NFL survivor contests seem so easy because of the rules, but they are actually much more challenging when you dive below the surface. The goal is simple: choose a team to win their game. The contestants try to do that throughout the season, unable to repeat the teams they have already selected. It’s not as basic as it sounds, as I outlined in my Survivor strategy article earlier this week.
Week 1 of the NFL season has arrived and it features some very tough Survivor decisions. Most of the big favorites this week are road teams, which seems to increase the degree of difficulty for those teams and creates a little more question for the contestants.
One of the more interesting angles of Week 1 last season was taking the Buccaneers as a heavy Thursday favorite and then being able to buy back into a Survivor contest if Tampa Bay didn’t win. We don’t really have that this week with Bills vs. Rams, a game that will avoid an extremely high percentage of participants.
I’ll be playing the game in this weekly article until I lose a pick. After that, I’ll make all the teams available, but try to keep in mind that most readers have already used the most popular teams when sharing my tips. We did this article up until Week 14 last season and I never duplicated a team.
Let’s evaluate the options of Week 1:
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Indianapolis Colts (-8) over Houston Texans
Expectations are really high for the Colts with Offensive Player of the Year runner-up Jonathan Taylor and the addition of veteran signal-caller Matt Ryan. Expectations aren’t high for the Texans, as they elevated Lovie Smith from defensive coordinator to head coach. There’s a section of NFL analysts that really like Davis Mills, but the Texans still have a low offensive projection with Pep Hamilton calling plays.
I’m not sure much has changed between these two teams after the Colts won 31-3 31-0 last season. Houston had one of the worst running defenses in the league last season and Smith didn’t hire a new defensive coordinator. The Texans have lost seven of their last eight to the Colts, and will likely make it to eight of their last nine.
The Colts host the Texans in Week 18, so their biggest favorite role of the season is a long way off. Indy hosts Jacksonville in Week 6, so that may be an option, depending on how the Jaguars look between then and now.
Baltimore Ravens (-7) over New York Jets
The Ravens take on old friend Joe Flacco as they try to erase the memory of how last season ended. Baltimore was 8-3 but lost six straight games to finish the season, including five games by three points or fewer. The incredibly bad luck with injuries that affected players at virtually every position, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, had a huge impact on the season.
Baltimore is largely healthy heading into the Week 1 opener after another undefeated preseason. Meanwhile, the Jets are missing quarterback Zach Wilson, who will return this month, but remains on a fluid schedule. Flacco hasn’t played much the past three seasons, posting a 15:8 TD-to-INT ratio in 13 starts and two relief outings. It’s hard to see him succeeding against a healthy, buttoned-up Ravens defense.
The Jets have an exciting roster of young players, but Baltimore is a veteran unit that has been a consistent performer for the better part of two decades. Since John Harbaugh took over in 2008, the Ravens are 10-4 in season openers. It should come as no surprise that one of the best coaches in the league has his team ready with plenty of time to prepare.
San Francisco 49ers (-7) over Chicago Bears
The risk is pretty obvious here: Do you pin your Week 1 Survivor hopes on Trey Lance going on tour? The 49ers are superior to the Bears in every other facet, and frankly, Lance has more upside than Justin Fields, especially given the team around him. It might be an understatement to say that the Bears enter this season with zero expectations.
Chicago’s defense was much better than last year’s offense, but it still ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards allowed per carry. That seems to be a very important stat here with San Francisco’s running prowess. New head coach Matt Eberflus is a defensive guy, so maybe things will get better, but there are serious personnel deficiencies on this roster on defense.
There are even more of them on offense. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has a big job ahead of him as a playmaker for the first time in the NFL. Fields is one of the most mobile QBs in the NFL and yet he was sacked 36 times in just 12 games with one of the highest sack rates in the league. Overall, the Bears allowed 58 sacks and still have one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The 49ers had 48 sacks last season and have a lot of pressure on the front four without sacrificing guys in coverage. This looks like a horrible matchup for the Bears and a good way for Lance to get his feet wet as the undisputed starter.
The 49ers play road games in Carolina and Atlanta in weeks 5 and 6. However, the Panthers game is on a short week after hosting the Rams on Monday Night Football and the Falcons game immediately follows the Panthers game (before facing the Chiefs and Rams before the bye). In other words, this is probably the best place to get to San Francisco in the near future, so I’ll take the 49ers as this week’s pickwith the Ravens a close second.