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Week 1 Survivor Pool: The safest bets and the off-the-radar options

/ by Justin Leger
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Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season is here, which means it's time to start strategizing for your survivor pool.

Picking a new team to win each week for your knockout pool is a tricky task. Sure, you could simply take Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs any week and feel confident, but it's best to save such a dominant team for later in the year if possible. You can only use each team once, so you'll want to choose wisely.

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That's why coming up with a solid strategy for the first few weeks of the season is crucial. Otherwise you'll be faced with some tremendously difficult decisions at the tail end of the campaign if you're lucky enough to last in your pool that long.

As we prepare for the first NFL Sunday of 2021, here are a few pieces of survivor pool advice to keep in mind.

1. Plan ahead: The most important part of competing in a survivor pool is looking ahead at future matchups, that way you know which teams may be best to save for later. For instance, the Chiefs will be a popular Week 1 pick but a win over a talented Cleveland Browns team is far from a sure thing. You'll probably want to save Kansas City for softer matchups like the New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders or Cincinnati Bengals. Study that NFL schedule.

2. Dare to be different: You won't get anywhere picking the safe, trendy teams that all of your fellow survivor pool players are also picking. You need to learn to be comfortable with taking risks, especially early in the season. That doesn't mean picking the Detroit Lions over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but it does mean being open to taking a dark horse rather than the "pick of the week" every website is telling you to roll with.

 

3. Do your research: Yes, I know. Duh. Thanks, Captain Obvious. But it needs to be said. Each week, you are going to want to dig deeper into the teams you are choosing from and consider a number of factors. Injuries, the weather, how the quarterback's style matches up against a particular defense, how the teams tend to perform in prime time, all of it. Paying close attention to these details will immediately put you ahead of some of your fellow pool players.

Here are our knockout pool picks for Week 1 (All lines from our partners at PointsBet Sportsbook).

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.

Trendy Picks

San Francisco 49ers (-7.5) at Detroit Lions

The team that plays against the Lions each week will be a popular survivor pool pick throughout the 2021 season. Detroit is expected to be a dumpster fire in the first year of the post-Matthew Stafford era.

That's especially the case for Week 1 with the 49ers pegged as a Super Bowl contender. A rusty Jimmy Garoppolo could make things a little too close for comfort, but this is about as safe as it gets for your first knockout pool pick. The problem, of course, is that plenty of your competitors likely are going in this direction.

Los Angeles Rams (-7.5) vs. Chicago Bears

Sooner or later, the Bears will come to their senses and realize the whole Andy Dalton experiment isn't going to work out. Until then, you should feel pretty good about picking against them in your survivor pool.

The Rams offense is expected to take a step forward with Stafford replacing Jared Goff under center. It'll also help to have Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald among those on L.A.'s defense making it a long night for Dalton on Sunday Night Football.

Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have some intriguing weapons on offense but it still won't be enough with a lacking offensive line and a porous defense. Minnesota's improved defense should be able to contain second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, who's playing in his first game since tearing his ACL last season. Kirk Cousins should have a field day with Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson torching Cincinnati's secondary. You may want to save the Vikings for when they host the Lions later this season, but this is a solid pick too.

 

Under the Radar

Denver Broncos (-3) at New York Giants

Saving the Niners, Rams and Vikings for later on in the campaign might be wise, so Denver is an excellent choice if you are looking to go in a different direction. The Giants' woeful offensive line is going to have its hands full against the Broncos' swarming pass rush. While Teddy Bridgewater isn't the kind of quarterback that is going to tear teams apart, he's a solid game manager who avoids costly mistakes. This is our favorite Week 1 pick for those looking for an under-the-radar option.

Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles

If you aren't afraid of taking a risk right out the gate, the Falcons are an intriguing pick for Week 1. The jury is very much still out on Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts. As shaky as its defense is, Atlanta's should be able to put up enough points on Philly to get the job done. Since this probably won't be a popular pick for opening week, you could get a jump start on the other players in your pool if it pans out.

It's A Trap!

Buffalo Bills (-6.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bills are a Super Bowl favorite led by an MVP candidate QB in Josh Allen. That might make you tempted to take Buffalo in Week 1, but the Steelers have what it takes to keep this thing close. Save your Bills pick for later. They'll face the Texans in just a few weeks.

Baltimore Ravens (-4) at Las Vegas Raiders

Baltimore's key players continue to drop like flies. After J.K. Dobbins went down with a season-ending injury in the preseason, fellow running back Gus Edwards and cornerback Marcus Peters reportedly both tore their ACLs during practice on Thursday. The Ravens should win this game, but it's just far too risky of a pick given all this team has gone through as of late. Fade Baltimore for now.

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