The week 1 NFL Survivor Pool always generates some added nerves.
It's difficult to predict what will happen, and regardless what occurs in week 1, it's not a predictor for what to expect for the remainder of the season. So it's not surprising that consistently good teams will take center stage as the top Survivor Pool picks in week 1.
I haven't decided which team I will back in the week 1 NFL Survivor Pool, but here's some of the games I'll be investigating in the coming weeks, with oddsmakers pegging these games as the most lopsided in terms of betting spreads.
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San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (-6)
If week 1 was upon us and I needed to make a pick, the Vikings would shoot up to the top of my list.
Bettors are in agreement, with this line continuing to creep up to six in recent days. It's tough to imagine San Francisco being competitive in this contest, with the Vikings employing not only a top-three defense in the NFL, but an offense with top-tier skill position talent.
Oh, and it doesn't hurt that San Francisco is traveling from the West Coast in a noon start time against a team with a hefty home-field advantage. San Francisco should be better this season, but this matchup just doesn't add up. The Vikings should own a significant edge on defense, along with an advantage on offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-9)
Of all the week 1 NFL teams, this game should be the most-lopsided, according to oddsmakers. Without its starting quarterback, Tampa Bay is getting very little respect from the betting public, with this line jumping from the opening mark of 7.
It's not difficult to see why this spread is so much. New Orleans has a defense that experts are salivating over as an emerging unit and many still believe in Sean Payton's ability to coach offense.
However, I'm not so sure on this one. Tampa Bay should be much improved defensively, and I'm not sure there's much of a drop-off from Jameis Winston to Ryan Fitzpatrick. And the Saints, no matter what happened last year, don't instill much confidence with how they've performed in recent years.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-7)
You probably don't want to get rid of New England anyway in week 1, and I'd like to find an easier opponent.
Houston is really good. The Texans have a defensive line that can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the offense is expected to be improved with Deshaun Watson being healthier this year. On paper, this seems to be much closer than a touchdown. However, if any team is the best bet in Survivor Pools, it's New England, with its regularity of winning double-digit games.
This game has some intrigue, but there will likely be better opportunities to use New England this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6) at Cleveland Browns
The betting public is falling in love with Cleveland...but it's still the Browns.
And last I checked, the Steelers were a perennial Super Bowl contender. This is a regular game to circle on the early season docket as a Survivor Pool savior. And this year it shouldn't be different.
Pittsburgh is still one of the better offenses in the NFL, while the defense is good enough to stop a Cleveland team that doesn't have upper-echelon talent at the wide receiver position, and isn't good enough to make up for it on the offensive line.
Also, it doesn't hurt that former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley is now with Cleveland, and it doesn't appear that it was a good break. Pittsburgh is an emotional team, so with some motivation, this should be an easy win for the Steelers.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-8)
Welcome to the Aaron Rodgers effect.
There's no quarterback that moves the spread as much as Rodgers. And this is once again the case. Both teams have similar talent levels, with the Bears possibly having an advantage on the defensive side of the ball.
But the Bears are going to try to match up against Rodgers with Mitchell Trubisky at Lambeau Field. That doesn't render much confidence.
This is one of those games that Rodgers just doesn't lose. That's why oddsmakers are so confident in the Packers and why this game is likely to be one of the most used games in the week 1 NFL Survivor Pool.
New York Jets at Detroit Lions (-7)
Three of the four NFC North teams will be at least six point favorites in week 1 of the NFL season. That should show you how competitive that division will be in 2018.
This spread, though, seems to be more about what people anticipate about the Jets this season. New York is one of the least talented offensive teams in the NFL. Talent-wise, it would be tough to argue that the Jets weren't the least talented team in the NFL last season.
Thanks to Todd Bowles being one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL, though, somehow New York managed to win a handful of games in 2017. That's what scares me in week 1 against the Lions. Detroit is a better team, but the Jets constantly outperformed their talent in 2017.
If that happens again in 2018, then this game will be much closer than experts believe. The only upside to this game is that Detroit may not have many games where it has such a large spread in its favor this season, so it would save some of the better teams capable of being used later in Survivor Pools.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. His Against The Chalk blog has earned him back-to-back Iowa Newspaper Association awards for Best Blog. Check out more fantasy football draft coverage at Against The Chalk.
Scott Levine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH