If you are discouraged about the number of people still alive in your NFL survivor pool, just wait. While this has been a season full of upsets in college football, it has been the polar opposite in the NFL. The biggest upset from a spread standpoint in the NFL has been + 7. That was the New York Giants over the New Orleans Saints 27-21 in Week 4. A big favorite will get knocked off, but it hasn’t happened yet. All of the most popular survivor teams won again in Week 7 and we head into Week 8 with a quartet of double-digit favorites.
To this point, I’m still alive as the author of the survivor article with picks on the Rams, Packers, Broncos, Bengals, Ravens, Cowboys and Patriots over the first seven weeks. The Games to Consider section improved to 20-3 on the season with last week’s results.
I’ve tried to make it a point to go with a less obvious team most weeks. That changes this week.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Los Angeles Rams (-14.5) over Houston Texans
The Rams were my Week 1 pick, so I won’t use them again unless I lose a game and have to start from scratch, but they’ll be a popular pick this week for those who have Sean McVay’s team available. The Texans are going back to Tyrod Taylor if he can make it through practice this week, but that won’t move the line much, if at all.
The stats leading up to the Lions-Rams matchup last week painted a very clear picture, and the same is true this week. The Rams are second in yards per play on offense and Houston is 30th. The Rams haven’t been quite as stout defensively as last season, ranking 14th in yards per play allowed, but Houston ranks just outside the bottom five in 27th.
The Rams have scored on 50.7 percent of their possessions; the Texans 24 percent of the time. Houston is slightly better than Detroit defensively but not good enough to make this game very competitive.
If you still have the Rams available, the other option to take them is Dec. 5 against Jacksonville at home. Given the other games in Week 13 and the other options this week, I’d hold off on the Rams until then if possible.
Cincinnati Bengals (-10) at New York Jets
To say that Robert Saleh’s Jets laid an egg coming out of the bye would be offensive to the hard work chickens do. The Jets were embarrassed by the Patriots in Week 7 and also lost quarterback Zach Wilson to a knee injury. Wilson will be out two to four weeks with a sprained PCL. Mike White, who relieved Wilson on Sunday, or newly acquired Joe Flacco will be the starting QB for at least this week against the Bengals, next week at the Colts on a short week and potentially against the Bills in Week 10.
The obvious concern here with Cincinnati is the comedown from such an enormous win last week against the Ravens. The Bengals moved into a tie atop the AFC North standings and that performance was every bit as legitimate as it seemed. Baltimore was in a bad spot with a lookahead to the bye, but Cincinnati was more physical, more explosive and actually outcoached the Ravens. That doesn’t happen much to John Harbaugh, but it did in that game.
The Bengals are up to third in the NFL in yards per play. The Jets are 31st and are now missing their starting QB, though Wilson wasn’t playing very well. Cincinnati also has a top-five defense. The Jets do not.
This is a third straight road game for the Bengals and they have the Browns on deck in another massive division game. Other than that, the reasons to be scared of Cincinnati are few and far between. I’ve already used them, but I don’t think there is another great spot to take them if you haven’t. If they’re available, they should be the pick.
Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5) over New England Patriots
There are less risky options on the board here, but I really like the Chargers this week against the spread, so I’d have to like them in a survivor contest as a 5.5-point favorite. The Chargers are coming off the bye, and Brandon Staley should absolutely have his team ready to go.
Los Angeles has issues stopping the run, as we saw against Cleveland and Baltimore, but you know who cannot run the football? The New England Patriots. New England is 22nd in yards per carry, and that’s after it averaged 4.6 yards per carry last week against the Jets. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have really held the offense back with vanilla play calling. Going up against a guy like Staley who relies on analytics and pushes the envelope seems like a bad matchup for that mindset.
New England’s defensive numbers look good, but after playing the Jets again, they’ve faced offenses that currently rank 28th, 31st, 27th, sixth, 30th, first and 31st. The Cowboys put up 567 yards of offense as the top-ranked unit. The Chargers have actually gained only 5.7 yards per play and rank 18th, but Staley told the media that he used the bye week to look at their offensive performance on early downs. Therefore, I’m expecting a better game plan from the Chargers and I can’t see New England keeping up with their offense.
There are safer spots to use the Chargers, but any time you really like a favorite, you have to consider them in survivor.
Kansas City Chiefs (-10) over New York Giants
Imagine for just a second that you are trying to win a survivor pool and do so without picking the Kansas City Chiefs. Heading into the 2021 season, that would have been ludicrous to even suggest.
Well, if you don’t take the Chiefs this week, I’m not sure if you can. Maybe Andy Reid can right this wayward ship, but the way Kansas City is trending, I don’t see a single obvious survivor spot for them the rest of the way. The Chiefs play the Packers, Raiders, Cowboys, Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, Steelers, Bengals and Broncos the rest of the way. This is Kansas City’s last sizable favorite role unless something dramatically changes.
The Chiefs lost to another likely division winner this past week in the 27-3 loss to the Titans. They’ve lost to four playoff teams to this point and possibly three division winners. The defense is really bad and the turnover issues for Patrick Mahomes are frustrating and shocking, but the Giants are not a division winner. The Giants are not a playoff team. The Giants also aren’t as bad as their 2-5 record.
Kansas City is too risky and too scary right now, but it’s tempting to save teams like the Bills, Chargers or Rams if possible. You have to assume K.C. wins this game and allows you to save an elite team. With the way the Chiefs are playing, though, it is a hard sell, even with a lot of reasons to believe.
Buffalo Bills (-14) over Miami Dolphins
What makes survivor contests tough is exactly what I ran into with the Bills. Imagine agonizing over whether or not to take a 14-point favorite to win straight up as a survivor selection. Just think about what must be happening to have to seriously consider that.
Well, the Bills are one of three choices I have available for Week 10. Options are limited that week because I don’t have the Ravens to use against the Dolphins or the Packers to use against Seattle without Russell Wilson, assuming he’s still out. There aren’t a lot of games in general that week. But I’ve decided that I can take somebody other than the Bills against the Jets, so I’ll go ahead and take Buffalo here.
The Bills are coming off the bye and the Dolphins are one of the three worst teams in the NFL along with the Texans and Jets, in my opinion. Miami’s defense was supposed to be its saving grace, but that unit has allowed 6.1 yards per play and has only nine takeaways, due in large part to positive fumble luck. The Dolphins defense has only three interceptions against 15 touchdown passes.
Buffalo has a heightened sense of urgency coming off of the bye following its loss to Tennessee. The Bills are only 11th in yards per play, so I assume they’ve spent the time off focusing on the offense. The defense, by the way, leads the league in yards per play allowed. It is a byproduct of the schedule, but I’m not worried about that playing Miami this week, who fits right in with most of the teams the Bills have played.
I’ve tried to be creative and keep the big picture in mind as much as possible this season, but sometimes you just have to take the most obvious team.
Pick: Buffalo Bills