NFL Survivor Pools Strategy Advice and Predictions: Week 10
Last week required a quick change in plans. From where I was sitting Houston was the strong and obvious choice for last week. But then the crushing Deshaun Watson injury struck. The team had to overcome two massive hurdles - losing their most important player just when he was really finding his stride and having to deal with the realities of Tom Savage being your quarterback. That is too much to ask of any team, and we obviously couldn't trust Houston anymore - even against a team as deeply flawed as Indianapolis. We had to scramble late. Hopefully this week things turn out in a more straightforward manner - we've had more than enough major injuries already this year.
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This year there are three games that stand out above the rest when it comes to survivor pools, and even though we are well into this season chances are pretty good that two of them are still available for most players. Without further ado, and listed in order of preference:
Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns: The Lions are only 4-4 and are going to be in tough to make the playoffs. They had lost three straight, but then they got a nice win in Green Bay when they took care of business against a deeply-damaged Green Bay team. It was a nice effort that sets them up for this game. Despite the losses, Matthew Stafford is passing like crazy, tallying at least 312 yards in each of the last three games. He's confident, and now he's at home against a team that is as troubled as any team can be. The Browns' long time on-field leader is hurt for the first time in his career. They don't have a quarterback. The coaching staff seems to be arguing with the front office, and that front office has to make statements that they aren't actually incompetent - something no one can possibly believe. Cleveland has mismanaged this season in a uniquely profound way, and there is no climbing out of this pit - at least not in any hurry. Detroit is the better team here by a massive margin, Stafford is going to be able to have a huge day, and the game should be lopsided. Nothing is certain in this league, but a Detroit win is a close to certain as things can get these days. This game is a gift for the 10th week of the season for survivor pools - it shouldn't be this straightforward by now.
L.A. Rams vs. Houston Texans: How important is Watson? Last week when he was expected to play the Texans were the easiest team to pick on the board. Now they are the second-easiest team to pick against. It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Rams. Jeff Fisher was far from an inspiring coach in recent years, but it is still surprising how different, and how much better, this team looks under new leadership. And after the mess of last season who would possibly have guessed that Jared Goff would look as confident and competent as he has in recent games. He looks like a guy who could deliver full value for his draft slot - which seemed unlikely just a year ago. Houston has been in the bottom third of the league against the pass this year, so Goff should be reasonably well positioned to keep their momentum rolling. The Rams have won three straight, and are up against a team that seems to really have been hit hard mentally after Watson's injury. This pick isn't as comfortable as the Lions pick - the Browns are just plain terrible, while Houston is just struggling but not hopeless - but this is a very playable spot, and the Rams are likely available to be picked in most pools.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts: We won't spend much time on this one. The Colts aren't good. In fact, they are awful - even if they are coming of a win against the Texans. The Steelers have won three in a row and are coming off a bye week so they should be healthy. This one should not be particularly close. The only reason I'm not more enthusiastic about the team is that it is very unlikely that you have made it this far into the season without picking the Steelers already. The same logic applies to the Patriots, who are a pretty confident pick playing the Broncos and their horrifically messy QB situation coming off a bye week but are almost certainly no longer available for players.
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