NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Expert Advice: Week 6
by Matt Severance - 10/8/2014
Whew, the Bucs almost did it to me again in Week 5 of the 2014 survivor pool!
I mentioned I didn't totally love New Orleans at home against Tampa Bay with how unevenly the Saints had looked. I thought the Saints would win but not by the spread, certainly. They were very lucky to do so. The Bucs led 31-20 with less than 10 minutes to go before the Saints woke up, eventually tying it on Shayne Graham's 44-yard field goal with 2:30 left. The Bucs' offense could do nothing on its next possession with a chance to win, and off to overtime we went.
New Orleans appeared to have to punt after Drew Brees -- who was unusually inaccurate on the day -- misfired on a third-and-10 from the Saints 40. However, an illegal use of hands penalty on the Bucs gave the Saints a first down, and they would drive down and win the game on Khiry Robinson's 18-yard TD run. Remember, if the team with possession first scores a touchdown, the game is over. Ditto if the defensive team scores on that possession. It's the second time this season an OT game has ended without the other team touching the ball (Denver-Seattle). That rule I can just about guarantee will be tweaked this offseason.
Anyway, my Lock of the Week is now 5-0 this season. There weren't any major upsets in Week 5 that probably altered those pools too badly. Maybe Detroit losing at home to Buffalo, but I learned last year to not trust the Lions much. I doubt many people put all their eggs in the Titans' basket against Cleveland, and Tennessee blew a 28-3 lead to lose 29-28 in the biggest road comeback win in NFL history. I thought Jacksonville had a decent chance of beating Pittsburgh -- it was my Upset of the Week -- but the sorry Jags lost 17-9.
This week on the bye are the Chiefs and Saints. It looks like an evenly-matched week of games.
Lock of the Week
Cincinnati vs. Carolina: Vastly disappointed in the Bengals with their blowout loss at New England on Sunday night. I believed Cincinnati was the most complete team in the AFC. I suppose it could have just run into a perfect storm of a desperate Patriots team. And I fully expect a major bounce-back effort against an average Panthers squad that should have lost to my Bears last week, but Jay Cutler stinks.
San Diego at Oakland: I wouldn't have a huge problem putting this in the Lock of the Week, but there are a few concerns here. The Bolts might be down to their fourth-string running back, and they have three big games to follow this one. The Raiders have a new coach, which often can spur a team, and had all last week off to prepare for this one. Oakland also beat the Bolts once last year.
Denver at NY Jets: Could this be a trap game? It's an 11 a.m. Mountain time start for the Broncos, and that's never easy for players to adjust to. The Broncos also come off their best performance of the season last week and have a huge one next week at home against the 49ers. The Jets will play desperate after losing four straight and Coach Rex Ryan admitting this week he needs to turn things around now or be fired.
Green Bay at Miami: Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was formerly Green Bay's offensive coordinator, so does that give Miami an advantage? Doubt it. The Fins apparently will get back Knowshon Moreno from injury this week. But this comes down to whether you prefer Aaron Rodgers or Ryan Tannehill. Yeah, thought so.
Seattle vs. Dallas: You could put this in Lock of the Week as well. I'm shocked that Dallas is 4-1 as I expected maybe seven wins this season. I'd say the Cowboys really haven't beaten anyone of note, but the entire NFL looks rather average this year. Anyone can win on a given week other than the Jags or Raiders. However, the Seahawks won't lose at home and will shut down DeMarco Murray.
Philadelphia vs. NY Giants: This is the Sunday night game. Is it time to worry about the Eagles offense? It did nothing in Week 4 against the 49ers. Last week, the Eagles scored 34 points in a win over St. Louis, but that's largely because they had two more returns for touchdowns. That's seven already (my fantasy team thanks you!) in 2014. New York's loss of Rashad Jennings is pretty significant.
San Francisco at St. Louis (Monday): Are the Niners fixed? Not ready to say that quite yet, but at least they have rediscovered Frank Gore and their defensive intensity in back-to-back wins. The Rams simply aren't very good but may have found a QB of the future in Austin Davis. The 49res swept both games pretty easily in 2013.
Detroit at Minnesota: Let me just say that I would NEVER pick the Lions as my top choice in a road game and probably won't in a home game, either. Not with how up-and-down that team can be. Here I thought a coaching change would alter things. I actually might lean Minnesota here if Calvin Johnson doesn't play. Stay away from this game.
Baltimore at Tampa Bay: The Bucs' offense has totaled 58 points in the two games Glennon has started whereas it didn't have more than 17 when Josh McCown was under center. The Ravens have been shaky on the road, barely winning at Cleveland and doing very little last week offensively in a 20-13 loss at Indianapolis. This one is a coin flip. I probably slightly lean the Ravens because I'm still peeved at Lovie Smith for his playoff failures with the Bears.
Tennessee vs. Jacksonville: I actually thought that Ken Whisenhunt might turn the Titans into a surprise playoff contender this season and Jake Locker into a competent NFL quarterback. Hasn't happened yet. Locker got hurt again last week, and it's still up in the air whether he plays. It honestly doesn't matter if it's him, Charlie Whitehurst or rookie Zach Mettenberger. I don't trust the Titans enough here, and a Jacksonville win wouldn't be a surprise.
Houston vs. Indianapolis (Thursday): I don't think we will see another blowout where you switch to the ESPN NCAA football game by halftime. Alas, that is a bland BYU-UCF matchup this week, and sadly there are no baseball playoff games on Thursday. Guess I'll be watching the Blackhawks' opener if Texans-Colts is a rout early! The Colts have won nine straight games inside their division, the longest current run in the NFL. They clearly have the better QB here. I also think Houston is better at everything else. But I only lean Texans because they are home.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland: Ben Roethlisberger simply doesn't lose to Cleveland, but the Steelers aren't all that great. The Browns are better than we thought or just really lucky. Each of Cleveland's first four games have been decided by three points or fewer, the most games to begin a season of any NFL team in that scenario since 2005. I do think the Browns will be a bit flat off last week's incredible comeback.
Atlanta vs. Chicago: I have no faith in the Bears any longer, specifically Cutler. And it's almost gone in head coach Marc Trestman. Jim Harbaugh: 2015 Bears coach? The Falcons have been an offensive juggernaut in two home games. Think Devin Hester wants a return TD in this one against his former mates?
Upset of the Week
Buffalo vs. New England: I thought the Patriots would beat the Bengals last week. People were writing New England off too quickly, and the team doesn't play back-to-back bad games under Tom Brady. That said, I also think people are going way too overboard by saying that all is well now. Buffalo has a very good defense and great running game. Now it also has a quarterback who won't lose a game in Kyle Orton. I know the Pats have totally owned this rivalry for years, but I'm not even sure this is an upset.
Arizona vs. Washington : I would not touch this game because you don't know whether Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton will play for the Cardinals. Could the Redskins beat rookie Logan Thomas if he starts? Sure. Could Kirk Cousins throw four interceptions to Patrick Peterson and the Skins get routed on a short week? Sure.
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