The survivor pool concept is a simple one: Don’t. Ever. Lose.
But picking a different winner every week presents some challenges for obvious reasons. You can’t take the same team twice, so eventually you’ll have to gamble on some marginal squads. No team finishes the 16-game NFL season without picking up at least one win, so you can’t just take whoever plays the Cincinnati Bengals every week. And let’s remember – it’s freakin’ football – so “Any Given Sunday” and all that jazz is in play, big time.
For the most part, I like to stay away from division games and low-scoring, defense-oriented teams, especially toward the beginning of the season, but sometimes you have to take a chance. Week 1 has some tough games, so you’ll have to trust the general projections we’ve all seen in season previews and tumble into the madness headlong. With that said, let’s take a gander at my pick suggestions for the first slate of games:
Pick #3: Arizona Cardinals over Carolina Panthers
The revolution has started in Phoenix. With the addition of Kevin Kolb, the Arizona Cardinals added a strong, accurate arm that can supplement a talented receiving corps. The Arizona defense is dynamic, flexible and adept at creating turnovers – a perfect storm for this matchup against a rudderless Carolina Panthers squad. Relying on a largely untested QB (Kolb) in a new city isn’t my first choice, but if you’re brave enough to avoid the following powerhouse AFC teams (New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers) at the outset of your survivor journey, you can’t do much better than the capable Cards at home.
Pick #2: New England Patriots over Miami Dolphins
The Pats may be on the road and facing a division rival, but they’re still the Pats – a team that made big strides in shoring up their offensive and defensive ranks in the offseason. While it’s a pretty safe bet that the Pats take this one, I’d look elsewhere – saving this juggernaut for a future week when your options are a little more limited.
Pick #1: San Diego Chargers over Minnesota Vikings
The Chargers tend to start off a little slow, but this is still a lock. The Vikings have a new old quarterback, a debilitated offensive line, and will most likely struggle to put together a winning season. Donovan McNabb is still talented and can throw the long ball, but he’ll see loads of pressure from the diabolical Chargers pass rush. Offensively, there are only a couple teams with as much firepower as San Diego. QB Philip Rivers is poised for an MVP-caliber season, and the full range of weapons he commands (Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, etc.) is on another level. Mark it down.