Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” For those who are still alive in survivor contests as the calendar turns to December, “excellent” would be a good word to describe the season. It might not take perfection to be the winner, depending on how many are left in your pool, but for anybody still standing at this stage of the game, it is quite an achievement.
I suffered my second loss of the season in this report last week with an example of what makes survivor pools so hard. The Eagles lost 13-7 to the Giants when Jalen Reagor dropped a fourth-down pass that hit him in the hands at the goal line. The Eagles had 5.1 yards per play to 4.6 for the Giants. Philadelphia ran for 6.3 yards per carry. The defense held the Giants to 264 yards and 13 points.
Four Eagles turnovers led to the loss, with one at the goal line and another on a ball picked off at the Giants’ 5-yard line. It takes picking the right teams but also being on the right side of luck and turnover variance, and sometimes that just doesn’t happen.
The survivor picks for this report are now 10-2 on the season, and the “Games to Consider” are 28-13 after going 2-1 last week. I still haven’t picked a single team twice, but since there are losses, I have recycled all 32 teams into the mix.
Let’s see what Week 13 has in store.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Dallas Cowboys (-5) over New Orleans Saints
Could the Cowboys have some addition by subtraction Thursday night with Mike McCarthy home due to COVID-19? A lot of people in the sports betting community think McCarthy is one of the few things holding the Cowboys back, as his in-game decisions leave a lot to be desired.
McCarthy’s influence will still be all over the game plan, just in a remote capacity. This game is a series of mismatches in Dallas’ favor. The Cowboys should get back Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb this week against a Saints defense that hasn’t really lived up to the hype. The lack of an offense has a lot to do with it, as the Saints have scored all of 16 points in the first half in their last four games. Taysom Hill is unlikely to be the answer.
The Saints’ defense has allowed at least 27 points in four of the last five games. Dallas’ defense is an area of concern that has been covered up by forcing turnovers, but the Saints just don’t have an offense capable of keeping up. Both teams are on equal footing from a rest standpoint after playing Thursday.
The Cowboys should have too much firepower for the Saints.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11) over Atlanta Falcons
The Buccaneers were the first team to lose for me, as they came up short against Washington in Week 10. They’ve beaten the Giants and Colts since but might have been fortunate to beat Indy, as the five takeaways were the difference in that game.
Something still seems off with the Bucs, but everything seems off with the Falcons. They are 25th in yards per play and wholly dependent on Cordarrelle Patterson for offense. Matt Ryan looks very uncomfortable in Arthur Smith’s offense, and this seems like another game similar to the Cowboys-Saints matchup. Atlanta just won’t have the firepower to keep up.
The Bucs are third in yards per play on offense and fifth in yards per play on defense, even though they’ve had a lot of injuries in the secondary as the season has gone along. This seems like a really safe choice if you still have the Bucs available.
Indianapolis Colts (-9) over Houston Texans
The Colts should be back in a comfortable role this week. They can bully the Texans into submission. One thing that really stood out in Houston’s loss to the Jets is how superior New York was in the trenches. Tyrod Taylor had no time to throw, the offensive line opened very few holes and the Jets did well protecting Zach Wilson after some early bumps in the road.
The Colts’ strength is the running game behind a solid offensive line, and Jonathan Taylor inexplicably got shelved last week against the Bucs. You can bet that will not be the case this week. The Houston defense has allowed the second-most rushing yards in the league and the second-most rushing touchdowns.
Houston’s offense has also managed fewer than 4 yards per play the last two games. The Colts’ defense has a lot of marginal numbers outside a high turnover rate, but the Texans can’t hurt them that badly. This is a game the Colts should win comfortably and might even cover.
Minnesota Vikings (-7) over Detroit Lions
I don’t have to, but I’ll stick with picking another team I haven’t selected yet, and that’s the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings suffered another setback last week against the 49ers, one that dramatically increased the importance of this game against the Lions. Last week’s outcome really hurt Minnesota’s playoff chances, but a victory over the winless Lions could ease the blow a bit, depending on what happens with the other postseason hopefuls.
There is no reason to believe the Lions have a chance to win a game against any competent team. Minnesota had 6.2 yards per play against the 49ers last weekend and now sits 12th in the league at 5.8 for the season. The Lions are 28th with 5.0, and garbage time is about the only reason Detroit isn’t lower. Both defenses rank around the bottom five, but one defense has a much tougher assignment this week.
Maybe Minnesota doesn’t cover, as the Vikings have a knack for playing an inordinate number of close games, but being the first team this season to lose to the Lions seems like a stretch.