The tragedy of Survivor Pools this year is that things have gotten relatively easy once we have gotten deep enough into the season that most people are already out of their pools. For the second week in the row we were able to identify a reasonably large number of games that were playable, and all of them finished up as we needed them to. On paper, at least, we should have another week like that this week. There are four games that seem quite playable, and at least one of them features a team that likely hasn't been a pick up to this point. It's another interesting and hopefully fruitful week of Survivor Pool action. Let's jump right in:
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Pittsburgh at Cleveland: The Steelers have lost four in a row, and they have some issues they have to get over. They mostly played well against Dallas last week and could easily have won, though - and that's the best team in the NFC by a pretty wide margin. Needless to say, this week's opponent is not the best team in the AFC. We have done well all season by just blindly picking the Browns' opponent and stopping our analysis there. There is no reason to deviate from that course here. Despite their issues, the Steelers are the superior team here by such a wide margin you can't even quantify it. It's a mismatch, and there are few things more satisfying - and less stressful - than being on the right side of a mismatch. If you can pick the Steelers you would not be making a bad decision to do so.
Detroit vs. Jacksonville: Three months ago I never would have guessed I would be picking against the Jaguars as often as I have so far this year. I was dumb enough to think that things were going to be different and the Jaguars were actually going to have a good season. How moronic of me. Back then I would never have guessed that I would be picking the Lions to beat anyone, either. I expected absolutely nothing from them. With Calvin Johnson gone and other issues everywhere you looked it seemed like they were destined for a very high draft pick. Yet here they are now, tied with the Vikings atop the NFC North, and currently holding the tie-break advantage. Now, it only takes a 5-4 record to lead the highly-disappointing division, so Detroit city officials don't need to plan the parade route just yet. But they are doing a lot of things fairly well and are playing with good levels of determination. Jacksonville, meanwhile, has quit on their coach and themselves, and they are just an ugly team waiting for the pain to end. I would like Detroit in this matchup no matter what, but they are especially attractive at home. Most people probably have not picked Detroit yet, so they are likely available and are attractive.
New England at San Francisco: I am going to waste very little virtual ink on this one because if you haven't used New England yet then you are making this way harder than it needs to be. They will beat the 49ers, though - badly - so if you can still pick them you should. That loss to Seattle on Sunday night raised some issues that are cause for concern in the bigger picture, but they certainly aren't big enough issues to even remotely consider that they could lose this one. They will be playing angry, and an angry New England will make a joke of this game against San Francisco.
Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay: This is the toughest of the four spots on this list, but you can make a pretty solid argument that the Chiefs are worth a look here. Kansas City is far from a flashy team, but they have quietly won five straight and sit at 7-2 on the year. They are well coached and well constructed, and they find ways to win tight games. They don't quit. Tampa Bay gained some attention and respect from a dominating win last week, but it came against the Bears so it hardly counts. Besides, the Bucs had a real unfair advantage - both Jameis Winston and Jay Cutler were quite effective completing passes to guys in Bucs uniforms. Kansas City is a tough place to play, and the Bucs are going to face a much bigger challenge here than they were last week. Prior to the win against the Bears, Tampa Bay had played against Atlanta and Oakland - two teams you can more easily compare to Kansas City than Chicago - and the Bucs were solidly beaten both times. This one might not be comfortable - I recommended Kansas City last week against the Panthers, and it looked certain that they were going to lose right up until the moment they won. In the end, though, the Chiefs are hot and are well positioned to stay that way.
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