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.
Adam Patrick: Denver Broncos over Carolina Panthers
There are a couple matchups this week that seem like they would be a safer pick than selecting a team to beat the defending NFC Champions. But the Broncos defense dominated the Panthers in the Super Bowl last year and there is no reason to think they cannot do it again in front of their home crowd.
Additional options: Seattle Seahawks over Miami Dolphins | Green Bay Packers over Jacksonville Jaguars
Two of the best teams of the last few years seem to have pretty favorable matchups in the first week of the season. However, Week 1 has been known to produce its share of upsets. While the Jaguars or Dolphins winning on Sunday is not expected, it would not be surprising either.
Jeff Goldberg: Seattle Seahawks over Miami Dolphins
Seattle is probably the safest play on the board in Week 1, at home against a shaky Dolphins defense. The Seahawks are going to be the chalk play this week, so if you want to be slightly contrarian in Week 1, the Houston Texans at home against Chicago is a solid play. Seattle should garner higher ownership, but the Texans are really the 1-A pick. The Kansas City Chiefs would be my third pick; they should run all over the San Diego Chargers and their defense should keep Philip Rivers from going wild, but divisional games are Kryptonite in Survivor Pools, so tread lightly here. Oakland seems to be getting a lot of love on the road at New Orleans. Smells like a trap to me.
Zach Senvisky: Indianapolis Colts over Detroit Lions
The obvious pick here is Seattle but this week I will go with Indianapolis over Detroit. I think the Colts are poised to bounce back with Andrew Luck coming into this season healthy. The offensive line can’t be worse than it was last year and the Lions' lack of playmakers on defense makes me believe Indy will be able to get the running game going with Frank Gore, which opens up easy throwing lanes for Luck. I don’t see Detroit being able to replace Calvin Johnson’s production or getting enough stops on defense, ultimately leading to a Colts win at home to open 2016.
Other safe bets:
Kansas City over San Diego: The Chargers won’t have their top-5 pick and haven’t added much talent on defense. The Chiefs won 11 straight game last season before losing to the Patriots in the Divisional round of the playoffs. They have the defense to shut down Rivers and the Chargers' weak running game. I look for the Chiefs to dominate on the ground and open up 1-0 with the crowd behind them at Arrowhead.
Carolina over Denver: Want to enjoy the opening weekend of football? Go with Carolina this Thursday and look like the genius of your office pool. I do not believe in Trevor Siemian facing a veteran Carolina defense. Cam Newton was the MVP last season and now has a legit No. 1 receiver to throw to that he didn’t have in last year’s Super Bowl. Look for the Panthers to have their way with the Broncos, who have lost key pieces on that defense and two starting quarterbacks from last season.
Derek Gordon: Houston Texans over Chicago Bears
My thinking here is that the Texans aren't a fantastic team, but they have an excellent matchup at home against a suspect Chicago defense. Look for the Texans to go up early and run the clock down late. The Colts are a riskier pick, but I believe they should be able to control the Lions at home. It's hard to tell how a game between two bad teams will go, but picking the Eagles seems like a smart play as they get a home game against the lowly Browns.
Scott Kaliska: Seattle Seahawks over Miami Dolphins
Miami will definitely be improved on offense in 2016 but Seattle's defense is a proven commodity. They're playing at home in Week 1 and the Dolphins will be traveling across the country. Miami will also likely be without a valuable weapon in DeVante Parker. The Dolphins secondary is even weaker than 2015. That means real trouble against a passing offense that came on strong to conclude last season.
Kansas City and Arizona are two other teams I really like this week. The Chargers have not done enough to improve their team and playing in Kansas City is never easy. I know Arizona will be challenged by the Patriots but Tom Brady is a major part to be missing. Arizona will want to make a statement on Sunday Night Football.