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NFL Week 2 survivor picks: Can the Broncos bounce back?

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Week 1 in the NFL felt a lot like the ‘Ultimatum’ episode of The Office where Holly Flax says she will breakup with boyfriend A.J. if he doesn't propose by New Year’s. Michael Scott, desperate to find out whether the love of his life will be newly single, prepares two boxes in his office for when he gets his answer – one to celebrate and another to drown his sorrows.

“Today will either be the best or the worst day of my life,” Michael explains. “If she’s engaged, I’m going to go crazy and I’m going to start attacking people. If she’s not engaged, in all honesty, I may just burn this whole place to the ground out of happiness. Either way, I am going to need some talking down.”

This week, I’m neck deep in the happy box and I need to get grounded after a perfectly scripted Week 1.

If you followed last week’s column you are through to Week 2 thanks to the Baltimore Ravens. The result was never really in doubt, either. They took the lead late in the first quarter and never surrendered it, comfortably beating the New York Jets at MetLife.

I also had the Indianapolis Colts as the team to avoid in Week 1. Thanks to Rodrigo Blankenship – who has since been released – that proved to be correct as the Colts failed to win in Houston, dumping many from their survivor pools in the process (unless your pool counts ties as a win, in which case you need to find another pool). 

If you had one of the Colts, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, or Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1, you’re probably not even reading this right now – instead out attacking people with Michael Scott. Be well, my friends. There’s always next year.

It’s only one week, so we need to stay level-headed here – but not only are we surviving, we’re thriving.

A whopping 56% of entries in the Circa Survivor content fell by the wayside in Week 1, leaving just 2,685 entries remaining with a shot at the $6.1-million prize.

Onto Week 2 now, where things are looking a bit uncertain yet again following an opening week that left us with more questions than answers. Six of the week’s seven biggest favorites all lost in Week 1, leaving us wondering who’s actually good? Well, let’s find out.

Week 2 confidence ranking

For those new to this column, each week I rank my pick from every game, and assign each pick a confidence ranking (CR) out of 10.



Texans @ Broncos (-10)

DEN (9)

Titans @ Bills (-10)

BUF (9)

Seahawks @ 49ers (-10)

SF (7)

Bears @ Packers (-9.5)

GB (7)

Falcons @ Rams (-10.5)

LAR (6)

Bengals (-7.5) @ Cowboys

CIN (5)

Cardinals @ Raiders (-6)

LVR (5)

Jets @ Browns (-6)

CLE (5)

Colts (-4) @ Jaguars

IND (3)

Patriots (-1) @ Steelers

NE (2)

Commanders @ Lions (-2)

WAS (2)

Chargers @ Chiefs (-4)

KC (2)

Panthers @ Giants (-2.5)

CAR (1)

Vikings @ Eagles (-1)

MIN (1)

Buccaneers (-3) @ Saints

NO (1)

Dolphins @ Ravens (-3.5)

MIA (1)

Top pick: Denver Broncos

That’s right Broncos Nation – let’s ride. 

If your initial thought is “this guy can’t be f***ing serious,” that’s fair. But I am. Very.

Let’s throw Week 1’s final scores out the window, if you’ll indulge me, and instead look at the boxscores. The Broncos were fourth in EPA/play on offense in Week 1, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, and Buffalo Bills. They averaged 6.8 yards per play (fourth-best) to 5.2 for the Seattle Seahawks, picking up close to 200 more yards of offense. The Broncos only punted once!

So what happened? Well, going 0-for-4 in the redzone will do that to a team. The Broncos fumbled twice at the Seattle 1-yard line – you might not see that happen again to a team in the next five years – and kicked field goals from the Seattle 8, 12, and 22-yard line. They also kicked from 46-yard line, if you hadn’t heard yet.

You can question play-calling when it comes to settling for field goals, but one of those came at the end of the half with time a driving factor, and another followed a near-miss on what initially appeared to be a touchdown pass to Eric Tomlinson. Everything broke against the Broncos in this one, including an uncharacteristic 12 penalties for 106 yards.

Lumen Field in Seattle was electric for Russell Wilson’s return, and that energy transferred over to the team in the first half. The Seahawks looked beyond competent in through 30 minutes, before the Broncos settled in and completely took control. The Seahawks managed just five first downs in the second half – two of which came via Denver penalties – and didn’t cross midfield once.

The goal here isn’t to pull out every excuse in the books for the Broncos, but they were clearly the better team on Monday night. Nothing could break their way, and despite that they were in position to win the game at the end – Nathaniel Hackett, wyd bro?

In Houston, the Texans managed to grind out a tie against the Colts, largely thanks to Blankenship’s missed field goal in overtime. As lopsided as the boxscore was in Seattle, the same was true of the game in Houston. The Colts led the entire NFL in Week 1 with 517 total yards of offense, to just 299 for the Texans. Houston’s 4.4 yards per play ranked 28th, while its offense finished 23rd in EPA/play. Indianapolis also turned the ball over three times in Texans territory – at the 2, 22, and 40.

As someone who strongly advocated for avoiding the Colts in Week 1, I’ll admit luck played a huge role in proving me right here. They needed a late comeback to force overtime, but the game never should have been at that stage in the first place. Houston only made one trip into the redzone all game!

The Broncos are being priced as 10-point favorites here, which is about fair and clearly not an overreaction to misleading Week 1 results. If these two teams play as they did in Week 1, Denver wins 99% of the time – minus the goal-line fumbles, of course.

With better turnover luck and less carelessness in the redzone, Wilson’s Mile High debut should go swimmingly for the Broncos as they look to quickly turn the page and erase the memory of a shocking Week 1 defeat.

Avoid: Los Angeles Rams

Does playing the Buffalo Bills mean we need to give the Rams a pass for a miserable Week 1 showing? And if so, how much?

There’s legitimate cause for concern here. The Rams ranked 31st in Week 1 in yards per play on both offense and defense. The offense ranked 31st in EPA/play, and the defense 30th. The offensive line was an unmitigated disaster and will now be without starting center Brian Allen for up to a month. According to PFF, the Rams were 31st in pass blocking and 32nd in rushing success. Matthew Stafford’s elbow didn’t appear to be too much of an issue, but the lack of playmakers outside of Cooper Kupp at the skill positions certainly did. 

The downgrade in opponent for Week 2 should help, but I am very much moving forward with caution here. I need to see it from the Rams before buying in. The Atlanta Falcons also exceeded consensus expectations in Week 1, leading the New Orleans Saints for most of the game before “Falconing” late.

Offensively, Marcus Mariota and Cordarrelle Patterson led a fairly dynamic display, combining for 192 yards on the ground (5.6 yards per rush) against a strong Saints defense. Drake London looked the part in his debut, and it’s only a matter of time before Kyle Pitts gets going. Meanwhile, Taysom Hill was the only source of offense for the Saints through three quarters against a Falcons defense that more than held its own – again, before “Falconing” late.

Atlanta will give a lot of teams problems this year, pairing a number of playmakers on offense with an underrated defense. There will surely be growing pains as well, perhaps as early as this week, but if you survived a bloodbath of upsets in Week 1, are you really ready to go and risk it all on the Rams right now, after they showed absolutely nothing to inspire confidence in Week 1?

Not I. 

Other notes

I mentioned last week how the New York Giants were a big position for me, which had a lot to do with my feelings about the Tennessee Titans. They’re a team I’m fairly down on this season, while it’s hard to give enough praise to the Bills right now. They're my alternate pick for Week 2, but I gave the Broncos the edge for two reasons: The Bills appear to be one of just two strong options to save for Thanksgiving Day if your pool counts the Thursday slate as a week of its own, and the Titans do have a tendency to play to the level of their competition. Mike Vrabel seems to have a recipe to beat the Bills, doing so in each of the last two seasons. Those priors may not hold much weight given the roster overturn for both teams, but it’s enough to provide some pause, at least.

Speaking of past results, Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks have won three in a row in San Francisco. However, these are no longer Wilson’s Seahawks and these aren’t Jimmy Garoppolo’s San Francisco 49ers – though I’m not sure the latter is a good thing, either. I am willing to significantly discount Trey Lance’s Week 1 performance given the miserable conditions, but this is another instance of needing to see it before I buy in. Betting-wise, I’m on the 49ers this week at -7.5, and I’d much rather come to regret that than see my survivor entry go up in flames should the poor displays continue. This is a huge letdown spot for Seattle coming off an emotional win on a short week, but, again, let’s avoid the divisional games for survivor purposes if we can.

The same applies to the Green Bay Packers, though I have much more confidence in them turning things around. We’ve seen this team struggle countless times in Week 1, and there’s little reason to believe the turnaround won’t start against a bad Chicago Bears team in Week 2. I’m not sweating last week’s win at all. The Packers were thumped by the Saints in Week 1 last year before trouncing the Detroit Lions in Week 2 at Lambeau. Still, let me see it before I buy in. 

The Cincinnati Bengals appear a solid look at first glance, but a Tee Higgins absence would be a huge blow, and the Dallas Cowboys simplifying things on offense while leaning heavily on a strong defense has me at least a little wary. If Joe Burrow can’t clean things up in the turnover department, there’s real upset potential here. Don’t laugh, we saw Cooper Rush do it last season against the Minnesota Vikings.

This week presents a strong buy-back opportunity on the Arizona Cardinals following a putrid Week 1 display. With better luck in the health department, they’re very much live here against the Las Vegas Raiders. That leaves the Cleveland Browns as the only other potential option, and while I was tempted to move them up to around a seven on the confidence scale, the New York Jets put in a feisty defensive performance against the Ravens, have a few playmakers on offense, and now get Jacoby Brissett this week – a significant downgrade under center after facing Lamar Jackson in Week 1.

Week 2 presents a lot more options than we had last week, but there are clearly two that stand out above the rest. It’s the Broncos for me, though. Happy surviving!