NFL Survivor and Confidence Pool Picks and Advice: Week 17
One thing you can say about the NFL annually is that it's predictably unpredictable. Every year under the current format playoff format, there have been four new teams in the playoffs that didn't make it the previous season.
That trend will continue with Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Houston all having clinched spots after they were a combined 27-37 a season ago. We also have been guaranteed a worst-to-first run in a division for a 15 th time in 16 seasons as the Bears are NFC North champs after a 5-11 mark in 2017. Houston could join Chicago in the club with a victory Sunday.
Hopefully, your Survivor Pool has already been completed for the season and you've cashed in. Confidence Pools are season-long. (I'm still in the running for a couple of Confidence Pools but won't be winning in a Survivor.) Regardless, Week 17 is always very tough to handicap. Thankfully, the NFL recently started scheduling games that might influence each other at the same time. Baseball, for example, now schedules every single game on the final Sunday at the same time for wild-card/division reasons.
This way, in theory, every team with something to play for, even if it's remote, still has to give its all. Keep in mind, however, that if one result is a blowout at halftime, it could very much affect a result in another game. It could cause a coach with a team already in the playoffs to pull his starters if any chance at improving a playoff seed is gone at that point.
In addition, much like you should study coaches' trends with how they go about using their starters in the preseason, you also should in meaningless games for teams locked into playoff seeds. The Cowboys' Jason Garrett, for example, has a history of resting his guys in a meaningless Week 17 matchup with the postseason on tap.
Here are my Week 17 Survivor Picks in order of how I would also do my Confidence Pool selections (with occasional exceptions noted when necessary). The team listed first is my choice. God willing, we'll be back next year!
16. NY Giants vs. Dallas: Will I be putting the Giants at No. 16 in my Confidence Pool? Surely not, although pretty high because of Garrett's history. In 2016 with the top seed in the NFC wrapped up, Garrett sat nearly everyone in a Week 17 blowout loss in Philadelphia. In fact, that was Tony Romo's last action for the Cowboys. Dallas had a bye that year and doesn't this. You won't see Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, etc. on Sunday, no matter what Jerry Jones is saying early in the week.
15. New England vs. NY Jets: The Patriots are a pretty flawed team right now, especially with the Josh Gordon experiment having failed and Rob Gronkowski looking about as spry as my 91-year-old grandfather. That said, the Pats aren't losing at home to the Jets with a chance at a first-round bye.
14. Kansas City vs. Oakland: The Chiefs get the AFC's top seed with a victory, while the Raiders' "bowl game" was Monday night's win over Denver in potentially the last-ever game in Oakland. This shouldn't be close.
13. LA Rams vs. San Francisco: Rams already crushed the 49ers once and still have the No. 2 seed to play for; sadly, getting it over my Bears. Todd Gurley or not, Rams roll.
12. Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati: Should be it for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis unless he truly does have incriminating photos of Bengals ownership. My one concern with Pittsburgh here is if the Ravens are blasting the Browns at halftime, the Steelers might mail it in because they only make the playoffs with a Baltimore loss.
11. Buffalo vs. Miami: Not that the Bills are all that good. But … you are a Miami player with nothing to play for and used to 78 degrees in December. Think you give two s*its about a worthless game in frigid Buffalo this time of year?
10. Green Bay vs. Detroit: Just make sure Aaron Rodgers is playing. If it's DeShone Kizer, drop this way down.
9. Houston vs. Jacksonville: Texans earn at least one home playoff game and the AFC South title with a win and would slide all the way to the sixth seed with a loss. I don't care about the Jaguars, but just for the sake of good football let this be the last game Blake Bortles ever plays in the NFL.
8. Minnesota vs. Chicago: Matt Nagy says he'll play all his healthy guys because of the long-shot chance at the second seed, but when he sees the Rams up 24-0 early in the second quarter, he'll pull them. Bring on the playoffs!
7. Baltimore vs. Cleveland: If you are trailing by a decent amount in your Confidence Pool, it might be worth a risk here on the Browns because they are more than capable of this upset and will be a playoff team in 2019. That said, Ravens know they are out with a loss so they probably squeak by.
6. Philadelphia at Washington: Another one where a score at halftime could affect the outcome. Eagles have to win and have Vikings lose to have a shot to defend their Super Bowl title. I hate the Eagles and all Philly teams, so for once I'm rooting for a Bears loss.
5. LA Chargers at Denver: Bolts coach Anthony Lynn says his starters are playing, but I don't fully believe him. His only shot at the AFC's top seed is the Chiefs suffering one of the biggest choke jobs in recent NFL history. Not happening. Broncos suck, though, are on a short week and if you watched Monday's game have tuned out soon-to-be fired coach Vance Joseph.
4. Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta: The Tampa finale for Dirk Koetter and Jameis Winston? My guess is yes and no. Meaningless game and in those you should generally back the home side.
3. Indianapolis at Tennessee: Still not clear if Marcus Mariota will be healthy for the Titans, but I don't believe it matters. Andrew Luck is 10-0 in his career vs. Tennessee. This was flexed to the Sunday night window as the winner is in the playoffs (possibly as division champion) and loser out.
2. Carolina at New Orleans: I wouldn't touch this game with a 10-foot anything. Saints have zero reason to care, while Panthers want to avoid becoming first team to start 6-2 and then lose its final eight.
1. Seattle vs. Arizona: Pete Carroll claims he'll play his starters even though Seahawks locked into a wild-card spot. Don't buy that, but the Cardinals truly blow so I can't quite pull the trigger on the upset (pondering).
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