The Elias Guide to Survive: Week 1

Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher- USA TODAY Sports

As the 2022 NFL season kicks off, survivor pools are getting started all over the country as well. Winning an NFL survivor pool requires week after week of accurate picks, with the ultimate goal to be the last person standing. Here, we look at what to expect in survivor pool Week 1 action, and give you a quick refresher of how a survivor pool works before the survivor season begins.

What is a survivor pool?

A survivor pool, also known as an elimination pool, is a competition in which you pick one NFL team to win its game each week. If your pick is correct, you move on to the next week. If your pick is incorrect, you are eliminated. The catch? You cannot choose the same team twice over the course of the season.

Unless everyone in your survival pool gets their pick right in a given week, the field of remaining players shrinks with each passing week. That means you want to pick the teams with the best chance of winning each week to survive and advance. But not every heavy favorite in the NFL is a guarantee to win.

Each week, we will break down the NFL survivor pool slate, highlighting which teams may underperform or overperform relative to the expectations of the betting markets and the expectations of survivor pool players. Using Elias Insights, we will analyze which teams you may want to consider backing in your survivor pool and which you may want to stay away from, including some hidden gems (or duds) along the way.

Popular Week 1 Matchups

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) hands off to running back Derrick Henry (22) during the first quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Tennessee Titans (vs. New York Giants)

The most popular of all survivor pool Week 1 picks at Yahoo! Sports is the Tennessee Titans over the New York Giants. Tennessee is a 5.5-point favorite entering this game, making them less of a favorite than teams like the Colts, Broncos, and Ravens in their respective games. But the Titans being at home in a game outside of their division has made them a justifiable selection for those looking to survive the first week of the season.

Also working in the Titans’ favor? They are facing Daniel Jones and the New York Giants offense. The Giants had the second-worst scoring offense last season, though they were without Jones for most of the second half of the season. Jones is just 12-25 as the starting quarterback of the Giants so far in his career, though, giving those backing the Titans in survivor pools favorable odds in this contest.

Indianapolis Colts (@ Houston Texans)

Another popular option for survivor pool players has been the Indianapolis Colts against the Houston Texans. Indianapolis is a seven-point favorite on the road in this contest, tied with the Baltimore Ravens as the biggest favorite of the week in NFL Week 1. However, there are some questions worth asking about the Colts going into this season that could impact their ability to come through for survivor pool players in the first week of the season.

Matt Ryan will be the starting quarterback for the Colts in Week 1 this season, making this the fifth straight season the Colts have had a different Week 1 starter under center. In the previous four season openers, the Colts have lost, including in Week 1 of the 2020 season where Philip Rivers and the Colts lost on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars as a seven-point favorite. While the Colts are understandably favored against the Texans, survivor pool players may want to wait for the Colts to settle in with Ryan at quarterback to pick them later in the season.

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) prior to the start of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Empower Field at Mile High.

Denver Broncos (@ Seattle Seahawks)

On Monday night, the Denver Broncos will take on the Seattle Seahawks in Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle after being traded to the Broncos in the offseason. Denver is a 6.5-point road favorite heading into this game, with the high expectations for the Broncos and the expected downgrade at quarterback for the Seahawks making the Broncos a popular survivor pool Week 1 pick.

Working in the favor of Broncos backers in this game is that Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith has struggled to win primetime games in his NFL career. Smith is just 1-6 straight up in primetime games as an NFL quarterback in his nine years in the league. He is an impressive 6-1 against the spread in those games, but survivor pools are about straight up victories rather than covering the spread, which supports the idea of taking the Broncos as a Week 1 selection in survivor pool play.

Baltimore Ravens (@ New York Jets)

The Baltimore Ravens are a popular pick in survivor pool Week 1 action, as they are one of the heaviest favorites of the week as they take on the New York Jets. There are some compelling reasons to take the Ravens this week, as Lamar Jackson is back after missing much of the second half due to injury last season. The Ravens started the season with an 8-3 record before Jackson’s health deteriorated in 2021, and the Ravens are expected to get back on track offensively with their starting signal caller back on the field.

But the more compelling reason to back the Ravens in Week 1 is the quarterback situation for the New York Jets in Week 1. Zach Wilson is set to miss at least the first three games of this season with a knee injury, according to Jets coach Robert Saleh. Without Wilson, the Jets will turn to Joe Flacco at quarterback. Flacco played just one full game last season for the Jets, completing 24 of 39 passes and leading the Jets to just 17 points. The Jets will likely need more than 17 points to hang with Jackson and the Ravens here.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) runs with the ball against Cincinnati Bengals safety Vonn Bell (24) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium.

Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)

Last year’s AFC champions are among the most popular survivor pool picks of this week, as the Cincinnati Bengals are 6.5-point home favorites against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cincinnati is looking to avoid the dreaded Super Bowl hangover for teams that have fallen short in the biggest game of the previous season. So far, survivor pool players are largely undeterred by the potential for regression from the Bengals early in 2022. But should survivor players be worried about this Week 1 matchup for the Bengals?

One factor that could negatively impact the Bengals’ chances of getting through Week 1 with a win is the pass rush of the Steelers against the Cincinnati offensive line. The Steelers led the NFL with 55 sacks last season, with T.J. Watt tying the single-season record for sacks in a season with 22.5 sacks. The Bengals allowed 55 sacks last season, the third-most in the NFL, and the need for their offensive line acquisitions to gel early this season could make this game tougher than anticipated for the defending AFC champions.

Washington Commanders (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)

A possible hidden gem in survivor pool Week 1 play could be the Washington Commanders against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars went winless on the road last season, going 0-8 away from home. While they anticipate some improvement from Trevor Lawrence in the second year of his professional career, asking him to pick up a road win in Week 1 might be too much to ask for.

There is also a value component to picking the Commanders that makes them an interesting Week 1 candidate. The Commanders were a 7-10 team last season, and are not expected to be an elite team this year. Jacksonville is one of the few teams in the NFL the Commanders will be expected to beat by any sort of margin this season, and it might be valuable to get them out of the way early to save better teams for future weeks.