The Dolphins ruined what should have been a perfect week last week with simply dreadful offense in the fourth quarter of their 23-21 loss to the Bills. Such is life in a survivor pool. Even the good picks go bad sometimes.
We've got a handful of very safe picks on the board this week, as well as a few that are a bit more risky but still should get us through to Week 9.
1. New Orleans Saints (vs. Buffalo Bills) -- The safest pick out there this week, New Orleans is laying 11 points at home against Buffalo. The Bills did just go into Miami last week and come out with a win, but New Orleans is an entirely different story. The Saints are likely one of the five best teams in the league, and they enjoy a decided home-field advantage. Buffalo features the ninth-ranked defense in the league by Pro Football Focus' metrics, but they've yet to face an offense led by a master like Drew Brees. The Saints should cruise in this home game.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Cleveland Browns) -- The Chiefs are 9.5-point favorites here, and given that Jason Campbell is starting for the Browns, I cannot believe this line isn't a few points higher. I still believe that Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron will be great fantasy players this season with long careers ahead of them, but the luster is coming off each of them just a bit. PFF has the Browns in the middle of the pack in both pass and run blocking. I don't see any way that they can score enough points against the league's best defense to leave Kansas City with a victory. The Chiefs' soft schedule finally takes a turn in the coming weeks, so now is a great time to take them.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (vs. New York Jets) -- Here's one that feels like a slight gamble, but these are the types of picks that win survivor pools. Everyone in your pool is going to pick the Saints or Chiefs of 49ers this week. Those teams still have some easy-to-spot wins on the schedule, and that's exactly what you'll need as we plow through October and get deep into November. The Bengals and Jets rank seventh and eighth in overall defense according to PFF, but the Jets do struggle in the one facet that just happens to match up with the Bengals' offensive strength. The Jets rank 29th in pass coverage while the Bengals boast the league's 13th best pass offense and a truly elite receiver in A.J. Green. The Bengals' passing game will get them out in front early, and the Jets simply are not built to come from behind. Back the Bengals.
4. San Francisco 49ers (at Jacksonville Jaguars) -- On their current four-game win streak, the 49ers have given up 4.96 yards per play, fewer than 13 points per game, and taken the ball away 12 times. In the process, they've risen up PFF's ranks and are now the site's third best defense. Something tells me the woeful Jaguars won't be the team to end the streak. The only reason to avoid the 49ers here is if you want to save them for later in the season.
If you need to reach...
• Philadelphia Eagles (vs. New York Giants) -- There's a chance you've already used the four teams above. There's also a chance you might want to take more of risk this week. If that's the case, the Eagles figure to be a less-popular pick that could provide easy entry to Week 9. On the surface, these are two underachieving teams. Beneath that, though, are two distinct flavors of underachievement. The Philly variety isn't true underachievement, but rather the appearance of it because of unrealistic expectations after the team's Week 1 show against Washington. The New York variety goes beyond underachievement. This is a bad team with few redeeming qualities whose one win is over an even worse Minnesota squad in one of the ugliest games of the season. Michael Vick should be back for the Eagles and ready to take advantage of a Giants' defense that ranks 26th in pass rush according to PFF and has allowed 14 passing touchdowns this year.
Teams to avoid
• Pittsburgh Steelers (at Oakland Raiders) -- It might be tempting to buy into the notion that the Steelers are sort of back after beating the Ravens last week, but this is a tough assignment on the road. The Steelers have yet to face a true running quarterback this season, but they're not exactly built to stop a guy like Terrelle Pryor. I like the Raiders to pull the mini-upset in this game and would not feel comfortable staking my survivor life on the Steelers.
• Denver Broncos (vs. Washington Redskins) -- I'm very confident the Broncos will win this game. Washington got torched by Josh McCown last week. Just imagine what Peyton Manning will do to them. However, if you've held onto them this long, you might as well keep them in your pocket another week. You will have a better opportunity to use them.