All-Purpose Playbook: NFL Week 2 survivor pool analysis, picks and more
Welcome to the All-Purpose Playbook, a Buzzer column that is either (a) a guide to many things NFL related, or (b) a road map to hell. Check back here on Friday afternoons for more survivor pool analysis, football picks, a smattering of GIFs and occasional nonsense. Follow me @brettsmiley and/or email me with any questions or comments at basmiley [at] gmail [dot] com.
Week 2 of the NFL slate is also known as "overreaction week."
After months consuming bits of NFL like personnel moves, coaching adjustments, preseason end-of-roster position battles and Vince Wilfork's overalls-with-no-shirt game -- boom! Some meaningful regular season contests. And just like that, perception of a team snaps to a different reality, confirming what we thought we knew about a team or spawning a whole new narrative.
Already, the better of top-drafted quarterbacks/alpha horses Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston is Mariota.
This could be the year the Cincinnati Bengals finally learn how to win a playoff game.
Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo had a collective brain fart last Sunday night that could be smelled as far as away as Kazakhstan.
(Actually, that last one is true. My nostrils are still burning here on the East coast.)
There are some very important things we learned in Week 1 but let's not overreact with our Week 2 picks. That'll be the theme today.
First, how'd we do last week?
Top pick Green Bay Packers survived, but not without a little bit of worry. The Dolphins eventually found a way to get past the Washington Snyders. The caution against the Carolina Panthers was justified despite the win. Elsewhere, the Bengals manhandled the Raiders, so I muffed that one but I was absolutely right advising "I would absolutely avoid" the Colts-Bills game in Survivor, so good job by me there. Let me just pat myself on the back now because I'll get my rear end handed to me soon enough.
And let's review the FOX Football Survivor rules once more and then get to this week's top picks (And if you haven't signed up, there's still time to play. Click here to begin.)
• Rule No. 1 (really, the only rule): Just survive and advance.
• Rule No. 2 (a.k.a. the Meryl Streep Principle): Whenever possible, take a proven, consistent, veteran-led home team against an inferior opponent.
• Rule No. 3: Avoid road teams until you don't have any other choice.
• Rule No. 4: Avoid divisional opponent games. They know each other well and like each other less.
• Rule No. 5: Don't "save" a top team for later in the season.
1. New Orleans Saints (-10) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A whoooooooole lot of people are riding the New Orleans Saints train this week. In FOX pools, 37 percent of participants are on NOLA while a whopping 50 percent of Yahoo Survivor poolsters are backing them. Choo choo!!!!
Reaction: The Buccaneers are not a good football team. Last week they got thoroughly embarrassed by the Titans, allowing Mariota to throw for more touchdowns (4) than incompletions (3). "It was bad,'' defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said of the team's performance. "Being a leader of the defense, it was embarrassing. It has to be better.'' It can't be much worse.
Overreaction: Jameis Winston, who threw a pick-six with his first career NFL pass, is literally the worst NFL starting quarterback ever. He is worse than Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell combined -- the QB equivalent of a buttfumble.
This week: 10 points (the spread) in the NFL is a ton. New Orleans in the Superdome does not mean the near-certain win that it used to, because the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Saints are not what they used to be (thoroughly dominant at home). Brees has regularly shredded the Buccaneers in the air but Jimmy Graham now resides in Seattle, Marques Colston is old (in football years) and on the other side of the ball, the Saints have almost completely failed to generate pressure with its front seven. From Rotoworld's Rich Hribar: The Saints had just two sacks the entire preseason and failed to record a sack last week, registering just one quarterback hit. That is absolutely ridiculous!!
Certainly this week Winston will have more time in the pocket to throw, for better or worse. Coming off a horrifying loss and facing a division opponent, expect the Buccaneers as a whole to bounce back and pound the ball with Doug Martin against a Saints rush defense that was last in the league in 2014.
The Saints are probably going to win the game, of course, but this is a Rule No. 4 violation so I wouldn't overinvest in the Saints if you're in multiple pools.
2. Miami Dolphins (-5.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
In FOX pools, 14 percent of participants are taking the Fins while 12.7 percent of Yahoo is on board.
Reaction: The Dolphins certainly didn't impress against the Redskins last week but they found a way to get the job done thanks to a special-teams score (Jarvis Landry 69-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter).
Overreaction: "Jaguars Opponent," once again, will serve as the default and surefire Survivor pool pick. The Jaguars are playing the Polk High junior varsity football team? Whatever, take Polk High.
This week: The Jaguars defense played pretty well against (a lackluster) Panthers offense last week, holding them to only 3 yards rushing per carry. The game turned when Blake Bortles locked in on T.J. Yeldon and Josh Norman stepped in front of the pass, politely waving goodbye to Bortles on his way to the house.
Anyhow, Rule No. 3 says avoid road teams. The Dolphins' offense looked out-of-sync last week. Safety Reshad Jones and defensive end Olivier Vernon are questionable on for the Fins, though Ndamukong Suh should bounce back from his ho-hum, highly-compensated performance last week. They should get the job done, but the Saints are a better pick.
3. Baltimore Ravens (-7) at Oakland Raiders
In FOX pools, the Ravens are getting 13 percent of poolsters compared with 15 percent of Yahoo's.
Reaction: Same old Raiders, who were getting gashed 33-0 last week by the Bengals until scoring a pair of garbage-time touchdowns. Meanwhile the Ravens offense looks . . . sub-optimal. Steve Smith Sr. reeled in only 2 catches for 13 yards on 7 targets and the rushing attack managed a measly 3.17 yards per carry on 23 totes.
Overreaction: I don't think anyone is overreacting to either side here.
This week: Seven points is a ton to lay on the road, as books are begging for people to back the Raiders. I did that all of last year and it did not go well.
Raiders QB Derek Carr got knocked out of last week's game with a thumb injury on his throwing hand, but he's on track to start this week. The Ravens lost defensive leader Terrell Suggs (as they did for three games during their 2012 Super Bowl run) to a torn Achilles last week.
Overall, if you're picking the Ravens here, you're basically picking against the Raiders. Which is cool and all, but an East Coast team traveling west for the second straight week doesn't make me tingle inside. Still, the Ravens are unquestionably the better team and should keep the Raiders in check but they'll have to muster some offense. This is another Rule No. 3 violation but if you're looking to fade the Saints, it's reasonable.
4. Indianapolis Colts (-7) vs. New York Jets
FOX poolsters like Indy to the tune of 7 percent, a shade above 5 percent among the Yahoo crowd.
Reaction: Maybe the Colts (0-1) aren't as good as many prognosticators thought. Maybe the Jets (1-0) aren't the same old Jets.
Overreaction: Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has finally found his home with his fourth team in four seasons. Offseason veteran acquisitions Frank Gore and Andre Johnson actually retired before the start of last week's game in Buffalo, unbeknownst to the Colts coaching staff.
This week: Home team? Check. Veteran-led home team against an inferior opponent? Probably check. Non-divisional game? Check. OK, this one computes. I'd feel a lot better about the Colts if T.Y. Hilton was healthy (looking like a gametime decision with a bruised knee.) Colts' Pro Bowl defensive back Vontae Davis should take away Brandon Marshall. I think I've talked myself into this one but it's not going to be fun waiting until Monday night to find out.
5. St. Louis Rams (-3.5) at Washington Snyders
Six percent of both FOX and Yahoo pools like the Rams.
Reaction: The Rams are going to contend for the NFC West crown. They were on the ropes against big brother (Seahawks) last week and punched them in the mouth in a 34-31 overtime win. Now please indulge me as I take a walk down memory lane to when, after joining my high school wrestling team at 16, I threw my older brother (age 18) to the ground during a friendly brawl, spit in his face, and saw his eyes flash "Oh, s***, the game has changed."
Overreaction: The Rams are going to contend for the Super Bowl.
This week: The Rams defense is studly but questions linger about how they're going to generate offense. The Rams have talent in the backfield but Tre Mason is still on the mend (hamstring) and Todd Gurley, recovering from an ACL tear, isn't ready to fly yet. That leaves the main gig to Benny Cunningham. The Rams have a very inexperienced offensive line and their receivers leave a lot to be desired (ahem, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce circa 1999). The Snyders played pretty good defense against the Dolphins last week and should repeat that effort. I think you're walking into the danger zone expecting the Rams to walk all over the home team. I would avoid this game.
6. Tennessee Titans (-1) at Cleveland Browns
In FOX pools, 7 percent have the Titans while 3 percent have them in Yahoo.
Reaction: The Titans made some nice offseason additions on defense (Perrish Cox, Brian Orakpo) and it looks like they will take a nice step forward on that side of the ball this year. The Browns . . . well, time to update the Browns QB Misery Matrix.
Overreaction: ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY MARIOTAS, THEY FORMERLY OF PERPETUAL MISERY AND SADNESS, NOW DELIVERED INTO THE GOLDEN AGE OF WINE, CHEESE AND FINE DELICACIES!
This week: The Titans still have a wobbly running game that now includes Browns castoff RB Terrance West (maybe he'll get some revenge). We're talking about a team coming off a 2-14 season that hadn't won since last Oct. 12, before lambasting the Buccaneers last week. As for the Browns -- are they starting Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown? Does it matter? That's like choosing between arsenic and ricin. But if you're picking the Browns, probably better to see McCown under center. (Update: Manziel is starting. Adjust your expectations and neckties accordingly.)
The Browns have a strong secondary and decent defense overall, and I'm just not ready to take a raw young team coming off a 2-14 season on the road yet. Let's wait another week or two before calling the Titans an NFC South contender.
SO WHO ELSE IS THERE?
I like the Pittsburgh Steelers at home over the San Francisco 49ers. I'm sure a lot of folks got spooked off the Steelers, given the 49ers' thrashing of the Vikings on Monday, but the Steelers are getting 10 days of rest and preparation after losing to the defending champs last Thursday.
I think after the Saints, the Steelers (-7) should be up there with the Ravens and Colts as your best picks, probably before both of those other teams. They meet all the criteria (home, veteran, inferior opponent, non-division game).
PICKS OF THE WEEK
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers +10 at New Orleans Saints
You probably figured this was coming based on the Saints-Bucs passage above. If you can get 10.5 somewhere, run, don't walk for it.
2. Houston Texans (+3) at Carolina Panthers
We have a 0-1 team facing a 1-0 team. Reactions in opposite directions. Texans coach Bill O'Brien installed Ryan Mallett as the starting QB after only three quarters of Brian Hoyer. Mallett can be inaccurate and doesn't hesitate to take shots, but he's probably the better signal caller. Panthers DB Josh Norman might take away DeAndre Hopkins, but where exactly is the Panthers offense coming from? To paraphrase Gisele after Super Bowl XLVI, Cam Newton "can't f***ing throw the ball AND catch the ball at the same time."
Give me the Texans and the field goal!!!
3. Seattle Seahawks +3.5 at Green Bay Packers
An NFC Championship rematch on Sunday night! This is going to be an extra spicy revenge game. Expect to see an extra heavy dose of Beast Mode after armchair offensive coordinator Delisa Lynch -- Marshawn's mother -- called actual OC Darrell Bevell "the worst play caller ever."
The Packers, more of a bend-but-don't break defense to begin with, lost inside linebacker Sam Barrington for the season with a foot injury. The Packers will certainly be fired up at home for this one, but it has the makings of a close game. Take the points.
(Go here if you need an explanation on how teaser bets work.)
Let's make it a two-game, 7-point teaser: Seattle +10.5, Texans +10. If you want to make it extra saucy (YES!), add in the Buccaneers +17, and for Ludicrous Mode, throw in the Rams/Washington Snyders UNDER (it's at 41, so the tease will take it to 47).
BUCKLE UP, EVERYONE! Good luck in Week 2!
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