Bye weeks have arrived, and the smaller number of games adds to the degree of difficulty in NFL survivor pools. Of course, as we found out in Week 5, things can be difficult enough anyway. Just ask those who had the Vikings or the Patriots. Or even the Ravens on Monday night.
Minnesota kicked a 54-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions in a game that had nearly 58 percent of the Circa survivor field gasping for air. New England led for 15 seconds against the Houston Texans, but those were the most important 15 seconds because they came at the end of the game. The Ravens didn’t lead until they won with a touchdown in overtime.
It isn’t easy. The rules make it sound easy, but it really isn’t an easy proposition. And now we’ve reached the toughest week to date.
Bye weeks have begun. The Falcons, Saints, Jets and 49ers would not have been popular teams in a survivor context anyway, but fading those teams might have been an option. This week’s betting board features a lot of small lines hovering around key numbers as well, including some really uncomfortable favorites.
Through five weeks in this column, the picks have been the Rams, Packers, Broncos, Bengals and Ravens. The “Games to Consider” section has gone 13-3.
Let’s see if we can find some good options for Week 6.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Los Angeles Rams (-10.5) over New York Giants
I’ve already picked the Rams, so I feel like I cannot make it my top selection this week. If you have the Rams, there really doesn’t seem to be a choice to make in Week 6.
Daniel Jones is in concussion protocol, and based on how woozy he was Sunday, it would be a little shocking if he gets cleared. The Giants were missing Sterling Shepard again last week and then lost Kenny Golladay and Saquon Barkley against the Cowboys.
The Rams are on extra rest after beating the Seahawks on Thursday night, so the early kickoff and the travel shouldn’t bother them much. Los Angeles is simply better in every way and will even get the benefit of a watered-down Giants offense. The Rams are + 1.0 yards per play on the season, while the Giants are right at 0.0, having allowed 6.1 yards per play. The Rams have averaged 6.7 yards per play.
Maybe the Giants can cover the 10.5, but pulling the outright upset is an altogether different animal.
Indianapolis Colts (-10) over Houston Texans
That whole bit about “uncomfortable favorites?” Yeah, this is one of them. The Colts are a 1-4 football team favored by double digits against the plucky Texans. Houston is obviously a bad team, but the Texans have really been embarrassed only once. That was by the Bills, who look to be the best team in the AFC.
The Texans lost by 15 to Carolina, but that was a 7-6 game on the first possession after halftime when coach David Culley inexplicably took a delay-of-game penalty on fourth-and-4 at the Carolina 39 and then punted. Nine plays later, Carolina led 14-6, and the game was basically over.
Indianapolis still has no business losing this game, but you do have an unhealthy quarterback on a short week with a team that has underwhelmed for most of the season. Not to mention the brutal way in which the Colts lost Monday night.
You’ll have other spots to take the Colts. They’ll host the Jets on Thursday, Nov. 4, and the Jaguars on Nov. 14, so you don’t have to feel pressured to take them here, keeping in mind that most survivor pools require you to take 18 of the league’s 32 teams and some even require 19 or 20.
Maybe by then, they’ll be in better shape. As the biggest home favorite on the board, you at least have to consider them, but they’re not high on my list.
Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5) over Washington Football Team
The Chiefs look like a really flawed team. Patrick Mahomes has been uncharacteristically careless with the football, and his wide receivers look to be pressing a bit. Yet Kansas City still ranks first in percentage of possessions ending with points, so when this offense is meshing, it will be a sight to see.
It has actually been the K.C. defense that has been the bad unit, allowing over 7 yards per play and more than 5 yards per carry. The Washington offense might be able to take advantage of that, but the defense has allowed points on 52.7 percent of opponents’ possessions. The likelihood of Washington simply getting outscored in a shootout here is very high.
Staring the possibility of a 2-4 start in the face, the Chiefs will be hyper-focused, even after the Buffalo loss. Washington won’t be able to keep up. The Football Team has allowed at least 369 yards in every game, and opponents are converting over 56 percent of their third-down attempts.
The best way to help a bad defense is to hide it. Kansas City can do that here. The Chiefs’ defense may even get a break in that Washington ranks 31st in third-down efficiency on offense. Third down will be the key to this game, and the Chiefs bring the best third-down offense in football to the table.
This looks and feels a lot like the Eagles game for the Chiefs, and they won that by two scores. If you haven’t used the Chiefs and want to save them, they’ll be double-digit favorites against the Giants on Nov. 1, so that’s your spot.
Dallas Cowboys (-4) over New England Patriots
How ’bout them Cowboys?! We could very easily be looking at a 5-0 Dallas squad going into Foxboro this week. At the very least, we should be looking at a 5-1 Dallas squad coming out of Week 6.
The Cowboys are firing on all cylinders offensively right now. They’ve had at least 24 first downs in every game and rank third in yards per attempt on the ground and fifth in adjusted net yards per pass attempt.
The Patriots? They’ve had 24 first downs in a game once. They’re 27th in yards per attempt on the ground and 28th in adjusted net yards per pass attempt.
Do the Patriots have a better defense? Sure. New England is great at taking away a team’s best weapon and still manages to do that on a pretty regular basis, holding the opposition to 5.1 yards per play. Whom do you take away for the Cowboys, though? Amari Cooper? CeeDee Lamb? Ezekiel Elliott? Dalton Schultz?
Dallas’s arsenal is one of the most impressive in the NFL, and Dak Prescott has been remarkably efficient coming off a really gruesome injury. The Patriots have faced Tua Tagovailoa, Zach Wilson, Jameis Winston, Tom Brady (in the rain) and Davis Mills. That set of QBs would make a lot of defenses look pretty good. And only one of those teams has an above-average set of skill players.
The Cowboys have their defensive concerns, but they’re also just outside the top 10 in third-down defense and have forced 12 turnovers, as Trevon Diggs is having a monster season.
This is maybe a little risky compared with other spots. If your survivor pool uses Thanksgiving as a separate week, you might not want to use the Cowboys here, as they are one of six teams in action Nov. 25 and host the Las Vegas Raiders. The other games are Bears vs. Lions and Bills vs. Saints, so those are two tougher games.
But you also have to worry about getting to Thanksgiving, and for me, the Cowboys are the best option on the board this week.
Pick: Dallas Cowboys