NFL Survivor Pools Strategy Advice and Predictions: Week 11
by Trevor Whenham - 11/11/2014
Last week is a perfect example of why survivor pools, which seem so simple, are so brutally difficult in reality. There was absolutely no real reason to expect that the Steelers would lose to the Jets - never mind get rolled over by them. Over the two previous weeks the Steelers' offense had been historically effective. The Jets had completely forgotten how to win, were mired in layers of drama, and their defense was, to be kind, porous. To top it off, there was a good chance that Pittsburgh was an available pick for a lot of players -- and a very tempting one at that.
A lot of pools likely lost a lot of remaining layers last week. Thanks, Big Ben! That game, and the many that came before it, mean that we are almost certainly nearing the end of most survivor pools. Over the next couple of weeks, then, we are going to shift our focus here. Up to this point we have looked at the games with strong favorites to see if that team was safe to play or should be passed on. Now we are going to look at spots where we can gamble - games with a team that is likely to be an available pick that could be worth supporting. Here are three:
Cleveland vs. Houston: This one comes down to the quarterbacks - both former New England backups. Brian Hoyer has been one of the most impressive stories of the season. He's not flashy, and he doesn't put up numbers to match the true elites, but he is relentless and he just finds ways to win. Ryan Mallett, meanwhile, takes over the Texans and makes his first career start. There is more than that, really - he has thrown just four passes in his career, and all came in 2012. He also hasn't exactly torn it up in the preseason. He is stunningly raw. Given how underwhelming Ryan Fitzpatrick has been this year for the Texans, you have to think that Mallett would have got his chance sooner if he was ready. It is hard to have any faith in him here - especially on the road. Houston has just one win in their last five games, so it would be easy for the players to consider this another lost season already - especially with an unproven player at the helm. Meanwhile, no team is playing tougher or with more consistent determination than the Browns. It is as if the word "plucky" was invented to describe them. Cleveland would be a reasonably comfortable pick here.
Minnesota at Chicago: I don't like this spot as much the last one, but at this point I am willing to take a stand against the Bears. They have been a disaster at home all year and are just a complete mess over the last two weeks. They can't play offense, or defense, for that matter. They have huge attitude issues, the coaching staff is struggling to maintain control, and the faith in their quarterback - incidentally a ridiculously expensive one - is at an all-time low. This is a team that has folded up their tents, and it's hard to believe that they will bounce back strong here. Minnesota is not a great team, but they have won their last two games and have shown a lot of toughness doing so. Teddy Bridgewater has played decent football in both wins, and he is the easier QB to trust here. If safer options are unavailable this week then you could do worse than Minnesota - though this pick would make for a nervous week, I suspect.
Pittsburgh at Tennessee: If the Steelers didn't crush your dreams last weekend then it would make sense to bounce right back and pick them here. Last week was a disaster for them. It wasn't that the Jets exposed any particular weaknesses that Steelers had, though. As much as anything, it seemed like the Steelers beat themselves. They are a good team, but not good enough to coast into games and expect to win on the basis of skill alone. They need to be focused and prepared, and after two exceptional weeks it was as if they forgot that. They are still a team with lots of experience and solid coaching, so it seems reasonable to assume that that same issue won't arise two weeks in a row. If Pittsburgh plays even reasonably well then they will have a big advantage over the Titans - bigger, even, than the edge over the Jets that they should have had. I would happily take the Steelers this week.
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