Things got dicey for survivor pool contestants in Week 1, as it was a historic week for underdogs to start the NFL season. However, readers who followed our advice with our “safest picks” and “contrarian play” all avoided these landmines and the dubious distinction of being eliminated from their contests after the first week. Our picks of the 49ers, Buccaneers, Rams, and Panthers won by an average of almost nine points per game. However, their results were not without their share of drama, specifically in the 49ers and Buccaneers games.
Nine underdogs won outright in Week 1, tied with 1980 and 1983 for the most in Week 1 in the Super Bowl era. It's the most in any week in the last four seasons, and tied for the most in any week in the last five seasons (2017 Week 6). Per @ESPNStatsInfo https://t.co/hYAIk3ZG6S
— David Bearman ESPN (@DBearmanESPN) September 14, 2021
Like last week, my selections for this week will be broken down into the following categories: safest picks, riskier plays that will be popular, and contrarian plays to beat a large pool. Even though survivor pool rules say you cannot pick the same team twice, I will outline multiple scenarios if bettors wish to navigate their own path.
Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their matchups in Week 2 (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-720), Cleveland Browns (-650)
If you did not “waste” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their Week 1 matchup when they faced a team favored to win their division, you should be thrilled to have them available to pick this week. Tampa Bay may not run away with the NFC South as many predicted before the season, especially after the Saints and Panthers looked impressive in their Week 1 victories. However, the one team in the division ripe for the picking is Atlanta, who looked non-competitive in a 32-6 Week 1 loss to the Eagles. Matt Ryan and the Falcons receivers will not challenge the Buccaneers secondary as the Cowboys did, and Tampa Bay gets an extra three days to prepare for this game, having last played on Thursday night. With us likely to avoid Tampa Bay’s four division games against the Saints and Panthers for survivor pool purposes this year, it would not be considered a wrong move to use the Buccaneers this early in survivor pools. Survive and advance!
The Cleveland Browns are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead in Week 1 after they squandered a 22-10 halftime lead. Against most opponents, one should be fearful of a “letdown” game the week after coming so close to beating the two-time defending AFC champions. However, even a letdown game from the Browns should be good enough to beat the Texans this week. Yes, Tyrod Taylor threw for a career-high 291 yards in their Week 1 win over the Jaguars. But the Jaguars were a team starting a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach on the road against a division rival. Baker Mayfield is a much more competent quarterback at this stage of his career than is Trevor Lawrence, and the two-headed attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is ready to run wild on this Texans defense.
Riskier Plays That Will Be Popular
Green Bay Packers (-590), Denver Broncos (-270), Pittsburgh Steelers (-245), New England Patriots (-240)
Most years, a play on the Packers at Lambeau Field on a Monday night against the Lions would be an automatic play in survivor pools. However, Green Bay did nothing to inspire confidence in them in Week 1, no matter what opponent they played this week. Were Aaron Rodgers’ poor 133-yard and two-interception performance a product of what will be a great Saints defense this year? Or will the turmoil from a tenuous offseason continue to play his and the team’s performance all season? I want to wait and find out before risking my survivor pool life on the Packers.
The Broncos did what they were supposed to do and dominated a poor Giants offensive line in their Week 1 win. They now face a Jaguars team coming off a disappointing 37-21 loss to the rival Texans. Denver should win this game, but the hesitation in picking them is that this is their second straight road game on the east coast, and their travel logistics and the heat and humidity in a September road game in Florida are worrisome.
The Steelers secured one of the most impressive wins in Week 1, upsetting the AFC contending Buffalo Bills on the road. But the Raiders are coming off a big upset of their own and put up 491 yards on a good Ravens defense. Baltimore is dealing with injury issues on both sides of the ball, but I would not want to take on this Raiders team coming off a possible momentum-building win.
It is not a commandment to adhere to, but avoid picking the road team in a matchup of division rivals in survivor pools when you can. For example, if you choose the Patriots to beat the Jets this week, you are backing Bill Belichick and are confident that he will get the team’s issues that plagued them in a Week 1 loss solved for this week. However, they are still a team with a rookie quarterback making his first road start. Therefore, it is much safer picking New England when these teams meet in Foxborough if you strongly feel that the Patriots are the superior team.
Contrarian Play To Beat a Large Pool
Washington Football Team (-184)
There is no better feeling than advancing in your survivor pools after picking the winner of the Thursday night game. While Washington will be without starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke has proven capable of leading this time in his limited time under center. However, given how anemic New York’s offense looked against Denver, all Heinicke has to do in this game is not screw things up and let the fierce Football Team defense bring home a victory.
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