NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Advice: Week 13
A sign you have an athletic director who doesn't have a clue what the hell he's doing: not taking the pulse of your fan base, state officials or boosters before hiring an unpopular head coach.
A sign you have an NFL coach who knows exactly what the hell he's doing: a team that consistently wins in the final month of the regular season (including early January when the schedule drips into the next year).
This isn't the forum to talk about University of Tennessee athletic director John Currie and his unprecedented blunder with Greg Schiano on Sunday, but it is the right place to determine which NFL teams generally play their best football as the calendar hits December. I'm guessing the teams and coaches with the five-best records in the final month over the past five seasons won't surprise you:
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Pete Carroll, Seahawks: 19-5
Mike McCarthy, Packers: 18-5
Mike Tomlin, Steelers: 18-5
Ron Rivera, Panthers: 18-6
Bill Belichick, Patriots 18-6
What, no John Fox or Marc Trestman? It obviously helps that Carroll & Co. all have future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
What does this all have to do with a Survivor Pool? Motivation. With just five weeks left, there are still a whopping 25 teams either in or within two games of a playoff spot. Last week, we saw which teams know they didn't have a shot play like it: the Bears were pummeled in Philadelphia; the Giants lost by double digits in Washington; the Bucs were easily beaten in Atlanta; the Browns kept doing Browns things ... and so on. Sometimes at this point, it's more important to target teams to play against in Survivor Pools.
Or just keep backing the favorites, who have been killing it from a betting perspective since Week 7. Here are the Week 13 picks, with the chosen team listed first.
Jacksonville vs. Indianapolis: Still not fully trusting of Blake Bortles, even at home against a bad Colts team. However, the Jacksonville defense so dominated Indianapolis in a 27-0 win earlier this season with 10 sacks that the Jags should have little trouble winning by double digits.
Oakland vs. NY Giants: Big news on Tuesday that the Giants benched Eli Manning, ending his streak of 210 consecutive starts, second-most among QBs ever. Frankly, it was probably time - although why Big Blue is opting to start Geno Smith over rookie Davis Webb baffles me. I have no qualms using the Raiders in the top spot this week, and the only reason I didn't is because WR Michael Crabtree is suspended.
LA Chargers vs. Cleveland: If there's one team the Browns are confident against, it would presumably be this one. Cleveland was 0-14 last year when it beat the visiting Chargers (and hasn't won since). Just saying. The Browns still do have motivation - no one wants to be infamous at 0-16.
New England at Buffalo: Tom. Brady. Does. Not. Lose. To. Buffalo. (Bills' 16-0 win in Foxboro last year was against Jacoby Brissett.)
Tennessee vs. Houston: Short week for the Texans off Monday's loss in Baltimore. Coach Bill O'Brien also is making noise about pulling Tom Savage if he keeps turning the ball over. Uh, I'd say that's likely.
Atlanta vs. Minnesota: One of the marquee matchups of the week. The Falcons appear to be rounding into form under first-year OC Steve Sarkisian. I recommend you watch the individual matchup of Julio Jones vs. Xavier Rhodes here. The Vikings have to lose at some point.
Dallas vs. Washington (Thursday): Meh TNF game between 5-6 teams. The loser can start making golf plans. I'll slightly lean the Cowboys only as they are home and Dak Prescott can't possibly keep playing this poorly.
Green Bay vs. Tampa Bay: Decent chance that Jameis Winston returns from injury. He's obviously better than Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Winston has taken a step back this year. Meanwhile, maybe we saw Sunday night in Pittsburgh why the Packers liked Brett Hundley as Aaron Rodgers' backup.
Kansas City at NY Jets: How close are we to the Patrick Mahomes Era starting with the Chiefs? If they are down at the half, don't be shocked if Andy Reid pulls Alex Smith for the rookie. Also, don't be shocked if Smith is wearing Jets green in 2018 as a bridge QB to a rookie.
Baltimore vs. Detroit: Big game in the wild-card hunt for both. The Lions are off extra rest having played Thanksgiving, and the Ravens on a short week following Monday's win. But that Baltimore defense will be the best unit on the field.
New Orleans vs. Carolina: Game of the week with first place on the line in the NFC South. It's not impossible that it's the final divisional showdown between Drew Brees and Cam Newton, either. No sure thing Brees is back in New Orleans in 2018. The Saints routed the Panthers in Week 3 in Charlotte to turn their season around.
LA Rams at Arizona: The new Adrian Peterson (Todd Gurley) against the old one (Adrian Peterson). Rams trashed Cardinals 33-0 in London in Week 7 and also trashed the arm of Arizona QB Carson Palmer.
Seattle vs. Philadelphia: No way the Seahawks can lose another home game? Or another prime-time game? They never used to. This sets up as a trap game in my mind for Philly - it might be good for it to get a loss out of the way and play a close game before clinching the NFC's top seed.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: The Steelers have won five straight and eight of nine in the series and will end the Bengals' slim wild-card hopes.
Miami vs. Denver: Gack! These once-proud franchise haves combined to lose their past 12 games. I think Adam Gase is safe, but not so sure about Vance Joseph. I'd tell you who is starting at QB for each side, but does it honestly matter?
San Francisco at Chicago: The Bears have not won a game in six tries as a favorite under the Artist Formerly Known as John Fox. Chicago fans might really wish their team had traded for Jimmy Garoppolo instead of drafting Mitchell Trubisky after this game. I'm not really sure I believe the Bears lose here at home, but I so want Fox gone on Monday.
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