This is a very tough week for survivor pool players. For those who are still alive, the need to pick a winner is significant. The challenges of predicting what will happen this week is even tougher than normal, though. Several teams that have made the playoffs may or may not be interested in resting their players for the playoffs. Eliminated teams could be playing for their future, or they could just be wishing it would all end. To properly predict the games this week you have to be an amateur psychologist as much as a handicapper.
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Due to the realities of this week, there are a lot of games that are far too risky for survivor pool players unless they are desperate. There are five, though, that are at least somewhat attractive:
Bears at Lions - The Lions cared about just one thing last week — getting the single-season receiving record for Calvin Johnson. That was the only focus, and they accomplished it. Now they have nothing left, and they are a messy, messy franchise that knows that the offseason is going to be rough for them. I don’t expect them to have any fight left — and they have barely had any all year. The Bears don’t control their own destiny, so all they can do is win their game and hope for the best. That will be plenty of motivation for them. They would likely win this one regardless of what is at stake, but since they have so much on the line they should be focused and ready. The Bears are a comfortable pick.
Broncos vs. Chiefs - The most comfortable pick of the week is this one. We know how bad the Chiefs are, how many changes they have coming, and how little we can expect from them here. Denver will need a win to secure the best playoff seeding they can. They have been very good for the last 10 weeks, and there is no reason to expect anything less of them this week. They have all the momentum they could want heading into the playoffs, they can’t afford to rest too many players, and they will want to hit the playoffs in stride. It would be shocking if the Broncos didn’t win this game. You probably don’t have Denver left as a choice at this point, but if you do then just pick them — it’s as close to a slam dunk as you can get in a survivor pool.
49ers vs. Cardinals - I don’t care who the NIners play at quarterback. I don’t care who they rest. I don’t care about any of that. The Cardinals are a mess, they are lousy on the road, they have given up, and they just aren’t going to win this one. Jim Harbaugh won’t let him team head into the playoffs without confidence, and losing to Arizona would be a big blow to confidence — regardless of what excuses there might be. It won’t happen.
Chargers vs. Raiders - The truth is that I really don’t love taking the Chargers. They have been inconsistent and frustrating. They know that big changes are coming — starting with the coaching staff. Home field hasn’t been nearly the advantage it should be. Still, they are the right pick here. Oakland has been even worse than the Chargers, faces almost as much uncertainty about their future, and has clearly packed it in over the last couple of weeks. They don’t have enough pride to get fired up for this rivalry game, and they don’t have what it takes to keep up with the Chargers if it turns into a shootout. San Diego wouldn’t be my first choice this week, but they are the best of the rest if the elite choices we have already covered are off the table.
Redskins vs. Cowboys - This is the least attractive of these five games, but I would still take the Redskins without too many concerns. Washington is hot, they are at home, and somehow they just keep finding ways to win. They have the edge at quarterback, the big edge in coaching, and they just seem to believe — in each other, this team, and the opportunities that are around them. They have found ways to win all year, and now they face a must-win against a team that has less heart, less consistency, less focus, and is on the road. This is a de facto playoff game as well, and not a lot of money has been made over the years trusting Tony Romo is playoff games. Washington should have a clear edge here.
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