Well, that sucked. In my biggest survivor pool more than 50 percent of the entrants went out thanks to the Patriots, and I was one of them. It was the perfect proof of just how hard these seemingly simple pools can be.
My initial reaction to the setback was to second guess the pick. With a little distance, though, the competitive juices quit flowing quite so fast, and I realized that you can’t have any regrets. My philosophy for these pools is simple — pick the most decisive game you can each week and hope for the best. You can’t afford to save teams for later because you run the risk of not having a pool to play in.
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New England was by far the best pick of the week last week. They lost, but to do so they played as badly as they possibly can in every aspect of their game — and they still had a chance to win with a late field goal. It’s called gambling for a reason, and if it was easy it wouldn’t be any fun.
I’m still alive in a pool or two, and I hope you are, too. The good news is that the crowds are much smaller, and you’re that much closer to the win. To get that win, here’s some survivor pools strategy advice and predictions for this week:
The heavy favorites
Despite the setback that the Patriots dealt almost everyone last week, favorites of a touchdown or more are still the starting point for finding your perfect pick. Of course, you have to be sure to separate the good heavy favorites from the scary ones. Of the four heavy favorites this week just one strikes me as a good pick:
San Francisco (-7) at Minnesota
Simply put, there is no good reason not to pick the 49ers and be done with it for the week. They opened against two very good teams in Green Bay and Detroit, so few smart survivor pool players will have used them up yet. They have clearly been the best team in the NFC, and there hasn’t been a flaw exposed so far. Minnesota has been inconsistent, and the Niners are going to be able to terrorize Christian Ponder.
San Francisco’s next four after this are against potential playoff teams, so this is pretty much the perfect spot to use this team. It’s not a daring or bold pick, but it’s the right one. Despite the smaller odds in this one an upset here would be as significant as the New England loss last week, so all we can do is hope that lightning doesn’t strike twice in two weeks. Make the pick.
Dallas (-7.5) at Tampa Bay
I wouldn’t dream of choosing the Cowboys in this spot. They are coming off a lousy effort, and they are up against a team that hasn’t been consistent but is dangerous and clearly underrated here. Pass.
Chicago (-9) vs. St. Louis
Seriously?!?!? It’s probably not nice of me to say, but you would have to be a total moron to pick the Bears here. Jay Cutler totally self-destructed last week, and he handled it with the grace of a two year old. The team is sloppy and fragile, and I find them hard to trust. St. Louis is coming off a very gutsy win, and Sam Bradford looked the best he has in a while in that one. I’m not saying the Rams will win this one, but it certainly is a long way from a lock that the Bears will.
New Orleans (-9) vs. Kansas City
The Saints absolutely should be able to beat a reeling Kansas City team at home. Of course, the Saints should have been able to crush the Redskins in Week 1, and should have convincingly handled Carolina last week as well. There is something seriously wrong with the psyche of the Saints right now, and until they show that they have shaken it there is no point in picking them.
In fact, the schedule is so tough for them over the next seven weeks that in most survivor pools they won’t wind up being a viable pick at any point. Kansas City should be able to field the best defense they have to date this year, and they could certainly make this one close.
A nine-point favorite that is 0-2 — and which really deserves that record based on their play — is not a favorite that attracts me in any way.
The best of the rest
If for some reason I couldn’t pick San Francisco then there is one other game that stands out, and the team is almost certain to be unpicked so far in any pool out there. Buffalo’s defensive front seven woke up last week, and they should be able to absolutely feast on hapless Brandon Weeden. That will make for a long day for the Browns.
Buffalo should win this one going away — at least if they are serious about being a playoff contender this year. It’s not a perfect pick, but outside of the Niners I think it’s the safest on the board.
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