If you were one of the 47% of survivor pool entries that picked the Green Bay Packers in Week 4, congratulations and I hope you follow through on whatever promises you made to the heavens as Mason Crosby lined up for the game-winning field goal. A Packers loss or tie would have shed another 63% of pools. Alas, only 16% were culled in Week 4. With 40% on the Buffalo Bills this week and 72% of entries concentrated on the three most popular picks, a return to carnage may be around the corner in Week 5.
Before we take a peek at this week's picks, let's revisit our Week 4:
Week 4 picks
Best Bets: 1-1 (YTD: 5-2)
Leans: 1-0 (YTD: 5-1)
Traps to avoid: 2 eliminations avoided (YTD: 8)
On to the Week 5 picks!
Jacksonville Jaguars (-7) vs. Houston Texans
It's been a while since the Jags were usable in survivor pools. It's a wonder what a new head ball coach, upgraded weapons on offense, and nailing both of your latest first-round picks will do for a club. Rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd is the current favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year at +300 odds and has helped spark this Jacksonville defense alongside No. 1 overall draft pick Travon Walker and "the other" Josh Allen. The Jaguars rank sixth in defensive DVOA and will face Davis Mills, who owns the second-worst EPA per play among quarterbacks. Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence has the seventh-best EPA per play and appears to be making the second-year leap under quarterback whisperer Doug Pederson.
Pederson's team is averaging a full eight points per game more than the Texans and giving up 6.5 fewer points per outing. These teams already have two common opponents after four weeks, with Houston tying Indianapolis 20-20 and losing 34-24 to the Chargers. Jacksonville blanked the Colts 24-0 and destroyed the Chargers 38-10 in Los Angeles.
The Jags rank fourth in overall DVOA, a moonshot from where Houston sits at 31st.
Sixteen percent of entries are backing #DUUUVAL, making them the third-most popular pick. Jacksonville has nominal future value, including a Week 7 home game versus the Giants and a Week 16 trip to battle the Jets.
San Francisco 49ers (-6.5) at Carolina Panthers
It's fun to think about which quarterbacks would start ahead of Baker Mayfield if they were on Carolina's roster. Drew Lock? Sam Ehlinger? Colin Kaepernick (meet y'all in the comments!)? Mayfield ranks last in EPA per play this season and it's not even close. If you ate a spaghetti dinner with your bare hands, you would come out cleaner than the pockets provided by Carolina's offensive line. The Panthers have a lot of talented pieces but they're severely lacking at the most important positions. That will haunt them on Sunday when they take on the NFL's best defense. The Niners lead the league in QB pressure (34.2%) and defensive DVOA.
Matt Rhule's Panthers are 1-26 when their opponents score at least 17 points. San Francisco has an implied team total of 23.5 points for Sunday's game.
At a shade under 4%, the 49ers are the seventh-most popular pick this week. There isn't much future value outside of a Week 15 game at Seattle and, possibly, a Week 16 home game versus the Commanders.
Kansas City Chiefs (-7) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Patrick Mahomes, at home, in primetime, as a touchdown favorite, with less than 4% of entries taking the Chiefs? Sign me up. Mahomes is 7-1 versus the Raiders and trails only Josh Allen in success rate per dropback this season. Kansas City has won their last seven regular season games at Arrowhead. Their defense is getting after quarterbacks at an even higher rate than last year, following the addition of rookie George Karlaftis to a defensive line anchored by Chris Jones and Frank Clark. The Chiefs rank fifth in QB pressure (28.9%) and will enjoy a plus matchup versus Las Vegas' offensive line.
They're a great team, but there isn't a ton of future value with Kansas City due to the fact that they're saddled with the league's toughest schedule. Week 15 at Houston and a home game against the Seahawks in Week 16 are in play.
TRAPS TO AVOID
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-9) vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Dirty Birds are a plucky team, covering the spread in all four of their games and entering this one with an offense that ranks higher in DVOA than Tampa Bay's. Atlanta's offensive line is much improved from last year, the running game is clicking, Marcus Mariota has looked impressive when he isn't fumbling snaps, and rookie receiver Drake London is the real deal. I'll wait until Tom Brady and the Tampa offense get healthy and on track before I take them in survivor pools.
Just under 17% of entries can't divorce themselves from picking the Bucs, who are the second-most popular option this week.
Minnesota Vikings (-7) vs. Chicago Bears
My considerably sharp colleague Mark Drumheller detailed earlier this week why he likes the Vikings to cover and win, but I can't get over how soft their defense has looked the last few weeks. This is a very winnable game for a Bears team averaging 177.3 rushing yards per game and ranked a respectable 15th in defensive DVOA.
Minnesota is the fourth-most popular survivor pick this week, at 9.74%.
Green Bay Packers (-8.5) vs. New York Giants (in London)
Green Bay has a daunting defense on paper but that isn't quite translating to the field, where they rank 30th in rushing success rate. The Giants lead the NFL with 192.5 rushing yards per game in the wake of Saquon Barkley's return. New York pulls off a shocker in London, and Aaron Rodgers pulls off a reverse "Home Alone," leaving his rookie receivers behind in the UK.
At a slice under 4%, the Packers are the sixth-most popular team.
Stats provided by Pro Football Reference, teamrankings.com, Football Outsiders, and rbsdm.com.