We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2020-21 NFL season and there are many ways to cash in on your knowledge of the most popular professional sports league in the country. The smartest and most fortunate bettors should still be alive in their survivor pools.

At PlayPicks, we’re breaking down the NFL survivor pool landscape to bring you weekly options that will help you stay alive and ahead of the field in your pool.

For those new to survivor pools, the format is simple: Pick an NFL team to win each week, advance if they win, and you can’t pick the same team twice. The last member of the pool standing takes home the cash.

In this article, we will identify our strongest survivor pick for this week, called a “lock“, and a “thrifty” pick that can help you save better teams for later in the season.

The lock is our safest and most obvious pick for the week. The thrifty pick is a good team to consider at this point in the season schedule. And our land mine identifies a team that might be a popular pick but could come up short when the defecation hits the oscillation in the NFL and thousands of survivors lose a supposed lock to an upset.

You can also use advice from this article to place bets on FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook. Many of the recommended bets can be applied to those sportsbooks. Also, be aware that the point spread could be considerable with these teams favored to win by over a touchdown in some cases.

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Week 9 Lock Survivor Pool Pick

Kansas City Chiefs vs Carolina Panthers

While the Chiefs should be expected to win every time they suit up, Sunday’s home tilt against the Panthers is their easiest remaining non-division game. And as the only double-digit favorite on a competitive Week 9 slate, KC is by far the safest bet for survivor pools.

Andy Reid has constructed an unstoppable offensive scheme with Patrick Mahomes distributing targets to Travis Kelce and his speedy receivers. The Chiefs also averaged 124.1 rushing YPG and the Panthers allow 124.3 rushing YPG while ranking 28th in DVOA rush defense.

Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is slated to return for Carolina, but Kansas City’s defense is allowing just 20.3 PPG and should be up for the challenge. The Chiefs rank fifth in DVOA pass defense and allow the sixth-fewest receptions per game (4.62) to RBs. Steve Spagnuolo’s D has allowed 9 passing TDs with 9 picks and 17 sacks.

Week 9 Thrifty Survivor Pool Pick

Houston Texans vs Jacksonville Jaguars

If you’ve already used the Chiefs or want to save the champs for another week, the Texans are a great alternative. Houston and Jacksonville come off a bye for an AFC South clash, but the Jags will be without Gardner Minshew (thumb). Minshew’s mobility has been essential behind an offensive line that ranks 30th in adjusted sack rate (8.9%) this season. Rookie Jake Luton is slated to start and he could make some questionable decisions against a Houston defense that owns an above average 7.4% adjusted sack rate.

The Jaguars rank dead last in DVOA pass defense and Deshaun Watson leads the NFL in yards per attempt (8.8) with the fourth-best true passer rating (113.1). Jacksonville is 4-11 in division games since the start of 2018 and Houston is 4-1 as a road favorite during that span.

Week 9 Survivor Pool Land Mine

New England Patriots vs New York Jets

The Jets have shown signs of life with Sam Darnold (shoulder) back under center and the Patriots are floundering since Cam Newton and Stephon Gillmore tested positive for COVID-19. Newton owns a 25.5 total QBR with 5 picks and no TD passes over 3 straight losses and will be without top WR Julian Edelman (knee) for the foreseeable future.

With Newton struggling, the Patriots ran the ball on a league-high 55.74% of their plays last week. But the Jets rank 14th in DVOA rush defense and aggressive DC Gregg Williams will likely sell out with run blitzes in an attempt to make Newton beat him down the field. New England is suddenly a rebuilding franchise with almost no chance to make the playoffs this year, while the Jets are motivated to avoid an embarrassing 0-16 campaign and the Pats are suddenly their best chance to earn a win with the Dolphins and Bills looking like the class of the AFC East.