Saints would be eliminated with a loss or a 49ers win. However, given that their game kicks off at the same time as San Francisco’s, the Saints should win at Atlanta, provided they focus on the task at hand and avoid scoreboard watching.

Riskier Plays That Will Be Popular

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-370), New England Patriots (-270), Green Bay Packers (-135)

The Buccaneers are in a similar position to the Packers in the sense that they may rest starters, although it could be argued they have more to play for than Green Bay. Tampa Bay could get up as high as the No. 2 seed with a win and a Rams loss, which could be significant in terms of where they would play a playoff game against the Rams if the two teams were to meet. However, this line has plummeted from Buccaneers -9.5 to -8, which raises the possibility that the Buccaneers may choose to rest players.

The New England Patriots make our risky play section for several reasons. First, they face a Dolphins team that recently won seven straight games. In addition, Miami head coach Brian Flores will likely have his guys fired up to face Bill Belichick and take on the role of “spoiler,” even though New England has clinched a playoff spot. Finally, suppose the Patriots are scoreboard watching, and Buffalo is dominating the Jets early. In that case, New England may start pulling some of their starters, which is another reason they are a risky play.

The Packers will be a popular play given they are playing the Lions, who just allowed 51 points to Seattle. However, Green Bay has the No. 1 seed locked up, and the Packers may choose to rest starters with nothing to play for. They are in an interesting position, as some head coaches would not want their players having two weeks off in between games. Even if Green Bay plays their starters for a half, their prospect of winning outright gets dicey.

Contrarian Play To Beat a Large Pool

Washington Football Team (-295)

Though Washington has been eliminated from playoff contention for a couple of weeks, they showed some fight in their last loss to Philadelphia. Washington had a 16-7 halftime lead on the playoff-bound Eagles before getting outscored 13-0 in the second half. While Washington competed last week, the Giants have not looked competitive for quite some time now. New York has lost five straight games, all by at least 11 points, and their last two losses were by a combined 50 points. Head coach Joe Judge is already talked about in the New York media as being on the “hot seat.” Thus, we would not be surprised to see the Giants turn in another lackadaisical performance as they continue to play out the string.

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