With that in mind, let’s break the NFL down into four categories:
Super Bowl Favorites: Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Seattle
A Playoff Win Would Be Nice: Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Green Bay, Kansas City, Miami, New England, and San Francisco
They’re Frisky: Arizona, Carolina, Cleveland, N.Y. Jets, Houston, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tennessee, San Diego, and Washington
See You at the Draft: Atlanta, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Minnesota, N.Y Giants, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay
I’m sure I’ll get some reaction to those groupings, but it’s true. Everyone in the first group has done their work this year and you have to include Indianapolis since they’ve beaten both Seattle and San Francisco. Kansas City isn’t in that group because they haven’t beaten a team who currently holds a winning record. Green Bay fans will be pissed off, but they’ll need to show a running game and a defense in order to make the leap. Last week proved New England has room to improve, but that could happen with Rob Gronkowski. I’m sure some in the frisky group can get to that playoff win, but you can just as easily say they’ll finish the season with seven wins. The bottom feeders all have fan bases who realize May’s draft is too far away.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
SEATTLE over Tennessee
Atlanta sucked the life out of a lot of Survivor pools last week. They fell behind early at home to Geno Smith (yes, I can't believe it when reading again either), let the Jets hang around and then gave up a field goal to lose as time expired. Add that to the loss of Julio Jones for the season and the Dodgers trucking the Braves and it was not a good week to be an Atlanta sports fan. Most importantly for Survivor pools, it seriously cut down the number of remaining entries, which included me in one of my two pools. (For that sake I’ve changed the “teams used” at the bottom to reflect what I’m working with.)
Those still alive have some pretty obvious choices this week. You're using Denver if your haven't already. They'll be home and clear by halftime against Jacksonville in a game featuring one of the largest spreads in NFL history. If you're looking for an explanation of how Denver is going to win this game, you've obviously been unconscious for the last 14 years and think this is a battle between Brian Griese and Mark Brunell.
For those who’ve already used Denver and can't again, the other option this week is Seattle. The Seahawks' defense is a completely different animal when playing behind the support of the home crowd. Tennessee was OK last week in Ryan Fitzpatrick's first start, but they still can't get their running game going. It won't kick-start this Sunday either and Fitzpatrick with his receivers sure enough aren't good to elevate the Titans.
There are some slightly riskier options elsewhere that should still pan out. The 49ers host the Cardinals, who have looked pretty abysmal for the last three weeks. San Francisco is probably your third-safest bet after steadying the ship over the last two weeks. The Chiefs are rolling right now and should dispatch of the Raiders at Arrowhead despite Terrell Pryor's best efforts. Houston sees their season falling apart before their eyes, but they should be good enough to dispose of the Rams. It is eerily reminiscent of the setup with the Falcons and Jets last week, though. You can take the Bears tonight, given all the troubles with the Giants. Thursday night games are just a little funny sometimes.
Teams used: Indianapolis, New England, Denver, New Orleans, and St. Louis
Thursday Night Pick:
CHICAGO -7.5 over N.Y. Giants
Let's start with Chicago since they're the team that's actually playing for something. After starting the season 3-0, the Bears have fallen on hard times over the last two weeks. The first lost was mostly due to a typical Jay Cutler meltdown, but last week’s effort was generally OK. The offense moved reasonably well, but the defense couldn’t get off the field. If you look at the box score and didn’t watch the game, you’d think that the Bears should’ve made the game closer, especially at home. They were decent, but they made too many mistakes along the way and came up short.
The Giants, meanwhile, are in full meltdown mode. The offense has been abysmal due to offensive line woes and a non-existent running game. The once-fearsome pass rush has managed a total of five sacks through five games. Last year’s poor secondary has returned to be even worse with three of their defensive backs being out. It’s kind of comical when you look at the injury report and see three starters from offense and four from defense being out at this point in the season. No team can sustain that kind of blow.
The Bears’ defense has allowed 24.8 points per game this year, so it’s in no way close to what it used to be. With the Giants now using a Brandon Jacobs and Da’Rel Scott combo in the backfield (that makes me cringe just to type it), the Bears should be able to pin their ears back and go after Eli. The Giants haven’t just lost games this year. They’ve lost by an average margin of 20 points per game. You can hope their passing game is good enough to close the margin in garbage time, but the reality is that the season can’t end soon enough for the Giants. This once was an exciting Thursday night matchup. Now…not so much…
Reggie’s pick: New York Giants
Last Week: 6-8