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NFL Survivor Pool Picks (Week 15) - Targets and Avoids

Week 13 was a pretty chalky one with just three underdogs winning outright. The biggest upset was the Broncos absolutely annihilating the Houston Texans who were still celebrating their "Super Bowl" win against the Patriots the week prior.

Three weeks remain and I'd be a fool to think there are hundreds who are reading this column because they're still alive in their survivor pool. There may be several at best still alive, unless pools have restarted. So while the title of this column is survivor picks, this information is still valuable because I will go through each game and break it down with gambling tidbits. I'll still have the usual format and give the top survivor plays though.

It's a pretty good card for Sunday, highlighted by an AFC South showdown and a Sunday night game between two AFC Wild Card contenders. I'll have my three best bets and pick each game against the spread. Teams I pick against the spread will be italicized, with my three best bets at the bottom of the column. When I say the stats I look at, I'm referring to yards per play, third-down conversions, and red zone touchdown scoring. I also look at sacks and turnovers.

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Top Survivor Picks for Week 15

Bucs -3.5 @ Lions

Prior to Sunday's game against Minnesota, Detroit had led in every single one. Yet their record is now 3-9-1. They lost both Matthew Stafford and Jeff Driskel and you wonder when they'll just throw the towel in. The Bucs have won three in a row behind a very surprising defense that's been number one in opponent yards per play the last three weeks. In that span, they're also fifth in both opponent third-down conversions and allowing touchdowns in the red zone.

Now that there are two weeks of film on Lions quarterback David Blough, the undrafted rookie will look really begin to look worse and worse. Todd Bowles is a veteran defensive coordinator and will make life miserable for Blough.

James Winston can throw a game away but the Lions are tied for the least amount of interceptions with five on the year.

Bucs 34 - Lions 17


Chiefs -10 vs. Broncos

I say this every week, the way to beat Kansas City is to run the ball. Denver is 30th in rushing the last three games. However, I like Drew Lock and expect him to keep them in the game.

Chiefs 28 - Broncos 21


Seahawks -6 @ Panthers

Carolina looks dead. Their offense ranks 28th in yards per play the last three weeks. The defense isn't much better, ranking 29th. Their offensive line has allowed the second-most sacks in the league. Their head coach was fired. It looks like Carolina's five-game losing streak won't end this week against Seattle who needs to bounce back in a big way.

Seahawks 34 - Panthers 17


Patriots -9.5 @ Bengals

New England is really struggling and Cincinnati comes up on their schedule at the perfect time. The Patriots will win this one but the only question is will they cover. Andy Dalton is a seasoned quarterback but he's going to really struggle against this Patriots Defense.

Patriots 24 - Bengals 13


Dolphins +3.5 @ Giants

I really can't remember the last time I put an underdog in this section, but I absolutely love the Dolphins. They've been super competitive of late with an offense that ranks 13th the last three weeks in yards per play. They should have won Sunday against the Jets except a bogus pass interference was called. It's baffling how the Giants are 3.5-point favorites. They collapsed Monday night against the Eagles and you wonder how they'll respond. Their coach and general manager are probably done after the season as well, so it is tough to know what the motivation is here. Saquon Barkley appears injured, Eli Manning has nothing left in the tank, the defense stinks. There is no reason the Giants should be laying three points here with the hook.

An odd schedule quirk to note; this is the second time a team who is not the Jets or Giants have played consecutive games in MetLife Stadium. The Bills had consecutive games there in Weeks 1 and 2 and now the Dolphins have done it the last two weeks.

Dolphins 20 - Giants 17


Saints -9 vs. Colts

Indianapolis lost a game they should have won Sunday. It seems like their season is lost and it does not get easier this week. New Orleans is off a really tough loss to San Fran and it's extremely hard to believe they'd lose two in a row at home. This is also a Monday Night Football game and the Saints may pour it on.

Saints 31 - Colts 17


Top Survivor Picks to Avoid

Ravens -15 vs. Jets

This is an enormous line against a team that isn't that bad. The Jets have their issues and are average at best but 15 points?! That's ridiculous. I understand the Ravens have beaten teams in every way possible, but the Jets have the fifth-best defense in terms of yards per play in the last three games with 4.6 (Baltimore is tied for first with 4.5). But here's the real shocking stat, through the last three games, the Jets have recorded 5.3 yards per play while the Ravens have averaged 5.2. Both teams are fairly close in other statistical categories as well. However, the Ravens will blitz the Jets constantly and Sam Darnold will have no protection because New York's offensive line is no good. That will be the difference, but the Jets Defense will at least keep them in it. Their rush defense has allowed an average of 78 yards the last three games, second best in the league. The Ravens rushing attack averages a league best 200 yards per game, 72 more than the next team, so something has to give. Maybe just maybe the Jets can slow down Lamar Jackson.

Ravens 24 - Jets 20


49ers -11 vs. Falcons

San Fran should win this game but you wonder how they'll play after their biggest win of the season. Atlanta has literally nothing to lose in this game. They are 3-2 since their bye and have been playing loose. The stats all favor the Niners but I sense a letdown or a backdoor cover by Atlanta.


Packers -4.5 vs. Bears

There are to ways to beat Green Bay; run the ball and pressure Aaron Rodgers. I loved Washington last week because they have shown the ability to do both. They averaged 4.3 yards on the ground and got to Rodgers four times. The Bears have averaged 101.3 rushing yards the last three games which is pretty close to average in the league, but they have the pass rush to frustrate Rodgers all afternoon.

Even though I liked Washington, I didn't think the game would be so tight Sunday. They are the most overrated 10-3 team in some time and finally face a legitimate team that's won three in a row. The most shocking stat though; Green Bay's offense is 30th in yards per play the last three games, behind the Lions and Giants.

Bears 23 - Packers 20


The Rest

Titans -3 vs. Texans - Tennessee is the hottest team and Houston is off an embarrassing home blowout to the Broncos. I will have no part in gambling on this game but if I had to pick, I'd take the Titans. They have the number one offense in yards per play the last three weeks.

Redskins +4.5 vs. Eagles - If Monday night's game showed anything, Philly stinks. The only viable pass-catcher left on the Eagles is Zach Ertz. Alshon Jeffery is out, Nelson Agholor is questionable, but I don't think he'll play. To lay 4.5 points on the road with an offense that banged up is too much.

Cardinals +2.5 vs. Browns - Arizona's offense has been dreadful the last three weeks averaging 3.9 yards per play, dead last. Their defense is 27th in that span but I really can't trust the clown-show that is the Cleveland Browns.

Raiders -6.5 vs. Jaguars - This line opened at 4.5 and moved to two points. That's because Jacksonville has lost by an average of 23.4 points per game during their five-game losing streak. They seem to have quit and have a head coach that is bound to get fired. Their defense has given up 7.4 yards per play the last three games which is the worst in the league. Oakland is 31st in that stat but they've given up 6.8 yards per play. The Jags offense is 31st in yards per play in the last three while Oakland's is 19th. This is also the last game ever in Oakland for the Raiders. Last year was thought to be the last game and Oakland crushed Denver 27-14.

Vikings -2.5 @ Chargers - Of course now the Chargers come out and play when they were eliminated from playoff contention. Go figure. Minnesota needs this game not only to stay in NFC North hunt but also to keep their Wild Card spot. This will feel like a home game for Minnesota which means Kirk Cousins will feel no pressure.

Rams -1 @ Cowboys - Both teams come into this game going in different directions. Dallas has lost three in a row while the Rams have won two in a row and find themselves firmly back in the playoff picture. Dallas's record stands at 6-7 and not one of those wins have been against a team with a winning record. The Rams have gotten back to their basics running Todd Gurley which in turn helps Jared Goff immensely. The numbers back it up. Goff has completed more than 70 percent of passes in the last three games. Prior to that, he hadn't had one game all year where he completed 70 percent of passes. Dallas has allowed quarterbacks to complete 65 percent of passes the last three games. If the Cowboys lose, their record becomes 6-8, yet they still control their own destiny to the playoffs. All they need to do is beat the Eagles and Redskins and they'd win the NFC East at 8-8. Crazy.

Steelers -2 vs. Bills - It's really remarkable how Pittsburgh has is 8-5. They're averaging 19.7 points per game their last three yet have won them all. They're doing it behind their defense and special teams. In the last three games, the defense ranks first in opponent yards per play, top-five in both third-downs and touchdowns in the red zone. This will be an old-school football game as both defenses are stifling. Points will come at a premium. First to 17 wins.


Best Bets for Week 15

  • Jets +15
  • Dolphins +3.5
  • Bucs -3.5

Last week: 0-2-1

Season total: 20-20-2

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