NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Expert Advice: Week 4
by Matt Severance - 9/24/2014
When did Michigan State become Quarterback U? OK, I am a little biased as I am originally from Michigan and a Sparty fan, but just look around the NFL and Spartans signal-callers are kicking tail. Washington's Kirk Cousins lost last week but led the NFL with 427 yards passing in his first start of the year. The guy he lost to? Philadelphia's Nick Foles, who started his college career at MSU but transferred to Arizona largely because of Cousins. Foles might be your NFL MVP right now. Then you have Arizona's Drew Stanton, who has won back-to-back games in place of an injured Carson Palmer. Finally, there's Cleveland's Brian Hoyer. The Browns are 1-2, but it hasn't been his fault. He is keeping Johnny Manziel on the bench, except for a gimmick play or two.
It was a pretty chalk Week 3 in the NFL with no major upsets. The Saints and Patriots were the biggest favorites, and while neither dominated they weren't in jeopardy of losing to the Vikings or Raiders, respectively. New Orleans was my Lock of the Week, with New England a close No. 2. I suppose Stanton's win over the 49ers was a modest upset. Ditto the Chiefs winning in Miami and the Steelers in Charlotte. But nothing earth-shattering. Doubt anything significant happened in your pool. My Upset of the Week pick was the Redskins over the Eagles, and they nearly pulled it off, losing 37-34.
Now the bye weeks begin, and this week's certainly takes some very good teams off the table you might want to have used: Cincinnati, Seattle, Denver, Arizona and then Cleveland and St. Louis. As of this writing, there is one clear big Week 4 favorite in San Diego hosting Jacksonville and then no other favorites at more than -7.5. So it could be an interesting week. As always, the team listed first is the choice.
Lock of the Week
Indianapolis vs. Tennessee: I don't love this pick, I will admit. I do love it much more if Jake Locker doesn't play and the Titans have to start the forgettable Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback. Locker is iffy as of this writing with a right wrist injury. Although the way he looked in the past two games, the Colts might prefer he starts. The Titans were swept by Indy in 2013 but could have won both.
San Diego vs. Jacksonville: Clearly the vast majority of your competition will go with the Bolts, so it might be smart to play defense here and not. Jags rookie Blake Bortles will make his first start, replacing an ineffective Chad Henne. The Jaguars do look terrible, but what if Bortles is John Elway? I doubt he is right away, but I'd venture to guess he's better than Henne (that University of Michigan bum!). Plus, doesn't this seem just like the game that the Chargers would lose? They have at least one of these head-scratchers every year.
Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay: I considered this for the Lock of the Week. The Bucs look totally lost, but I think they get better with QB Mike Glennon replacing an ineffective/injured Josh McCown. He looks like a $10 million bust. The Steelers also lost three defensive starters last week to multiple-week injuries. I still can't see Tampa winning in Pittsburgh.
San Francisco vs. Philadelphia: This will be fascinating because the Niners have blown sizable leads the last two weeks in losing and the Eagles have rallied from big deficits in all three weeks to start 3-0. The Niners are a desperate team, and I can't imagine they drop to 1-3.
New Orleans at Dallas: The Cowboys are a bit better than I thought and the Saints not quite as good, at least yet. But I can't overlook what New Orleans did to the Cowboys last year in the Superdome: 49 points, franchise-record 625 yards and NFL-record 40 first downs. True, New Orleans isn't the same outside its dome, but it will get to 2-2.
Houston vs. Buffalo: I have a funny feeling both these teams will have new starting quarterbacks by the end of October. Houston's Ryan Fitzpatrick was fine in the first two games but then remembered he was Ryan Fitzpatrick last Sunday in throwing three picks in a loss to the Giants. Buffalo's E.J. Manuel simply shouldn't have been a first-round pick last year. The Bills are better off with Kyle Orton. That said, the Houston defense should be dominant at home to pull out a win.
Atlanta at Minnesota: Matt Ryan vs. rookie Teddy Bridgewater? Easy call. I'd feel more confident if the Vikings were still in the Metrodome, but here's guessing it's not snowing in Minneapolis yet. Bridgewater might be good some day, but he has little around him without Adrian Peterson and now Kyle Rudolph.
Washington vs. N.Y. Giants (Thursday): Home teams are 3-0 in these Thursday night games this year, crushing the visitor in each. I do think home clubs have an advantage in the quick turnarounds, but I don't have THAT much faith in Cousins yet. The Redskins also are totally beaten up already.
Green Bay at Chicago: I hate picking against my Bears for a second straight week, but everything seems stacked against them. For one, they simply can't beat Aaron Rodgers. Second, it's a short week off the Monday night. Third, the Chicago secondary is down to a former poet laureate, a half-blind guy, a 10-year-old girl and rookie star Kyle Fuller. I kid, but the injuries back there are just crazy this early in the year. Rodgers could have a big day. I hope I'm wrong.
Baltimore vs. Carolina: Only because the Ravens are at home. The Panthers might be down to their fourth-string running back. Clearly, QB Cam Newton isn't 100 percent healthy from offseason ankle surgery or fractured ribs in the preseason.
NY Jets vs. Detroit: New York certainly had its chances to beat the Bears on Monday night, but Geno Smith keeps making too many mistakes. I could see Michael Vick getting his shot here if the offense struggles again early. However, I have zero trust in the Lions outside their dome and against a good defensive team.
Upset of the Week
Kansas City vs. New England (Monday): Something is wrong with New England. Only 16 points last week against Oakland? Just 297 total yards? The Patriots' offensive line is not good at all, and Tom Brady has no receiver to stretch the field. Brady simply isn't a top-tier quarterback statistically any longer. K.C. is always a tough place to play. And I think the Chiefs will get running back Jamaal Charles back this week. The Chiefs might have to split carries between Charles and backup Knile Davis, who has been very good when he doesn't fumble. Good problem to have.
Oakland vs. Miami (London): The Raiders aren't going to go 0-16. The Dolphins' offense has gotten worse each week and so has QB Ryan Tannehill. The Fins were considering benching him for Matt Moore. That would be a mistake. The poor fans of London: This is the first game they get in person this year? Hopefully there is good soccer Sunday. I'd watch any EPL match over this.
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