NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Expert Advice: Week 11
by Matt Severance - 11/12/2014
Probably only two games made a major dent in your Survivor Pool field of competitors last week, and I pretty much warned you to stay away from both favorites.
The first was Cincinnati at home last Thursday night against Cleveland, which hadn't won a road division game in its past 17 dating to September 2008. Here's what I wrote about this matchup: "I pondered this as a Lock option, but you should always stay away from the quick turnaround matchups as well as rivalry games. Plus, the Bengals are expected to be down three starters." Final score: Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 3.
The second game was Pittsburgh visiting the New York Jets, who entered on an eight-game losing streak. Here's what I wrote picking the Jets as the Upset of the Week: "All I'm saying is that in Pittsburgh's three-game winning streak and offensive explosion, those were all at home. I'll just remind you of the team's last road game: 31-10 loss in Cleveland. Michael Vick gives the Jets a realistic shot here in what is New York's only home game in a month." Final score: Jets 20, Steelers 13.
So, I guess the sun does shine on a dog's you-know-what once in a while. Hopefully you stayed away from the Bengals and Steelers. My Lock of the Week was Baltimore vs. Tennessee, and that was never a worry with the Ravens winning 21-7.
On the bye in Week 11 are Baltimore, Dallas, the NY Jets and Jacksonville. It looks like a challenging week with really only two huge favorites: Denver and San Diego.
Lock of the Week
San Diego vs. Oakland: This might be my shakiest Lock of the Week yet as I'm not sure what to make of the Chargers at this point. They looked like a Super Bowl contender in starting 5-1 but then did a 180 and lost three straight, each defeat worse than the last -- capped by a 37-0 embarrassment in Miami in Week 9. However, the Bolts do come in off a needed bye week and will get several key injured players back, including No. 1 running back Ryan Mathews. I'm aware the Raiders gave San Diego fits earlier this year, but that was in Oakland.
Chicago vs. Minnesota: This is the type of week it is in that I put my *#&X&X&*%^*#* Bears under Extremely Confident. I'm not sure how I can be after Chicago allowed 106 combined points and embarrassed itself in the past two games. I actually hope the Bears lose here because then ownership can clean house -- if only the McCaskeys would also sell the team. Maybe Chicago plays with some desperation here, if the players care at all, although Minnesota comes off a bye.
Green Bay vs. Philadelphia: True, Mark Sanchez looked great in Monday night's blowout win over Carolina. But obviously it's a short week for the Eagles, and the Packers have been totally dominant at home since falling behind the Jets 21-3 in the second quarter in Week 2 at Lambeau. I'll take Aaron Rodgers over Sanchez even if this game was played on the moon.
New Orleans vs. Cincinnati: I believe the Saints will win the NFC South with a 7-9 record. I also find it hard to fathom they could lose twice in a row at home. Was that really offensive pass interference on New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham on the disallowed Saints winning Hail Mary TD against San Francisco last week? Even if it was, don't you swallow your whistle there unless it's blatant? I have zero faith in Bengals QB Andy Dalton winning a big game like this on the road.
Denver at St. Louis: I'm sure you have used Denver by now, and I would warn you slightly about this one. The Rams already have surprised Seattle and San Francisco this season. Plus, it's the Broncos' first dome game of the year, and that can make a big difference. I do feel better about Denver's chances of avoiding a trap with the news that the Rams are going back to Shaun Hill as their starting QB for some reason.
San Francisco at NY Giants: Do I think the 49ers should win against a Giants team that clearly has quit on Coach Tom Coughlin? I do, but it's never easy for a West Coast team to win on the East Coast with an early start time. It helps the Niners' cause that star outside linebacker Aldon Smith comes off suspension and will make his season debut, but Pro Bowl inside linebacker Patrick Willis is now out for the season.
Pittsburgh at Tennessee (Monday): As noted above, the Steelers have been a vastly different team on the road this season. And they've already ruled out defensive starters Ryan Shazier and Troy Polamalu again. That's all fine, but the Titans stink.
Indianapolis vs. New England: Flip a coin here, but it should be great TV and could end 54-51. In favor of who? Good question.
Detroit at Arizona: The Cardinals lost starting QB Carson Palmer for the season in Week 10, and I'm not confident in backup Drew Stanton, a former Lion, to beat an excellent defensive team like Detroit. It's been quite a week for Stanton as he now gets to lead a Super Bowl contender, and his wife had the couple's first daughter Monday. Every time I believe in the Lions they manage to belly flop.
Seattle at Kansas City: Chiefs have been a surprise, but I simply don't think they have enough offensive difference-makers to make a dent in a Seattle defense that is starting to somewhat resemble last year's dominant unit. Could the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to next week's potential first-place matchup with the Cardinals? Possibly.
Cleveland vs. Houston: Back when I thought the Browns were feeling a bit too good about themselves, I projected a loss in Week 7 at Jacksonville. And Cleveland was dominated in the defeat, still Jacksonville's only win. This smells a lot like that, although at least this one is at home for Cleveland. Maybe Ryan Mallett can become Houston's version of Brian Hoyer as Mallett makes his first NFL start. Texans also come out of a bye. This was nearly my Upset of the Week.
Upset of the Week
Buffalo at Miami (Thursday): The Dolphins lost one of the best left tackles in the NFL, Branden Albert, for the rest of the season in Sunday's loss in Detroit. That definitely matters. Plus, QB Ryan Tannehill has been limited in practice all week with shoulder and ankle injuries. He will start but could be under siege without Albert and against a good Bills defense. Buffalo crushed Miami 29-10 in upstate New York in Week 2 and that was with E.J. Manuel. Kyle Orton is better.
Washington vs. Tampa Bay: I truly don't know how Lovie Smith can return next season as the Bucs' coach with Tampa Bay at 1-8. The Bucs simply aren't good at anything and haven't scored more than 17 points in their past four. They should be winless if not for a stunning comeback in Pittsburgh in Week 4. Josh McCown was one of the worst free-agent signings of the offseason (I could have told you that). He won't be back next year. The Redskins come off the bye week.
Carolina vs. Atlanta: Short week for the Panthers after they were trashed on Monday night in Philly. Cam Newton is regressing and has two bad ankles. He was sacked nine times -- NINE TIMES, says Principal Ed Rooney (come on 80s movie fans!) -- in the loss. Carolina hasn't scored more than 21 points in a four-game skid. The Falcons have largely been terrible on the road, and I don't even count their win in Tampa last week.
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