All-Purpose Playbook: NFL Week 3 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 survivor pool analysis, football picks, a smattering of GIFs and some nonsense. Follow me @brettsmiley and/or email me with any questions or comments at basmiley [at] gmail [dot] com.
A REQUIEM FOR SURVIVOR POOLS
This past Sunday was the wrong day to be the writer of a column intended to focus mainly on NFL survivor pools.
In fact it may have been the worst day ever.
The Week 2 survivor pool carnage spanned coast to coast as the 6.5-point favorite Ravens broke down late in Oakland, the Saints wet the bed at home in the Superdome as 10-point favorites to the Buccaneers, the Dolphins fell short in Jacksonville and then the Colts got whacked in Indianapolis by the Jets on Monday night.
The six (6!!!) most popular picks in Yahoo! survivor pools, all of which we reviewed last week and some of which I approved, got wiped out (the Rams and Titans were the other two).
The only reason I didn't bury my head in a pile of Cheetos and inhale is because I encouraged the Pittsburgh Steelers as the second-best choice and I know at least one fellow out there survived as a result. (Thanks, bro).
Alternatively, here's a sampling of the wreckage:
glad I took Pittsburgh after reading your article https://t.co/753XyNgm2i— Deadly Venom (@i4jElway7) September 21, 2015
If you survived, well, don't look back now. Run! Save yourself.
That crackling sound you hear is every survivor pool in America burning into a pile of ash. pic.twitter.com/brGdf47AH8— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) September 20, 2015
If you got waxed, well, you probably don't want any further dissection of the massacre, so I'll spare us that. Let's take a coffee break.
That's better. Now the good news is . . . Brett Smiley won a 34-person survivor pool thanks to the Steelers (the other 33 were slayed by the aforementioned six losing teams). The bad news is that I'm going to have to use at least 75 percent of the proceeds for therapy, a sports psychologist perhaps, because it's only Week 3 and the major premise of this column suffered an early demise like the second-billed Steven Seagal in the first act of "Executive Decision."
I am aware that some "revival pools" have sprouted, giving another round to many NFL survivor fans, which is nice. But that puts a lot of folks on different tracks and a lengthy breakdown may not be very productive.
This is all a long way of saying that for the remainder of the season I'm going to devote less space to the survivor game, make more traditional picks, throw in a dash of fantasy football and ill-advised teasers and anything else you might like to discuss.
Without further . . .
WEEK 3 SURVIVOR POOL PICKS
Take the Seahawks or Patriots.
At 0-2 with safety Kam Chancellor's sabbatical now concluded, the defending NFC champs finally get to come home staring down the barrel at the Chicago Bears with Jimmy Clausen under center.
The Patriots are also two-plus touchdown favorites over the visiting Jaguars.
If you've made it this far obviously you've yet to take the Seahawks; the time is now.
PICKS OF THE WEEK
After spending Week 1 in full-blown survivor mode, we debuted in Week 2 with a roaring 1-2 effort, banking only on the Buccaneers +10 which, as you know, won outright.
The "Forrest Gump" reference above got me thinking about Tom Hanks, so I’m going to roll with Hanks movie subtitles that in some way relate to each of these four matchups (leaving out “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Philadelphia” because that would be lazy).
“CATCH ME IF YOU CAN”
St. Louis Rams +1 over Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s big-time recency bias in play here as the Steelers are coming off a home whipping of the 49ers and the Rams an ego-bruising defeat in Washington where Redskins running backs Matt Jones and Alfred Morris ripped them for 182 yards rushing on 37 carries (4.91 average).
Obviously the Rams’ rushing D needs some work but they will get after Ben Roethlisberger. I think this could be a pretty high-scoring game in which Le’Veon Bell will make his debut for the Steelers and rookie Todd Gurley for the Rams. Ranked 30th in defense (according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings) last year and 24th so far this season, the Steelers D is more like a beaded curtain these days.
Mostly, this is a play against the public which is backing Pittsburgh to the tune of 85 percent as of Friday. Too much!
“THE MONEY PIT”
Atlanta Falcons -1 at Dallas Cowboys
I’m confident that professional bettors are going to be on the Dallas Cowboys here given the drastic line shift from the Cowboys as 4.5-favorites before Tony Romo broke his clavicle, to where the line is now with the visiting Falcons giving 1 point (your mileage may vary a bit). Is Romo worth 5.5-ish points? I think so, yeah. His backup Brandon Weeden owns a career 56.4 completion percentage, isn’t particularly good and won’t have Dez Bryant to catch jump balls.
The Falcons defense under new head coach and former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has looked much better this season than last, which is to say, not putrid. They will load the box against a Dallas offense that will lean on its O-line to power the running game and burn clock.
Good luck to Dallas cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. I guess you could call this a “statement game” for the Cowboys if you buy into that but I think that statement is going to be “Please hurry back, Tony.”
“JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO”
Actually I have no position on the Ravens-Bengals game but couldn’t pass up this opportunity with that game on the docket.
San Francisco 49ers +6.5 at Arizona Cardinals
San Fran’s offseason exodus via retirement, firing, free agency and otherwise was unlike anything we’ve ever seen, making room for a load of new starters and a lot of non-believers. Meanwhile the Cardinals are sitting pretty at 2-0 right now atop the NFC West, firing on all cylinders with Carson Palmer back at the helm.
It helps that the Cardinals have played two crummy teams so far (Saints, Bears). The Niners got torched last week by an excellent offense (Steelers) on a short week and it was never really a game after they fell behind 29-3 early. Colin Kaepernick boasts a 4-1 career record against the Cards with 9 touchdowns against 1 interception. There’s a lot of folks with one foot on the Arizona bandwagon and 74 percent of bettors aboard this week, so we’re going to take the points and even put a little cheddar on the San Fran moneyline. If you’re into trends, via @predictmachine: Arizona is 1-7 ATS as home favorites against the 49ers (dating back to 1978).
“THE GREEN MILE”
Kansas City Chiefs +7 at Green Bay Packers
This line on this game opened at 6.5 and currently sits at a full touchdown. The Packers did an impressive job last week containing Marshawn Lynch (41 yards on 15 carries) but the week before got ripped by Matt Forte (141 on 24 carries)
In addition to Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams, the Packers’ injury report still includes right tackle Brian Bulaga (knee). If he can’t go, backup Don Barclay as well as left tackle David Bakhtiari will have their hands full with KC’s dominant outside linebackers/edge rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. On offense, Jamaal Charles will get his on offense and Zeus will Zeus. The Chiefs have had ample time to rest and prepare since their late-game implosion against the Broncos last Thursday; had they not bumbled that game away in pretty unusual fashion, this line would be closer to 4 than 7, so there’s some value on Kansas City. Also, the post-Seattle effect appears to be alive and well. Via @predictmachine, dating back to last year, teams that face Seattle are now 0-11 straight-up and 1-10 ATS in their next game.
(Go here if you need an explanation on how teaser bets work.)
The scorecard read 1-2 on the straight picks last week but the Ill-Advised Teaser debuted at 1-0 as we needed every bit of the stretched lines on Seattle +10.5 and Texans +10. They won’t always be comfortable. Another two-game, 7-point teaser this week and just pile on two sides we already like, taking the Rams to +8 and 49ers to +13.5.
SAUCY MODE TEASER
Last week I inadvertently created “saucy mode” and it hit so that’s now the name of our 3-game teaser. So let’s stick with that and make it a mole sauce by tossing in the Browns which are 3.5-point favorites at home to the Oakland Raiders with Josh McCown set to start. I can’t get jacked up to lay 3.5 outside of pool play but flip that around to the Browns getting 3.5 and I think we’re cooking. The Browns defense served the Titans some humble pie last week and they’ll have a live home crowd looking for more on Sunday. Anyhow, I’m thinking the offense can do enough to keep a field goal game.
LUDICROUS MODE TEASER
Oh, hell yes! Dumped in for the heck of it last week we successfully reached Ludicrous Mode by adding an under on the Washington-St. Louis total, which registered only 34, well below even the non-teased total of 41.
Let’s stick to the script and throw in what should be a low total -- the under on the Dolphins-Bills game. Seven points takes it from 43 to 50 and you can send your thank you notes to Mr. Rex Ashley Ryan for grounding and pounding and salting the clock.
But seriously, when the radar gets jammed, this wasn’t my fault.
HAPPY WEEK 3!!!!