Whether you are still alive in your survivor pool, or fighting for glory in a second-chance (or fifth-chance) pool, you need to always be on the lookout for the games that could be safe picks and the games that absolutely should be avoided each week on the NFL schedule. Luckily, things are reasonably straightforward this week — at least compared to some weeks. In the continued hunt for winning picks, here is some survivor pools strategy advice and predictions for this week:
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The obvious ones
Houston, at home, is going to beat up on Jacksonville. Atlanta would have to work hard to lose at home to Arizona. Green Bay is in the zone and should be able to handle a struggling Detroit squad. Those are three of the best teams in the league facing three teams with big problems. If they don’t leap out as obvious potential picks then maybe you shouldn’t be playing survivor pools. If any of those choices are still available to you somehow then you could make them and feel good about it. If not, though, then it’s time to look a little deeper.
The next best
Tampa Bay - I really like how this Buccaneers team is playing right now. They aren’t the most talented team on either side of the ball, but they are just plain tough, and they have bought completely into what Greg Schiano is selling them. They run the ball very well and can score points. Their defense isn’t elite, but it is solid and opportunistic. They have won half of their road games, and they are in Carolina against a team that has been lousy on the road — and everywhere else, for that matter. Tampa Bay will be the more focused and prepared team, and they will be able to disrupt and frustrate this Carolina team. The Bucs are a very solid pick.
Dallas - I haven’t been able to say this in a long, long time, but Dallas impressed me last week. The Cowboys faced a very winnable challenge in Philadelphia, and they did precisely what they needed to do to come out on top. It was far from perfect, but it showed a lot of things that had been lacking for too long on this squad. It was a big step forward — and it was on the road. Now they are at home against a Cleveland team that tries hard but is just plain outmatched. If Dallas can’t win this one then they might as well just forfeit the rest of the season, cut every player and fire every coach, and start over again.
St. Louis - The Rams are one of those sneaky teams that, while not particularly good, are much better than a lot of people think. They showed glimpses of that in tying the Niners last week — a game they absolutely should have won. There is some concern that they could suffer a hangover after the disappointment of that outcome, but I think it will be more positive than that — especially because they are at home where they are 3-2. The Jets, meanwhile, are a total mess — especially on the road. Their QB situation is as bad as it could be, their collective attitudes are worse, and there is absolutely no reason to trust them at this point. The Rams are far from a lock here, and if you have a better option you should use it. If you had to pick St. Louis, though, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
New Orleans - Finally, the swagger is back in New Orleans. The Saints still have all sorts of issues — chiefly that they can’t play a lick of defense. They know that a win here gets them back to .500. though, and that opens up all sorts of possibilities the rest of the way. They need this win, and at Oakland they can certainly get it. The Raiders have the ability to surprise, but as a rule they are lousy. The Saints would be a sound pick.
Don’t be tempted
Baltimore - Because of the uncertainty surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, a lot of people are going to be drawn to the Ravens — especially after they won so impressively last week. I wouldn’t get sucked in, though. Even without Big Ben Pittsburgh has a couple of veteran options in Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, so they won’t get incompetent QB play. The Ravens have struggled playing against the Steelers, and especially in Pittsburgh. I’m certainly not saying that the Steelers will win, but one injury — even to the biggest offensive star in the game — doesn’t make this any less of a tight game. Look elsewhere for a pick.
Washington - The Eagles have been lousy all year, and now they are starting Nick Foles after Michael Vick had his bell rung last week. It will be tempting for many to pick against them on the road. While they are certainly vulnerable, it is far from a good idea to trust the Redskins right now. They are just 1-3 at home, and as the season has progressed they have become worn down and their deficiencies have been exposed. A good team could likely be counted on to safely exploit the Eagles, but the Redskins are a long way from being a good team.
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