Somehow, my return to Survivor picks perfection in Week 12 tastes hollow on the heels of an incorrect featured pick the week before. But I think most Americans suffer a Thanksgiving food hangover, and most of them fail to respond with hits on trash teams like the Titans, Steelers (?) and Giants. I (and the double-elimination Eliminator players) will carry on!

 

Week 13 NFL Eliminator Picks

Pittsburgh Steelers

-5.5 vs. Cardinals

Interim Steelers offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner won the easiest ever PR battle when he told reporters he would feature Jaylen Warren and George Pickens more than his fired predecessor Matt Canada. And then in the Steelers’ 16-10 win over the Bengals, he … didn’t? Nope, Warren saw the same 54%-48% snap share disadvantage with his backfield teammate Najee Harris that he has all year, and Pickens saw the same 5 targets he had averaged over the previous four weeks with Diontae Johnson back in the lineup.

I assumed that Steelers fans would be distraught despite the win the way they were with Canada in his 4-2 finish as an OC. But … they weren’t? Nope, columnist of the people Peter King named Faulkner his coach of the week for leading the Steelers to 400 scrimmage yards — and an unmentioned 0 passing touchdowns — versus a one-man Bengals team whose one man was already out for the season. I was confused. But then I remembered most of the recent American history, and I realized it was brilliant. No one checks to confirm that you followed through. You just have to say what people want to hear, and then you can do whatever you want.

Frankly, more coaches should take a page from Faulkner’s book.

  • Arthur Smith: We are giving Bijan Robinson 25 touches per game the rest of the season.
  • Sean McDermott: We are letting Josh Allen run 10 times per game the rest of the season.
  • Brandon Staley: We are punting on every fourth down the rest of the season.
  • Robert Saleh: Aaron Rodgers will be back from his torn Achilles any week now.

Warren and Pickens will combine for 300 yards and three scores this week. Give me the Steelers by 20-plus.

Los Angeles Rams

-3.5 vs. Browns

I like to lean on home teams with traditional home-field advantages in my Survivor picks, and I tend to steer clear of the LA Rams and Chargers because of that. But the Week 13 Revenge Game rankings are more important than the 40,000 or so fans the Rams don’t have:

1. John Johnson, Rams vs. Browns

As a safety named John Johnson and long-time member of the Rams except for their 2021 Super Bowl run, Johnson may be the most anonymous great player in the NFL today. As such, I can only assume he’s an understated individual and that his quote that “I didn’t meet my expectations. Obviously, I didn’t meet the other organization’s expectations. So it puts a chip on my shoulder” indicates a burning fury that he plans to take out on his former Browns team Sunday.

2. Javon Hargrave, 49ers at Eagles

Jalen Hurts better hope his unreported knee injury feels better by Sunday afternoon or he’ll learn why the 49ers fans call Javon Hargrave “The Grave Digger.” Oh wait, it’s because his last name is Hargrave? Yeah, that makes sense. But still, he has 43.5 career sacks at 309 pounds, it’s ridiculous.

3. Jamaal Williams, Saints vs. Lions

Jamaal Williams would have pulled the No. 1 Revenge Game ranking if he had played his former Lions team back in March when in his introductory Saints press conference he explained “the offer [Detroit] gave me I feel like was just very disrespectful and just showing that they really didn't want me to be there like that.” But that was before Williams knew he would be the third Saints option for 1-yard touchdown runs behind Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara. I suspect his feeling have changed a bit.

4. J.C. Jackson, Patriots vs. Chargers

J.C. Jackson may seem like another candidate for the No. 1 Revenge Game ranking this week. But reports and rumors that Jackson refused to play even while active in Week 4 and never showed up to the Patriots hotel the week before the team’s Week 10 trip to Germany make him sound like the legendary Leon. And I don’t think I can make assumptions about his motivations.

5. Baker Mayfield, Bucs vs. Panthers

If it wasn’t clear before, the Frank Reich firing broadcasted that even the should-be-rebuilding Todd Bowles Buccaneers are dramatically less incompetent than Baker Mayfield’s former Panthers team. And Progressive makes it easy to transfer your home insurance policies when you move from Ohio to North Carolina, California and then Florida.

I don’t know whether Dorian Thompson-Robinson, P.J. Walker or maybe even Joe Flacco will start for the Browns Sunday. I just know one of them is throwing Johnson a pick-six.

Los Angeles Chargers

-6 at Patriots

I don’t have to sweat the Chargers’ want of a home-field advantage on the road in Boston Sunday. And I don’t have to sweat the greatest coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick, either. Earlier this week, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien tried to take the blame for his presumedly former starting quarterback Mac Jones’ poor play this season. And that makes it obvious to this Big J Journalist that this conspiracy goes all the way to the top.

Tommy DeVito and the Giants are so bad that they rank below my self-destructing Panthers in DVOA this season. The piners over Caleb Williams can’t just roll the ball out and hope to lose in New York. That’s why the tanking savant Belichick rehired infamous former Giants coach Joe Judge — he needed to learn Judge’s losing secrets. And it’s why Belichick spent his Week 11 off-week not naming a quarterback starter and inspiring so much anxiety in Jones and Bailey Zappe that both threw interceptions in the same game Sunday. You think Chargers coach Brandon Staley can fourth-down fail his way to a loss in New England? Don’t make me laugh. At the first sign of his own team’s competence, Belichick will bench Jones and Zappe for Malik Cunningham, the potential next Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts that Belichick hasn’t even let practice at quarterback since early October. I’m in awe. Belichick is always two steps and two months ahead.

Miami Dolphins

-9.5 at Commanders

The nerds love to praise the process over results. But when Dolphins safety Jevon Holland ignored his coaches’ directive to bat down Hail Mary passes, caught the interception, and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first half of the Black Friday Raiders game, Mike McDaniel didn’t bench Holland like some coaching Sam Hinkie trying to tank for Caleb Williams. No, he sprinted across the field in celebration with his team. And you know who likes that? Cool football players like Jevon Holland. So let Aaron Schatz and his disciples complain about win probabilities in their parents’ basements. McDaniel will be busy shoving kids into lockers and beating the Commanders by a couple of touchdowns on Sunday.

Carolina Panthers

+5.5 at Buccaneers

We are so back! OK sure, the Panthers may have fired their first-year head coach Frank Reich with a 1-11 record that was two games and one win shy of Urban Meyer’s infamous mark in Jacksonville in 2021. And they may have traded the bulk of their future assets to move up for the No. 1 pick and drafted Bryce Young instead of the best quarterback of the next generation, C.J. Stroud. And their owner David Tepper may have overridden Reich and his front office staff to make that Young selection and sounded super bumble-y as he pretended to still have confidence in it. But have you considered that maybe Reich was a height discriminator?

Reich was himself a 6-foot-4 former quarterback. And assuming he advocated for the 6-foot-3 Stroud, that makes for 10 consecutive seasons when Reich pushed for a 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-5 quarterback in his own image. Sounds like a lot of ego for a former — and soon-to-be future — Presbyterian minister! Interim Panthers head coach Chris Tabor is 5-foot-11, the same as his team’s actual quarterback Young (at least in platform shoes). Tabor can actually see the game on Young’s level. And he can advise Young based on his own experience as a quarterback with the Ravens.

No, not those Ravens. Tabor never played professionally. A 5-foot-11 NFL quarterback? Don’t be ridiculous.

Scott's Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers
Scott's Record: 11-1