Survival of the Fittest NFL Style (or Why Can’t Every Team Play the Rams Each Week?)
For entertainment purposes only, I’ll be updating my survivor picks here every week. The rules are simple. Pick a team to win each week. If they win, move on to the next week. Of course you can’t pick the same team twice in the same regular season. None of this two-tier nonsense. One and done.
Note: there was also an anti-survivor competition. What’s anti-survivor you ask? Well, you pick a team to LOSE each week and can only pick a team once. How awesome is that? What’s not so awesome? When you pick the Bengals to lose at Green Bay in Week 2. And they don’t lose. And you get eliminated after 2 weeks. Nothing more shameful than being eliminated in an anti-survivor competition having left Detroit and Tampa Bay on the table. For shame.
Here’s my basic survivor strategy: rather than focus on what teams are good, focus on what teams are bad (and in some cases, really really bad). And here’s the good news (good for us, not so much for Commissioner Goodell): as Bill Simmons has already mentioned on at least one occasion, there are plenty of them. Through the first six weeks, I’ve picked whoever is playing against any of the following teams: St. Louis, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. Oakland and KC are also on the list.
If those teams (let’s call them the “Sucky Six”) are not able to lose (due to bye weeks or if I’ve already picked their opponent), then I’ll have to do some thinking and consider the match-ups. And all bets are literally off when one plays another (Rams v. Detroit in Week 8? No. Thank. You.)
Don’t Save a Team
Remember: don’t worry about “saving” a team for later. You can’t advance to the next week unless you survive this week. If there’s a sure thing involving one of the elite teams over one of the Sucky Six (i.e., Indy over the Rams), take it. You don’t want to be eliminated because you left Indy on the table in hopes of using them later in the season.
So, without further ado, here are my weekly survivor picks for the 2009 NFL season.
I’m also keeping track of the teams I’ve used in a separate post.
New Orleans (over Detroit)
- No-brainer. New Orleans at home to open the season against, well, Detroit.
Washington (over Rams)
- Good thing I used Washington early in the season before we realized how much they sucked.
Baltimore (over Cleveland)
- Another no-brainer. Not much to add there. It’s Cleveland. On the road. Against a better team.
San Francisco (over Rams)
- Ah, the Rams appear again. I’ve picked against the Rams twice through 4 weeks.
- Fantasy note: I also picked up the SF defense. They had a monster day.
Philadelphia (over Tampa Bay)
- Another easy call, especially b/c Andy Reid somehow is undefeated in his career following the bye week. Oh, and this just in: Tampa Bay is bad.
Pittsburgh (over Cleveland)
- This was a no-brainer, though if I hadn’t already used Philly, I might – might! – have picked them over Oakland. Good thing I didn’t. But that knocked 66 people out of the pool. Thanks Raiders! This is why I typically don’t take road teams as my survivor pick (unless that team is on the road against the Rams – see below).
- Oh hello Browns. I’ve picked against you twice through 6 weeks.
Colts (over Rams)
- The Rams are so bad and the Colts are so good that there is really no way this isn’t a total rout. I don’t care that it’s on the road in St. Louis. I also don’t care that it would seem to be a “waste” to use the Colts over such an inferior team in Week 7.
- As I said earlier, when it comes to Survival of the Fittest, you take your sure things when you can. And this, my friends, is a sure thing.
- Fantasy note: I’m also starting the Colts D without hesitation. On a not so good fantasy note: I’m playing against Reggie Wayne in at least one league. Uh oh.
NOTE: The Rams have taken the early lead on the Browns, 3-2, through 7 weeks.
San Diego (over Raiders)
- I was tempted to take the Lions over the Rams, but obviously you can’t rely on a team as bad as the Lions to win. Even over the Rams, a team even worse than the Lions.
- I also strongly considered taking Arizona at home against the Panthers once Carolina announced that Jake (“Picked Off”) Delhomme was still starting at QB.
- But ultimately, I had to take San Diego at home over Oakland. The Raiders played the Chargers tough in the season opener, but that seems like a long time ago. And Oakland is one of the original Sucky Six (ironically making its first appearance as the designated loser in the survival pool).
- Fantasy note: not coincidentally, I picked up both the Cardinals and Chargers defenses to use this weekend. I expect big things.
Atlanta (over Washington)
- This was a tough week, since three – count em, three! – of the Sucky Six have byes: St. Louis, Cleveland and Oakland. With only three of the Sucky Six to choose from, I had to look a little deeper and it came down to either Seattle over Detroit (at Seattle) or Atlanta over Washington (at Atlanta).
- I know Detroit is in the Sucky Six and they are on the road at Seattle, but Seattle doesn’t strike me as a very good team either. And Detroit could be frisky. The Redskins are coming off a bye, but they are in disarray. And Atlanta will be out to prove a point after losing at NO last week on MNF.
- Seattle or Atlanta? Verdict: Atlanta.
- Note: New Orleans over Carolina would also be a nice call, but I already used the Saints back in Week 1. And I don’t trust Green Bay at Tampa, no matter how terrible Tampa is.
Minnesota (over Detroit)
- First, let me take a moment to pat myself on the back for last week when I said I didn’t trust Green Bay and that Detroit might be frisky. Good job by me.
- This week I had to choose between Minnesota (over Detroit) or Miami (over Tampa). While tempting to use Miami this week and “save” Minnesota for later, this is a violation of my fundamental survivor rule: no savesies.
- Remember, you can’t advance to the next week unless you survive this week. If there’s a sure thing involving one of the elite teams over one of the Sucky Six (i.e., Minnesota over the Lions), take it.
- And of course if you happen to have New Orleans still available, do not hesitate to take them over the Rams. But you didn’t need to hear that from me. You knew that.
New England (over NY Jets)
- For the record, this is the longest I’ve ever survived in a survivor pool, so we’re moving into uncharted territory here.
- This week’s nominees: New Orleans (at Tampa Bay), Pittsburgh (at KC), Minnesota (v. Seattle), Arizona (at St. Louis), New England (v. Jets), Jacksonville (v. Bills).
- I’ve already used New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, so we’re left with Arizona, New England and Jacksonville.
- I know the Bills are terrible (and finally finally fired Dick Jauron – what took them so long?) and the Jaguars aren’t awful, but you just never know. So I’m going to steer clear of the Jags this week.
- We’re down to Arizona and New England. Arizona plays well on the road and the Rams are simply awful. But the Cards struggled against the run last week (I know, I was at the game), and Stephen Jackson is still good (and better than any Seahawk runningback). Plus I really don’t like taking teams on the road in survivor.
- So, let’s go with New England over the NY Jets. After “The 4th and 2 Game” and losing to the Jets earlier at the Meadowlands, you know the Patriots will be out for blood.
- And if by some miracle you happen to have New Orleans still available, do not hesitate to take them over Tampa Bay. Same goes for Minnesota over Seattle.
Cincinnati (over Cleveland)
- Hello Week 12! Never seen you before.
- This week’s nominees: Cincinnati (vs. Cleveland), Dallas (v. Oakland), San Diego (v. Kansas City), Green Bay (at Detroit), Atlanta (v. Tampa Bay).
- I’ve already used San Diego and Atlanta, so we’re left with Cinci, Dallas and Green Bay.
- I don’t like taking teams on the road in survivor if I can help it, so Green Bay is out (even though the Lions are terrible and will likely be without Stafford).
- We’re down to Dallas and Cincinnati. Dallas is tempting, but it’s a short week, Romo has some back issues, and the Raiders are just feisty enough without Jamarcus Russell that I’m going to steer clear of them.
- I’m going with Cincinnati over Cleveland. After losing on the road at Oakland, the Bengals are back at home and eager to prove they are among the best in the league. Oh, and they’re playing Cleveland.
- And if you do have San Diego and Atlanta still available, do not hesitate to take them.
Chicago (over St. Louis)
- This week’s nominees: San Diego (at Cleveland), Pittsburgh (v. Oakland), Cincinnati (v. Detroit), Chicago (v. St. Louis), Carolina (v. Tampa Bay)
- I’ll admit it. This is my toughest week yet, since we’re now late in the season and many of the top teams are gone.
- I’ve already used San Diego, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, so those teams are out, and I’m left with Chicago or Carolina.
- Let’s be honest: neither Chicago or Carolina are locks. At all. But they are the best options available because they are playing two of the Sucky Six.
- Carolina may actually be better without Jake (“I Can’t Throw Any Picks with a Broken Thumb”) Delhomme, forcing them to just run run run with Williams and Stewart. But Tampa has shown signs of life. And Carolina is pretty bad.
- Now I need to talk myself into Chicago. Here are the pros: 1) they’re playing the Rams, 2) they are at home, 3) they’re playing the Rams, 4) Cutler and Forte are way overdue for good games, 5) they’re playing the Rams. Here are the cons: 1) Jay Cutler is terrible, 2) Matt Forte is terrible, 3), Lovie Smith is terrible, 4) the Bears are terrible.
- I have to stick with my formula. St. Louis is the suckiest of the Sucky Six. Thus, Chicago is my survivor pick.
- If you have Cincinnati or Pittsburgh available, please please use them.
- Week 14
Tennessee (over St. Louis)
- I made this pick on Monday night, as soon as I checked the schedule. Tennessee at home against the Rams (with Kyle Boller at QB)? Sign me up.
- Here are the other contenders: New England (v. Carolina), Baltimore (v. Detroit), Pittsburgh (at Cleveland).
- Why did I list Pittsburgh even though the game was already played and Pittsburgh lost? Because I would never have picked Pittsburgh, even if they were still available. I don’t like taking road teams in survivor, and division rival games are even tougher.
- I’ve already used New England and Baltimore, so Tennessee is my survivor pick. Did I mention they are hosting the Rams?
- If you have New England or Baltimore available, those are safe choices as well.
See you next week. I hope.
- Week 15
Houston (over St. Louis)
- Here are this week’s contenders: Denver (v. Oakland), Arizona (at Detroit), Houston (at St. Louis)
- These are three outstanding choices and I am confident that all three will win. But why Houston?
- As bad as the Raiders are (and even with new QB Charlie Frye), I don’t like picking division rival games in survivor. And the Raiders always seem to play the Broncos tough. So Denver is out, even though they’re the only team at home.
- Arizona is also tempting, especially since they still need to win to clinch the NFC West. And the Lions without Stafford and Smith, and with their secondary should get crushed. But they could be feisty.
- Houston is playing the Rams. The Rams have Keith Null at QB. The Rams have swine flu. The Rams might not have Steven Jackson. And well, they’re the Rams.
- Congratulations St. Louis. I’ve now picked against you 6 times this season. Impressive.
Thanks to everyone on Twitter who weighed in. See you next week.
- Week 16
Arizona (over St. Louis)
- There are a lot of strong contenders this week: New Orleans (v. Tampa), Cincinnati (v. Kansas City), San Francisco (v. Detroit), Green Bay (v. Seattle), Arizona (v. St. Louis).
- I’ve already used New Orleans, Cincinnati and San Francisco, so it’s down to Green Bay or Arizona.
- I’ll admit that when I first saw Arizona hosting St. Louis, that was my original plan. But then I saw Green Bay hosting Seattle, and I started to question my original plan.
- Why go with Arizona? Because they’re a good team, still playing for a higher playoff seed (with some help) and they’re hosting St. Louis. They’re hosting St. Louis. And they’re hosting St. Louis.
- Why Green Bay? Because they are still fighting to clinch a playoff spot and secure positioning. Because they are hosting Seattle. Because Seattle is terrible (Seattle lost to Tampa Bay – at home – last week). Because Seattle is traveling from Seattle to Wisconsin in December.
- Not to jinx myself, I actually looked ahead to next week (yes, I know that violates my rules) to see if that would help my decision. Arizona plays Green Bay in Week 17. And that game is way too close to call, so I would never select either one of them against one another. Not to mention that it is a potential (and likely) playoff preview. So this is my last chance to use either Arizona or Green Bay.
- All things being equal, I would typically select the team that’s playing the Rams.
- And this week is no exception. Hello Arizona.
- Congratulations to St. Louis. You’ve been selected as the designated loser for the 7th (7th!) time.
- If you have New Orleans, Cincinnati, Green Bay or San Francisco still available, go for it.
And that’s it for Week 16. Good luck!
- Week 17
Carolina (over New Orleans)
- First off, I cannot believe I am making a survivor pick in Week 17. I mean, it’s the last week of the season. And I’m making a survivor pick! So, let me just say “Go me!”.
- Second, I fully expect that this will be my last pick of the season. I can hear you snickering: but it’s the last week of the season, of course it’s your last pick. Fair enough. But my survivor pool actually continues into the playoffs! I’ll get into that next week in more detail if I make it.
- Here are this week’s nominees: Baltimore (at Oakland), San Francisco (at St. Louis), Denver (vs. Kansas City), Carolina (vs. New Orleans), New York Jets (vs. Cincinnati)
- I’ve already used Baltimore and San Francisco, so it’s down to Denver, Carolina and the Jets.
- Let’s eliminate the Jets first. The game is on Sunday night and it will be effing freezing in New York (well, actually, New Jersey). I do not trust Mark Sanchez in those conditions – even if Cinci benches its starters. Sanchez has 1 TD and 8 interceptions in 2 cold weather games.
- Now we’re down to Denver and Carolina. Earlier this week, I picked Denver without hesitation. They are in a must-win situation and hosting Kansas City, a team they already crushed once this season. And it’s Kansas City. Who is terrible.
- But since I made that decision, here’s what’s happened in Denver: Brandon Marshall has been benched. Eddie Royal is out due to injury. And now tight end Tony Scheffler has been benched due to “attitude issues.” This is a team in total disarray. And I just don’t trust them.
- What about Carolina? They’re hosting New Orleans, the #1 overall seed in the NFC. And a team that’s lost 2 in a row. And if you’re the Saints you don’t want to go into the playoffs on a 3 game losing streak. But 39 year old Mark Brunell is starting in place of Brees. And Pierre Thomas is out due to injury. In other words, the Saints appear to be playing to lose. And even Vegas thinks so. They’ve established the Panthers as a 7 point favorite.
- We’re definitely in uncharted waters here. It’s Week 17 and it’s a pretty screwy situation. But I am actually taking a team that is playing the #1 overall seed in the NFC.
- Another bonus point for taking the Panthers instead of the Broncos? The Panthers play an early game, so I’ll know by 1 p.m. PST if I’m still alive.
- Let’s just say that tomorrow morning I’ll have Carolina on my mind.
See you next week. Or not. In either case, thanks for reading and it’s been a lot of fun.