The Survivor Pool is fantasy football’s antithesis, fun versus frustrating, Raiders of the Lost Ark versus The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull—they are complete opposites, if you haven’t caught my drift.
Only the strong survive.
The rules are simple: Pick one team a week, straight up, no spread. If they win, you keep going; one loss, you’re done.
It seems SO easy doesn’t it?
So many things can happen during the course of a game that can have you sitting nice or breaking bottles.
Not long ago, Mr. Tom Brady went down in the first quarter against the Chiefs in Week One. Half of my 500-person pool took the Patriots.
I showed compassion for Brady—his injury looked very painful and I’m a fan—but I was ecstatic that half my pool could be out in Week One. Sure enough, Matt Cassel pulled a Tom Brady move himself and won the game, proving that a lot can happen.
Taking part in a fantasy football draft guarantees you at least 13 weeks of gut-checking statistical analysis. Paying your dues in a survival pool guarantees you one pick.
The first week in your head-to-head or rotisserie league is a tune-up; a key pickup off the waiver wire could drastically change your season.
The first week in a survival pool could be your last; to thrive, you need to use every bit of knowledge, wit and strategy you have.
As a survivor myself, I can only offer you insight. You may choose to take my advice, as I have gone 17-for-17 in a previous pool and was crowned the Champ.
The following quips can prove extremely useful in your quest to be the last man standing:
Patience is a virtue.
Don’t jump to a conclusion and pick your team the second Monday Night Football signs off and Chris Berman invents five new nicknames.
Let the week play out. Wait until at least Friday to make your pick.
Lots of things could happen in a given week. Starters could go down, coaches could get fired, Antonio Cromartie could have another kid.
So wait, read up, and research before you pick. Enjoy a day of college football on Saturday and submit your pick before you head out for the night.
My high school baseball coach gave our team some quality advice come crunch time in our season: “Never go down with a bullet in your gun.”
He was talking about our ace pitcher, but I’m talking about a particular team. Don't wait to use the Saints when you think you can get away with the Panthers for a week. Risks like that can prove to be costly.
RANK YOUR TEAMS
Make a list and check it twice.
Create a tiered list of teams that made the playoffs last year, teams that almost made the playoffs, teams with the biggest potential, and teams you never want to choose.
Create a system.
If two previous playoff teams are playing each other, don’t go near that game. Pick a team to go after the whole year, like in 2008 when the Lions went winless. (They actually went 4-0 that preseason, thus proving my rule to never judge anything by the preseason.)
For example, these are the teams that made the playoffs in 2009:
AFC - Jets, Colts, Bengals, Chargers, Ravens, Patriots
NFC - Eagles, Saints, Packers, Vikings, Cowboys, Cardinals
Unless it's Week 13 or later and you have no other choice, do not pick a game in which these teams are playing each other. On the other hand, if these teams aren’t playing each other, I would seriously consider picking them.
GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS
The Beatles knew something.
Help is everywhere; you just have to know where to find it. Read up during the week, watch TV shows, listen to the radio and podcasts. There are people that know more than you and you should value their opinions.
Pick a couple of games you like for the week and then research.
One warning. Don’t over do it. Do not research to the point where you can’t make up your mind. If you get to that point, you're in trouble.
Think it, feel it, know it. Sounds corny, but it works. Karma’s a funny thing.
The year the Patriots went undefeated, I waited to use them until late in the season against the Ravens.
The game was seemingly over when Tom Brady was stopped on fourth down. Then all of a sudden, the ref claimed a timeout had been called prior to the snap by the Ravens. Brady got another shot, converted the fourth down, and won the game.
You know why? I felt it. The force was with me.
The best time of the year is almost upon us. Baseball is nearing the playoffs and the NFL and College Football are about to kick off. Follow me week by week and I’ll help guide your way through your pool and collect a nice fat check in December. I’ll give you teams I like and teams to stay away from every week.
Value my opinion, for I hold the coveted title you all seek: The Survivor.
Below are my picks for Week One:
Games I like
Bears over the Lions – As bad as Cutler has been, the Bears are at home and Matt Forte has been proving critics wrong. Bears win 21-10
Titans over the Raiders – Well, why not go against the Raiders? The game is in Tennessee, Chris Johnson is the best RB in the NFL, and Jason Campbell has yet to prove anything with the new-look Raiders. McFadden’s a question mark and the only thing I like about them is tight end Zach Miller. Titans win 27–7
Falcons over the Steelers – Matt Ryan and Company enter Steel City with high hopes once again against the Roethlisberger-less Steelers. I wouldn’t trust Byron Leftwich to beat any team in the NFL, to be frank. Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez lead an offensive romp over the Steelers. Falcons win 31–14
Chargers over the Chiefs – My safe pick of the week. Philip Rivers is back, rookie sensation Ryan Matthews fits right into the high-powered offense, Malcolm Floyd makes everyone think he’s Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates does everything he’s supposed to do and more. What more can I say. I don’t think Cassel and Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones are enough, except to maybe make a first-half scare. Chargers win 38–21
Games to stay away from
Vikings @ Saints – Rematch of the NFC Championship. Pure entertainment and not a betting game.
Bengals @ Patriots – The first test for VH1’s WR duo. A wait-and-see game.
Browns @ Bucs – The battle of terrible team.
Colts @ Texans – Shootout: Manning vs. Schaub. Fun to watch, but don’t touch.
Packers @ Eagles – Kolb’s first performance will determine how often we go against the Eagles in the future. He could prove us wrong.
Cardinals @ Rams – Leinart cannot fit into Kurt Warner’s shoes and Fitz’s numbers will suffer. Bradford could surprise all of us.
Cowboys @ Redskins – I’d stay away from any NFC East matchup. Best division in the NFL.
Ravens @ Jets – Hard Knocks against Ray Lewis. Hmmm, tough one. Will let this one go.