Welcome back to another year of survivor pool action and shattered dreams. I held off continuing this column in fear of the article jinx but was coaxed into bringing it back by popular demand. This year my pool features 871 total entries, which has slimmed down to 576 after two weeks of games.
I narrowly avoided a week 1 devastation when the Seattle Seahawks squeaked out a victory against the Miami Dolphins (12-10) and cruised to an easy victory in week 2 when the Carolina Panthers beat the San Francisco 49ers (46-27). Which leads us to week 3 of the season.
The pick this week is the Miami Dolphins at home against the Cleveland Browns. The fins are tied with Seattle as the most heavily favored team this week by 9.5 points.
Cleveland has been a walking infirmary. Their first two games saw them lose their top two quarterbacks and number one draft pick wide receiver Corey Coleman. With raw rookie quarterback Cody Kessler suiting up for his first NFL action and no Josh Gordon for one more week, this should be an easy victory for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have looked impressive in two straight narrow losses and will look to capitalize on this opportunity. I would even take the Dolphins and the points, which I tend to avoid when the spread is over a touchdown.
Week 3 is in the books and all I can say is it wasn't pretty. Somehow the Dolphins needed overtime to finish off the hapless Browns last Sunday afternoon. If it wasn't for a 46-yard shank, the last of three missed field goals by freshly acquired Cody Parkey 236 people would have been eliminated from the pool. As it stands 99 were eliminated with the bulk coming from Carolina and Arizona's losses bringing the running total down to 477 survivors.
As we move on to week 4, I feel that this has been the most uncomfortable I've felt picking thus far. The first 3 weeks picks seemed obvious and reflected such in the individual pick breakdown. This week I think we will see some more disparity in picks. Three match-ups stood out to me as options for this week's pick.
The first and probably the most popular pick would be the Redskins over the Browns. On the surface, this feels like a great pick at home and 7.5 point favorites coming off a big win against the Giants. But I believe this could be a trap game. The Browns could very well run a muck of this shoddy Redskins defense. If the Browns can get ahead in this game and establish the run, I have little faith in Kirk Cousins to lead a comeback.
If I had to pick a second team to win this week it would be the Denver Broncos. The Buccaneers just lost a home game to the Los Angeles Rams in which they let up 37 points, to the RAMS! I think that Chris Anderson has a big game and the Broncos win this one easily. The Broncos are looking every bit as good as last years super bowl team and I would argue better on offense.
But I elected to pass on this pick because there was another match-up I liked with the extra benefit of this particular team playing at home. That pick is the Arizona Cardinals. They are the biggest favorites this week by 8.5points against the very Rams I just mentioned. Coming home after a Buffalo beat down to play a division foe they will be looking for some revenge. As long as Todd Gurley doesn't go nuts I think Arizona wins this game easily.
So there is my two cents Cardinals, Broncos, Skins in that order. I think you're good with any of the three but the Browns make me a little nervous. I don't see many opportunities for them to win games this year and this might be the one. Only Detroit goes for broke.
This Duke Johnson phantom fumble undermined my premonition of the Browns first win. In all my years watching football I have never seen a play more baffling than this fumble. Duke insta pops out of the pile with the ball as the ref signals Redskins football.
The second fix came in the 4th quarter of a tight Rams Cardinals game. The powers that be made the call that Carson Palmer had to come out of the game because he took a big hit and could have a concussion. Surely somebody bet the house on the Rams money line and stood to make a fortune on the 8.5 point dog. I have no doubt that a brain-dead Carson Palmer would have outperformed Drew Stanton and led the Cardinals to a 4th quarter comeback win at home.
As it stands 128 of the 163 eliminated this week were on that Cardinals pick, trimming the survivor total list down to 314 from the original 871. This coming Sunday I will be fully endorsing the pick against Cleveland strategy. The New England Patriots should be a no brainer. An angry Tom Brady will be making his 2016 debut as a 10.5 point favorite on the road vs the Browns.
As I sit here on a Friday night sipping on a delicious Karl Strauss Aurora hoppyalis, celebrating a winning Chargers wager from the previous night, I find it hard to pick a winner this week. Last week was pretty safe. Everyone pretty much went with either Pittsburgh or New England both who coasted to easy wins in games that were never in doubt. I like both of those teams this week also, especially the Steelers vs the Dolphins. Cincinnati needs to show up big time for this Patriots game if they want to be considered one of the big boys, so this could be an interesting game.
Buffalo would have been the pick if Blaine Gabbert was still the starter. But this move to Kaepernick is intriguing. It seems like he is well liked among teammates and maybe he inspires everyone to play better. If Chip Kelly uses Kaep as a runner, I could see him causing some real problems for teams and remind everyone how happy they were to have him replace Alex Smith years ago.
The Tennessee Titans, however, are this week's pick. It falls in line with the 100% successful strategy of picking against the Cleveland Browns. Now I'm not thrilled with the way the Titans have been playing this season but a battered Browns team will not have what it takes to get their first win of the season on the road, soo I see this as a rare chance to use the Titans confidently. I'd probably stay away from the 7.5 points for the Titans though. Their passing game has not been one that I could comfortably count on to win a game by more than a touchdown.