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Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a bit about survival football strategy. The rules you should employ before making any pick. The terrible teams you can make money consistently betting against. When to pick a good team like the New England Patriots. All in the hopes that you’ll be able to apply the advice to your own strategy to win your office pool or the $100K contest here on Yahoo Sports.
Now it’s finally time to break out that NFL schedule grid and figure out how you’re going to get past that first row of games. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to be easy.
Week 1 is traditionally one of the toughest on the survival schedule and that’s because we’re staffed with the least amount of information we’ll have all season. We’re either wielding perceptions of teams formed through the problematic prism of preseason games or, worse, from a season ago. That’s a lifetime in the NFL given all the roster turnover and coaching changes. I’ve often wondered what the strategy would be if your pool gave you a bye week to take and I think there would be a good argument to make for using it right away on Week One.
But that’s not how any of this works. You have to pick one team come Sunday or Monday (no reason to burn the Patriots on Thursday) and there are nits to pick everywhere you look.
Two of the three biggest favorites — the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons — are opening their seasons on the road.
Two other prime possibilities — the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams — could well be picking in the top 10 of the draft next spring.
Picking the Patriots or Texans means getting rid of a team with tangible future value.
So which way to go?
I’m going with the Bills over the Jets in Buffalo. It won’t be the last time I pick against the Jets, but it’ll almost certainly be my last chance to pick the Bills. Buffalo is listed as an 8-point favorite over New York and Numberfire places their odds of winning at a whopping 81 percent.
Considering that I feel OK with any pick that goes north of a 70 percent probability, I’m feeling great with this one. The Jets are already angling for the top draft pick and Josh McCown has 18 career victories in 14 years as a quarterback. We’re more likely to see Christian Hackenberg as the Jets starter than we are victory No. 19 for McCown.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I’m assuming a bit of risk here. That comes with the territory when you’re talking about the Bills and Tyrod Taylor. If I had to bet something real, like my children’s college savings, I’d probably go with the Steelers over the Browns or Falcons over the Bears.
But I’m a survival player that sees no difference in losing in week 1 or week 16. The Steelers and Falcons hold plenty of future value while the Bills hold none. To me, it’s an easy call.
Notes: I’ve seen people high on the Texans since they believe there’s no way they’ll let their home fans down after the hell they’ve gone through with Harvey. But can you be sure? The Browns come to Houston in Week 6 and I’d rather save Houston for that spot ….
… The Rams over the Colts are another sexy pick with Indianapolis heading west without the services of Andrew Luck. It’s a risky pick, but it’s packed with value if you can get past the Rams’ spectacular flameout last season ….
… Finally, we’re adding a bit of value to the column each week. Instead of just my input, I’ve solicited five co-workers to give their top three picks for the weekend (see below). And each week, one of the experts will lay it all on the line or risk the consequences. First up is my pal Jay Hart. If the Steelers don’t beat the Browns, he promises to wear a pair of cutoff jorts, a tank top, a pair of cowboy boots AND a cowboy hat to work next week. Filmed evidence will be provided in my weekly survival video.