NFL Survivor Pool Picks and Advice: Week 2
We mentioned last week that Week 1 was always the toughest in the NFL to handicap because while we think we know what teams are … we really don't. Especially with more and more coaches opting to not play any of their key guys at all during the preseason. For example, you can't tell me that a bit of rust wasn't why both Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (or both first-team offenses, for that matter) struggled so badly in their opener. Stupid Bears!
Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz also didn't take a snap, and it took him a half to get going against Washington. It was a week full of upsets and near-upsets. I was sweating big time on my top two Survivor Pool recommendations, Seattle over Cincinnati and Wentz's Eagles over the Redskins.
The Seahawks were dominated statistically at home by the Bengals - Andy Dalton went nuts -- but escaped 21-20 in part due to three Cincinnati turnovers. After leading 17-14 at halftime, the Bengals failed to score on three possessions inside Seattle's 36-yard line in the third quarter, and that was the difference. The Eagles, meanwhile, were down 17-0 in the second quarter at home to a bad Redskins team and 20-7 at the half, but then Wentz and DeSean Jackson went off in the second half as Philly won 32-27.
The Cleveland Browns were the most disappointing team in Week 1, faceplanting 43-13 at home to the Tennessee Titans. Perhaps that will slow the Super Bowl hype train a bit. The Detroit Lions 100 percent should have won in Arizona with a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead, but a coaching blunder late in the fourth quarter helped allow the Cardinals to tie it, and it would end up tied - a reminder that even in a tie in a Survivor Pool that you lose. It was the second straight Week 1 tie (Steelers-Browns last year), and now at least one game in Week 1 has gone to overtime in five of the past six seasons.
Thankfully, we are still standing in all Survivor Pools but didn't fare all that great in Confidence Pools. In retrospect, glad went with Seattle as it's doubtful I would have used the Seahawks in the top spot again. Here's a look at Week 2. The team listed first is my choice.
16. New England at Miami: I've always said it's sometimes best to play defense in Survivor Pools. And there's no question that the Patriots will be the choice of nearly everyone this week as they might be the biggest point-spread favorites in the league since 2011. I mean, no way they can lose this one unless Antonio Brown somehow kidnaps Tom Brady. I will say that the Pats are 1-5 in their past six in South Florida … so I might not take the Patriots this week just in case.
15. Baltimore vs. Arizona: Never want to overreact to anything that happens in Week 1. For example, I don't think Lamar Jackson is suddenly Joe Montana. Meanwhile, Kyler Murray looked terrible for three quarters and then great in the fourth. The Ravens won't be winning 59-10 again but can't see them losing their home opener.
14. Houston vs. Jacksonville: Boy, I sure worry about Texans QB Deshaun Watson behind that still-atrocious offensive line. He was beaten to a pulp Monday, and it's worrisome that the Texans are on a short week. But if they can't beat Gardner Minshew, well, Bill O'Brien should be fired.
13. Carolina vs. Tampa Bay (Thursday): Matchup of former Heisman winners (like Murray-Jackson in Cardinals-Ravens) in Cam Newton and Jameis Winston, but whose best days seem behind them. That's if Winston has had any best days as an NFL quarterback. He clearly can't be fixed, and he's the main reason I like the host Panthers.
12. Pittsburgh vs. Seattle: Some Steelers fans don't like Coach Mike Tomlin, but Pittsburgh rarely plays horribly in back-to-back weeks under him. They sure did Week 1 in New England. Is Deion Sanders right: Ben Roethlisberger will retire at some point this season? If the Steelers keep losing, maybe. But I expect a huge bounce-back effort and it's a 10 a.m. Pacific time start for Seattle.
11. Kansas City at Oakland: Are the Raiders actually good? Better off without Antonio Brown? Well, on the second topic I would say any team is better off at this point without that clown. Perhaps Jon Gruden knows what he's doing after all, but I can't see an upset here on a short week even as the Chiefs won't have Tyreek Hill.
10. Dallas at Washington: Naturally, I make a preseason trade for good-looking young Redskins running back Derrius Guice and now he's hurt again. So it's back to 67-year-old Adrian Peterson as the likely featured back. Cowboys look Super Bowl-caliber.
9. Cincinnati vs. San Francisco: 49ers had lost eight straight road games overall and 12 in a row in the Eastern Time Zone until last week's upset in Tampa Bay. Hard to see them going back-to-back in the ETZ. Andy Dalton won't be handing that 49ers defense two touchdowns like Jameis Winston did.
8. Tennessee vs. Indianapolis: No, I don't think the Titans are suddenly Super Bowl contenders with what they did to the Browns. But they will be so happy to not see Andrew Luck (11-0 vs. Tennessee in career) that they will win their home opener close.
7. NY Giants vs. Buffalo: Giants could be short-handed at receiver with Golden Tate still suspended and Sterling Shepard likely out with a concussion, but I don't see the Bills winning at MetLife Stadium a second straight week (upset Jets Week 1) with such a shaky offense.
6. Chicago at Denver: Maybe I'm using my heart instead of head here, but if the Bears fall to 0-2, it's already hockey/NBA season for me. True, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio will know that Bears defense better than anyone, but Denver is on a short week and was awful on offense in Monday's loss at Oakland.
5. Cleveland at NY Jets (Monday): Two touchdowns and 148 yards receiving for Odell Beckham Jr. in his return to New York City (well, New Jersey) is my prediction. The Browns aren't as good as we thought they were, but they are still way more talented than the Jets.
4. Green Bay vs. Minnesota: These teams played a wild tie game at Lambeau Field in Week 2 last year. I'll simply take the Packers being at home and on extra rest even though the Vikings looked scary good in Week 1.
3. LA Rams vs. New Orleans: Saints are on a short week after their near-miracle win over the Texans on Monday. That might have emotionally drained this team for a week or so even though they will want payback for the NFC title game loss to the Rams.
2. Detroit vs. LA Chargers: One of those 10 a.m. Pacific time starts for the Bolts. The Lions looked quite good for three quarters last week until Matt Patricia started messing things up. They are usually tough at home, though.
1. Atlanta vs. Philadelphia:
Falcons should have won the past two meetings, including playoffs, but were
stopped on a goal-line stand in the final minute in each. The Dirty Birds
win close this time in their home opener.
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