How hard is it to pick ONE winner…17 times in a row?

After months of uncertainty, the NFL makes it’s glorious return this week!!  Of course millions are wrapping up fantasy drafts, and looking for point spreads to start their pick-em pools, but one of my new favorite (and most frustrating) forms of football gambling is the survivor pool.  Pick one winner each week.  No point spread, just a winner.  Win and stay alive, lose and see ya next September.  I’m sure most of you are familiar with how it works, but the caveat is that once you pick a team, you are not allowed to pick them again for the rest of the season.

Week one is always the hardest for obvious reasons.  You’re dealing with a whole lot of unknowns.  There are a couple of different schools of strategy.  A lot of people try to pick a “lock” while still leaving the best teams unpicked.  In order to win 17 weeks in a row, you need to win AT LEAST 5 games with non playoff teams.  You don’t want to go into the last month of the season with no available teams above .500.

Others take the easiest pick available.  If that means burning a 7-0 team against an 0-7 team, so be it.  Some people would hate to lose with the Texans when they still had the Eagles, Packers and Patriots still available.  Last year I tried to leave some of the strongest teams and I think I was out in week 6.  I don’t know how I’m going to approach 2011, but let’s look at week 1 and figure it out as we go.

I’m going to use the process of elimination, so we’ll start with games that I’m not touching…

Saints @ Packers…the last two Superbowl champs…I don’t think I need to justify leaving this one alone.

Bengals @ Browns…divisional matchups are scary enough when you can easily identify the better team…never mind when they are two terrible teams…from Ohio

Titans @ Jaguars…pretty much the same reason as the battle for Ohio.  Also you put a lot of faith in a QB in these picks…I’m not putting my fate in the hands of David Garrard or Matt Hasslebeck in week 1.

Steelers @ Ravens…combine my logic from Saints/Packers and Bengals/Browns.

Panthers @ Cardinals…Two more miserable teams.  No thanks.

Seahawks @ 49ers…divisional opponents…Tavares Jackson or Alex Smith?  I’ll pass.

Giants @ Redskins…I think the Redskins (per usual) will be awful this year, but I’ve heard way too much negativity from Giants fans about their team this month to pick them on the road in a week one divisional matchup.  If I’m still around, maybe I’ll revisit this one when they rematch in the Meadowlands.

Raiders @ Broncos…You know why…this is getting repetitive.

8 games down, 8 games left…let’s look at the games I considered for less than 10 seconds

Falcons @ Bears…The Falcons are a trendy pick to play in February, and I’ll never put an ounce of faith in Jay Cutler to win when I need him to, but he’s just talented enough with a good enough defense that he can screw me over when I want him to lose.

Colts @ Texans…The pick to think about here was the Texans!  They always play the Colts hard at home and the uncertainty regarding Peyton Manning could leave the Texans as a solid favorite, but this still scares me.  I wouldn’t put it past Manning to play.  If he’s ruled out before the weekend, I may reconsider but this one still doesn’t feel right.

Lions @ Buccaneers…The Lions are a sexy playoff pick, but they are still the Lions and they are playing on the road against a talented young quarterback in Josh Freeman

…oh man the Redskins just announced that Rex Grossman will start on Sunday…ughhhh I might have to think a little harder about the Giants.

Cowboys @ Jets…This kind of goes back to the quarterback dilemma I mentioned earlier.  The Jets are a really good football team, with a stellar ground game…but I still just don’t trust a Mark Sanchez team against a talented Cowboys squad in week one.  The Jets looked MISERABLE in week one against the Ravens last year on National TV.  I think they probably win this game, but I’m not willing to bet my survivor pool life on it.

That leaves us with four possibilities…let’s take a look…

Patriots @ Dolphins…The Pats are a possible Super Bowl contender and the Dolphins are a team moving in the wrong direction.  There is no question that the Patriots are the better team, but any longtime Pats fan will tell you that all bets are off IN Miami.  The best example would be the 2-11 Dolphins beating the 12-1 Patriots in 2004 on National TV.  This is probably a safe bet, but I’m not sure I want to use the Pats in week one while they are playing a rival on the road

Eagles @ Rams…A Superbowl contender visiting a team on the rise.  The Rams scare me a little…I might be overrating them because I have a man crush on Sam Bradford, but again road teams make me nervous regardless.  This isn’t a terrible option, but I think the Rams are a little scary.  I am all for picking the best matchup available, but if I’m not significantly more confident in one team, I’ll try and save the better team for later in the season.  I might keep the Eagles in my back pocket

Vikings @ Chargers…I think this is the best matchup on paper, but the Chargers under Norv Turner are notorious for horrible starts.  They’ve started 2-3 in three of the last four seasons.

Bills @ Chiefs…A very popular and pretty successful strategy last year was picking against the Buffalo Bills.  If you like to plan ahead and save the top teams for later, this is probably the pick for you.  Matt Cassel says he’ll play, though the injured ribs could be a concern.  Regardless, I think Jamaal Charles has a big day, and Arrowhead is one of the great home field advantages in the NFL.  Their only home loss in 2010 was a meaningless week 16 game against the Raiders.

I’ve got all week to figure it out, but right now, the Chargers and Chiefs are my front runners…unless I can convince myself that Rex Grossman is bad enough to pick the Giants

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