Last week, I went with the heavily favored Chargers and lost. Almost everyone else (the Packers, Chiefs, Giants, Eagles and Saints) came through. The Dolphins and Colts also lost, but they probably didn't take too many people down with them. Let's take a look at this week's numbers:
|Team ||Opponent ||% Picked ||Vegas ML* ||Vegas Odds
|Falcons ||Panthers ||31.9% ||300 ||75%
|Jets ||Dolphins ||16.7% ||210 ||67.7%
|Steelers ||Bengals ||15.3% ||360 ||78.3
|Jaguars ||Raiders ||11.1% ||200 ||66.7%
|Saints ||Rams ||6.3% ||425 ||81%
|Chargers ||Chiefs ||3.7% ||280 ||73.7%
|Colts ||Titans ||2.7% ||155 ||60.8%
|Packers ||Lions ||2.6% ||255 ||71.8%
|49ers ||Seahawks ||2.5% ||220 ||68.8%
|Broncos ||Cardinals ||2.5% ||220 ||68.8%
|Other ||N/A ||4.7% ||N/A ||N/A
Keep in mind this late in the year, you want to check who's available to the remaining teams in your pool, as the above numbers are just averages across a large sample of pools. Moreover, as more owners get eliminated, the sample from which they're drawn shrinks, making it less reliable.
There are no double-digit favorites this week, and all of the biggest favorites are on the road and/or facing division rivals. I'd expect a good deal of carnage with quite a few pools being decided this weekend.
1. New Orleans Saints
My first instinct was to avoid them because I think the Rams are dangerous, but St. Louis has been worse on the road, and the Saints are probably the safest play on a risky board. (They're also Vegas' choice by a wide margin). I give New Orleans a 77 percent chance to win.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Like the Saints, the Steelers are a home team playing a weaker opponent, but the Bengals tend to play their division rivals tough, and this is a letdown spot after the big win on Sunday night. Still, Pittsburgh doesn't want to give back its lead in the AFC North, and Cincy has been creative in finding ways to beat itself. I give the Steelers a 76 percent chance to win this game.
3. Green Bay Packers
Taking a road team in a divisional game is usually a bad idea, but the Packers are statistically one of the best teams in the league, and they badly need this game to stay in the NFC playoff hunt. I gave the Packers a 73 percent chance to win this game.
4. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are at home in a must-win game, but have by far the hardest opponent of the top-four choices in the Chiefs. Still, given that only 3.7 percent of pools are taking them, and 32 percent are on the Falcons, the Chargers get the slight nod. I give the Chargers a 72 percent chance to win this game.
5. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are a lot better at home, but they did just win at Tampa and draw arguably the worst team in the NFL. Still because they're on the road, at risk of a letdown, playing outdoors and 32 percent used, I have them behind the Chargers and Packers. I give Atlanta a 74 percent chance to win this game.
6. San Francisco 49ers
On paper this doesn't look great with no Frank Gore
, Alex Smith
at the helm and the knowledge that the Seahawks beat up on the Niners earlier this year. But Seattle's much worse on the road, and the Niners should be able to beat them up physically. I give the 49ers a 68 percent chance to win this game.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
I like the way they match up against the Raiders who have struggled against physical teams, and they're at home. I give the Jaguars a 67 percent chance to win this game.
8. Denver Broncos
It's usually a good thing when a coach gets fired, but the Broncos are becoming one of the league's doormats, they can't stop the run and they're going on the road. Fortunately the destination is Arizona. I give the Broncos a 65 percent chance to win this game.
9. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles should get Asante Samuel
back, and Dallas is missing Dez Bryant
. I still expect it to be a tough game in Dallas, but Philly should pull it out. I give the Eagles a 65 percent chance to win.
10. New York Jets
I actually picked the Dolphins to win in Beating the Book because I'm not sure the Jets can pick up the pieces in six days, and it's just the picture I have of that game (which might or might not be accurate). But gun to my head, I'd have to go with a team with that much talent at home over any of the remaining teams. I give the Jets a 65 percent chance to win.
Anyone not mentioned.