I follow a pretty standard formula early in the NFL season when it comes to my Survivor Football picks which is to pick a Very Good Team (defined as a playoff team from last year that is in the top 10 in Power Rankings) playing At Home against a Bad Team (defined as sub .500 from last year in the bottom 10 in Power Rankings) in a Non-Divisional game.
That’s not exactly rocket science and resulted in the most common correct picks of Seattle (vs. Miami) and Carolina (vs. San Fran) in weeks 1 and 2. But here we are in week 3 and not a single game fits the formula, so what now?
Let’s immediately eliminate all of the games on the left. Each one is too close to call and not worth gambling on. Here is a closer look at each of the games on the right:
Arizona at Buffalo
Always tough to pick an away team (Home teams win ~60% of NFL Games) but Arizona is more reliable than any other option besides Pittsburgh. The bigger question marks here are whether the Bills are really as bad as they’ve looked so far this season and how do you feel about a West Coast team playing a 1pm game on the East Coast. I’ve seen various statistics on that and it’s pretty inconclusive so it doesn’t really scare me. More on this choice later.
Green Bay vs Detroit
Green Bay is 7.5pt favourites right now and I suspect a lot of people will pick them this week but I can tell you right now I am avoiding this game. Green Bay is favoured by 7.5 based on reputation alone. There’s no data to support it. The Packers are 5-7 in their last 12 regular season games dating back to last season including a Home Loss to Detroit and an Away Win only due to a last second Hail Mary. Detroit meanwhile is 7-3 in their last 10 games dating back to last season. AVOID!
Miami vs Cleveland
Picking against Cleveland every single week is a legitimate strategy. Most people had the Browns pegged as the worst team in the NFL at the beginning of the season and since then their top 2 QBs and now their star WR are injured. Problem is, Miami is pretty darn bad too. They are 0-2 to start the season and 3-9 in their last 12 dating back to last season, many of which were blowout losses. More on this choice later.
Seattle vs San Francisco
I’m not going to waste much time on this one. Seattle has not looked the least bit trustworthy to start the season and they have a ton of gimpy players on offense (Wilson, Rawls, Baldwin, Lockett, Graham). Their defense is probably good enough to win this game but I wouldn’t bet my survivor life on it. A special teams or defensive touchdown might be all it takes to tilt this game in favour of the 49ers. AVOID!
NY Giants vs Washington
I’m not going to spend much time on this one either. Yes the Giants have gotten off to a good start and Washington has not but the Redskins were a playoff team last year and the Giants were 6-10 and it’s too soon to forget that. While I am well aware that this is not a must-win game for Washington (because math), all of the meat-heads and media-heads in Washington will be saying it is. Combine that motivation with this being a division rivalry game and I’d call this a coin flip. AVOID!
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia
Again it’s tough to pick an away team but what’s not to like about the Steelers this year? They certainly appear to be super bowl contenders and don’t have to travel far to get to Philly. Carson Wentz has energized the Eagles and their fans but both of their wins were against sub-par opponents (Browns & Bears). I expect the Steelers to win this game pretty easily but I’m partially afraid that Philadelphia is going to be the Leicester City of the NFL this year. More on this choice later.
Dallas vs Chicago
Like Cleveland, Chicago is a bad team made even worse by injuries. I just can’t trust Dallas yet though. It’s too soon in the season to use a team with a rookie QB and if you are going to pick a bad team against a worse team, Miami seems like the better pick. AVOID!
If you are keeping score we’ve narrowed it down to picking very good teams (Arizona and Pittsburgh) that are unfortunately away teams and picking Miami because we think Cleveland is the worst team in the NFL, possibly ever.
As the commissioner of an annual survivor pool I can tell you that the strategy of picking bad teams like Miami historically does not work (see: last week Detroit vs. Tennessee). I see it time and time again when people try to save good teams for later and are inevitably out of the pool by week 5. If you pass on Pittsburgh and Arizona this week, there really isn’t another good time to pick them until weeks 10 and 11 and by then, 90% of survivor pool participants are already out. There’s another added bonus of avoiding Miami this week, which is that half of your pool will pick the Dolphins and if they lose, you get to say “HAHAHAHAHA! IDIOTS! You picked an 0-2 team! What were you thinking?!?!?! RYAN TANNEHILL HAHAHAHAH! LOSERS!” and then have a good shot of winning as part of the remaining half. I think the smartest pick is the Cardinals but if you want to go with the Steelers, I’m all for it.
Having said that…. FUCK IT I’M GOING WITH THE DOLPHINS! … I’m so disappointing with myself. I still stand by the claim that historically this is a bad strategy, but historically there are usually more trustworthy teams. After Pittsburgh, Carolina, New England and Arizona, who is actually trustworthy this year? Green Bay and Seattle look dicey, Minnesota and Denver have questionable quarterback situations, Houston, Cincinnati, KC and the Jets are OK and there isn’t anyone else that I would even consider calling trustworthy right now. With such a low amount of options, I think we need to buy ourselves a few weeks by going with the Dolphins and Redskins this week and next.
I’m probably going to regret this…. good luck in week 3!