The 2016 football season is upon us, and that means all sorts of options for exercising our skill as football prognosticators. People will take part in fantasy football and pick ‘em contests, but Survivor pools are growing in popularity. For those new to the contest, a Survivor pool involves picking one team each week that you think will win. If your team wins in Week 1, you can make a pick in Week 2. If your team wins in Week 2, you can make a pick in Week 3, and so on. The catch is that you cannot pick a team twice. You could use a heavy favorite in Week 1, but that precludes you from using them later in the season.
There is plenty of strategy in determining which team you will take each week, and SB Nation is here to help. We have five experts providing rankings for each week, and then some thoughts on weekly strategy. First up, we have a consensus ranking of all 32 teams, and which is most likely to win this week. That is followed by each writer making a pick, some reasoning for the pick, and then some alternatives to consider.
Jeff Goldberg: Carolina Panthers over San Francisco 49ers
There's really only one "safe" play this week, and as long as Cam Newton's head is clear, there's really no reason to think the 49ers are going to come east off a Monday night game and win what is essentially a morning game (10 a.m. PT) against the defending NFC champs coming off a brutal loss and with 10 days rest. Sure, the 49ers looked pretty good on Monday night, but they looked good on Monday night in Week 1 last year, then got clobbered by the Steelers. And yeah, any given Sunday and Chip Kelly, but really, take the Panthers. Speaking of the Steelers, if you're willing to break the longstanding survivor pool rule of not picking division games and go with a team that won't be highly selected, the Steelers at home against Cincinnati smells like a win. If the Panthers are somehow upset, you would be way ahead of the field.
Scott Kaliska: Carolina Panthers over San Francisco 49ers
Carolina has the best matchup in Week 2 and is my first pick. The last second loss in Denver really hurt and the Panthers will be looking for blood in Week 2. The 49ers showed some moxie in Week 1 but will be completely outgunned this week. Carolina will be playing at home and haven't lost there since 2014. San Francisco will be traveling across the country on a short week of rest. Meanwhile, Carolina will be well rested after a week and a half off. I also like Baltimore and Arizona as secondary picks. Baltimore faces Cleveland and Josh McCown in his first start of 2016. Arizona should bounce back at home against Tampa Bay in a potentially high scoring game.
Zach Senvisky: Carolina Panthers over San Francisco 49ers
This will be the top pick of the week in most bracket pools because the odds are just stacked against the 49ers. After playing on Monday night, the 49ers will have a short week to prepare for the Panthers, who just lost in heartbreaking fashion to the defending Super Bowl champs last Thursday. The Panthers have had a few extra days of preparation/rest and I expect them to come out sharp this week showing why they will be one of the top teams in the NFC again in 2016.
Thursday pick: New York Jets over Buffalo
If you want to enjoy the rest of your weekend and get your survivor pool pick out of the way, I would go with the New York Jets tonight. Their dominating defense had seven sacks last week against the Cincinnati Bengals and I expect the defensive line to have another great evening against the Bills. With Sammy Watkins injured, Darrelle Revis shouldn't have to worry about anyone like AJ Green torching him like he did last week and the defense should key in on stopping Shady McCoy. I look for the more talented Jets to take this one on the road.
Jacksonville vs San Diego
I like the Jags matchup this week against the putrid Chargers defense. That defense does not have much talent besides its secondary and No. 3 overall pick Joey Bosa is still not practicing and won't be adding any talent to a defensive line that let Alex Smith comeback from a 24-10 4th quarter deficit in Week 1. I'm projecting the Jags to come out clicking on offense and their defense, who played very well last week against Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers, getting enough stops to pick up the win on the road.