NFL Survivor Picks Week 13: Chargers, Bengals and Steelers

Mike MacGregorContributor IDecember 3, 2009

There weren't very many casualties in survivor pools last week, whether you made early picks on Turkey Day, or saved them until Sunday, most of the anticipated big winners pulled out the win. The Philadelphia Eagles didn't win very convincingly over the Washington Redskins, but between the Eagles and Bengals my picks were 2-0 last week .

For this week, three double-digit favorites are starring us in the face, so depending how deep you are into your survivor pool (started Week One or later ) then your choice may just come down to who you have available and who you want to save for later. There aren’t a lot of weeks left to save for.


San Diego Chargers over Cleveland Browns (stats )

One of the hottest teams in the league versus a team that is making a run at the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft. This one could not look more lopsided statistically.

The Chargers offense is clicking on all cylinders with Philip Rivers continuing to post great numbers even though his number one WR Vincent Jackson has seen a dip in his catches, yards and touchdowns the past few games from earlier in the season. Rivers is distributing the ball more and the running game is improved, making the offense more difficult to defend.

LaDainian Tomlinson still hasn’t cracked 100 yards rushing in a game this season, but he is playing better and is dangerous around the goal line, scoring four TD from inside the five yard line in the past three games.

The Browns keep getting hit with more injuries. This week they have a big hole to fill, being DT Shaun Rogers who recorded four tackles and a sack last week but also suffered lower leg and ankle injuries. He’s now on injured reserve and gone for the year.

The Browns defense also lost S Brodney Pool (concussion) since last week. Pool recorded an interception every other week since Week Four and will be missed.

The Chargers have scored 30+ points in each of their last three games, and never less than 21 on the season. The Browns have allowed 30+ points five times.

Unless the Chargers decide to copycat the Bengals from last week—45 rushes for 210 yards in over 38 minutes of possession—it would be a surprise if the Chargers do not post 30+ on the Browns.

Turning it around looking at the Browns offense against the Chargers defense, this is another improving area for the Chargers. The Chargers suffered key defensive injuries early in the season and had trouble stopping the run, but have since been pretty good in all aspects - passing, rushing, points against, turnovers and sacks.

Another injury to report for the Browns - they placed Jamal Lewis on IR due to post-concussion symptoms, which likely spells the end of his career. Lewis already stated earlier this season he is headed for retirement after the 2009 season.

The Chargers did lose S Eric Weddle last week with a sprained knee and he’ll miss at least a couple games, but I don’t see that being a big factor in this one.

The Browns have seven games to their credit this year scoring under 10 points. This one should be all San Diego.

Looking ahead, the Chargers remaining opponents are the Dallas Cowboys, Bengals Tennessee Titans and finally, Washington Redskins in Week 17. The only premium matchup here is the Redskins and given the uncertainty associated with that final week of the season, now could be the ideal time to use the Chargers if you haven’t already.


Cincinnati Bengals over Detroit Lions (stats )

Chad Ochocinco is calling for more passing this week after witnessing 45 rushing plays in the Bengals last game, a 16-7 win over the Browns. The Bengals are an impressive team this year, but they’ve done it with a control the clock ground game and solid defense, not a high flying aerial show.

In fact the Bengals have scored under 20 points in each of their last four games and six of their last seven, but its working like a charm as they are 5-2 in that span.

The question for this week becomes, are the Detroit Lions dangerous enough to put up 20 points on the Bengals and at the same time hold down the Bengals offense to its customary under 20 score? Anything is possible in the NFL, but playing the probabilities it is unlikely.

The Lions are more dangerous than the Browns offensively, but QB Matthew Stafford continues to struggle with his control. He tossed four more interceptions last week, bringing his season total to 18. The Bengals are tough against the pass and are up to the task shutting down Stafford’s top receiving option Calvin Johnson leaving Stafford with little else to work with.

In terms of rushing, the Lions Kevin Smith is an okay player but not a tough runner, going down somewhat easily after first contact. The Bengals held each of Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall to under 50 yards on about a dozen carries in recent weeks, so don’t expect a big game from Smith.

Yes, the Lions are capable of putting up 20 or more points, but they are under that total more than over it. They’ve scored just 12 or less in four of their last six games. Admittedly the last two were against top ranked defenses, but the Bengals are also near that top tier and they should hold the Lions to a very modest score.

As mentioned, the Bengals are not scoring a lot themselves, but can they do it if and when they need to? They can, and certainly against the Lions defense they can. They sport an excellent running game that hasn’t missed a beat even with Cedric Benson missing the last two games. He is expected back this week.

Carson Palmer to Ochocinco plus Laveranues Coles and improving Andre Caldwell is a solid set of skill players in the passing game.

The Lions have allowed 27 or more points in each of their past four games. I’m not sure if Ochocinco will get his wish for more passing this week, but assuming the Bengals don’t look past the Lions like they did the Raiders two weeks ago, the Bengals will chalk up another win.

Looking ahead, the Bengals remaining games are Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets. The next two games are terrible survivor pool options. The final two games have potential, but the Bengals may not have much to play for at that point the way things are going. This could be an opportune week to use the Bengals if they are still available to you.


Pittsburgh Steelers over Oakland Raiders (stats )

Of the teams we are picking on this week, the Browns, Lions and Raiders, I do consider the Raiders to be the most dangerous of the three. Obviously, they’ve already had a direct impact on many a survivor pool booting this year beating the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals.

Mind you, those games were in Oakland and in the Bengals case, they were coming off two huge wins. The Raiders are much more of a train wreck when they go on the road. Plus, the Steelers have three straight losses against them, so they are in no position to take the Raiders for granted as they need this win to keep playoff hopes alive.

Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return this week after somewhat surprisingly missing last week’s game against the rival Baltimore Ravens. Not that Dennis Dixon played poorly last week, so its hard to say if Roethlisberger would have made the difference (of course the overtime interception was on Dixon), but there is more comfort the Steelers offense can go full tilt with Big Ben in there.

Rashard Mendenhall ran well last week with 24 carries for 95 yards, and he should top those totals against the Raiders. The Raiders allowed good games on the ground to Jamaal Charles and Bernard Scott, plus the Cowboys trio, in recent weeks.

The Raiders defense is not allowing a ton of points most weeks, but the combination of poor defense and an offense that just can’t score very much has led to some lopsided losses.

Bruce Gradkowski will continue to start for the Raiders, which is an improvement over JaMarcus Russell but still not a good option to run an NFL offense. In his two starts he’s completing just 50% of his passes for under 200 yards per game.

The Steelers defense is a little difficult to figure out this season. Watching them through most of the game they still look reasonably stout, but they are allowing more big plays and cannot hold leads like they are expected to. The loss of Troy Polamalu is obviously huge, and he is doubtful to play this week, but there isn’t a lot of concern Gradkowski and his receivers can take advantage of his absence like Joe Flacco of the Ravens did last week.

Keep in mind the Kansas City game the Steelers gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown, a problem that has plagued them this year. They seem to have addressed it by putting better players, like LB James Harrison, back on kick coverage.

The Steelers should be able to pressure and rattle Gradkowski into a low scoring result while the Steelers offense puts a comfortable number of points on the board to secure the win.

The Steelers do have a game next week that looks good in terms of survivor pool options, as they play at Cleveland, with three tougher games after that. So, you may want to use the Steelers here or save them for next week.

Next week’s schedule does have some additional good looking options, including Ravens versus Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans versus St. Louis Rams.  If you have the Ravens or Titans available you might use them next week, after the Steelers this week.


Mike MacGregor created the Cheatsheet Compiler and Draft Buddy fantasy football and fantasy baseball draft tools, plus he developed various features and sports pools found at and Mike owns and operates .


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