The last month or so has really been quite a simple, straightforward stretch for Survivor Pool players. It's just a shame that so few people got to enjoy them after being crushed in the first couple of incredibly ugly weeks. In my pools there are pretty much as many people alive now as there were in Week 3. Things should start to get a bit more interesting now, though, as it comes time for us to have to gamble a bit more. This is where one pick can make a big difference and pools can end in a real hurry.
The problem this week is that three of the most obvious selections - Arizona over Cleveland, Atlanta over Tampa Bay and, to a lesser extent given the last couple of weeks, New England over Miami - are very likely off the board and out of consideration for most players. That means that this is a week in which we are likely going to have make a less-comfortable pick than we have been willing to accept up to this point in the season.
The best bet if you can make it is St. Louis over San Francisco. The Rams aren't exactly inspiring on offense. The defensive line remains sound, though, and it enjoys a very strong matchup against the 49ers. San Francisco essentially doesn't have an offense right now. Head coach Jim Tomsula had to spend a lot of time on Monday and Tuesday assuring people that chemistry in the locker room was good and that people were happy with Colin Kaepernick as a teammate - a clear sign that none of that is true, obviously. San Francisco has little hope of playing to their potential here and aren't particularly good even if they did given how they are built right now. This is definitely a pick against San Francisco instead of a pick for the Rams, but that works. If you can pick St. Louis then I think you'd need a pretty good reason to look any further. It's really the best pick on the board this week - Arizona hasn't been as reliable as we might like lately, Atlanta has been flat for a couple of weeks now and Tampa Bay showed some life despite the loss last week, and Miami is scoring like crazy.
But what if you can't pick the Rams or you want to look elsewhere for some reason? Well, here's where it gets more interesting. Carolina over Indianapolis might work, but you might be done with the Panthers already. Besides, Indy still has Andrew Luck and shouldn't be as horrible as they have been. Risky pick, but I could live with it if I had to given the turmoil in the front office and how it is impacting the team.
According to early pick distributions a popular pick this week has been Seattle at the Cowboys. I just don't get it. Sure, Dallas has lost four in a row and injuries and personnel distractions are a real issue. This is Seattle we are talking about, though, They are just 1-3 on the road, they can't close out a win with a fourth-quarter lead unless it is against San Francisco, and they are a shell of their former selves. When I am looking at a game I am considering for a Survivor Pool I use the Monday morning test. If I woke up Monday morning and the first thing I thought about was that Dallas had beaten the Seahawks in Arlington, would I be so shocked that I would be certain I was still asleep and dreaming? Not even slightly. I don't think it would be even remotely surprising if either team won this game - by a little or a lot. That doesn't make it a game I am interested in. I hope a lot of people do keep choosing it, though - a better chance for me to win it all.
Beyond that things get pretty rough. I'd happily take the Packers over the Broncos - even in Denver - but that likely isn't an option for most. People are picking Kansas City over Detroit, but that concerns me for two reasons - it means trusting the Chiefs, which is always a bad idea, and Detroit has overhauled their coaching staff and we only need to look at Miami to see what short-term impact that can have when there is talent around. The Jets over Oakland is a no-go for me because I don't think what the Raiders did to San Diego was a fluke, and New York is obviously vulnerable to the right passing attack. I might consider the Jets at home, but not in California. I wouldn't touch New Orleans over the Giants, either, because the gap between the teams isn't large, and I'm not sure that the better play from the Saints is around to stay.
The only other game that I would consider is the Vikings over the Bears, but only if I had to. It concerns me that it is in Chicago and that the Bears have had a bye week to get some issues sorted out. Minnesota is the better team, but they haven't been dominant on the road by any means. The margin is thin here, but as a last resort I'd take Minnesota - and then probably not sleep great Saturday night.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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