I've said before that sometimes the smart play in a Survivor Pool during a particular week isn't going with the team you think that's most likely to win, especially if there are a few other clubs you are very confident about, but playing defense against the rest of your competition. I hope you did that in Week 4.
In last week's story, my top choice was Arizona at home over los Angeles, but the Cardinals were stunned 17-13 thanks in part to Carson Palmer leaving in the fourth quarter with a possible concussion. I wrote that the game "stands out above the rest -- which for that reason alone could be reason to avoid it."
I'm still pretty surprised that the Cardinals lost at home but am starting to believe they are a bit overrated as Arizona has now dropped five of seven dating to last year, including playoffs. My four "second down" choices all won in Week 4: Cincinnati over Miami, Houston over Tennessee, Washington over Cleveland and Pittsburgh over Kansas City. I decided to roll with the Texans even though the loss of J.J. Watt really worried me. They escaped 27-20.
There were a few other upsets that could have shaken up your Pools. Buffalo went to New England and handed the Patriots a 16-0 shocker, but if you were risking your season on Jacoby Brissett you deserve what you got. I warned that the Bills might win that game if Brissett started. Atlanta, meanwhile, destroyed Carolina 48-33 because of course I was facing off against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in my main fantasy league last week and they made history as the Falcons became the first team in NFL history to have a 500-yard passer and 300-yard receiver in the same game.
Here are the picks for Week 5 with the recommended team first. Off this week are the Seahawks, Saints, Chiefs and Jaguars, so no real losses there other than Seattle.
New England at Cleveland: This is so obviously the pick of the week that you simply can't choose this game. Of course Tom Brady makes his return from suspension. What if he's rusty? Or sunburned from all that nude sunbathing with Gisele in Italy during the suspension? Yeah, his life sucks. The Browns are playing hard for Hue Jackson and are going to pull a few upsets this season.
Pittsburgh vs. NY Jets: What's higher here: the number of Ben Roethlisberger touchdown passes to Antonio Brown or the number of interceptions by Ryan Fitzpatrick? The Jets have to yank Fitz after nine picks the past two weeks, but with Geno Smith as the alternative, well, they just can't. Maybe they'd be interested in Jay Cutler!
Miami vs. Tennessee: Extra time to prepare for the Dolphins after looking rather inept offensively last Thursday in Cincinnati. It's starting to become clear that Ryan Tannehill isn't the answer at quarterback. Ah well, at least Miami fans have the NBA's Heat. Oh wait. As for the Titans, I thought they would be improved this season, but second-year QB Marcus Mariota is regressing. There's a chance this game could be postponed with Hurricane Matthew potentially ravaging Miami.
Green Bay vs. NY Giants: So much for my Eli Manning wins the 2016 NFL MVP Award proclamation. And chill out, Odell Beckham. You are becoming a clown like Terrell Owens used to be. Short week for the Giants off Monday's loss at Minnesota, and I see little chance they win at Green Bay, which comes off the bye.
Oakland vs. San Diego: True, the Raiders are 0-1 at home and 3-0 on the road. But the Chargers are the only team to blow a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and lose this season. And they've done it twice. Could be the last game for Coach Mike McCoy.
Arizona at San Francisco (Thursday): We might see more scoring in both AL Division Series games on Thursday than in this one between Drew Stanton -- he's starting in place of the concussed Palmer -- against Blaine Gabbert. Think I'll pass on watching the NFL this Thursday. I'll split screen the ALDS and the Weather Channel.
Detroit vs. Philadelphia: Thanks a lot Lions, now the Bears can't go 0-16 and assure themselves a chance of drafting Clemson QB Deshaun Watson No. 1 in the 2017 draft. There's always 2018 and Louisville's Lamar Jackson. Even though Eagles are off the bye and the Lions are, well, the Lions, I think they pull the minor upset here at home.
Indianapolis vs. Chicago: Can't believe I'd even say I prefer Brian Hoyer over Jay Cutler. At least new Bears GM Ryan Pace appears to have gotten one thing right: drafting Indiana running back Jordan Howard in the fifth round this year. That Kevin White pick surely isn't working. He's now probably out for the year. Of course he is! I don't see that injury-ravaged Chicago defense putting up much of a fight up against Andrew Luck -- who just so happened to make his NFL debut in Chicago in 2012. He lost that one but won't here.
Baltimore vs. Washington: Battle of the Beltway. Ravens might be the worst 3-1 team as they could easily be 0-4, but I still like them here at home against their neighbors.
Minnesota vs. Houston: I feel like the Vikings are playing so well right now that they are due a letdown game. This could be it since it's a short week off Monday's win, and if you are going to lose it's best to do so out of conference for playoff purposes. It's human nature to perhaps lose a game that you sort of can.
Denver vs. Atlanta: Let's see what Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib can do to slow Jones. This is the game of the day between the NFL's top offense and its best defense (even if Broncos aren't ranked No. 1 right now). I might favor Atlanta here if it's rookie Paxton Lynch at QB for Denver over Trevor Siemian, who hurt his shoulder in Week 4. That could be a game-time call.
Cincinnati at Dallas: Bengals QB Andy Dalton is from the Dallas area and played at TCU, so I'm sure he will be eager to have a nice showing here. I favor Cincinnati a bit because it had a few extra days to prepare and heal up and because of the fact the Cowboys are likely without Dez Bryant again and at least one starting offensive lineman.
Los Angeles vs. Buffalo: I suppose this game is more interesting with both teams pulling road upsets last week, but meh. Buffalo does get back Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus from suspension but likely without top receiver Sammy Watkins again -- maybe for the season. .
Carolina vs. Tampa Bay (Monday): The Titans' Mariota isn't the only one going through a sophomore slump. Bucs QB Jameis Winston, who was so good Week 1 in the win in Atlanta, is the 31st-ranked quarterback in the NFL and has eight picks. No. 1 running back Doug Martin remains out for Tampa Bay. Ditto defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. So even if the Panthers are without the concussed Cam Newton, I still like them. But I'd just stay away here with so many injury questions.
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