The entirety of 2022 has been spooky season for NFL survivor pools. Ironically, Halloween weekend saw the lowest percentage of eliminations this year. Less than 6% of entries were knocked out. The previous low was 22%.
Will the havoc resume after we put our 12-foot skeletons back in the closet? The top three picks this week are all over 20% owned, so it's entirely plausible.
Before we dump this week's haul of picks on the table for inspection, let's check the Week 8 selections for accuracy and hidden razor blades:
Week 8 picks
Best Bets: 2-0 (YTD: 7-7)
Leans: 2-0 (YTD: 10-2)
Traps to avoid: 1 elimination avoided (YTD: 12)
On to the Week 9 picks!
Miami Dolphins (-5.5) at Chicago Bears
TuAnons, unite. The Dolphins are 5-0 this season in games where Tua Tagovailoa has played at least 93% of offensive snaps. Mike McDaniel's offense is cooking with this supercharged version of Jimmy Garoppolo, and they're dishing out punishment all over the field, but especially across the middle on intermediate routes — an area the Bears don't defend well. Chicago's defense ranks third-worst in EPA per dropback, while Miami's offense ranks fifth and their quarterback leads the league in EPA per play.
A multitude of trades and injuries have left the Bears defense in an even worse position for this game. They traded Robert Quinn to the Eagles and Roquan Smith to the Ravens. Cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Eddie Jackson are both questionable to play with hip injuries.
The right side of Chicago's offensive line are also questionable, as guard Teven Jenkins is dealing with a back injury and tackle Larry Borom has missed four straight practices with a concussion. The Bears are the run-heaviest team in the NFL, pounding the rock on 59.9% of plays. Miami excels against the run, surrendering the sixth-fewest yards per game. The addition of linebacker Bradley Chubb is certain to elevate a Dolphins pass rush that blitzes at the 11th-highest rate, yet ranks 29th in QB pressure percentage.
Miami is the sixth-most popular pick this week, at 7.25%. Their future value rests in a Week 12 home game versus the Texans.
Philadelphia Eagles (-14) at Houston Texans
I hope Mattress Mack doesn't have anything riding on the Texans, because they're about to get drubbed into oblivion so hard that they may announce their C.J. Stroud pick at halftime. Houston QB Davis Mills can be found near the bottom of nearly every QB metric and will be without at least one of his top two receivers on Thursday night. Nico Collins has already been ruled out with a groin injury, and there's a non-zero chance that Brandin Cooks misses this contest due to a grievance he couldn't wait until Festivus to air. It's possible the Texans don't find their way into the endzone against the Eagles, reflected by their +550 price on BetMGM that they won't score a touchdown.
Philadelphia allows the third-fewest points per drive, while scoring the third-most. That's a recipe for success that only the Buffalo Bills have been able to match this year. The Eagles are going to absolutely bully a Texans defense that got drilled by Derrick Henry and the Titans for 314 rushing yards. No team in the NFL is surrendering more yards per game on the ground than Houston (186.0). In fact, the gap between the 32nd-ranked Texans and the 31st-ranked Bears is a full 30 rushing yards per game.
The Eagles are the most popular survivor play this week, at 24.95%. They have immense future value.
Buffalo Bills (-12.5) at New York Jets
Remember a few paragraphs ago when I pointed out that Mills ranks near the bottom of every QB metric? Well, Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is so close to him that they're basically roommates, spending all their time working together on a four-piece puzzle. Wilson is tied with Baker Mayfield for the league's lowest completion percentage (54.9%), and looked downright awful versus the Patriots last week. Bill Belichick's defense is good, but Buffalo's is better, allowing the second-fewest points per drive. Wilson doesn't execute well under pressure, which is a major point of concern against a Bills defense that's tied for the fifth-most sacks per game and tied for the second-most takeaways per game.
New York's defense is underrated and could test Josh Allen, who's coming off a lackluster performance in a 10-point win over the Packers. At only 10.1% owned, I'll take my chances with the odds-on MVP favorite faring better against the Jets defense than his counterpart versus the Bills defense.
Buffalo is the fourth-most popular pick this week. They have future value in road games at Detroit and Chicago, as well as a home game versus the Jets.
New England Patriots (-5.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis offensive line went from one of the NFL's best units in 2021 to one of its worst in 2022. They've allowed the third-most sacks this season and are the reason why the Colts average the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game, just one year after averaging the second-most. Stopping the run has been New England's weakness, so Indy's ineffectiveness on the ground and the possibility of Jonathan Taylor missing this contest after aggravating his ankle injury all play in the Patriots' favor.
QB Sam Ehlinger was pretty decent in his Colts debut last week. This Sunday, however, he'll have to take his show on the road against a Pats defense that ranks fourth in dropback success rate. New England QB Mac Jones is about as easy to trust right now as an e-mail from a Nigerian prince, but Indy's defense hasn't been anything to write home about, ranking 27th in success rate.
The Patriots are the seventh-most popular team this week, with 5.22% of entries on them. Their future value comes in the form of a Week 11 home game versus the Jets.
TRAPS TO AVOID
Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5) vs. Carolina Panthers
Carolina's defense ranks sixth in success rate. They're loaded with playmakers, especially up front, and I believe they're going to enjoy a great deal of success against a lowly Bengals offensive line allowing the second-most sacks. D'Onta Foreman has run for 118 yards in each of his last two games. He could replicate that versus a Cincinnati defense allowing 169.0 rushing yards per game over their last three contests.
The Bengals are the second-most popular pick this week, at 20.35%.
Kansas City Chiefs (-12.5) vs. Tennessee Titans
The Titans shocked everyone last season when they blew Kansas City out, 27-3. I'm not predicting that they'll decimate the Chiefs that badly again, but I do think they're extremely live to win this game if Ryan Tannehill is able to suit up. Tennessee's defense has been outstanding, ranking first in success rate. Derrick Henry can carry the Titans to a win over a Chiefs team that ranks last in Run Stop Win Rate and will be without the services of defensive end Frank Clark.
Just over 20% of entries are on Kansas City, making them the third-most popular pick this week.
Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) at Washington Commanders
Quarterbacks are having their way against a Vikings defense allowing the fourth-most passing yards per game. Taylor Heinicke never met a throw that he didn't like, so I'll pass on fading the wild card gunslinger who's undefeated this year.
Stats provided by Pro Football Reference, teamrankings.com, Football Outsiders, ESPN, and rbsdm.com (garbage time removed).