NFL Survivor/Eliminator Picks: Week 8
The 49ers and Eagles may both have lost in Week 6, ending the last of the unbeaten NFL teams in 2023. But the 1972 Dolphins need to keep their champagne corked, because I’m a perfect 7-0 with my Survivor League picks. May the locks continue to flow in Week 8.
Los Angeles Chargers
-8.5 vs. Bears
Are the Revenge Game rankings on a two-week losing streak? Or is picking when a modern Bill Belichick team will see revenge like trying to pick when a throwback Bill Belichick team would feature James White? I’ll leave that to you and head to the west coast for my Week 8 Revenge Game selection.
1. Khalil Mack, Chargers vs. Bears
Khalil Mack had six sacks against his former Raiders team in Week 4, and he hadn’t even played for them since they were in Oakland in 2017. I’m scared to consider how many sacks Mack will have facing a Bears team he played for as recently as 2021!
2. Shelby Harris, Browns at Seahawks
The Seahawks kept Noah Fant and Drew Lock from the Russell Wilson trade but let Shelby Harris walk after just one Seattle season? Well, the big defensive tackle has spurred a Browns’ defensive renaissance. And with Cleveland’s run defense allowing less than a yard before contact per attempt this season, I’d be skipping practice with a “calf injury” if I were Kenneth Walker, too.
3. Mike Gesicki, Patriots at Dolphins
With Isaiah Wynn hitting injured reserve this week, Mike Gesicki will have to carry the Patriots revenge game torch against their former Miami Dolphins. But better Gesicki than traditionally sure-handed tight end teammate Hunter Henry whose 10% drop rate is fifth worst at the position this season.
4. Bud Dupree, Falcons at Titans
When the Titans released him after the second of his fake five-year contract, Bud Dupree went from making $16.5 million per year to $5 million with the Falcons. That latter sum may still sound like a lot of money. But with inflation running rampant, those $26 pimento cheeseburgers really add up — and don’t get me started on the point-of-sale machines that beg you for tips.
5. Dean Lowry, Vikings at Packers
Was Dean Lowry taking a veiled shot at his former Packers GM Brian Gutekunst when he told reporters in his introductory press conference that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was “down to earth” and “gave [him] some feedback on things [he] can improve on, [which was] different from a front-office standpoint from where [he’d] been”? If so, that’s surprising to hear. Aaron Rodgers was always so complimentary.
Did Tyson Bagent face a lot of 251-pound pass-rushers with 4.65 speed when he played for Division II Shepherd University? I’m going to assume he didn’t.
-6.5 at Commanders
Jalen Hurts averaged just 1.9 yards per rushing attempt in Week 7, the second lowest rate of his 41 professional starts. He visibly limped through much of the game and even wore a knee brace in the second half. But Eagles coach Nick Sirianni did not disclose Hurts’ injury on the team’s injury report, and Falcons coach Arthur Smith was similarly secretive with his star running back Bijan Robinson’s migraine. Public bettors deserve better in an era when the NFL aims to capitalize on a new widespread legality and interest in sports betting. And so too does noted gambler Riverboat Ron Rivera. With Hurts again absent from the Week 8 Eagles injury report, Rivera is in the dark of whether his Commanders will lose by 20 to a two-rushing-touchdown Hurts performance or to a two-rushing-touchdown D'Andre Swift performance. And as far as I can tell, that leaves Rivera with just one option: To bet on himself as the first coach fired. +200 with a new owner, a 3-4 record, and the Eagles and two road games in the next three weeks? It’s basically free money!
-8.5 vs. Bucs
I was prepared to dismiss the two Bills losses in the last three weeks as poor luck. The Bills still rank fourth in team DVOA this season. And sometimes even the best teams play poorly or face difficult matchups for their personnel for small stretches. But then I heard Josh Allen explain the “low positive” mindset he’s tried to cultivate for himself when he plays.
And I think I developed two or three new complexes just listening to him.
My loyal Survivor Picks column readers may think of me as a talented psychiatrist, subtext interpreter and Nostradamus-level prophet. But you may be surprised to hear that I have no formal training. Still, I feel confident in saying that Josh Allen had it right in his final thought that “maybe [he] needs to think a little less and just play football.” Luckily, Allen might soon have a new example to follow in potential trade acquisition Derrick Henry. And if they can just get on the phone in the next few hours, then Henry can fix Josh with a simple question: “Have you tried just being way bigger and stronger than everyone else on the field?” It seems like that should work.
+2 vs. Falcons
The forecast calls for a high of 76 degrees in Nashville Sunday. That’s a smidge warmer than the 36-degree, 20-plus-mph-wind Week 13 game between the Patriots and Bills from 2021 that featured 71 combined rushing attempts and just 3 Mac Jones pass attempts. But I wouldn’t bet against this Week 8 Titans and Falcons game setting a new rushing skew standard. Mike Vrabel and Arthur Smith would clearly prefer to coach in the 1930s. And I suspect Smith is still thrilled with his No. 8 draft selection of Bijan Robinson even after Robinson managed just one carry and three yards through a migraine last weekend and even after fifth-round running back Tyler Allgeier closed the seasonal gap with his dramatically more heralded teammate to 22 versus 19 broken tackles.
But Smith may lament one aspect of his football anachronism on Sunday. I don’t mean his lack of productive forward passes. I mean his lack of a real rushing threat at quarterback. New Titans co-quarterback starters Will Levis and Malik Willis combined for 678 college rushing attempts, which were 139 more than Bijan Robinson took. And as they average approximately 7.0 extra yards before contact than Robinson and Titans battering ram Derrick Henry — or Tyjae Spears if Henry is traded! — this weekend, Smith should finally feel the hubris of his offseason disinterest in versatile star quarterback Lamar Jackson.
+3 vs. Texans
What, you thought I retired this bit after Week 4? Oh Sandra. The Week 7 bye week re-energized me, and I may pick the Panthers every week until either they win or FTN fires me — the over/under for both of which is Week 13.
The nerds may have already made up their minds on the Bryce Young versus C.J. Stroud top rookie quarterback pick debate. But if so, they should re-check their numbers. Young has improved his passing DVOA from -60.8% in Week 1 to -24.2% in Weeks 2-4 and -14.1% in Weeks 5-6. If they had my dedication to open up Microsoft Excel and run their fancy linear regression, then they would know that Young was due to jump to an above average 9.3% DVOA in Week 8, pass Stroud’s 25.9% DVOA in Week 10, pass Tom Brady’s 54.1% DVOA from his undefeated 2007 season in Week 12, and pass Peyton Manning’s 58.9% DVOA from his 49-touchdown 2004 season in Week 14. Young should be the best quarterback of all time by mid-December. It’s just math. Take the Panthers and the points.
Scott's Pick: Los Angeles Chargers
Scott's Record: 7-0