Survivor Pool Advice for the 2013-14 NFL Season
by Matt Severance - 8/21/2013
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It seems like forever ago but only yesterday that the lights went out early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, doesn't it?
While I've been jonesing for football ever since, it's still shocking that the season kicks off two weeks from Thursday with the Super Bowl Champion Ravens visiting Denver in a rematch of their terrific divisional-round game from last season. We'll call it the Elvis Dumervil Bowl as the Ravens snatched Dumervil away from Denver after Dumervil's agent -- since fired -- screwed up and caused his client to become a free agent. It has to feel even more painful right now for the AFC-favored Broncos in the light of Von Miller's six-game suspension.
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It also feels like forever ago but only yesterday that I started writing these Survivor Pool advice columns back in 2008. If you have followed my advice, you should have won at least two of your Pools as I do make the same choices on the recommendations I provide. Remember, however, that I write this on Wednesday so it's out in time for the Thursday game -- although I will rarely pick that game as my top choice because there are so many intangibles in the quick turnaround (usually heavily favoring the home team). Thus, I highly recommend you wait until Sunday morning -- most Pools have a noon ET deadline -- until making your choice once the last word on injuries comes down.
This year, I'm going to keep it simple. Because many people who are in Survivor Pools also are in Confidence Pools, I will list every game of the week from most confident on down to least and give my pros/cons on each. I definitely will point out at least one potential trap game each week.
In case you are a newcomer to Survivor Pools, it's where you choose one team per week to win a game and you cannot use that team the rest of the year. The spread is irrelevant, although some educated gamblers do Survivor Pools on the spreads (those end quickly; some Pools also go the opposite way and you must pick one team to lose every week). A Confidence Pool is simply ranking your winners of every game in order of the confidence you have -- 16 being the most, 1 being the least when there are no bye weeks.
Last year, I can very much remember when nearly everyone bombed out of their Survivor Pools: Week 2 when the Arizona Cardinals won 20-18 at New England. Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a game-winning field goal on the next-to-last play of the game. Some folks may have been bitten in Week 1 when a rookie QB named Robert Griffin III went into New Orleans and torched the Saints. That would prove a very foreshadowing game with RG3 turning into a sensation and the Saints giving up the most yards in NFL history and looking lost without Sean Payton. When big chunks of players are knocked out that early, most Pools allow a buy-back with some restrictions.
There are a few simple rules to follow when picking a Survivor Pool team:
--Never on the road. And I mean never. Sad-sack teams like Oakland and Jacksonville are going to win a few games, and it's more than likely to come at home. You will always find a better home option than what appears to be a road mismatch. Plus, bad teams get up for the marquee clubs like when the Patriots, Cowboys or Packers come visit (and they sell out).
--West Coast teams going East are bad news: Those teams playing in the Pacific Time Zone are at a huge disadvantage when they have to fly across country and play in the East at 1 p.m. local, which is 10 a.m. on the players' body clocks. The disadvantage is nothing for East teams going West; it's just a 4 p.m. ET game for those guys.
--Be wary of rivalry games. You can usually throw out the records in Cowboys-Redskins (really any Dallas NFC East game), Steelers-Ravens, Bears-Packers, Chiefs-Jaguars (kidding).
--Don't look ahead and save a team. I always say live in the moment -- you could die tomorrow. There's no reason to save New England until, say, what seems like a lock Week 14 home win against Cleveland in 2013. Injuries will happen, and Tom Brady might not be around then. Maybe the Browns are the most improved team in the league. Go week-to-week.
--The first few weeks are the toughest to handicap. Who saw the Colts being an 11-win team last year? Who saw the Cardinals going 4-0 to start? Lean towards teams that are back mostly intact, especially at quarterback and in the coaching staff. They know the system. Meanwhile, teams like the Bears, Eagles and Chargers could struggle early as they adapt to all new offenses and coaches. Also do homework on which coaches always start well. This means they are great planners in the offseason. Much like Alabama's Nick Saban never loses a bowl game with a month to prepare.
It looks to be a great NFL season. Let's hope it's also a profitable one. Look for my column every Thursday starting Sept. 5.
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