NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Advice: Week 16
by Matt Severance - 12/19/2013
It's unlikely that by Week 15 of the NFL season you still had a choice of picking a division leader in your Survivor Pool. That turned out to be a great thing in a week that saw a handful of big upsets. These division leaders lost: Denver (home to San Diego), New England (at Miami), Cincinnati (at Pittsburgh), New Orleans (at St. Louis), Philadelphia (at Minnesota) and Detroit (vs. Baltimore). The two that made it through unscathed were Seattle (routed the Giants) and Indianapolis (blew out Houston).
That those road teams lost wasn't a big shock, although I certainly didn't expect the Vikings to win without Adrian Peterson. You have to love late-season football. Young guys are playing to impress potential new coaches, and when teams are playing in their home finale they give a little extra effort. Ditto ruining another team's playoff chances. Remember that the final few weeks. But also try and target those teams with lame-duck coaches who are playing out the string and don't care a lick (Houston, Washington to name two).
I actually hadn't used the Colts or Eagles yet, but I stayed away from both last week. My pick was Kansas City -- Indy was No. 2 among teams I hadn't used -- and the Chiefs crushed Oakland 56-31 behind maybe the greatest fantasy football day by a running back in years as Jamaal Charles had five touchdowns, four of them receiving. So far my top picks this year have been New England, Baltimore, Seattle, New Orleans, Atlanta, Denver, Green Bay, San Francisco, Dallas, the NY Giants, Cincinnati, Detroit (oops!), Carolina, Arizona and Kansas City. These go in descending order of confidence.
San Diego vs. Oakland: Mike McCoy deserves some Coach of the Year votes for his reworking of Philip Rivers from a turnover machine into a Pro Bowl quarterback again. He's the second-best in the AFC right now behind Peyton Manning, in my opinion. The Bolts know they probably have to win out, so they won't lay an egg here. The Raiders have barely put up a fight in weeks.
San Francisco vs. Atlanta (Monday): It's the finale of Candlestick Park -- certainly one of my first football memories was Dwight Clark's famous catch against Dallas there. My only two concerns about the Niners: They essentially may not have anything to play for here. The Seahawks probably clinch the NFC West on Sunday. Seattle would do that with a win over Arizona, which would also clinch a playoff spot for San Francisco. Plus, there are all the distractions of the finale at the Stick. I'm sure the 49ers still win but it might be close.
Cincinnati vs. Minnesota: Peterson might return this week, but the Bengals have been dominant at home, and they can see that No. 2 seed in the AFC. They better win, or next week's Ravens game could be for the division. Cincinnati will.
St. Louis vs. Tampa Bay: I can see both of these clubs reaching the playoffs next season -- there are always a few teams in each conference who make the postseason the year after finishing under .500. The Rams have a great defense and need maybe a running back and receiver to be scary. They can address both in the 2014 draft, in which St. Louis will have two high picks. The NFC West will be crazy next season. The Bucs have some very good talent in place as well; their coach is another matter.
Detroit vs. NY Giants: Ah the Lions. I'm from Michigan, and this was the text I got from a buddy following Detroit's home loss Monday to Baltimore in very Lionesque fashion: "Soul-crushing f*****s!" Welcome to Lions fandom. If this team has any heart, it will roll a Giants team that's already looking to the offseason. Detroit must have it.
Seattle vs. Arizona: This should be a hugely physical game, but you simply can't bet against Seattle at home. The Cards will give the Seahawks everything they have, however, with a potential playoff spot slipping away with a loss.
NY Jets vs. Cleveland: The Jets usually play well at home, and Rex Ryan wants to finish .500 to bolster his case of returning next year. I don't think that happens as the team hasn't really helped the growth of rookie QB Geno Smith, just like it didn't Mark Sanchez. Ryan would be better as a defensive coordinator.
Carolina vs. New Orleans: Have you seen the Saints away from the Superdome this year? Hopefully you didn't have New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley on your fantasy football playoff roster. Carolina wins the game and will win the NFC South to earn the No. 2 seed.
Denver at Houston: The Broncos look awfully flawed. Matt Schaub gets the call in place of Case Keenum for Houston, and I wonder if he puts up a huge game with Schaub likely to be on the market soon after the season. He torched Denver early last season in a win. Still, the Broncos have too much to play for and haven't lost two straight since that defeat to Houston in Week 3 of 2012.
Kansas City vs. Indianapolis: Charles for MVP? He deserves to finish at worst in the Top 3 of the voting and maybe get Offensive Player of the Year since Peyton Manning will be MVP. These two teams easily could play again in two weeks at Indy. It's almost a lock should K.C. win this game. Will the teams hold plays/formations back in that case?
Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh: Obviously shift this much higher if Aaron Rodgers is cleared, but that's looking unlikely again. Matt Flynn has been playing pretty well the past two weeks, and it's the home regular-season finale. Plus, the Packers must have it.
Miami at Buffalo: The Dolphins also face a must-win -- they can clinch a playoff spot with a victory and losses by Baltimore and Cincinnati -- and will see Bills backup QB Thad Lewis. Maybe that's not a good thing. Lewis beat the Fins 23-21 in Week 7. I don't expect three Miami turnovers again.
Dallas at Washington: Taking Dallas in any game is nerve-wracking and especially so on the road. No way Tony Romo can choke away another one, right? If Dallas loses and the Eagles win Sunday night, it's another season sitting out the playoffs for Jerry Jones' bunch.
Baltimore vs. New England: The Ravens beat New England twice last season, have won four straight this year and have been very good at home. The Pats badly miss Rob Gronkowski and have lost four of their past five on the road.
Jacksonville vs. Tennessee: About the only thing that matters here is draft position -- both clubs are likely going to take a QB with their first-round pick in 2014. So next time they play, it could be Johnny Manziel vs. Blake Bortles.
Philadelphia vs. Chicago: Steer clear here. The Eagles have nothing to play for if Dallas wins earlier Sunday. Then next week's Philly-Dallas game is for the NFC East title regardless. Chicago really has nothing to play for if the Packers win and Lions lose. Then next week's Green Bay at Chicago game is for the NFC North regardless. It will be interesting to see how either coach handles this situation in terms of resting guys if it presents itself.
The last word: Nice to have the Chargers in my back pocket against the plummeting Raiders. The San Diegans are the clear choice in honor of “Anchorman 2's” release.
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