It’s the beginning of the NFL season. That means that it’s time for Survivor Pools, and that’s a very good thing. Whether you call them Survivor Pools, Suicide Pools, or Eliminator Pools they are such a simple but deceptively challenging thing. It shouldn’t be hard to pick a single team every week that is going to win, but it can be incredibly difficult, and there are countless ways for things to go really badly. The most crushing part of the pools is that you only get one mistake, so things can end tragically early for you.
Early each week during the NFL season I’m going to look at the coming week of Survivor Pool action. This article will be a precursor to our very popular official Survivor Pool Picks article that can be found only at Doc’s Sports Web site at the end of every week. For this article we’ll look at the heavy favorites to see if they are safe picks. We’ll look at teams to avoid at all costs. We’ll look at where most people are likely to be drawn, and where you might want to look to make a statement and gain a big edge on the field. It’s all about finding a way to be the last person standing, so you can win the cash and the bragging rights.
Without further ado, let’s get started with our Survivor Pools strategy advice and tips for Week 1 of the 2011-12 NFL season:
The heavy favorites
There are four teams favored by at least a touchdown in the first week: Houston at home against the Colts, San Diego hosting Minnesota, Arizona at home against Carolina, and the Patriots at Miami. Of those four there is only one that I would seriously consider playing this week—the Texans.
San Diego shouldn’t have too much trouble with the Vikings, but I wouldn’t want to trust Norv Turner in September because the guy just can’t seem to consistently coach a winning effort early in the season. They’ll be much more attractive in later weeks when they have proven themselves.
I have very low expectations for Cam Newton and the Panthers this year, but trusting Kevin Kolb in his first week with a new team seems unnecessarily risky. The Patriots are the best team in the league in my eyes, but they have brought in a lot of new players, and Miami is a tougher opponent than they will face later, so I would save them for a later time.
Houston, though, is an easy pick. The Colts are unlikely to have Peyton Manning. Their QB situation, then, is an ancient and unprepared Kerry Collins, a woefully outclassed Curtis Painter, or a rusty and crippled Manning. None of those choices is a good thing. Houston has a potent offense and a defense that is dramatically better than it was last year—not that that is hard.
Sweet spots and dangerous traps
Here, in no particular order, are thoughts on four other games of interest this week:
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
This is a prime spot to pick a team you aren’t likely to want to use later on because Cleveland isn’t exactly a powerhouse. Colt McCoy has shown real improvement this year, they will be comfortable at home, and will be looking to make a statement against a rival.
Cincinnati is a total mess. They have a quarterback who just isn’t ready to play, a lack of talent on both sides of the ball, and terrible coaching.
The biggest advantage of making a relatively safe Cleveland pick here is that you are saving the best teams in the league until later. That means you could have a safer pick to make when others have to take a big risk because they have used up their elite teams. That’s how you win these things.
Buffalo at Kansas City
A lot of people are going to pick the Chiefs at home because they are favored by five points and have some hype surrounding them. I’m not convinced it’s worth it.
The Chiefs had a rough preseason, and had a couple of costly injuries. They are dealing with a change in offensive coordinator that seems to have had a big impact.
Buffalo has a lot of work left to do, but they have an under-appreciated quarterback and are capable of pulling off the upset here. There will be better spots to use the Chiefs.
Atlanta at Chicago
The Falcons are going to be a popular pick here because Jay Cutler is pretty much the least popular guy on the planet aside from murderers and war criminals. While I certainly am not going to defend him, I think it would be smart to let other people pick the Falcons and leave this one alone.
Atlanta had a terrible preseason. Though that doesn’t always mean much it’s still hard to believe that they are at full strength. Chicago is no pushover, and they are at home. There is too much risk here.
Philadelphia at St. Louis
This one is very interesting. The ‘Dream Team’ is getting all sorts of attention this year, and they are going to be very popular to casual fans. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t look at picking them in this spot.
Their starting QB just signed a fat new contract, and he is prone to injury. Their backup is injured. They have a lot of new pieces to work in and get used to. Their opponent is a team on the rise with a very talented QB. A lot of people will pick Philly. I’d let them, and feel good about it.
Our official NFL Survivor Pool picks article will be available on Doc’sSports homepage on Wednesday this week since there is a NFL season-opening game on Thursday this week.