NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Advice: Week 15
The NFL protects quarterbacks these days like they are fine china. You can't hit them low, you can't hit them high and you can't hit them even a second late. It's barely football, but the league needs its superstars to boost sagging ratings (that's a cord-cutter thing, nothing will change that).
Unfortunately, injuries to quarterbacks have been one of the biggest story lines of the 2017 season. Before the regular season even started, Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Indianapolis' Andrew Luck were already out (Luck technically wasn't yet, but considering he hadn't even thrown a football since January surgery made it obvious he wasn't going to play in 2017). Then we saw guys like Minnesota's Sam Bradford, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Houston's Deshaun Watson and Arizona's Carson Palmer all go down. Every QB I've mentioned was on a potential playoff team.
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Yet the cruelest blow was perhaps this past Sunday when league MVP favorite Carson Wentz tore his ACL while being hit in non-dirty fashion as Wentz was diving into the end zone against the Rams. That injury obviously alters the chances of the Eagles getting to the Super Bowl, much less winning it for the first time. You see all these guys go down, and it makes it all the more remarkable how durable QBs like Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Tom Brady have been/still are.
There is a Survivor Pool point to all this: Don't save teams. You never know when that team's quarterback could go down for the season. I'm sure you haven't saved any great clubs until this late in the season if your competition is even still going, but you get my point.
Speaking of Brady, his Patriots were the biggest upset victims of Week 14, but I'm sure that had little effect on any Survivor competition. Hey, if you held on to the Patriots that long, shame on you. That was the only major Week 14 big surprise. Arizona was a small home dog and beat Tennessee, and San Francisco won at Houston, but nothing to see there. My Week 14 selection was the Chargers, and they rolled over visiting Washington.
Here are the Week 15 picks, with the chosen team listed first. At least one team still has playoff motivations in every game but two.
New Orleans vs. NY Jets: The Jets have largely overachieved this season but have lost a big reason for that, QB Josh McCown, to a season-ending hand injury. I seriously doubt that Bryce Petty will keep this close against a Saints team that needs it to stay atop the NFC South and is on a few extra days of rest.
Jacksonville vs. Houston: I'm starting to believe in the Jaguars. When Blake Bortles is just league-average, this team is truly scary. Meanwhile, the Texans will be starting third-string QB T.J. Yates after Tom Savage was hit so hard last week his arms were twitching on the field as he was lying on the turf. Another 1,000 moms across the USA just told their young sons they will never be allowed to play football.
Minnesota vs. Cincinnati: All about motivation here. The Vikings are playing for a division title and a first-round bye, and the Bengals totally mailed it in last week at home vs. the Bears. Why wouldn't they do the same on the road?
Detroit vs. Chicago (Saturday): OK, Bears, let's not ruin potential Top-10 draft pick status with another road win! Lions have to have this to keep their wild-card hopes alive.
Washington vs. Arizona: This and Broncos-Colts are the only two that are totally meaningless. But you could do worse than the Redskins at home this late in the season. You get Kirk Cousins over Blaine Gabbert. Enough said.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay (Monday): The Falcons currently sit third in the NFC South, but know if they win out they repeat as division champions. About all I can say positive about the 2017 Bucs is they have earned a last-place schedule for 2018.
Baltimore at Cleveland: The Browns nearly stunned the Packers last week. This is Cleveland's last home game and thus most likely it's last, best chance to avoid 0-16. The Ravens might be flat for a while off a draining Sunday night loss in Pittsburgh.
Kansas City vs. LA Chargers (Saturday): First-place battle in the AFC West. The Chargers are playing better football of late but have dropped seven straight in this series, and it surely won't be warm in K.C. on Saturday night.
Buffalo vs. Miami: The Dolphins actually are still alive in the wild-card race after their stunning win over the Patriots - which #**#(% cost me a Confidence Pool victory. Bills still in the wild-card race too. I'll always take a cold-weather team at home in December against an equal warm-weather club. Plus, we know Jay Cutler won't play that well a second straight game.
Philadelphia at NY Giants: I have no idea what to expect from the Eagles - they could be 100 percent deflated here off the Wentz injury news. Or maybe they rally around backup Nick Foles like the 1990 Giants did behind backup Jeff Hostetler.
Carolina vs. Green Bay: Rodgers might only be 80 percent healed from his broken collarbone, but he's back with his team still in the wild-card hut. The Packers would be truly dangerous if they get into the postseason. However, even the great Rodgers will be rusty while facing a terrific defense.
Seattle vs. LA Rams: The winner here probably wins the NFC West - the loser could actually miss the playoffs, especially if it's the Seahawks. Never bet against Russell Wilson at home in December.
Pittsburgh vs. New England: The AFC game of the year with the top seed in the conference playoffs likely going to the winner (although the Jaguars could still be in that mix). Patriots on short week and didn't look right at all Monday. Maybe the return of Rob Gronkowski is all they need.
San Francisco vs. Tennessee: Jimmy Garoppolo > Marcus Mariota.
Oakland vs. Dallas: The renegades against the good guys. At least that's how I remember thinking of these franchises growing up. It's the Cowboys' last game without Ezekiel Elliott. The Raiders need it just as badly.
Denver at Indianapolis (Thursday): Kudos, you are a better football fan than I am if you watch one second of this ugly affair, the final TNF game of the season. The only way I would watch is if either myself or my competitor had a Broncos or Colts player in our two-week fantasy football final that begins in Week 15 … oh wait, he has Demaryius Thomas. Guess I'll have to check in.
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