Best survivor pool picks for Week 5 of the NFL season
The carnage we anticipated last week didn't totally materialize. The Browns helped us out by notching an upset victory at home against the Bengals, but it was a relatively tame week across the survivor landscape.
We're gifted a few nice matchups this week that appear to make it a relatively easy one, at least within the context of a survivor pool. One team that would have appeared in this column if it had played a Sunday game is Cleveland, which easily handled Buffalo Thursday night. Still, we have a few attractive options this weekend, though one of those has serious potential to be the trap we've been anticipating.
1. Atlanta Falcons (vs. New York Jets) -- To put it simply, the Falcons have not played well this year. They were shut down by the Saints Week 1 and defeated the Rams unconvincingly in Week 2, before falling to the class of the AFC East, the Dolphins and Patriots, in back-to-back games. They face an AFC East foe for the third consecutive week, getting the Jets in the Georgia Dome.
The spread on this game is 10.5 points, but it opened at an even nine. That's good news for Falcons backers, given that 70 percent of the public money is coming in on the home team. When Vegas makes that large of a shift in the line in the direction of the money, it's an indication it doesn't want to be overexposed to a huge loss it expects is coming. The Falcons are still dealing with numerous injuries on offense, and the Jets have played top-notch defense this year, but it's hard to imagine a team with a rookie quarterback and terrible run blocking going down to Atlanta and coming out with a win in a game the Falcons absolutely need to have. The Jets will need their defense to produce some takeaways and give the offense short fields, but I think Matt Ryan will do a good job protecting the football with the understanding that the Falcons can grind out a victory.
2. St. Louis Rams (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) -- This has all the makings of a classic survivor trap. This is likely to be the most popular pick in your pool even though the Rams are not a particularly good team. In fact, that's precisely why this will be the most popular pick. Everyone is looking at this game as a freebie because there's a great chance no one will want to use the Rams at any point in the future. The Jaguars at home feels like a layup, as suggested by the 11.5-point spread. The Rams beat the Cardinals in Week 1 and hung with the Falcons the following week, but they have been outclassed by the Cowboys and 49ers in their last two games. They haven't had a shred of a running game this season.
On the other side, the Jaguars get Justin Blackmon back from suspension this week, and he should bring a new element to what has been a pathetic offense. To me, the Falcons have a much tougher game but are a far superior survivor pick because of the payoff. I believe the Rams will win here, but there's a not-insignificant chance that the Jags step up and pull off the upset. That would give you a huge payoff if you go in another direction. On the other hand, a survivor win with the Rams is about as good as it gets. I had the luxury of using the Browns and Falcons in my own pools, but the Rams would be my third pick this week.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (vs. New England Patriots) -- Let me preface this pick by saying my pick confidence falls off a cliff after the Rams. I think every team other than the Falcons and Rams present serious risks this week. I don't think I'd ever consider making this pick myself. However, if you're inclined or forced to go in another direction, allow me to present a case for the Bengals. First, this line opened as a pick'em, and with two-thirds of the public on the Patriots, the Bengals are now favored by a point. That's awfully fishy.
Second, it remains to be seen what this New England defense will look like without Vince Wilfork. The Bengals offensive line ranks as the eighth-best run blocking unit in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. The Pats are 13th against the run, but they racked up those numbers mostly with Wilfork on the field. Without him and everything he allows the Patriots to do defensively, I expect the Bengals to open up big holes for Giovani Bernard. While I do like the Bengals to win this game, you should be able to find a better, safer survivor pick.
Teams to avoid
Green Bay Packers (vs. Detroit Lions) -- I know it might seem tempting to grab the Packers, who are laying 7.5 points in this game, but I'd stay away. Division games are always a dicey proposition in survivor, especially when both rosters have so much carryover from recent years. The Lions feature the No. 6 overall offense, according to Pro Football Focus. They can definitely score with the Packers. This one is way too risky.
San Diego Chargers (at Oakland Raiders) -- The Philip Rivers resurgence is for real, and the Chargers are coming off an impressive win at home against the Cowboys, but you should not trust them in this instance. For one, they're not good enough and the Raiders aren't bad enough to feel good about the Chargers going on the road and picking up a victory. Terrelle Pryor is expected to start, and he'll be able to take advantage of what Pro Football Focus ranks as the fifth-worst run defense in the league. Not only would I avoid the Chargers, but also I think the Raiders win this game outright.
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SI STAFF: Composite player rankings -- Reggie Bush realizing his potential
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FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Rashad Jennings given the opportunity of his career
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