It was too late for a lot of people, but last week we finally had a week in the NFL that made sense from a survivor pool perspective. Baltimore, Houston, Atlanta, and Green Bay were the four most obvious picks, and they all came through with a win — albeit just barely in the case of the Packers.
Week 5 is when things tend to get a bit tougher in these pools, though. At this point people have likely used up more of the most obvious teams, so they have to take a bit more of a gamble at times. Luckily, though, there are still some attractive spots to find this week:
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The heavy favorites
Green Bay (-7) at Indianapolis
Last week I suggested that Green bay wasn’t a good pick until you had to take them because they had a better spot here against the Colts. Since I said that, though, two things have happened. First, the Packers were again not as strong as I wish they had been against the Saints. They won, but they got very lucky to. I keep waiting to see the killer instinct they had last year, but so far it has been hidden. Second, Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and has been forced to temporarily leave his duties. While that isn’t likely to be positive in the long term it gives the Colts a powerful emotional rallying point in this game.
Add those two things up and I’m not that excited about taking the Packers here.
If you can afford to be patient with the Packers then they have a home game against the Jaguars in four weeks that would be almost an automatic pick as long as Aaron Rodgers is still on two feet. On pure talent, though, the Packers have a big edge here, so if you have to pick them it’s not the end of the world.
New York Giants (-9.5) vs. Cleveland
I really don’t trust the Giants because they are so inconsistent — their losses to Dallas and especially to Philadelphia just don’t make sense given what they are obviously capable of.
Cleveland is not a very good team, though, and on the road here they are in trouble. The Giants are a good pick.
San Francisco (-10) vs. Buffalo
The Niners are the biggest favorite on the board, and they absolutely deserve it. They are the team that cost a lot of people their survivor pool lives with their bizarre loss at Minnesota. They bounced back by playing the strongest game any team has played all year last week, though, and are easy to like.
Coach Harbaugh won’t let them lose focus twice in three weeks. Buffalo, meanwhile, is coming off the worst second half by any team all year, and the Bills will have massive confidence issues with their defense — and their offense for that matter.
San Francisco is just far too strong for the Bills. I’d pick the Niners in Buffalo with confidence, so if they are still available to you then picking them at home is a no-brainer.
Houston (-9) at New York Jets
If Houston is still available to you then they are every bit as solid as the Niners. The Texans have been totally dominant this year — the most consistently excellent team in the league. The Jets, meanwhile, embarrassed themselves last week, and they have been squabbling ever since, They are poorly coached, their QB situation is horrendous, and they are fighting injuries.
Matt Schaub will pile up yards, and the defense will make life very rough for Mark Sanchez. Houston would have to take a big step backwards — or New York a massive leap forward — for the underdog to come out on top here.
If all else fails, pick...
Baltimore at Kansas City
The Chiefs are a mess, and they are publicly doubting their quarterback. That rarely turns out well. Baltimore is tough and angry, and they have the offense to capitalize on the shortcomings of the Chiefs.
Minnesota vs. Tennessee
I never would have guessed I would suggest using the Vikings at any point this year. They have been tough at home, though, and Christian Ponder has been surprisingly strong. The Titans have issues on both sides of the ball, and they just don’t seem to all be on the same page.
But don’t pick...
San Diego at New Orleans
Some people have completely lost faith in the Saints, and they could be tempted to go against them here.
It’s not worth the risk.
The Saints have been very close to a win more than once, are playing at home, and are up against a San Diego team that doesn’t exactly define consistency. The Chargers are on the road for the second week in a row and could lack focus.
If you are determined to pick the Chargers wait for three weeks until they come off their bye to play at Cleveland.
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