The deeper we get into the season, the harder survivor pool players need to look for picks that they can use. That means that you have to find games with small spreads that are still worth a risk. This week eight of the 14 games on the schedule have a spread of four or fewer points. Let’s look at each of those eight close games to see which ones aren’t as close as they seem — and could be attractive for survivor pool players as well:
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Indianapolis at Jacksonville - Indianapolis will be a popular pick here. They are 4-1 in their last five, Andrew Luck is playing incredible football, and the Chuck Pagano story has captured the hearts of the public. On top of that, the Jaguars have an ugly 1-7 record and have dropped five straight. While the Colts are more likely to win this one, I wouldn’t trust them, though. For starters, the lone win the Jags have this year came against these Colts. While they haven’t been consistent by any means, they have lost two games in overtime and played the Packers close in Green Bay. Therefore, they aren’t quite as bad as the record suggests. Indy only has one win in three road games, and they needed overtime for that one. I’d look elsewhere for games that aren’t as close.
Denver at Carolina - The Broncos will be popular and attractive, though not quite as attractive after the Panthers played by far their best game of the year last week. Still, the Broncos have won three straight, are getting better with every game, and have been strong on both sides of the ball. I’m not convinced Carolina can score enough to keep up with Denver’s offense, so I would be comfortable with a Denver pick if they are still available for you.
San Diego at Tampa Bay - These teams have the same 4-4 record, but they are very different in my eyes. Tampa Bay has some holes, but they run the ball well, and they play with relentless heart. San Diego is far more talented, but they have no intensity, and they don’t pick themselves up when they get down. Normally I’d pick the Bucs without hesitation, and I still probably would if I had to. My only hesitation, though, is that the one thing the Chargers have consistently done well is stopping the run.
New York Giants at Cincinnati - For many years now I have consistently been saying the same thing — that Marvin Lewis is the worst coach in football at any level. I have never wavered from that, and he manages to keep his job despite consistently displaying his incompetence. I have no hesitation picking against the Bengals against any decent team, so I would happily take the Giants if they were still available.
Atlanta at New Orleans - The Falcons are unbeaten and have played solid ball. The Saints are playing a bit better recently, but they still have issues. I’d pass on this game without hesitation, but it’s likely not an issue because the Falcons have probably been used in most pools.
Detroit at Minnesota - For the first six or seven games of the season neither of these teams played anything like I expected them to. The Lions were lethargic and unfocused. The Vikings were incredibly tough. Lately, though, things are making more sense. Minnesota has come back to earth, and Detroit is back in form. I’d feel much better about things if Calvin Johnson wasn’t oddly invisible, but I still like the Lions enough to pick them.
Dallas at Philadelphia - These teams have too much in common. Both of their coaches are on shaky ground. Both of their quarterbacks are talented but couldn’t be more frustrating if they tried. Neither team plays with any consistency or sustained intensity, and neither team is nearly as good as they should be. Picking either team would require trusting them, and I really, really don’t. This is a very easy pass.
Houston at Chicago - I think Houston is the much better team here. They are playing to their capabilities while the Bears are overachieving and have played a very weak schedule. Still, Chicago is 7-1 and the defense has played well, so I don’t see any good reason to pick this game — not that the Texans are likely in play anymore anyway.
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