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There are three parameters I prefer to follow when making my survivor picks: Steer clear of road teams, avoid divisional games, and don't save teams for future use.
It's Week 1 and I'm already disregarding all three.
The truth is you can't be predictable in a survivor pool. There are too many unknowns to play it safe on a weekly basis. If you take everything at face value, you're going to get eliminated before Canadian Thanksgiving.
This will especially ring true in a 2020 season unlike any that have come before. There are no rules, only guidelines. So let's go against the grain early and hope to kick things off with a bang.
Confidence rankings (CR) are out of 10 based on the author's picks
|AWAY||HOME (SPREAD)||PICK (CR)|
|Indianapolis||Jacksonville (+7)||IND (8)|
|Pittsburgh||NY Giants (+5)||PIT (7)|
|Houston||Kansas City (-9.5)||KC (6)|
|Cleveland||Baltimore (-9)||BAL (6)|
|Tampa Bay||New Orleans (-3.5)||NO (6)|
|Green Bay||Minnesota (-3)||MIN (6)|
|NY Jets||Buffalo (-6)||BUF (5)|
|Las Vegas||Carolina (+2.5)||LV (5)|
|Arizona||San Francisco (-7.5)||SF (4)|
|Chicago||Detroit (-2.5)||DET (4)|
|Miami||New England (-6.5)||NE (4)|
|Philadelphia||Washington (+6.5)||PHI (3)|
|Tennessee||Denver (-1)||DEN (2)|
|Seattle||Atlanta (+1.5)||ATL (2)|
|LA Chargers||Cincinnati (+3)||CIN (1)|
|Dallas||LA Rams (+2.5)||LAR (1)|
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
While the entire football world raves about the improvements the Buccaneers made in the offseason, it's the Colts who have really caught my eye. Indianapolis added so much talent on both sides of the ball and has an excellent coach in Frank Reich who will get the best out of an impressive roster.
Many people believe veteran signal-caller Philip Rivers, who's coming off a down year, won't shift the needle much, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Many of his struggles can be attributed to the Chargers' miserable, oft-injured offensive line. Not only is the Colts' line the best Rivers will have ever played behind, it's the best one that any NFL quarterback will play behind this season. Rivers will have all day to spoil his wide array of offensive weapons against a Jaguars team that's shedding talent at an alarming rate.
Jacksonville is in full teardown mode and will become a bigger and bigger underdog as the season progresses. Every year we see some lines in Week 1 that we can look back at in disbelief - the Browns -5.5 against the Titans, or the Bucs -1 over the 49ers last season. This will be one of those. The Colts are superior to the Jaguars at every position, and by the time October rolls around, we'll be wondering how this spread wasn't in the double digits.
Coming off a 13-3 season, no team is primed for regression quite like the Packers, who posted last year's biggest discrepancy between wins and estimated wins. Green Bay was abysmal against the run - 27th in the NFL, allowing 4.9 yards per attempt - and provided few weapons for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers failed to address either weakness and are now dealing with an understandably disgruntled Rodgers heading into the season. They'll always be a popular public team, but it's shaping up to be a rocky season in Green Bay.
That will be evident as early as Week 1 against a Vikings team getting very little respect heading into the season. It's lazy to point at the departures of Kevin Stefanski, Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen, and the starting cornerbacks and say the Vikings will be worse. That simply isn't true. Each of those areas was appropriately addressed and this team is loaded with talent throughout the roster. The Vikings are my pick to comfortably win the NFC North and will make a statement in Week 1.
Both of these teams are likely to win in Week 1, but there are enough question marks to scare me off.
Though the Texans are trending in the wrong direction ahead of the 2020 season, Deshaun Watson is still a game-breaker, and this is a team that nearly upset the Saints in Week 1 in New Orleans last season as seven-point underdogs. And if the Chiefs do suffer any sort of Super Bowl hangover, could you imagine a worse fate than being knocked out of your survivor pool before Sunday of Week 1?
Like Kansas City, the Ravens should win, just like they should have beaten the Browns at home in Week 4 of last season. They didn't. Cleveland won 40-25, and that was with Freddie Kitchens in charge. The Browns - healthy and well-coached, finally - will be better in 2020. I know we've heard that time and time again, but I'm at least willing to wait and see as opposed to learning the hard way.
I'd much rather look elsewhere, saving the Chiefs and Ravens for later in the season while rooting for an upset that could see close to half of my survivor pool knocked out in Week 1.
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.