NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Advice: Week 5
by Matt Severance - 10/2/2013
When are we going to see that Survivor Pool-altering huge upset in the NFL? I would argue it hasn't happened yet. (The Cards-Patriots in Week 2 of last year was a mammoth one.) Sure, there were a few decent ones in Week 4. Joe Flacco reminded us that he's Jay Cutler of the AFC - and that his 2012 playoff performance was a semi-fluke - in throwing a career-high five picks in a loss to the Bills. Had that been in Baltimore, I'd consider it an upset. Not in Buffalo. The Cleveland Browns upset Cincinnati 17-6 last week as the Brian Hoyer bandwagon continues to fill, but that also was at home.
What's the biggest upset of the year? The Titans winning at Pittsburgh in Week 1? Now we know how awful the Steelers really are. How about Cleveland winning at Minnesota in Week 3? Or Indianapolis surprising the 49ers in San Francisco? I don't think those qualify as huge upsets.
I don't think this will be the week where we see another large upset, either. There's no Super Bowl contender playing a dreg like Jacksonville or Tampa Bay. There are a lot of good teams playing each other and then some bad ones facing off as well.
Here are my recommendations in descending order of confidence, with the first team listed the pick. So far my top picks this year have been New England, Baltimore, Seattle and New Orleans (last week against Miami). This week Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington have a bye. No loss there as they have combined for three wins.
Atlanta vs. New York Jets (Monday): I mentioned last week how I dislike picking the Monday night game as my top recommendation because if something goes wrong on Sunday at a practice then you are stuck. Still, it seems obvious this has to be the choice. The Falcons are totally desperate at 1-3 and it again appears there will not be a repeat winner in the NFC South this season (look it up, no team has ever repeated in that division). Jets QB Geno Smith has five picks in two road starts so far and I expect more struggles.
Green Bay vs. Detroit: The Lions have a triple-whammy going against them at Lambeau Field after last week's impressive home win over Chicago: The Packers had last week off, it's a must-win to avoid a 1-3 start, and the Lions have an NFL-record 22-game losing streak in Wisconsin.
St. Louis vs. Jacksonville: I wonder if Gus Bradley wishes he had just stayed another season as Seattle's defensive coordinator and waited on any other head-coaching job. I think Jacksonville already is planning for the 2014 draft and traded former Top-10 pick Eugene Monroe this week to the Ravens. If St. Louis loses this game, it's time for the Rams to start planning for another franchise quarterback because Sam Bradford won't be it.
San Francisco vs. Houston: One of these teams will be 2-3. Both have quarterback questions. Colin Kaepernick was better last week but still isn't at last year’s level. Matt Schaub, meanwhile, has thrown an interception returned for a touchdown in three straight games. Houston outplayed Seattle last week but lost largely because of Schaub's fourth-quarter mistake. He's under fire and his time might be up after this season. I don't see the Niners losing a second straight at home.
San Diego at Oakland: Surprise, surprise, Darren McFadden is hurt again for Oakland. He's probably out for this game, which starts at 11:35 p.m. ET because it apparently takes about 24 hours to get the crappy O.com Coliseum ready for football following Saturday night's A's-Tigers ALDS Game 2. Philip Rivers is the second-best QB in the AFC right now and appears reborn under new Bolts head coach Mike McCoy.
N.Y. Giants vs. Philadelphia: Every week I think the Giants will show some heart and each week they manage to look worse. Do you know they didn't run a single play inside the Chiefs' 20 last week? That's hard to do. Antrel Rolle says the Giants will still finish 12-4. Antrel Rolle needs to be drug tested, but I do think the G-Men at least win this one at home. They better, because it's a short week trip to Chicago next Thursday.
Denver at Dallas: The entire Survivor Pool universe will be using the Broncos next week against Jacksonville when they are projected to be the biggest point spread favorites in NFL history. Thus, I doubt Peyton Manning and Co. are caught looking ahead this week! I do think Dallas gives the Broncos a game but that Denver wins its 16th straight in the regular season.
Cincinnati vs. New England: I didn't think the Pats would win in Atlanta last week after looking very vulnerable the first three weeks. But Tom Brady had his first 300-yard game of the season. I expect he finds the going much tougher against the Bengals, the best defense he will have seen so far this season. I have no explanation for Cincinnati managing six measly points last week against Cleveland but expect a bounce-back effort.
Baltimore at Miami: I wasn't a big believer of the Dolphins heading into Week 4 and I'm definitely not now. Ryan Tannehill still has a ways to go and Mike Wallace has been a bust. It's a short week for Miami, and I expect a big game from Flacco after his embarrassing effort against the Bills.
Carolina at Arizona: The last time Cam Newton saw the Cardinals was in his NFL debut when he put up 422 yards passing and three total touchdowns. Carolina destroyed the Giants in Week 3 and then had last week off to prepare for the Cardinals. The Arizona offense hasn't looked good the past two weeks, although the Cards stole one at dysfunctional Tampa Bay last week.
Indianapolis vs. Seattle: Yes, I think the Seahawks fall from the ranks of the unbeatens on Sunday -- they should have last week but instead won their ninth straight regular-season game. If Andrew Luck can lead a Colts win here, they might be the second-best team in the AFC behind the Broncos. How cool would a Broncos-Colts playoff game be with Peyton Manning facing Luck?
Cleveland vs. Buffalo (Thursday): Really could flip a coin here but always go with the home team on the short week even though they have lost two straight in these Thursday games. Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel has completed only 29 of 64 passes the past two weeks, and he has banged-up running backs in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
Tennessee vs. Kansas City: This should be a matchup of 4-0 teams if Tennessee hadn't blown a win in Week 2 at Houston. It's is the start of a killer three-game stretch for the Titans as they visit Seattle next week and then host the 49ers. I think backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can do enough this week to eke out a win as long as he takes care of the ball The Titans have yet to turn it over while Kansas City has an AFC-best 12 takeaways.
Chicago vs. New Orleans: It's conceivable all five 4-0 teams lose this week. The Saints looked terrific on Monday night and Drew Brees can break his own NFL record by throwing for 300 yards in a 10th straight game this week. I think he does that, but New Orleans is not the same outdoors. Chicago has 10 INT returns for a TD since the start of last season, the most in the NFL. I think it gets one off Brees. Plus the Bears' Jay Cutler usually follows a bad game with a good one.
The last word: You may be tempted to take the Rams this week just because you figure you would never use St. Louis again. Makes some sense, but it's also unlikely the Jaguars lose every game. If you have already used Atlanta, which I doubt, I'd lean Packers.
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