As we head into Week 10 of the NFL season, survivors should be aware that week might deliver the knockout blow. Sometimes, the best option for survivors at this point is not identify the best pick on the board, but the popular pick most likely to falter. That strategy is reflected in our recommendations for this week.
1. Tennessee Titans (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) -- This is the most obvious pick on the board, and will probably be the most selected in your pool -- though the Titans were also a relatively popular pick when they beat the Jets in Week 4. Despite the fact that most of your pool will be on them, this is a fairly risk-free pick that should get you to Week 11 with ease. The Titans are laying 12 points, always a fishy spread since it makes the six-point tease look ever so inviting, but we just need them to win outright. Moreover, Tennessee hosts Indianapolis next week before a three-game road trip in which they will visit Oakland, Indy and Denver. You're not going to want to take them in any of those games. Simply put, this your last chance to use the Titans with any confidence this year, and they're playing the worst team in the league. Lock them in this week.
2. San Francisco 49ers (vs. Carolina Panthers) -- The Panthers have looked great on their current four-game win streak and are a legitimate playoff contender. This week's game with the 49ers will go a long way toward establishing their postseason bona fides, whether they win or lose. If they can give the Niners a good game in San Francisco, they'd have to be seen as an even stronger challenger for a wild-card spot, or perhaps even the NFC South crown.
Having said all that, San Francisco is my second favorite survivor pick of the week. You can only beat the teams on your schedule, but the Panthers haven't exactly run through a murderer's row in the last month. They've defeated the Vikings, Rams, Buccaneers and Falcons on their streak. The impressive part is how handily they've won the four games, posting an average margin of victory of 20.5 points. That's an eye-popping number, no matter the opponent. Still, the 49ers are on an impressive streak of their own, having beaten the Rams, Texans, Cardinals, Titans and Jaguars by an average of 22.6 points per game. Their rushing attack is really clicking right now, and Frank Gore is on pace for a career year at 30 years old. You just don't see that in the NFL. The Niners are 6.5-point favorites, and I think they will cover.
3. Arizona Cardinals (vs. Houston Texans) -- I considered the Giants here, and while I do think the G-Men will beat the Raiders on Sunday, that's going to be a very popular pick in your pool. Given the way they played this season, would you rather have your pool riding on the Giants, or would you rather cheer against them knowing that a Giants loss, coupled with a win by your pick, could win your pool for you? I'd much rather be in the latter camp, especially since the Raiders aren't exactly a doormat this season.
As for the Cardinals, they've allowed just 6.9 yards per attempt and have 23 sacks on the year. With Arian Foster likely out again, expect the Texans to lean on Case Keenum and the passing game. That's one thing the Cardinals are built to stop. This projects as a struggle to score points, with both of these defenses playing better than they're being credited with by the general public. More than anything, though, this reflects as a desire to stay away from the Giants and some of the other picks on the board which look appealing once you've gotten past the Titans and 49ers.
Teams to avoid
• Miami Dolphins (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers) -- I'm not going to speculate the effect that the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin situation will have on the on-field product for the Dolphins. However, I can't imagine this situation has been great for team morale. Now they head into Tampa to face a team desperate for its first win. Mike Glennon has played surprisingly well as the starter, and Mike James is coming off a 158-yard performance against the Seahawks. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have been torched by opposing running backs, allowing the second most fantasy points per game to the position.
• Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Buffalo Bills) -- The Bills gave the Chiefs everything they could handle, they get EJ Manuel back this week and C.J. Spiller's ankle finally looks sound. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball all over the Patriots, but the Bills rank 10th in pass coverage on the season according to Pro Football Focus, and that includes the five games Jairus Byrd missed.
MORE WEEK 10 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Player Stat Projections -- Expect huge games from top quarterbacks
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Bold strategies -- Don't be afraid to grab Case Keenum
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Jennings poised to make an impact versus the Giants
SI STAFF: Weekly Roundtable -- What's the fantasy impact of Rodgers' injury?
MCQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Foles takes on a weak Packers defense next week
BELLER: Early Week 10 Advice -- Stacy could be a top-15 RB for season's remainder