Underdogs had a lot of bark and a lot of bite in Week 1. Teams getting points went 12-4 ATS and ripped off nine outright upsets. I told anybody who would listen that Week 1 is the hardest of the season in NFL survivor pools because you never quite know if a good team with heightened expectations will play to its potential.
As it turned out, the most popular survivor picks were among those seven favorites that won outright. Teams like the Buccaneers, Rams and 49ers began the season 1-0. So did all the survivor entries that had those teams, and they made up a large percentage of entries. The Panthers were another very popular winning option.
In the Circa survivor, the Rams, Niners, Panthers and Bucs accounted for 3,271 of the 4,080 picks. Over 80% of the field advanced to Week 1 with those four teams. Your survivor pool probably looks the same going into Week 2.
Surviving Week 1 is the first step in the process. I just want to win in Week 1. I’m not worried about saving a team or playing the long game. Just get me to Week 2, and then the strategy can begin. We’ve seen these teams now. We have a data point. We have box scores to analyze. We have the ability to pick with a little more confidence.
The Rams were the pick in Week 1, so they will be unavailable the rest of the way, but their games could be used in the “Games to Consider” section for those who still have them available.
Let’s survey the options and see what Week 2 has to offer.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5) over Las Vegas Raiders
The Steelers just scored a huge win over the Buffalo Bills that likely knocked out some survivor players from your pools, but I am still not high on Pittsburgh. However, there are some reasons to look for the Terrible Towels to be waving in unison when the clock hits zero.
The Raiders just played an extremely emotional game at home on “Monday Night Football” and went to overtime against the Baltimore Ravens. Las Vegas makes the long trip east on short rest and prep time for an early kickoff at Heinz Field.
The Pittsburgh offense isn’t great, but the defense continues to be great. Buffalo found that out the hard way. The Steelers are -5.5 and the total is 47.5, which implies a final score of 26.5-21. Las Vegas was 1-7 SU last season when scoring 27 or fewer points. In 2019, the Raiders were 1-7 SU when scoring 21 or fewer points.
This isn’t a team built to win low-scoring games. If Pittsburgh can keep the score low, that should secure the victory.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-13) over Atlanta Falcons
The Arthur Smith era started with a real dud for the Atlanta Falcons, as they fell 32-6 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles, a team many expected to finish last in the NFC East, outgained the Falcons by 174 yards. Atlanta was 3 of 14 on third down and had only 164 passing yards on 35 attempts as life without Julio Jones proved difficult.
The Buccaneers have some extra time to prep for this game after winning on “Thursday Night Football” last week against the Dallas Cowboys. Tampa Bay made history in that game, becoming the first team to lose the turnover margin by at least three, have over 100 yards of penalties, allow 450 yards and still win the game.
The Bucs’ defense was shoddy, but Tampa Bay still had 6.7 yards per play to 5.9 for Dallas. The four turnovers kept the game closer than it should have been.
Atlanta clearly has issues. If you didn’t take Tampa Bay last week and still have the Bucs available, you have to seriously think about taking them this week.
Green Bay Packers (-10.5) over Detroit Lions
The final score would suggest the Lions put up an admirable effort against the San Francisco 49ers. That was not the case. Detroit was down 41-17 at the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter before scoring two garbage-time touchdowns to actually cover for some and push for others. The Lions had 191 of their 430 yards on their last three drives when the game was already decided.
The reason this game is at the bottom of the consideration list is that the Packers could not have looked worse against the New Orleans Saints. Aaron Rodgers was sacked only once but harassed all game long. He wound up 15 of 28 for 133 yards. That marked his second-lowest yardage output ever in a game with at least 25 passes.
Generally you want to look to play against those historical outliers the next week. Rodgers should be better, and the Lions just lost Jeffrey Okudah for the season.
There won’t be many chances to take Green Bay in the near future, as the Packers play three of the next four on the road and play a lot of playoff-caliber teams from now until the Week 13 bye. Even the games against weaker foes, like Cincinnati, Chicago and Minnesota, are on the road. The Packers seem like a safe pick if you really want to use them because you won’t have another chance in this big a favorite’s role for a long time.
Cleveland Browns (-12.5) over Houston Texans
Sunday’s loss was a tough one for the Browns. Falling short against Kansas City for the second straight game had to hurt, but Cleveland has the right kind of opponent coming to town in Week 2.
The Houston Texans played great against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1, but that seems like the peak of the season for David Culley’s team. The Texans were + 3 in turnovers and went 12 of 21 on third down. Tyrod Taylor is a great game manager and Houston may have a shot to win the turnover battle some weeks, but going 12 of 21 on third down is a major outlier. Also, the Jaguars just don’t look very good.
Cleveland had a great game plan against Kansas City. The Browns managed 9.94 yards per play in the first half and opened a 22-10 lead at halftime. An elite team like the Chiefs can erase a deficit like that. Houston cannot. We know Kevin Stefanski will have his team prepared, and the Browns now have even more incentive to win and get back on track after starting 0-1.
The Browns host the Bears next week and will be big favorites again in a week without a lot of good survivor candidates. That would be the only hesitation, but it is very hard to see Cleveland losing the home opener against this Texans team.