NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Advice: Week 8
Week 7 was unquestionably the least interesting week of the year thus far in the NFL, both with the on-field product and likely in any of your Survivor Pool competitions.
If you followed my game-by-game recommendations fully, then you probably won a Confidence Pool or two as well because I only got one of the 15 wrong: Carolina winning in Chicago. Yep, my Bears pulled yet another upset despite essentially using an offensive scheme that Papa Bear George Halas would be proud of.
Three teams in Week 7 - Jacksonville (at the Colts), the Los Angeles Chargers (vs. the Broncos) and Los Angeles Rams (vs. the Cardinals in London) -- held their opponents scoreless. That's the most shutouts since Week 12 in 1983 when there were four. It's not like the Jaguars defense is the 1985 Bears, the Chargers one of those Steel Curtain teams or the Rams the 2000 Ravens, either. The Jags, Bolts and Rams had a combined 12 wins in 2016, or two fewer than the Patriots.
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Simply put, quarterback play around the NFL isn't great right now in about half the league's cities. The Jags kept Jacoby Brissett off the board. Yippee! The Chargers did it to Trevor Siemian, who wasn't even good at Northwestern. The Rams did it to Carson Palmer for a bit until he broke his leg and then it was Drew Stanton. The Titans-Browns Week 7 game didn't feature a touchdown on either side, yet Tennessee won because Cleveland used DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler under center. The 49ers started rookie C.J. Beathard, who might not even have been the best college quarterback in the state of Iowa for much of his NCAA career. The Packers started Brett Hundley. So on and so on. Crappy play under center and a lack of superstars are the main reasons why the NFL ratings are dropping, not the anthem protests (at least not those any longer).
And don't give up on the playoffs if your team is at or below .500 right now. There have been 39 teams since 1990 with a .500 or lower record after seven games that advanced to the postseason.
There could be some slim pickings in the Survivor world in Week 8 thanks to six teams on the bye: Green Bay, Tennessee, LA Rams, NY Giants, Arizona and Jacksonville. Here are the picks, with the chosen team listed first.
New Orleans vs. Chicago: Seriously, I think John Fox would prefer to put one of those old-time Mr. Quarterback automatic ball-throwers under center for how little he is letting rookie Mitchell Trubisky actually learn his position. Four freaking completions in Week 7!? And the Bears won!?! Trubisky is making Tim Tebow look like Dan Marino in comparison. The Bears have been incredibly lucky to win the past two weeks, thanks in large part to defensive touchdowns (Eddie Jackson stud!). I don't expect things to go well in the Big Easy against a resurgent Saints squad.
Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis: I would have no problem using the Bengals in the top spot this week unless you want to save them for Week 12 vs. the Browns (I never recommend stashing but some prefer that strategy). Prior to last week, the Colts hadn't been shut out in a regular-season game since 1993. That franchise is Browns-esque right now with the whole Andrew Luck mess.
Philadelphia vs. San Francisco: I would run screaming from this one, although it's going to be a popular pick. Yes, the Niners are winless and the Eagles have the NFL's best record. But Philly is on a short week, off a rivalry game and lost two key starters (Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks) to season-ending injuries in said game.
Kansas City vs. Denver (Monday): I never use a Monday night game if possible. Tough to see the Chiefs losing three in a row, although their defense suddenly is a question mark. Doubt that Siemian will do much against it, though. The Broncos were blanked last week for the first time since 1992.
New England vs. LA Chargers: Trap game for the Patriots off the big win in the Super Bowl rematch vs. the Falcons? New England is probably too well-coached for that. The Chargers are playing really well, though, on a three-game winning streak.
Buffalo vs. Oakland: I'll probably wait until Sunday to make a pick in this game. It looks as if the weather could be ugly, which should favor the ground-and-pound Bills. Oakland is on extra rest after saving its season in Week 7 on a Thursday night but won't have the suspended Marshawn Lynch - not sure that matters much at this point.
Atlanta at NY Jets: How is Steve Sarkisian still employed as the Atlanta offensive coordinator? How did he get the job in the first place? Many sites gave the Jets an 'over/under' of 3.5 wins this season. So you might be able to cash that over ticket as soon as Sunday if the Dirty Birds don't wake up from the Super Bowl hangover.
Minnesota at Cleveland: I wouldn't touch this one, either. The Vikings are clearly better, but I don't much trust Case Keenum or these London games with 9:30 a.m. ET starts. Too many odd intangibles.
Tampa Bay vs. Carolina: This is the season for Tampa Bay after losing four of five. I may have misjudged the Bucs' potential more than any team in the NFL this year. The defense has been the main culprit, allowing a league-high 49.4 percent conversion rate on third down. I expect desperation here.
Seattle vs. Houston: Likely the most interesting game of the week between the current Russell Wilson and perhaps the next one in Deshaun Watson (still wish Bears had simply stayed at No. 3 overall and taken Watson).
Dallas at Washington: Ezekiel Elliott will play this week as some judge remains on vacation and can't rule on his case. But then he might be gone for the next six weeks. I simply lean Cowboys here as the Skins are banged up and on a short week.
Pittsburgh at Detroit: Bet Ford Field is plenty full of black and gold on Sunday night as Pittsburgh is a reasonable drive from Motown. The Lions are off their bye week but won't have Golden Tate. The Steelers are starting to pull it all together by riding Le'Veon Bell into the ground.
Miami at Baltimore (Thursday): Gack! Matt Moore vs. Joe Flacco. Sadly, there's no World Series game on Thursday night, so I guess it will be the Celtics-Bucks (Greek Freak!) and Pelicans-Kings NBA on TNT doubleheader instead of this ugly offensive matchup for me.
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