There are only five weeks left in the NFL regular season, but for those still alive in survivor pools, the light at the end of the tunnel is merely a speck way off in the distance. The number of available teams has been whittled down and most contestants are probably running low on good ones.
Week 14 is interesting in that regard. Big favorites like Green Bay, Kansas City and Tennessee have probably been used already, but others like Seattle, Denver and even the Los Angeles Chargers are likely still available to a lot of remaining contestants.
The Vikings did the unthinkable (or maybe the predictable if you’re a Vikings fan) by losing to the Lions last week. My survivor picks in this column are now 10-3 after Minnesota’s collapse. Despite blowing it for a lot of survivor contestants, coach Mike Zimmer somehow survived the chopping block this week.
An editorial decision was made to make all 32 teams available after playing this out for real, but I still haven’t duplicated a team yet. The teams flagged in Games to Consider all won last week to move to 31-13.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5) over Las Vegas Raiders
The Chiefs are one of the biggest favorites on the board, so they warrant a mention. There is still something wrong with Kansas City’s offense, as the Chiefs managed just 267 yards and 4.9 yards per play against the Broncos. Patrick Mahomes was only 15 of 29 passing and threw another pick. It was the third time this season that Mahomes did not throw a touchdown pass and the sixth time in his career.
As much as the Chiefs offense is struggling, the defense has improved and seems to be following a similar trajectory to 2019. If the offense ever comes around, they will be as dangerous as ever.
That stifling defense should be enough to carry the Chiefs to a victory. The Raiders were held to 310 yards by Washington and scored less than 17 points for the fourth time in five games. The first meeting ended 41-14 in Sin City back in Week 10. While I don’t anticipate that kind of result again, I do expect Kansas City to complete the sweep.
Tennessee Titans (-9.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars
If you haven’t used the Titans yet, you may have an opportunity in Week 18 against the Texans, but this might be the spot to do it. Tennessee is coming off the bye, which has been a blessing for some teams and a curse for others. A week away from it all should help Mike Vrabel’s team, as the Titans lost in ugly fashion to the Texans and Patriots before the bye.
Jacksonville was never competitive last week against the Rams. The game was over pretty much when it started with the heavily favored home team jumping out to a 10-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. The Rams settled for three first-half field goals before putting it away in the second half.
You have to wonder how invested the Jaguars still are. It seems as if coach Urban Meyer is not working out in any capacity and the focus has shifted to figuring out which game-changer in the trenches the Jaguars like the most in the 2022 NFL draft. The Titans, meanwhile, are a desperate team. Of course, they’re also a team with an inept offense right now, so this one could get a little scary.
Green Bay Packers (-12.5) over Chicago Bears
Aaron Rodgers was not lying when he said that he still owns the Chicago Bears. He is 21-5 lifetime against the Bears with a 57-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’ll have the chance to own them again as a huge favorite on “Sunday Night Football” this week.
The Bears played better than last week’s box score would indicate, as they had three long touchdown drives on offense and fell victim to short fields on defense. Arizona had four scoring drives of fewer than 30 yards. That said, Andy Dalton threw four picks (a couple of them tipped) and Bears fans continued their “Fire Nagy” chants.
The Packers are coming off the bye, so Rodgers had some time to rest his fractured toe. Or have a witch doctor perform surgery. Green Bay may also welcome back key players David Bakhtiari, Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander this week. Aaron Jones will also be healthier after returning from his injury against the Rams.
The cover is a little more of an ask with Green Bay 14th in the NFL in yards per play on offense, but a win seems like a reasonable request.
Los Angeles Chargers (-10.5) over New York Giants
The Chargers should really be better than they are. They are in the top five in offensive yards per play and 13th in yards per play allowed. They’ve actually been a pretty decent pass defense but have been so poor against the run that it has been hidden. We finally saw some of their offensive potential last week, running up a bunch of yards and points against the Bengals.
Daniel Jones is reportedly out again for the Giants. For an offense already in flux because of an offensive coordinator switch, this is not a good development. There are 25 teams in the NFL averaging at least four yards per carry. The Giants are not one of them.
The Giants are spending the week in Arizona rather than going home after Sunday’s loss to Miami. Maybe the players will bond and enjoy some time away from the media scrutiny in New York, but this is also a team that has only shown the ability to win when the other team makes critical errors. The Raiders were 1-for-6 in the red zone in that Week 9 game and the Eagles badly outgained the Giants but had red zone turnovers in Week 12.
With the playoff race as tight as it is, the Chargers can’t afford to look ahead to the Chiefs next Thursday, so I expect them to win this one.
Denver Broncos (-8) over Detroit Lions
The Lions can’t win twice in a row, right?
Football is a funny game. Minnesota had an edge of 6.0 to 5.2 yards per play. The Vikings were 6-for-13 on third down and the Lions were 2-for-11. Minnesota held a 54-yard edge and had six red zone trips. You only get one shot in sports, but all things being equal, we could run that game back and the Vikings would win that game a very high percentage of the time.
This feels like the type of game Denver wins with relative ease. This is like a flashback to the first three weeks of the season, when the Broncos beat the Giants, Jaguars and Jets by a combined score of 76-26. The offense has its problems, but on the defensive side, the Broncos are fourth in points per drive allowed and fourth in percentage of drives ending in points.
The Lions don’t move the ball effectively and now face a defense that ranks in the top 10 in a lot of key statistical categories. The limited offense for Denver is a problem against teams that can score, but the Lions are not one of them. Denver is 6-0 when holding the opposition to 16 or fewer points. The Lions team total will be around 16.5 or 17 here, so right around that number. It may not be pretty, but Denver should prevail.
Pick: Denver Broncos