Ever season, we know it's coming. Sometimes it's easy to see, and sometimes it isn't. This year, it's the former, and it's going to happen this week. The coast-to-coast survivor pool carnage week is upon us.
There are only two teams, Denver and Indianapolis, favored by more than a touchdown. Of course, the Colts were likely the most popular pick in Week 1 when they played host to the Raiders, and the Broncos were one of the widely selected last week when they, too, faced Oakland. The Saints are close at 6.5, but they host the 3-0 Dolphins. Outside of those three games, every spread is four points or fewer, and nine of the remaining 14 lines this week are no more than a field goal. That's a recipe for absolute disaster -- unless you make the right pick. Then this will prove to be the week for which you've been waiting.
1. Denver Broncos (vs. Philadelphia Eagles) -- Don't be fooled by the Eagles because they have an exciting offense with big-name fantasy players. The Broncos are favored by 10.5 points because they are the vastly superior team. The Eagles have had 10 days off, but their defense has been on the field for 80 minutes in the last two weeks. Now they face the best offense in the league in the high altitude of Denver. Philip Rivers torched them for 419 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago, and Robert Griffin III nearly brought the Redskins back Week 1, finishing the game with 329 yards and two scores. Just imagine what Peyton Manning is going to do to this team. If you still have the Broncos available, this is a great week to use them.
2. Indianapolis Colts (at Jacksonville Jaguars) -- When is it advisable to take a road team in survivor? When you're desperate, or when the team in question is at Jacksonville. The Colts are coming off a very impressive win in San Francisco that has them back among the buzziest AFC teams. With Ahmad Bradshaw out with a neck injury, they'll ride Trent Richardson more, and that won't hurt against a Jacksonville team that has surrendered 5.2 yards per carry this season. The Jags have managed just 230.3 yards per game and 9.3 points per game, both by far the least in the league. Blaine Gabbert is back at the helm this week, which could not mean any less than it does. The Colts are laying 9.5 points. They'll cover and cruise to a victory.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (vs. New York Giants) -- On paper, this might seem like a game to avoid. Even the most enthusiastic Kansas City supporters heading into the season, like me, have to see the potential for them to lose this game against a desperate, talented Giants team. On the other hand, through three weeks we can trust what we've seen on the field. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants have been the fourth-worst pass-blocking team in the NFL. They're only slightly better in run blocking, where they rank 22nd. That's a bad mix against Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Tamba Hali and company. On the flip side, they've been the second-worst pass rushing team in the league. Against an efficient game manager like Alex Smith and stud Jamaal Charles, who's running behind the league's third-best run-blocking unit, I don't see any magic for the Giants in K.C., as the Chiefs cover the four-point spread.
Teams to avoid
New Orleans Saints (vs. Miami Dolphins) -- I think the Saints will likely win this game. They're favored by nearly a touchdown and are absolutely beloved by Pro Football Focus' metrics. The site ranks their offense third and defense sixth thus far in 2013. The reason for staying away from them this week is two-fold. First, Miami has looked great this season, and has two impressive wins this year, Week 2 at Indianapolis and last week at home against Atlanta. Second, so long as you have the Broncos or Colts available, you have a safer pick on the board and can save the Saints, who undoubtedly will have a few weeks down the road when it will be more advantageous to take them. Week 8, when they host Buffalo, looks like one of those weeks. They aren't a bad pick in terms of being too risky, but the payoff for taking them is slim.