NFL survivor pools continue to experience more mayhem than an hour-long block of Allstate commercials. Sixty-one percent of survivor entries were knocked out in Week 3. The Chiefs and Chargers were the two most popular picks, hurtling 55% of entries into the unforgiving abyss of regret.
This week will be extremely top-heavy, with nearly half of all survivors picking the Green Bay Packers. Before we leap into the Week 4 picks, let's look at the scoreboard to see how we fared in Week 3:
Week 3 picks
Best Bets: 1-0 (YTD: 4-1)
Leans: 2-0 (YTD: 4-1)
Traps to avoid: 1 elimination avoided (YTD: 6)
On to the Week 4 picks!
Cincinnati Bengals (-4) vs. Miami Dolphins
It's kind of a big deal whenever a betting line moves through a key number, which makes this the Anchorman game of the week. Cincinnati opened at -2.5 before getting bet up to -4. There are two mammoth factors that play into why I like the Bengals so much in survivor this week and one of those factors is the main impetus for the line movement; Miami's defense played 90 snaps against the Buffalo Bills in brutal heat last Sunday. With only three days to rest before Thursday night's contest, I don't see a Dolphins defense that ranks 24th in defensive DVOA having the legs to attack Cincinnati's offensive line or keep up with the Bengals' lethal corps of receivers.
The second reason I like the Bengals this week is mathematical (let me out of this locker). Cincinnati is the fourth-biggest favorite this week, yet they're the 14th-most popular pick in survivor pools. Barely over half of a percent of entries are taking the Bengals. That's a lot of survivor equity on the table if Cincinnati pulls off what Vegas is expecting them to.
The Bengals' future value comes in the form of home games against the Falcons (Week 7) and Panthers (Week 9).
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) vs. New York Jets
I like to play aggressively in the early stages of survivor pools, especially when it's a large field. Maybe I'll lose entries, but if I sneak them through, I'm in a prime spot for the back half of the season when everyone else has already used the Ravens, gotten knocked out by the Chiefs, etc.
If you're in a large pool and it lasts the entire season, that's at least 18 different teams you have to use (some pools make you select two teams each week after a certain point). In order to make it to the end, there will be weeks when you have to put your survivor life in the hands of an unpalatable team.
Hello, Pittsburgh Steelers. They have virtually no future value, so why not use them this week as home favorites versus a Jets team missing three of their starting offensive linemen? Zach Wilson is back under center for New York and that's exactly what we want. Out of the 54 NFL quarterbacks who played at least 48 snaps last season, Wilson ranked 50th in EPA per play. Pittsburgh's defense ranks ninth in EPA per play on QB dropbacks this year and 12th in DVOA.
The Steelers are the sixth-most popular team, at 4.76% of entries.
Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) vs. Washington Commanders
Washington QB Carson Wentz was sacked by the Eagles nine times in Week 3. If he were a cat, he'd be dead. Dallas leads the NFL in sacks (13) after bagging the Giants' Daniel Jones five times on "Monday Night Football." With Commanders starting center Chase Roullier on injured reserve and three more offensive line starters banged up, Wentz can't afford to keep holding onto the ball as long as he has been. Dan Quinn's defense is set up to tee off against Washington's line and teach Wentz that if you love something, you have to let it go. Expect the Cowboys to dominate the trenches and for running back Tony Pollard to have another big game against a Commanders run defense that gave up multiple huge runs to the Jaguars and Lions.
Dallas is the fifth-most popular pick this week, at 5.38%. They have substantial future value in home games versus the Bears (Week 8), Giants (Week 12) and Texans (Week 14).
TRAPS TO AVOID
Los Angeles Chargers (-5) at Houston Texans
When the Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles, the franchise curse moved with them. Their savior quarterback is playing through a painful rib injury, their star receiver has been sidelined by a hamstring, their new lockdown cornerback has missed two games already, their best offensive lineman is out for the season, their best defender tore his groin, the list goes on. Los Angeles' run game has been non-existent and this is just not the time to ride the Bolts.
A sliver under 11% of entries are on the Chargers, making them the second-most popular pick.
Detroit Lions (-4) vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Lions were my favorite survivor play this week until the names started piling up on the injury report and the line dropped from -6 to -4. Their offense has been clicking this season, but so much of that has been on the shoulders of bonafide playmakers Amon-Ra St. Brown and D'Andre Swift. Both players are in jeopardy of missing this game, in which case I'm completely out on them for survivor and will wait until the team is healthier.
Detroit is the fourth-most popular pick, at 9.83%.
Cleveland Browns (-1.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Full disclosure, I'm probably going to bet the Browns even though this line looks fishy. That doesn't mean they're a good survivor pick. If Cleveland defensive lineman Myles Garrett is unable to play following his car accident, the Browns are going to have a very tough time generating any pressure against an Atlanta team that's been moving the ball effectively.
Cleveland is the ninth-most popular team, at 1.38%.
Stats provided by Pro Football Reference, Football Outsiders, and rbsdm.com.