What did we learn last week in survivor pools? Don’t trust the Packers, and the Saints aren’t as bad as their record. Beyond that it wasn’t a particularly challenging week — at least not compared to weeks that have come before it. This is a particularly interesting week. Most weeks we see three or four games with spreads of more than a touchdown, so we have a wide range of games to choose from that are often relatively low risk. This week, though, there is only one game with such a heavy favorite as I write this. That means we have to get more creative in our selections — unless you haven’t yet used the Falcons, of course. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest week to find games because so many of the contests are so close. Let’s take a look:
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The heavy favorite
Atlanta (-9.5) vs. Oakland
I could spend a whole lot of time talking about this one, but I really shouldn’t need to. The facts are simple. Atlanta is one of two undefeated teams in the league, and the Falcons have played like they are very worthy of that distinction. They are confident and comfortable, and they are at home here so there is no particular reason to have doubts about them. The Raiders are a troubled team that has underperformed on both sides of the ball and which has clear issues holding them back. Even if they were playing at full steam, though, it’s hard to imagine them competing here. They don’t travel particularly well, and they really don’t match up well. If you haven’t used Atlanta yet then your work here is done — just go make your pick and get on with the rest of your life. If they are already used, though, then we have more work to do.
The best of the rest
Arizona vs. Buffalo
The Cardinals are coming off a lousy performance. They are returning home, though, and have been very strong there. I also trust their coaching, and their ability to bounce back and get back on track — especially with a longer-than-usual week after their Thursday night game. Against a very strong team I might have doubts, but Buffalo is absolutely reeling right now, and a second straight trip across the country is not the way for the Bills to get back on track. Their defense is lousy, their offense is impotent, the coaching is lousy, and their confidence is shot. I trust Arizona here.
Minnesota at Washington
As hard as I find it to believe, I am actually starting to buy into this Minnesota team. The Vikings are strong defensively, and Christian Ponder is maturing very quickly in front of our eyes and has real chemistry with teammates. I’d like them against Washington at the best of times — especially given the Redskins inability to protect their QB. Given the health status of RGIII, though, they are even more attractive. Griffin will either be out of action — a real possibility given the league’s concern about head injuries — or not at his best. Either way, it’s another point in Minnesota’s favor.
New England at Seattle
Seattle’s defense has been very sound, but in their last three — Green Bay, St. Louis and Carolina — the Seahawks haven’t faced an offense working nearly as well as New England’s is right now. The Patriots have scored 113 points in their last three — 41 per game — and can be dangerous in too many ways for the Seahawks to contain. Assuming New England can score, the Seahawks are not well positioned to keep up with them offensively at this point. The Patriots have been sound in their last three since the Arizona loss and have really rounded into form. Class will win out in this one.
I wouldn’t pick...
Pittsburgh at Tennessee
The Steelers are a popular pick in early survivor pool action for the week, but I don’t like them as a pick at all. Tennessee isn’t very good and would be easy to pick against right now, but I really don’t trust the Steelers — especially on short rest and on the road. Their offense is inconsistent, and it was just lousy last week. The defense has some injury issues — most notably Troy Polamalu. They stand a good chance of winning, but I would rather not rely on them too heavily at this point.
Philadelphia vs. Detroit
If you think that the Eagles are a safe pick at this point in the season then you have been watching a different team than I have. They have clear issues on both sides of the ball, and I don’t think that Andy Reid has particularly good control of the team right now. Detroit has been lousy so far, but they are clearly more talented than they have shown, and they are coming off their bye week so they should be more prepared and focused than they have been. As far as I’m concerned, I want nothing to do with the whole state of Pennsylvania this week.
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