Week 8 Survivor Pool Picks from Captain and the Big Man
This has been a brutal season for Survivor players. For those of you still alive after the week 3 bloodbath of favorites going ass-over-elbow, we say bravo. You are in the home stretch and you can smell the money!! But don't let your guard down. Now is the time to be your best Survivor self, and lay claim to the duffle-bag full of cash at the finish line. Below you will find our breakdown of 4 games on the slate for Week 8. Get involved and subscribe to the podcast for the full breakdown of all 15 games (and some laughs).
NE Patriots at Buffalo Bills
I will start with the only hesitation some players might have with this game. No, its not the injury concern with Gronk. Its not the injury concern with Michel (although I firmly believe that a commitment to, and the success of, the run game is what has fueled this four-game win streak).
It is this bizarre twilight zone scheduling that has the Pats playing only two home games over the course of 69 days. That's right, until December 22 the New England Patriots will play only two home games, the rest will be on the road. And, the two home games are Green Bay and Minnesota. That schedule is insane. You would have to assume that during this strange road trip, they will drop one or two games in weird spots. That might scare off a player, thinking that the Bills at home might be a game to stay away from. Add to the mix that they might be looking ahead to Green Bay next week, and some players just turn the page. I say no. The reverse. This is the start of that silly schedule run, and they will be looking to crush the Bills and not let up, because they know this tough road schedule means they have to start strong here in Buffalo. I might be worried about them getting sleepy at some point during this schedule nightmare; maybe at Miami, or the Steelers, or the Jets, but on MNF this week they are showing up ready to take care of business.
Brady is 28-3 lifetime against the Bills. Gordon is getting increasingly comfortable and he had a few catches last week that showed that. Brady just continues to put up numbers (277 yards and 3 TD's last week) and the defense looked decent against the Bears, lead by a surging Hightower, who also blocked a punt (the first time a Bear's punt has been blocked in 31 years!).
The Bills…oh, the Bills. With Dereck Anderson behind center, I don't know that they have a shot to beat any NFL team, much less the Pats. He threw for 175 last week, with no touchdowns, and three interceptions. That is a silly stat line. No Bills receiver posted more than 30 yards receiving. McCoy had his bell rung. This is an ugly offense that cannot produce.
A stubborn strategist might argue to hold the Pats for Week 10 at Tennessee, or week 16 at home vs. Bills, but I am nervous about this road trip the longer it goes.
Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raider
It has become clear that Gruden has decided to gut this team. First Mack, then Cooper, now we have some early chatter about Carr. But wait…is it really Gruden? Word on the street is that the Oakland owner, Mark Davis, is cash poor (at least compared to the other owners in the league, which is a joke for us financial mortals, but still). This is actually a real issue, because the NFL forces owners to guarantee annual salaries with cash in the bank. Is it a crazy thought that Mark Davis needs to cut salaries in order to make sure he follows NFL regulations? The personnel moves have been a little crazy, and if you add Carr to the mix that is strong support for this idea. So, the strategy is that they cut salary overhead to protect their owner being margin called by the NFL, pick up a gaggle of early draft picks, and build for the future. After the move to Vegas, his cash flow will be rectified, and then they can afford to pay veteran players again.
For now though, the Oakland locker room is poison, and their playmakers are hurt or not playing inspired. The Raiders are going to end the season 4-12 even if they fight their hearts out every week; and I don't see evidence of any heart here, so they might just be a play against for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, they have finally established the run. Mack looks like he is back to full health, running for 158 yards and 2 TD's last Sunday. Luck only had to throw the ball 23 times, so he did not need to press, he was able to pick his spots, leading to only 156 yards but also four touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton also showed he is back and healthy, capitalizing on all 4 of his targets for 25 yards and two touchdowns. The balanced Indy offense is back, and dangerous.
If you want to lay off the bigger favorites this week (or you just don't have them available) then a resurgent Colts offense is an interesting place to consider.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Browns are a few bounces of the ball away from being 5-2. They have played four overtime games through week 7. They are fun to root for; the vast majority of NFL fans are rooting for Cleveland (so long as the Browns are not playing their squad). But, the balls did not bounce the way of the Browns, they have a losing record, and they are clearly regressing. Their loss to the Bucs was their 24th straight loss on the road, and against one of the worst defenses in the league, they had only 9 points going into the 4Q. They fought back in the 4th, but 1Q of offense does not work in the NFL. Consistency is needed, and this team does not have it. This is a team getting worse, and I can see them sliding for the next few weeks.
It is interesting that the Browns are clocking in like they are working at a factory and hoping to get that time-and-a-half pay. This is the Browns fourth overtime game, that's 4 out of 7 games going into overtime; which means 57% of the time they are playing extra minutes. That's wild.
Tomlin and Big Ben are 9-5 off the bye. Not an overwhelming record, but nothing to sneeze at. The biggest factor for me is that the Browns fought the Steelers to a tie Week 1, and for the Steelers that feels like a loss. So this is a revenge game, and the Steelers are eager to pop the Browns in the mouth. They are going to do that with their run game, which is heating up; in the last game vs. the Bengals, James Conner totaled 129 yards and two touchdowns to get the team going early. The run game is what will keep them in the mix this year; they need to continue to run the rock. Roethlisberger and Brown took over in the second half, with Big Ben throwing for 369 yards and a score while Brown caught five passes for 105 yards. Juju Smith-Schuster led the team with 111 yards on 7 targets. This offense is clicking.
Off the bye, the Steelers will be firing. In this spot against a regressing Browns, they should be looked at. I don't love thinking about division rivalry games, but in spots like this where the lesser team beat or tied the better team earlier in the season, it sets up for a revenge scenario and in many cases the revenge variable positive outweighs the division rivalry variable negative. This is also the last time you can really use the Steelers this season.
Tampa Bay Bucs at Cincinnati Bengals
This is the year of the Kicker. The majority of games are being decided by good or bad kicker performance. In the case of the Tampa Bay Bucs last Sunday it was both, and it was a great example highlighting why I love the NFL.
Other than the "broken play" scenario, football, especially on the offensive side of the ball, is a precisely timed operation. Every player needs to do their individual job, in concert with the rest of the offensive unit. If it is not timed out perfectly, it will fail. If one player does not offer maximum effort, the team fails. But, then the whistle blows, and that player gets the chance to turn the page and try again. Another precise operation is called in from the sidelines.
The Buc's Chandler Catanzaro was in a position to win with a 40-yard field goal with four seconds left. Catanzaro missed, and heartbreak reigned. Later in OT, Tampa coach Dirk Koetter trusted Catanzaro to try a 59-yard field goal on fourth-and-15 from the Cleveland 41. With 1:55 left in overtime; he booted the 59-yarder to win.
This is a story of redemption. He turned the page and executed his next opportunity. It is the story most of us have to live with every day. We make a mistake, we screw it up, but we have no choice but to turn the page, and do our best to execute the next play. I love that football shows us that, on a regular basis.
Jamies Winston is a big narcissistic baby. He holds onto the ball way too long because he thinks he is the best QB to ever put on cleats, and that leads to major issues with sacks and hurry-ups. The kid has talent, but he does not play smart football. And if you are going to throw for 255 yards, one of those passes should be for a TD. The Bucs entered last Sunday with one of the worst D's in the game; after losing two starting linebackers for the season last Sunday, they are arguably now the worst defensive team in the league, and I am holding that argument.
Andy Dalton threw a clunker last week, finishing with 148 passing yards and a score against one of the league's most forgiving defenses (KC). However, he is prone to toss a clunker from time to time, and really I don't think anyone was walking into KC last week and giving them their second loss in a row, so if Dalton was going to have a stinker then tossing one in KC actually did not hurt his team because they were going to lose anyway. Also, Dalton typically bounces back after a clunker, and has a solid game, which makes the Bengals interesting this Sunday. The O-Line is giving the Red Rocket a little extra time, and I think he takes full advantage against the decimated Bucs defense. The Bengals are still in the hunt for the AFC North, but only if they win games like this one, at home vs. lesser teams like the Bucs.
This feels like a great 'spot' for the Bengals. This game deserves a deep dive examination, every Survivor player should be pulling this game apart and deciding if they agree with what I see.
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Captain and the Big Man offer Survivor Pool information and guidance every week on their show Survivor Pool Podcast. Bringing their decades of experience and relative success in Survivor Pools, they break down every NFL game on the card, examining matchups and using game theory strategy to offer suggestions on how Survivor Pool players can live to fight another Sunday. Subscribe to the Survivor Pool Podcast and get the information you need to put your best pick forward.
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