NFL Survivor Pool Strategy Advice and Predictions: Week 5
A pattern has emerged so far this NFL season when it comes to survivor pools. In even-numbered weeks things have been so straightforward that a monkey could make the picks. All you had to do was pick the best teams against the worst teams - the biggest point spreads, in other words - and you were all set. But in odd-numbered weeks there has been total carnage. Up has been down, black has been white, and nothing has made any sense at all. In both cases multiple clearly logical and perfectly sensible picks have not worked out at all.
So, here we are in Week 5 - an odd number. And there are two perfectly logical and very comfortable picks - and a third that seems quite safe as well. Logic would dictate that we pick one of those three games, relax, and wait for our success. But if you are at all superstitious then this is the kind of week that could get inside your head and force you into doing something stupid. Don't let it. Random, crazy things happening are remarkable because they are random and crazy. By letting them affect your future decisions you are assuming that something random and crazy - and rare by definition - is going to happen again. That's not how you win one of these pools. Be smart and calm and leave the overreactions to the losers.
L.A. Rams at Seattle: It has been a long, strange NFL season already. But the strangest image of the year, and I don't think it is close, was Earl Thomas giving his own sideline the finger as he was carted off after a season ending injury on Sunday. He was understandably upset as he tried to get paid, gambled when his initial attempt didn't work out, and now has failed - at least in the short term. I get that he is bitter and angry, but teams with healthy environments don't have this kind of thing happen. And it really came as far from a surprise. This is a team that has been on a decline for a while now, and the last couple of months have really been rough. I don't see how Pete Carroll remains as coach of this team for the long term or how they get anywhere without ripping things apart and building it up again. They are highly vulnerable right now - even in Seattle where they have long been all but unbeatable. The Rams, meanwhile, are clearly the best team in the league - and that is taking into consideration how impressive the Chiefs have been as well. Jared Goff is a machine, and he has scary tools around him. The defense is excellent. The coaching is truly elite. This is a very scary team, and very scary teams should not lose games against faltering, vulnerable ones - even on the road. This is the kind of statement that seems to come back to haunt you when you say it, but I would be truly and deeply shocked if the Rams don't win this one - and do so quite comfortably. If they can be picked this week they should be.
New England vs. Indianapolis: Picking the Patriots is kind of scary right now. This is not the same team we have seen in a very long time. But they are at home again, and last week at home against the Dolphins they played by far their best game of the year. And now they are playing a team that isn't nearly as good as Miami is. The Colts are bad right now - bad in a way that doesn't get resolved in any hurry. All you need to know is that Andrew Luck passed for 464 yards and four touchdowns last week - and did it while having a very peak-Luck type of performance - and the team still lost to a pretty bad Houston team. Luck playing every bit like the QB he can be, and doing so despite having little help, isn't enough to get this team over the top. And now they are against a team that is more talented, and much smarter than they are, and they are playing in one of the tougher places to play in the league. It would be incredibly surprising if this went at all well for the Colts. The only reason that I don't like this game nearly as much as the first one is that the Rams are much easier to trust right now than the Patriots. But this is a very playable game.
Carolina vs. New York Giants: There is a decent chance that the Patriots and Rams are both off the board for you - the most public team in the league and the best. If that is the case then this spot is as attractive as any in my eyes. The Panthers have been decent enough, and they are coming off a bye week which can hopefully help them implement a few changes that will tighten things up and make them even sharper. They feel like they are close to being what I expected them to be heading into the season - a solid playoff team. The Giants, meanwhile, are a bit of a mess. Despite having a couple of elite weapons on offense, they can't find any consistency with the ball, and that isn't going to go away in any hurry with that line and that quarterback. And the defense, while far from embarrassing, can definitely be run on. The Giants are by no means the worst team in the league, but the Panthers are better by a wide margin in every major aspect of the game, and they are at home. I would pick Carolina without hesitation.
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