Top NFL Week 4 survivor pool picks

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

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There was a lot of point-spread drama in Week 3, but NFL survivor players in need of straight-up wins had only one true sweat. The Baltimore Ravens needed a historic kick from Justin Tucker and an officiating crew that forgot to check the play clock to beat the Detroit Lions. Other than that, the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and other top choices won with relative ease.

The largest favorite role of the season will commence here in Week 4, but taking that team might not be as cut and dried as you think. What makes a survivor pool so fun is that you only need to go 1-0 every week, but it might be in your best interest to play the long game to try to have as many of those 1-0 weeks as possible.

The obvious choice isn’t always obvious because saving that team for later in the season could create more equity. On the other hand, you could just take your win and worry about it later.

So far, all three picks (Rams, Browns and Broncos) have won. The teams listed under the “Games to Consider” heading have gone 8-1, with Pittsburgh in Week 2 as the lone loss. We’ve seen some upsets to this point, but none of the really big favorites have gone down. It will happen at some point, so be sure to take great care when considering your options.

With that, let’s take a look at the NFL survivor picture for Week 4.

GAMES TO CONSIDER

New Orleans Saints (-8) over New York Giants

The Giants lost more than a football game Sunday. They also lost Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Blake Martinez to injury. Saquon Barkley scored his first touchdown since tearing his ACL last season, but it wasn’t enough in the 17-14 loss to the Falcons.

It was not a banner day for Joe Judge, who made several questionable in-game decisions. After the game, Barkley was critical of the team not buying into the scheme. Dysfunction and dissension seem to be settling in once again with the Giants, which has been the modus operandi since Tom Coughlin left.

Along with the locker room issues, the Giants continue to be an inefficient offense. A hobbled Shepard, who has caught 18 of his 22 targets, is a major problem. Kenny Golladay hasn’t fit in well with the roster. Barkley has 3.4 yards per carry and trails Daniel Jones by 27 yards for the top rushing spot.

The defense, thought to be the best part of the team, has allowed 5.8 yards per play to Denver, Washington and Atlanta. Those three offenses, not thought to be upper-echelon groups, have scored on over 48% of their possessions against the Giants.

The Saints returned home to New Orleans on Sunday night for the first time since Hurricane Ida rolled through town. They’ll play at the Superdome in front of a packed house for the first time since 2019. Emotions will run high Sunday in NOLA, and the players will feed off it.

The Saints’ offense has not generated many explosive plays but has been given a lot of short fields to score points. The one thing the Giants have done is take care of the football. New Orleans should win, but the offense needs to show more for me to really buy in.

 

Tennessee Titans (-7.5) over New York Jets

The Titans still have plenty of defensive problems, but even a bottom-10 defense should have success against the Jets right now. Zach Wilson threw two more interceptions against the Broncos in last week’s shutout loss. He now has seven picks against just two touchdown passes. He has completed only 54.3% of his passes and has taken 15 sacks.

The leap to the NFL has been tough for him, to say the least. Rookie QBs are off to a 1-10 start, and the one win was a rookie-vs.-rookie game with Mac Jones and Wilson.

The Jets rank 30th with 4.1 yards per play. They are 31st in adjusted net yards per pass attempt. The running game hasn’t helped with under 4 yards per carry. The Tennessee offense hasn’t hit full stride yet, but the running game remains potent with 4.8 ypc, and that should help immensely in the second half if Tennessee has a lead.

The hold-up here is that the Titans will be without A.J. Brown and that Julio Jones left the last game late with “tightness.” He also hasn’t been very good in this offense. The Jets’ defense is pretty decent, even if the offense is abhorrent.

Besides that, Tennessee has no excuse for not coming through. The Titans play at Jacksonville next week and could be used there. Otherwise, Nov. 21 against Houston at home is the next chance.

 

Buffalo Bills (-17) over Houston Texans

This game really needs no explanation, but that’s not how content works. The Bills are a 17-point favorite over the Texans after racking up 78 points in wins over Miami and Washington. Really, the only hole you could poke in this game is that the Bills have an AFC championship rematch on deck with the Chiefs, and this is maybe the easiest opponent ever to overlook.

The Bills will probably be the pick for more than 60% of your survivor pools. That’s fine. They’ll win, and contestants will advance. My thought process with Buffalo is to save the Bills for another week with fewer options.

In Week 9, the Bills play at Jacksonville. The only other considerations I really see that week are the Colts over the Jets on “Thursday Night Football” or the Dolphins over the Texans.

In Week 10, the Bills play at the Jets. Indianapolis hosts Jacksonville, so the Colts are a consideration. The Steelers host the Lions, but Pittsburgh looks terrible. Dallas over Atlanta might make some sense. The teams on byes in Week 10 are Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston and the Giants, all teams you’d look to go against in survivor pools.

As a result, I’d rather save Buffalo for Week 9 or 10 than take them this week with several other options.

 

Green Bay Packers (-7) over Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers looked awful against the Bengals in Week 3. My favorite NFL stat of the week is that the Steelers had 40 more pass attempts than the Bengals and still got outgained by 2 yards per play. Pittsburgh threw 58 times and managed 4.4 yards per play. Nothing against Najee Harris, but it is not a good sign when he has 19 targets in the passing game.

After a disastrous performance in Week 1, Aaron Rodgers is 45 of 60 for 516 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He seems to be back on track, and his excitement about Mason Crosby’s game-winning kick against the 49ers should quiet any concerns about his emotional investment in the team and the season after the offseason soap opera.

Now that we’re really into the season, it makes sense to forecast the next time taking the Packers makes sense. If you didn’t take them in Week 2 against the Lions or don’t take them here, the Washington home game Oct. 24 looks like the next-best chance, but you also have Patriots vs. Jets, Rams vs. Lions, Cardinals vs. Texans and Buccaneers vs. Bears to pick from that week.

T.J. Watt is a potential stumbling block for a Packers offensive line battling through injuries, but Green Bay limited San Francisco to one sack and a handful of hurries.

Big Ben just looks so bad that this one makes a ton of sense.

 

THE PICK

Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars

You won’t find a better spot to take Cincinnati. We saw a lot of survivor contestants on the “Thursday Night Football” game last week with the Panthers at home against the Texans. We could see the same this week with the Bengals over the Jaguars.

A big betting angle last week was that the Texans had a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback on a short week. The Jaguars have the same thing here. Given that Urban Meyer has referred to preparing for NFL teams as being like preparing for Alabama every week, it would seem that a shorter time period to prep will be a problem.

The Bengals’ defense has been excellent, holding opponents to 4.5 yards per play. Cincinnati’s 26 QB pressures rank fifth per Pro Football Reference, and its 10 sacks are tied for fourth. The Bengals should be able to get some pressure on Trevor Lawrence.

The Jaguars keep throwing away possessions on bad decisions by Lawrence. Joe Burrow has thrown four picks himself, but three were against the Bears, and the Jacksonville defense is not on that level. Burrow has a 5-1 TD-INT ratio with a 75.5% completion rate in the games against the Vikings and Steelers. A Watt-less Steelers defense and the Vikings’ unit seem pretty comfortable to the Jags.

The Bengals do have additional chances to be favorites, with games on the road against the Lions and Jets next month, but those don’t seem like great times to use this team. For a team not accustomed to road favorite roles and generally undeserving of them, it would be hard to put your survivor life on the line backing them in those games.

There are some game-theory justifications for taking Cincinnati this week.

Taking a Thursday team also has some equity in that a lot of people won’t feel comfortable doing so. They’ll wait until Sunday, and maybe you will be the benefactor of already having your win while some upsets take place.

This is the most optimal spot to take the Bengals for this season. They won’t be in a bigger favorite role barring some sort of unforeseen circumstance. The chance to steal a win with a team you otherwise wouldn’t have used can be invaluable. It means you save a superior team for another week.

Remember, you have to pick 18 different teams out of 32. Making a team like the Bengals one of those 18 in Week 4 opens a better option down the line. It might seem a little riskier, but this is a team with good short-term upside and a situation set up for good long-term upside.

Pick: Cincinnati Bengals

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