This may be the second to last week of a long NFL season, but it is also surprisingly quite likely the easiest week of the year so far from a survivor pool perspective. There are seven teams that seem all but certain to win their games this week. Unless you have the bad luck to have all seven teams unavailable to you, then it’s just a matter of picking one and having a relatively stress free week. This week’s survivor pools strategy advice and predictions:
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Atlanta at Detroit - The Falcons had looked rough for a couple of weeks, but they were absolutely dominant last week. They were as good as they could have been on either side of the ball in an incredible shutout win over the Giants. For the first time in a while, they lived up to their gaudy record. Now they face a team that is a total mess. Arizona had been impossibly bad, but they looked elite against the Lions. Detroit is inconsistent on offense, terrible on defense, ignoring their coach, and generally lost. Atlanta can secure home field throughout the playoffs with a win here, so that should add to their motivation. This is definitely their game to lose.
Carolina vs. Oakland - Both of these teams have lousy records, but only one is playing like it. For the last few weeks Carolina has been playing very good football, and Cam Newton has rediscovered lost form. Oakland, meanwhile, has looked lousy against all but the worst opposition, and the Raiders are terrible on the road. Carolina should win here. They are probably the hardest team to trust from among this group of seven teams. However, given how strong the chances of all these teams are, that’s not cause for major concern.
Green Bay vs. Tennessee - The Titans just beat the Jets on Monday night, but that’s hardly an accomplishment at this point. Outside of that they have looked weak, and they certainly don’t have the weapons to match up to a very confident Green Bay team that is excellent at home. The Packers still have a shot at a first-round bye, so there will be added motivation. Green Bay should cruise to an easy win.
New England at Jacksonville - New England is going to be very frustrated after losing to San Francisco on Sunday night. They’ll be out to erase that memory, and few teams are motivated by setbacks more than the Patriots. They still have a shot at a bye, but they absolutely must run the table. They are up against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that can’t score and is clearly sick of it. They are just waiting for golf season to start, and they won’t put up a fight here. Even if they did fight, though, they don’t have a fraction of the talent they would need to win here.
Indianapolis at Kansas City - The Colts fell short last week, so they can’t win their division. They are still in very good shape in the wild card race, though, and can wrap up a playoff spot with a win here. They’ll also be motivated to win because finishing fifth likely means a playoff game at Baltimore, and that’s a heck of a lot more attractive right now given the struggles of Joe Flacco and the Ravens than a trip to New England or maybe Denver. Kansas City has totally and finally collapsed, and the Chiefs are outclassed in this one.
Washington at Philadelphia - The Eagles’ season is a total failure, and all sorts of changes are coming. Nick Foles is the QB of the future, but he doesn’t have the help to be a factor now. Washington, meanwhile, is playing great football, is right in the middle of the playoff hunt, and has a huge edge in momentum, coaching, and heart in this one. Washington is easy to trust in this one, and, remarkably, it doesn’t matter who is starting at QB for them.
Denver vs. Cleveland - Denver has won nine straight, and they have done it by playing excellent defense and being almost flawless on offense. Over that streak they have won seven games against better teams than Cleveland. The Browns are playing hard for a team as bad as they are, but that won’t be enough. Denver has a very soft remaining schedule (they close against the Chiefs), but they need to win out to ensure a bye. They will make winning look easy here.
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