It was certainly a gamble not to go with the easy winner last week in the Buffalo Bills. It remains to be seen whether saving the Bills for another chance down the line, likely in Week 9, Week 10 or Thanksgiving, was the right call.
Decisions like those are what make survivor contests much tougher than we would expect on the surface with the really basic rules of the game. Going 1-0 each week seems easy, and maybe it is, but sometimes we make it harder than it needs to be. Perhaps that was the case last week with Buffalo and my suggested pick of Cincinnati, but it could all work out in the end.
That won’t be the last week survivors are faced with those sorts of conundrums. Six underdogs won outright, including the Jets and Giants, so some who shied from the Bills paid a price. Those who took the Bengals almost paid the same one.
So far the survivor picks in this report have been winners with the Rams, Packers, Broncos and Bengals. Teams from the “Games to Consider” section were 8-1 going into Week 4. The Packers and Bills won, but the Titans and Saints lost, bringing the record to 10-3 going into Week 5.
Let’s check out the options for this week.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Minnesota Vikings (-7.5) over Detroit Lions
Early-week bettors actually took a piece of the Lions to bump this line down from -8.5 or -8 to -7.5, so maybe this could be one of this week’s upset-alert games after seeing a few Sunday.
However, there is a huge difference between needing a cover from a favorite and simply needing a favorite to win. As enticing as the Lions might be to keep the game close, a defense decimated by injuries lost another key piece last weekend in edge rusher Romeo Okwara to a torn Achilles. With Ifeatu Melifonwu and Jeff Okudah on IR, the secondary was already a patchwork group, and now the pass rush will suffer as well.
With time to throw, Kirk Cousins certainly has the weapons to be dangerous. We didn’t see it against Cleveland, as the Browns got tons of pressure with the front four, but we just watched the Bears move the ball pretty easily against the Lions. The Vikings have more vertical options as well.
This feels like a schematic mismatch in favor of Minnesota with the injuries playing a big role.
Another consideration is that Minnesota won’t really be available to take until Week 18 at home against the Bears, and who knows what the teams may look like at that point. Remember, you have to use 18 of the 32 teams. Selecting spots for a team like Minnesota is all part of the game. The Vikings are a missed field goal from beating everybody’s current favorite team, the Arizona Cardinals. A 2-2 record and a win over the Cards would look a lot different, and this line would be higher.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10) over Miami Dolphins
Those who haven’t used the Buccaneers yet probably will be very interested in TB12 and his teammates this week. I’m not as enthused as I should be given the line. The Buccaneers are severely banged up on defense, but the Dolphins’ paltry offense probably won’t be able to take advantage.
Miami has averaged 4.0 yards per play this season. Remember that the Bears had a whopping 47 total yards on 33 plays against Cleveland in Week 3 and then consider that the Dolphins are 32nd in the NFL in yards per play. The Dolphins possess no vertical threat and can’t run the football.
The other reason to possibly stay away from Tampa Bay is that last week’s game against New England was so emotional for Tom Brady. It also wasn’t a great performance in a game that meant a lot to him and his teammates by proxy. The weather was a factor, but the Buccaneers have not looked sharp or crisp this season. Even the Falcons game was a lot closer than the 48-25 score.
We can probably hold off on the Bucs until they get buttoned up, as they’ll have more big favorite roles. But they are the biggest favorite on the board, so you have to consider them.
New England Patriots (-9) over Houston Texans
We saw the best and maybe the worst of Bill Belichick last week. The defensive game plan against the Buccaneers was solid, and the early second-quarter adjustment to completely abandon the run was the right move. We also saw The Hoodie inexplicably try a 56-yard field goal on a wet field that would have given Brady the ball back with a chance to win if the kick had gone through the uprights.
The right call on fourth-and-3 was to go for it, and with the strong game Mac Jones played, it would have been wise to show some confidence in the rookie QB. Belichick opted for the kick, which hit the upright and ended the game.
Letdown spots probably don’t exist against a team as bad as the Texans. That would be the only hold-up here. Jones looks like a solid QB, despite limited weapons, and the Texans don’t have that with Davis Mills. Mills has to play at least one more game with Tyrod Taylor on IR. He has thrown five interceptions and completed only 57 percent of his passes in his three games.
New England’s only win came against rookie QB Zach Wilson in Week 2. Belichick is now 22-6 against rookie signal-callers since he took over the Patriots in 2000. He should make it 23-6.
Belichick and the Pats do get the Jets at home in two weeks, but the Jets look a lot better right now than the Texans. This might be the optimal spot to take New England if you want to take them at some point this season.
Baltimore Ravens (-7) over Indianapolis Colts
We have two chances to take the Ravens over the next three weeks. They’re a touchdown favorite here on “Monday Night Football” against the Colts and then play the Bengals at home in Week 7. This just might be the spot. Baltimore went out to Denver and won 23-7 with a shutdown performance from a defense that needed to show something.
The Ravens got healthier heading into that game against the unbeaten Broncos and looked like a much more polished team than we saw in Detroit the previous week. Baltimore solidly outgained a good Denver team by 1.5 yards per play and now gets an extra day of rest and prep for the Colts.
The Colts had a nice win over the Dolphins, but I’ve been pretty consistent in my dislike of Miami and that pathetic offense. With Jacoby Brissett at the helm again, the Dolphins managed just 4.1 yards per play. Indianapolis played with a ton of urgency in that game thanks to the 0-3 start. The Colts will have the same sense of urgency this week, but this is still a limited offense and a defense that generates no pressure.
I don’t know if this helps, but it can’t hurt. The Ravens set a record for consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing by not taking a knee against the Broncos last week. John Harbaugh was questioned about the decision. So were his players, who unanimously took his side. So was Vic Fangio, who called it BS.
Those are the kinds of things that will make players fight for you. Not that Harbaugh needed it, as he is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s best coaches, but the guys in that locker room had to respect that call. This should be a well-prepared team with some needed extra rest ready to keep rolling Monday night.
We have the better team, the better coach and a home “MNF” game. It is really hard to see the Ravens coming up short.
Pick: Baltimore Ravens