NFL Survivor Picks Week 15: Texans, Broncos, and Cardinals

Mike MacGregorContributor IDecember 18, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Andre Johnson #80 of the Houston Texans reacts to Ryan Moats #21 (not shown) touchdown run against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 1, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York. Houston won 31-10. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Not too much to recap last week, since there weren’t many survivor pool exits. My Week 14 picks went 3-0 by a combined margin of 95 points, thanks mostly to big lopsided wins by the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens.

I was leery of the New England Patriots last week, and they certainly showed us why. You’d think they had lost the game with the negative post-game press. Randy Moss was accused of taking the day off after getting knocked around early by the Panthers.

Based on Moss’ performance, it is hard to argue otherwise. However, we won’t be worrying about the Patriots this week. We’ll let the boys and girls over in the Pats Community debate the ups and downs of their once-always-up franchise. Let’s move on to the Week 15 survivor pool picks.

Houston Texans over St. Louis Rams (stats)

The Texans are following a similar path of many preseason sleeper pick darlings. Things looked good early. Then, after numerous disappointments this season resulting in their chance at a playoff berth going on life support (i.e. absolutely everything at this point has to break right), they pick up their game and march towards a .500 record, give or take a game.

They are doing just enough to try to save their coach's job and give him another shot with this young, talented squad. Maybe next year will be their year.

After four consecutive division losses, each by fewer than 10 points and twice by just three, the Texans blew out the Seattle Seahawks 34-7. The passing game is cruising even without a reliable running game, where finding the right starter has been problematic to say the least.

Last week, rookie Arian Foster came in after starter Chris Brown flopped and Ryan Moats fumbled. Foster posted okay numbers buy they weren’t anything to get too excited about, considering the lopsided score. Hard to say who will start for the Texans this week, but we can expect a similar three-way rotation and average rushing ability overall.

The Rams defense kept Chris Johnson to 117 yards on 28 carries, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t too bad. But perhaps it had more to do with the short field for the Titans created by numerous Rams turnovers. He just ran out of room to run.

The Rams just aren’t very good at defending either the rush or the pass, so the balanced attack of the Texans should have their way in this game. Even though the Rams had been giving up fewer points in recent weeks (before last week), 30 points allowed looks like a good estimate.

As for the Rams' offense, the name Keith Null doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. His performance last week as the starting QB didn’t do anything to shake that. Null was 27 of 43 (63 percent), which isn’t bad until you look at the rest of the line. Passing yards topped out at 157 with one touchdown and five interceptions. Yikes.

Stud RB Steven Jackson had a rough go of it last week, rushing 19 times for 47 yards, marking his worst game of the year. Jackson is banged up, but honestly, regardless of his playing status, even a Herculean effort this week will not net impressive results after this season's performance.

The Texans' defense is right around average, but they are sure to look better than average this week against the Rams. The Rams scored fewer than 10 points in each of the last two games, marking the fifth and sixth time this season.

Even the most optimistic Rams fan couldn’t expect more than 17 points, could they? I’m thinking 13 or fewer.

Want another feather in your cap betting against the Rams? Okay, they cancelled practice this week when five or six players reported flu-like symptoms. That was Thursday, but they were back at practice Friday.

Take the Texans if you haven’t already as the best pick on the board this week.

Denver Broncos over Oakland Raiders (stats)

So, how bad are things when once former starting QB, drafted to be the franchise QB, gets benched midway through the season, gets injured, and is passed over for…wait for it…Charlie Frye. That’s pretty bad, and it is exactly what is happening to JaMarcus Russell this week.

I guess we don’t need to dwell on this too much, because it isn’t Russell we need to worry about. It is Charlie Frye. I need to say it twice because I still find it hard to believe that Keith Null and Charlie Frye are NFL starting quarterbacks. And people wonder why Brett Favre keeps coming back? It’s because he is more than qualified, people!

Okay, off that rant/tangent.

We’ve been burned by the Raiders pulling off a surprise upset win not once, not twice, but three times this year. Can they do it again? I don’t think so. Not with Frye under center, and not against the, once again, surging Denver Broncos.

Admittedly, the Broncos did lose last week to the Colts, and it wasn’t that close with a 28-16 final score, and the Colts scoring the first 21 points in the game. Prior to that, though, the Broncos obliterated the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants, both more resembling the caliber of the Raiders team.

Correll Buckhalter is out for this game, so rookie Knowshon Moreno will carry the load for the Broncos. I would expect a very good game from him. The Raiders are giving up an adjusted average of 140 rushing yards per game in recent weeks.

The consistent concern of the Broncos is Kyle Orton, and whether he is going to find orange and blue jerseys, or silver and black. He does have one interception in each of the past four games, and he’s topped 60 percent completions the past three games, including 70 percent last week.

Orton hooked up with Brandon Marshall a new NFL record of 21 times. If there was ever any doubt for Orton that Marshall is his top receiving option, or doubt for the rest of us that Marshall is a top WR talent in this league, that pretty much erased it.

The Raiders have a very good cornerback, Nnamdi Asomugha, but overall are not good against the pass. The Broncos should have success on the ground and through the air in this game. Outside of the games against the Giants and Chiefs, the Broncos aren’t scoring a lot of points, but regardless, we just need to be confident that they will dominate the Raiders.

And that brings us back to Charlie Frye. We already know the Raiders’ receivers are poor, so do we think that bringing in Frye, who couldn’t cut it in Seattle or Cleveland, is going to elevate their play? Frye wasn’t even the backup, but the third receiver practically all season. He couldn’t have much in the way of reps with the offense. This has trainwreck written all over it.

I actually think the Broncos defense is pretty good. They aren’t great. They aren’t as good as they looked early in the year as teams started to figure them out a bit, but they are capable of dominating weaker teams.

As much as the Raiders have burned survivor pool players this year, I just don’t see it happening again here. The Broncos have too much on the line—they still control their own destiny for the playoffs, but many teams are nipping at their heels—and they are at home. We should get a solid performance from them and, ultimately, the win.

Arizona Cardinals over Detroit Lions (stats)

Whoa, what the heck was that on Monday night? The Cardinals turned the ball over seven times, five of those being fumbles. The 49ers dominated the Cards from start to finish en route to a 24-9 win. Are the Cardinals just too comfortable with their division lead and coasting?

A little early for coasting, fellas, and I’m sure coach Ken Whisenhunt was only too keen to point that out to them. Time for a bounce-back game, and, lo and behold, it is against one of the sorriest teams amongst many this year: the Lions.

The Lions will look to Daunte Culpepper to start again this week with Matt Stafford still on the shelf, and I know Culpepper wants to prove that he can still play at a high level, but, it appears his ship has sailed. The Lions mustered just three points last week against the Ravens, with Culpepper completing 16 of 34 passes for 135 yards and two INT.

Beyond Calvin Johnson, there is no offensive threat there. The Lions can’t pass well and they can’t run well—the running made worse this week after losing Kevin Smith for the season (and perhaps the start of next) with a torn ACL. Rookie Aaron Brown and Maurice Morris will pick up the slack.

The Lions haven’t managed over 13 points in three straight weeks. Prior to last week, the Cardinals had allowed 20 or fewer in their four previous games, including against some tough opponents, the Titans and Minnesota Vikings. Barring a turnover-turned-touchdown by the Lions defense, it is hard to imagine the Lions topping 20 points.

As for the Cardinals' offense, they are stocked with talent at the skill positions. Using adjusted stats for the past five weeks, they are above the league average in points, rushing yards, and passing yards.

The 49ers pressure Kurt Warner constantly, but the Lions don’t have the defensive players to pull that off.  They average just a sack a game, and are way below the league average creating turnovers.

Most significantly, the Lions are getting torched through the air, which, in turn, allows the opposition to run the ball with relative ease. I expect the Cards to be able to pull off much the same in this one.

There is a slight concern the Cardinals will not take this game too seriously. Even with the loss last week, the Cards remain two games up on the 49ers for the division, and they aren’t going to catch the Vikings or Saints for a first round bye.

After last week’s debacle, though, they should play some inspired ball this week. Expecting similar results from the Lions is a long shot at best. Chalk up a win for the Cardinals.

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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