Well, that first week turned out to be easier than I had anticipated. That’s why they play the games, right? Both teams that should have won, according to my metrics, did indeed win, and they both won rather handily. The Patriots took care of business against the Steelers (by 7, but it should have been 14), and the Cardinals took out the Saints (by a score of 31-19), so if you went with either of those two you were safe as houses. It only gets murkier from here, though, but whatever you do in Week 2, do not pick the Broncos or Chiefs.
The Chiefs are at home, and played great last week in dismantling the Texans (but it’s the Texans, so…), so you might feel great picking them against a Denver team that let the Ravens defense get them out of sorts but still took home the win. But neither team played to form, and both will come back to expectations in this one. I think it will be close, and will be won on the final possession. You have any clue who will get the final possession? Neither do I, so I’m not touching this one with a ten foot pole.
Who to pick then? As usual, you should go with the team that has the highest probability of winning, and as usual you should start with the home teams:
Buffalo Bills (vs. Patriots)
Chicago Bears (vs. Arizona)
Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Chargers)
Cleveland Browns (vs. Tennessee)
Minnesota Vikings (vs. Detroit)
New Orleans Saints (vs. Tampa Bay)
NY Giants (vs. Atlanta)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. 49ers)
Washington Redskins (vs. Rams)
Carolina Panthers (vs. Houston)
Oakland Raiders (vs. Baltimore)
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Miami)
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Dallas)
Green Bay Packers (vs. Seahawks)
Indianapolis Colts (vs. NY Jets)
Then always get rid of the divisional matchups. Rivalries can kill your survival percentage. That narrows our field down to the final 12, so to speak. Out of those 12 home teams, only Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Green Bay, and Indianapolis went to the playoffs last year, and they are also the only teams I would trust to pick from this early in the season.
Houston’s vaunted defense didn’t look much better than the Jaguars defense last week, but the Panthers didn’t look that great on offense either. I think that game is a tossup, and like I said earlier about KC/Denver, I wouldn’t touch this one either. The Colts offense got shut down by the Bills last week, and they face a similarly stingy defense in the Jets. Great defenses can definitely get inside the minds of great offenses. The Jets could win, and that gives Indy a lower probability.
That leaves us with the Bengals, the Steelers, and Green Bay. The Seahawks went to the Super Bowl last year (and beat the Packers to do so), and their defense was embarrassed last week against the Rams. I think they right the ship in Green Bay and have a chance to win it in the end, which is too scary for Survival. Cincinnati looked scary good on both sides of the ball in Week 1 (albeit against Oakland), and the Steelers played solid football in their loss against the Patriots on opening night.
The Bengals routinely play their best football early in the season, and I think that’s no exception to start this season. I don’t see the Chargers having enough weapons to beat the team from Cincinnati in their house, which makes the Bengals the team with the highest probability of winning this week based on my metrics. Go with them in Survival, and good luck this week.