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The NFL returns with regular season games starting on September 10 and DraftKings is offering a huge prize pool of $100 million in the first Golden Ticket Giveaway to users who simply enter the free $1M Football Survivor pool – which also has a $1 million prize for first place.

Entering the Golden Ticket Giveaway begins with a FREE entry into the Pro Football Survivor contest.

Survivor contests prompt users to pick one team to win in Week 1, then continue to pick a winner each week throughout the NFL season. If the team you pick wins, you advance, and those who pick a losing team are eliminated. The only catch is you can’t pick the same team twice.

In this article we discuss the strategies that will help you navigate the first half of the NFL season, along with specific suggestions for early survivor picks with consideration of the full season schedule for each team.

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NFL Survivor Strategy

Home Field Advantage

At first glance, home field advantage might seem irrelevant this year with no fans allowed in most stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet each team will be allowed to pipe in crowd noise to thwart opposing offenses, and will have the advantage of a quieter stadium during their offensive possessions.

Travel also plays a critical factor throughout an NFL season, as we see every year with west coast teams struggling on the east coast and vice versa. This year, travel may become more complicated and stressful, as will finding accommodations in a new city, rather than simply commuting to the stadium from home. Therefore, it still pays to find a home team in a favorable matchup when possible.

Betting Lines

Home teams are usually favored in the NFL and that is one of the key indications to consider when picking your survivor each week. As soon as oddsmakers release the point spreads for each game, survivor contestants can scan the schedule for the biggest favorites and consider which team they feel most confident will win.

The biggest favorites are “chalk” selections, so it can pay off to avoid them at times and hope they suffer a surprising upset, which will eliminate thousands of survivor contestants. Going with a contrarian approach is necessary at some point during the season, but taking an underdog according to oddsmakers is never an ideal decision.

Avoiding The Trap

Therefore, one of the key strategies that will help you go far in a survivor pool is predicting when a favorite is due to fall into a trap and lose to an underdog. Sometimes, the schedule can provide an indicator of those “trap games” that befall some of the best teams in the NFL.

Sometimes division games come with more intensity and you’ll see underdogs like the Arizona Cardinals give the mighty San Francisco 49ers a scare. But sometimes a division-leading team like the Niners might look ahead to a Week 11 matchup with the second-place Seahawks and overlook their Week 10 opponent, resulting in an upset. Teams can also fall into traps at the end of a long road stretch, due to a rash of injuries to non-star players, or because of distractions created by players or coaches.

Picking On Bad Teams

While you can only pick a winning team once in a survivor pool, there is no rule about picking against a losing team multiple times. The worst teams in the NFL this year should be the Jets, Jaguars, Panthers, Bengals, and the Washington Football Team. Their opponent and the circumstances of the matchup matter, but picking against one of those rebuilding franchises should pay off most weeks.

Analyzing The Schedule

The schedule can give you indications of when a team might lose, and looking down the road will also tell you when a team is almost certainly going to win. Since you can only pick a team once in a survivor pool, it’s important to look at their entire season schedule before picking a team.

If the Cowboys are listed as 7-point home favorites in an early-season matchup with the Giants, it might be tempting to take Dallas that week. But if you look down the line and see the Cowboys hosting the lowly Washington Football Team in Week 12, you might want to save your pick for that matchup, which could see the ‘Boys listed as 10-point favorites or more.

Potential Survivor Picks For Weeks 1-8

Week 1

While Washington hosts Philadelphia in Week 1, the Eagles are 6.5-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook. Philly was ransacked by injuries last year but now has a full complement of veteran and rookie receivers at Carson Wentz’s disposal. Washington ranked 24th in DVOA pass defense last year and released CB Josh Norman. The Eagles don’t host Washington until Week 17, so it makes sense to use them early in the season.

Week 2

The Titans host the Jaguars in Week 2 and are already listed as 10.5-point favorites at DK Sportsbook. Tennessee has taken six straight home games against Jacksonville. The Titans lean on rushing champion Derrick Henry and the Jaguars couldn’t stop the run last year. This is arguably Tennessee’s easiest home game of the year.

Week 3

The Colts are at Jacksonville in Week 1 and host the Jaguars in Week 17, but those are division matchups that could result in a surprising upset. Taking Indy in a Week 3 home game against the Jets seems like a prime spot for a Colts team that is set to take off with Philip Rivers under center. The Jets defense is going to be abysmal this year, and that was basically their only strength last season.

Week 4

This is going to be a difficult week to survive and it might result in several thousand entrants bowing out. The Bengals and Jaguars are facing off, the Jets host a mediocre Broncos team, and many of the top teams in the NFL are playing each other. Therefore it might be prudent to take a powerhouse Ravens team at Washington rather than saving Baltimore. The Ravens host the Bengals in Week 5, so a Week 4 pick could be contrarian.

Week 5

After a brutal four-game stretch to open the season (Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Vikings) the Texans get some reprieve with a home game against the Jaguars. As mentioned, Jacksonville has a porous run defense and Houston should be great on the ground with David Johnson anchoring the backfield. If the Texans enter this matchup with a 1-3 or even a 2-2 record, they’ll have extra motivation and will avoid any sort of “trap” by losing to the worst team in their division.

Week 6

The Giants might inspire more confidence by the time we reach Week 6, but for now they could serve as a throwaway pick at home against Washington. It’s doubtful you’ll want to save the G-Men for any games later in the season and you should trust a talented offensive squad against what might be the worst team in football.

Week 7

The Saints are dominant at home every year and will be coming off a bye for a Week 7 home matchup against the rebuilding Panthers. Their subsequent home matchups (49ers, Falcons, Chiefs, Vikings) will all be more challenging than a division game against old friend Teddy Bridgewater and a Panthers defense that should be dreadful.

Week 8

This might be a week to use the defending champion Chiefs at home against the Jets, but if you prefer to save KC, the Browns should inspire some confidence at home against the Raiders. Cleveland is loaded with talent once again and should be far more disciplined this year with new HC Kevin Stefanski calling the shots. Oakland routinely struggles against eastern opponents and has holes all over the roster.