It likely spelled doom for many survivor pool contestants in Week 13 as the Bengals, Washington, and Dolphins all won their respective games. These three teams entered last week with four wins combined and were some of the most picked against teams in contests all year long. However, if you followed our advice last week and went with either of the two safest picks (Chiefs and Packers), you would have advanced without breaking a sweat. Just four weeks remain and the pickings are likely slim, but let’s gear up and make a plan for surviving down the homestretch.
This week’s column will outline the following categories: Safest Picks, Riskier Plays That Will Be Popular, and the Picks to Stay Far Away From. Even though survivor pool rules say you cannot pick the same team twice, I will outline multiple scenarios in case bettors wish to navigate their own path, or have already used the teams I will suggest.
Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their matchups in Week 14 (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
|Green Bay Packers||-700|
|New York Jets||-220|
|Los Angeles Chargers||-166|
|New England Patriots||-162|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-152|
|New Orleans Saints||-150|
Minnesota Vikings (-700), Green Bay Packers (-700), Houston Texans (-400)
The Vikings head home after a tough loss on Monday Night Football to the Seahawks. They are now one game behind the Packers in the NFC North and are clinging to the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs by one game. They desperately need a win to keep their hopes for the division alive, as the Packers should beat Washington this week.
What better remedy for a team in need of a win than facing the basement dwellers in their division, the Detroit Lions. The Lions will have the scheduling edge in this one, as they played on Thanksgiving Day while the Vikings are on a shorter week. However, Lions quarterback David Blough is not ready to go into Minnesota in his first-ever road start and beat a Vikings team who is 5-0 at home this year. Dalvin Cook left Monday’s game with a shoulder injury in the second half. However, the running game did not miss a beat with Alexander Mattison, who totaled 66 yards on seven touches. Though they may not be at full strength, a desperate Vikings team will not lose their first home game to the worst team in their division.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers looked like they were playing a home game against the Giants last week with how much snow was on the field. The elements clearly did not bother Aaron Rodgers as he threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns. Green Bay heads home to take on a Washington team who has won two straight, but none against a team like the Packers. Though the Packers rank just 25th in the league at stopping the run, game flow should force Washington to abandon the run. Expect Green Bay to jump on Washington early and force Dwayne Haskins out of his comfort zone of merely handing off to Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson.
The Texans got a huge 28-22 win over New England in a game that was not all that close. Houston will be playing in their third consecutive home game when they welcome the Broncos to town. Drew Lock will be making his first-ever road start, and I expect the Texans’ defense to harass him. The only worrisome thing about picking the Texans is the fear of this game being a “trap game.” They are coming off a big win against the Patriots and face the Titans next week in what will surely have major AFC South implications. However, the scheduling edge of playing at home the last three weeks and Lock making his first road start should have Texans’ backers confident.
Riskier Plays That Will Be Popular
Philadelphia Eagles (-400), Cleveland Browns (-390), Atlanta Falcons (-160), Tennessee Titans (-144)
The Eagles schedule appeared very favorable down the stretch, and optimists thought they had a chance to run the table. Then they went out and lost to the Dolphins, as the defense had no answer for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Devante Parker. It did not matter that the Eagles’ offense appeared to finally be getting healthy. This is not a team you can trust at the moment, even against the lowly Giants.
The Browns’ playoff hopes all but vanished after a crushing 20-13 loss in Pittsburgh. Do the Browns have the kind of leaders to be able to rally the team and finish the year strong? That is not the kind of thing I would bet on, even against the Bengals. With Andy Dalton back under center, stranger things have happened.
Though the Falcons laid an egg on Thanksgiving against the Saints, they will still likely be a popular pick. They face the Panthers for the second time in four weeks after they crushed them in Carolina 29-3. However, that win was part of a two-game stretch where Atlanta’s defense looked dominant. In their last two games (both losses), they have given up an average of 30.5 PPG.
The Titans have looked unstoppable since Ryan Tannehill was named starter. Since he has been under center, Tennessee has gone 5-1 and averaged 29.7 PPG. They will be a popular pick against Oakland who were just blown out 40-9 in Kansas City. This is a risky pick since Oakland has played very well at home (5-1). They have not lost at home since Week 2 against the Chiefs.
Picks to Stay Far Away From
Baltimore Ravens (-235), New York Jets (-220), Los Angeles Chargers (-166), New England Patriots (-162), Dallas Cowboys (-152), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-152), New Orleans Saints (-150), Pittsburgh Steelers (-142), Seattle Seahawks (-112)
One of these days the Buffalo Bills will get some respect. The 49ers may have given the Bills the blueprint of how to slow down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense. Baltimore was held to a season-low 20 points last week.
New York Jets
They have been responsible for two winless teams first wins (Dolphins and Bengals). The Dolphins also just beat the Eagles. Maybe they are not tanking after all.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers continue to find the most bizarre ways to lose games. Their latest loss came after a huge pass interference call on a hail mary attempt, allowing Denver to kick a last-second field goal. What can the Chargers do for an encore? I don’t want any part of finding out.
New England Patriots
With the way the Patriots’ offense has looked for the last month, do you trust that they can keep up with the Chiefs?
The Cowboys have historically been poor on Thursdays. In addition, these are two teams headed in opposite directions. Dallas has lost three of four while the Bears have won three of four.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay is on a nice run winning three of their last four games. However, the Indianapolis defense is more than capable of forcing Jameis Winston into his usual turnover-prone ways.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints and 49ers game will go a long way in determining home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. It is never the wisest thing to rest your survivor pool hopes picking against one of the best teams.
This is potentially a letdown spot for the Steelers after their big divisional win against the Browns. They have to travel to the west coast to take on the Cardinals who are capable of an upset.
The Seahawks face a suddenly resurgent Jared Goff who is fresh off a 400-yard passing day. The first game between the Seahawks and Rams was a classic. The second one should be just as tightly contested. By kickoff, it would not shock me to see the Rams as favorites.