Week 10 featured a Geoffrey Chaucer moment for a lot of contestants in survivor pools around the globe. That includes me, as my survivor entry in Point Spread Weekly is no longer perfect. The first use of the idiom “All good things must come to an end” is attributed to Chaucer, though he wasn’t talking about survivor entries in 1374.
The Ravens and Steelers were very popular picks last week that went down in flames, as Baltimore lost Thursday night and Pittsburgh tied the lowly Lions on Sunday. There was some bad luck in there, as Ben Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday after most contest deadlines, but perfection sometimes requires being on the right side of luck. Being on the wrong side can result in exactly what we saw.
While I avoided the AFC North minefield last week, I did not avoid defeat, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Washington Football Team. It was a risk taking a team off the bye, given that those teams are now 5-11 ATS and many of the good offenses have struggled, but the injury report wound up worse than I expected for a team on extra rest and Tom Brady had a rare bad game.
The survivor article will continue and now I’ll wipe the slate clean and make all 32 teams available. The plan was to play it out for real until a loss, and that time has come. The official picks are 9-1 and the “Games to Consider” are 24-11, as I’ll consider Pittsburgh a loss with last week’s tie.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
New England Patriots (-6.5) over Atlanta Falcons
The positive vibes about the Falcons ended abruptly last week with a 43-3 beatdown by the Cowboys. Atlanta had been playing pretty well and Matt Ryan seemed to be settling in nicely with the Arthur Smith offense as the weeks went by, but all that went up in smoke last weekend.
You could make a case that the Patriots could be falling into the same trap as the Ravens here. They’re on a short week with travel and are coming off a win. The differences could be that Baltimore won in overtime in the previous game and that the New England defense is light-years better than what the Ravens bring to the table on a weekly basis.
Mac Jones is coming off his most efficient game as a pro. The Patriots ran it down Cleveland’s throat, even without Damien Harris, who missed the game in concussion protocol. The Pats have ripped off four wins in a row, though I’d be a little concerned about a third road game in 19 days, but New England looks great right now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11) over New York Giants
As the biggest favorite on the board, the Buccaneers get a token mention here. I happen to think the Giants are a lot better than their record, but it is hard to argue with the double-digit line on the road. New York is off the bye, and we know what that has meant this season. Heck, we just saw it with the Buccaneers last week.
From a yards-per-play standpoint, the Bucs should be dominating teams. They rank third in the NFL with 6.2 ypp and have allowed 5.3, which ranks seventh. The Giants’ defense has actually played really well, allowing just 5.5 ypp, but the team has a negative differential for the season because of a set of offensive injuries of their own.
This is the biggest remaining home favorite role for the Bucs, so if you have them left on your list, they’re certainly worthy of your consideration.
Tennessee Titans (-10) over Houston Texans
While my survivor entry is out, I’d be doing a disservice to those who are still alive or those in reboot contests by not thinking about it as if I’m still alive. The Titans are the “1B” option in my opinion this week. I think there are three remaining opportunities to take them. This is one, and maybe the best.
The Texans are off a bye, and teams off the bye are 5-11 ATS. I’m belaboring that point, but it seems like a point to belabor. Houston does get Tyrod Taylor back with all kinds of first-team reps after struggling badly in his return against the Dolphins with three interceptions and five sacks. That should benefit the Texans, but Taylor won’t exactly be a savior for a 1-8 team that ranks 31st in yards per play on offense and 29th in yards per play on defense.
The reason I give Tennessee the “1B” designation is that this is a very tricky spot for a team dealing with a lot of key injuries. The Titans have played a lot of close, emotional, important games lately. New England is on deck for Mike Vrabel, who played under Bill Belichick from 2001-07. Julio Jones is out. A.J. Brown is dinged up again. Derrick Henry remains out. The Titans had 4.6 yards per play against the Saints and 3.5 yards per play against the Rams.
The other chances to take the Titans are off the bye against Jacksonville in Week 14 and against Miami at home in Week 17. Having an ace up your sleeve with a really good team late in the year is very valuable. However, it is fair to wonder if the Titans will have anything to play for in Week 17 or in Week 18 when they face Houston again.
Tennessee probably takes care of business, but I think another pick makes a little more sense this week, as it is always important to keep the future in mind.
Cleveland Browns (-10) over Detroit Lions
If you are still alive in your survivor pool, I think this is your “1A” option. Two teams really stand out in a big way this week that are probably available to most active survivor contestants, and this is one. Baker Mayfield suffered another injury Sunday and is starting to look like that poor schmuck from the board game Operation, but fading the Lions makes a ton of sense this week.
For starters, they just played an entire overtime period against the Steelers. They also watched as Jared Goff played about as badly as humanly possible and also played hurt. A lot was talked about before the game regarding Goff and playing outside in suboptimal conditions. As a Cleveland native, let me tell you that late November on the shores of Lake Erie is not the time to roll out a blanket and have a picnic. The early forecast is less daunting than I would have expected, but as they say in Cleveland, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”
While Mayfield is practicing in bubble wrap this week, the Browns should get back Nick Chubb and also step down in class in a big way here. This is the last remaining chance to use Cleveland, so if you are still standing, they absolutely have to be a consideration, especially because you probably don’t have a lot of good teams left at your disposal.
Statistically, the Browns have the edge in virtually every way possible. The Browns have 5.9 yards per play on offense to 4.9 for the Lions. Despite getting shredded by the Patriots, Cleveland is still a top-five defense in yards per play. The Lions are not, ranking 29th. The Browns are tied for the league lead in sacks with 29. Detroit has the third fewest with 14. Cleveland’s third-down defense is abominable, but Detroit ranks 31st in conversion rate.
The Browns simply cannot afford to lose this game, and I don’t think they will.
Pick: Cleveland Browns