My efforts to shame Kyler Murray into a Week 9 start and Cardinals upset of the Browns backfired when his opponent Deshaun Watson returned to play instead. But no matter, my Saints held on, and I remain a perfect 9-0 with my preferred Survivor League picks. Let’s keep it rolling into the second half of the season.

 

Dallas Cowboys

-17 versus Giants

Here are a few of my considerations for making the Cowboys my top Survivor League pick for Week 10:

  • Dak Prescott has averaged 0.51 more passing touchdowns at home where he can sleep in his own Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed than on the road the last five-plus seasons.
  • Tony Pollard ranks third among running backs with 35 red-zone carries and tied for second with 10 carries inside the 5-yard line but has suffered a 6.18 expected touchdown shortfall that is the highest at his position and indicates a likely positive touchdown regression in the second half of the season.
  • The Cowboys should enjoy a relative strength in their interior run-blocking with both Zack Martin and Tyler Biadasz back after some early-season injuries and after the Giants traded former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Leonard Williams before the deadline.
  • The Cowboys beat the Giants 40-0 in New York in Week 1.
  • The new Giants starting quarterback Tommy DeVito shares a name with Joe Pesci’s “Goodfellas” character who — spoiler alert — was whacked for murdering a made man in Billy Batts.

I’m still sorting out the relative importance of all of those factors for my projections. But I’m feeling increasingly confident that the Cowboys can take this critical divisional matchup.

Seattle Seahawks

-6.5 versus Commanders

Sam Howell was quick to congratulate himself and his pass-protectors for taking just one sack in a 38-31 loss to the Eagles last Sunday. That clean day cut Howell’s average to 4.9 sacks per game, a pace that would have him sacked 83 times this season, just seven more than David Carr took in his record-setting 2002 rookie season that precipitated an early end to his NFL career. Unfortunately for Howell, the Commanders travel to Seattle this Sunday to face a Seahawks defense whose 3.4 sacks per game are tied for third-most in football with the world champion Chiefs and terrifying Browns. With Boye Mafe and deadline additions Leonard Williams and Frank Clark coming down on him on the myriad third-and-12s that the 12th man is sure to force with noisy false-start penalties, I’m sure Howell will be fine if he continues to release his passes 0.1 or 0.2 seconds faster than he did in September.

Cincinnati Bengals

-7 versus Texans

Oh, so when C.J. Stroud throws for five touchdowns and leads a game-winning drive in less than a minute one time, he’s suddenly the lead story on ESPN and the fourth-best rookie quarterback ever on Aaron Schatz’s Twitter timeline? Ever heard of recency bias? The Panthers and their No. 1 draft pick Bryce Young beat Stroud’s Texans just one week prior. Transitive property, you either have to accept that Young was the correct pick for my beloved Panthers, or you have to take the Bengals to beat the Texans by 40 this Sunday†. That’s what I thought.

Also, all of you 5-foot-10 plumbers, firefighters and female figure skaters are bullies for picking on a much smaller Bryce Young this way.

I’m not mad, you’re mad.

†Please do me this solid, Joe Burrow. If you do, I promise to stop calling Joshua Dobbs “Jo Cool”!

Baltimore Ravens

-6.5 versus Browns

Did the Revenge Game rankings fail Frank Reich in a 27-13 loss to his former Colts team on Sunday? Or did they push Reich back to the path of righteousness that God always intended for him? We’ll have to see what happens in Week 10 to know for sure.

1. Jadeveon Clowney, Ravens vs. Browns – I wouldn’t typically consider a “journeyman” for my coveted top revenge game ranking. But even if he wasn’t a former No. 1 overall draft pick, Clowney earns the distinction since he and his Ravens have completely smoked all four of his former teams — the Texans, Seahawks, Titans and Browns — by a combined 83 points this season. And this week, Clowney has another shot at a Browns team that after his non-extension he decried was more interested in getting Myles Garrett into the Hall of Fame than winning games.

2. DJ Moore, Bears vs. Panthers – I used to think the 5-foot-11 and 210-pound DJ Moore was undersized for an outside No. 1 wide receiver. And then my Panthers traded him to draft a quarterback that is charitably 1 inch shorter and 20 pounds smaller.

3. D'Onta Foreman, Bears vs. Panthers – Here are the broken tackle rates of four random, definitely unrelated running backs in 2023: Chuba Hubbard 21.2%, Christian McCaffrey 19.0%, D'Onta Foreman 18.5% and Miles Sanders 11.6%.

4. Latavius Murray, Bills vs. Broncos – Murray may be pioneering a new revenge game concept this week. Would he rather take revenge on his former Broncos team that divorced him and married a younger model in the 28-year-old Samaje Perine? Or would he rather take revenge on his current Bills team — that may have just replaced him with another veteran in Leonard Fournette that the Jaguars believed was washed up four years ago — and shave some points? If Murray mysteriously fumbles on a couple of red-zone carries on Monday, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

5. Elijah Wilkinson, Cardinals vs. Falcons – Wilkinson would probably have preferred to remain with the Falcons and block for their run-focused play-caller and head coach Arthur Smith. But I’m sure Wilkinson understands that football is a business. And after Atlanta spent a top-10 draft pick on what I as an infrequent Falcons watcher assume is a fullback based on Smith’s quote, “impact away from the ball can open things up”, it was clear the team would have to make some other spending cuts on their offensive line.

Deshaun Watson may have returned from his fake injury two weeks too soon.

Carolina Panthers

+3 at Bears

Hahaha. I know you thought you had me with those DJ Moore and D'Onta Foreman revenge games this week. But no, America’s favorite Survivor picks bit is back for Week 10.

Justin Fields is “getting better every day” but isn’t yet medically cleared to play on a short week? Ok, I can buy that. But Khalil Herbert is out again after practicing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week? My Big J journalist spidey senses are tingling again. With their own and the Panthers’ Round 1 draft picks in 2024 and with a half-game lead in the standings, the Bears may seem safe to win tonight and use that Panthers pick on a new franchise quarterback in April. But while the Panthers’ minus-86 point differential and -33.1% team DVOA may seem abhorrent and a borderline criminal offense to their handful of native Charlotte fans, they could pale in comparison to the second-half debaucheries of teams like the Giants, Patriots and Cardinals that are incentivized to tank for Caleb Williams. If the Bears want Williams themselves, then they need to take the tanking into their own hands. And if they were to take said tanking into their own hands, it would probably look a lot like Tyson Bagent throwing checkdowns to Darrynton Evans. Give me the Panthers by 3.

Scott's Pick: Dallas Cowboys
Scott's Record: 9-0