Upset Watch - Week 10
9 Nov, 2017 by Shaun Lowrie
This week upset watch is slightly truncated. Last week we saw multiple line moves and injuries that rendered it all a little bit hit and miss by Friday afternoon.
So I'll save my random thoughts on the NFL for Friday, but in the interests of serving anyone who uses this article to make their Thursday picks (or whose pick'em deadline is Thursday because your pool is still living in the year 2000) I decided to post the list of picks as they stand.
Last week's results:
Another good week in every category was welcome. We nailed our no.1 pick on Thursday night which was the Jets to beat the Bills, and we also had the Ravens covering against Tennessee. Finally, because of a line move, the Cards were favored when I posted last week, but we still had them winning in San Francisco because they are - crucial this - not the 49ers...
Units (5 unit stakes)
Top 5 + Bottom 5
Units (5 unit stakes)
Top 5 + Bottom 5
This week's picks:
1 - Dallas (+3) @ Atlanta
I like the Cowboys here. Atlanta are on a pretty poor run, and the Cowboys are gaining momentum, playing each game as if it may be their last without Zeke Elliott (which is potentially the case every week...). Dak Prescott is not reliant on one receiver, and their defense is somehow still covering receivers with a 39yr old DB in Terence Newman.
I can't shake that this might be the final straw for Dan Quinn and force him to remove Steve Sarkisian from his staff. It's clear that the offense has changed way too much from last season and their experiment hasn't worked. At some point I wonder which of the two is on the sauce, because it's one thing for Sarkisian to call plays while necking liquor, it's another thing for Dan Quinn to be sober and let him ruin their team.
2 - New York Giants @ San Francisco (+2.5)
This week's power rankings show the 49ers averaging a spot of 30.9, versus the Giants unfathomably high 28. I would have these reversed, for the simple reason that while the 49ers are shockingly bad as alluded to above, the Giants are actually somehow worse.
I think sometimes it's easy to get QB-centric around the NFL and especially pick'em or betting. QBs are such a massive part of the sport that in many cases, it's very much warranted, but equally, a defense as bad as the Giants have is an equaliser. There is very little the Giants can do on offense or defense, and while the same could easily be said of the Niners, this feels like their big chance to win a game and for the first time, make sure QB C.J. Beathard doesn't actually live up to his unfortunate surname.
3 - Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis (+10)
Uh oh. Have I just picked the Colts?
Hear me out. Put down the phone, please, do NOT call the authorities, and frankly, the straitjacket is pretty unnecessary. Wait, that's not for this? Then what is it... you know what let's just move on...
I like that the Colts (as predicted by moi last week!) put Andrew Luck on IR. They're playing ok with Jacoby Brissett and this move confirms that they're riding with him for the rest of 2017. That's infinitely preferable to the Luck circus that was driving their season narrative. The truth is, they have moved the ball efficiently and have a 5-4 record against the spread (streak of 2 wins on the bounce).
Now to the Steelers. I think they're almost the Colts in that people have a misconception of them as a bad team because their QB isn't flashy like Wentz or - am I saying this? - Alex Smith. Here's what concerns me though: Their win against the Lions on MNF was essentially completely predicated on a massive, game-changing 97yd TD by JuJu Smith-Schuster. It was a play that the Lions should never have given up, and cost them the game. It masked a frankly awful game by the Steelers offense, who are 1-3 on the season when the spread is -7 or more in their favor.
*side note - the Steelers next opponents, in order: Indy, Tennessee, Green Bay, Cinci, Baltimore, New England, Houston, Cleveland. I think this is the upset in that morass of mediocrity.
4 - LA Chargers (+3.5) @ Jacksonville
This matchup seems to be one of those that crops up almost every year (In fact, that's nearly true, this will be their 7th meeting in 8 years). Whether it's home or on the road, the Chargers have the Jags' number, winning every game since 2010.
Now, these are, like I've said a few times, not your slightly older brother's Jags, and deserve to be treated almost without the millstone of the Jags name around their neck. They have a great defense and a competent offense. They will likely go to the playoffs, and I would not want to play them as a favorite if I was a team like the Steelers or Chiefs at any point.
I like the Chargers. They have moxy. A certain... je ne sais quoi. They just grind out these ridiculous wins and keep it tighter than... well, let's just say they keep it close more than they let things get out of hand. I think as much as that Jags defense will hurt Philip Rivers (THINK OF HIS CHILDREN FOR GOD'S SAKE!), the Chargers are no tame pass rushers themselves. I think this one could get very very tasty indeed and if I had to go with one side to engineer a surprise blowout, it'd be the Chargers.
5 - Minnesota @ Washington (+1)
Home dog alert! How good are the Vikings? Do they strike you as a top-10 team? I'd put them on the cusp of that, and they're likely going to make the playoffs by virtue of the fact that the Lions had a stumble and the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers. Despite that, I am picking the 'skins here.
Now, we've been on the wrong end of the Redskins lately, picking with them when they lose and against them when they win. This feels like a nice even game to get back on the right side of all that. They coped well in the most hostile environment in the NFL last week (Seattle) and I think this team, like the Chargers, has something about them. Let's call it character.
Here are the rest of the week 10 games, in order of the chances of an upset:
6- New York Jets @ Tampa Bay (+2.5) - Sneaked outside our top 5 by virtue of the other games being slightly more upsetty. I like Fitzmagic (that's the other thing I nailed last week, that he'd finish their game in place of Jameis Winston) but I like the Jets and Josh McCown.
By the way, is there anything more '2017 NFL' than 38yr old journeyman Josh McCown taking the .4-5 Jets down to Tampa to face the 2-6 Bucs led by career journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick? Probably not.
7 - New Orleans @ Buffalo (+3)
The Saints are favored here, which seems largely predicated on the Bills losing last week to the Jets. This feels like a trap game though, I'll take the Bills to at least keep it close...
8 - Green Bay (+5.5) @ Chicago
Well that's not a spread I figured to see this season... fact is, the Bears and Trubisky are winning because of a good defense and (I think) a severe underestimation of their team as a whole by some of the more lightweight teams in the NFL. I think for all the Packers are in serious trouble, this is a winnable game for them, and yes, we found the one thing more 2017 than McCown @ Fitzmagic: Hundley @ Trubisky I.
9 - Cincinnati @ Tennessee (-4.5)
I've rolled deep on the upsets this week with 8 teams I think can upset the spread at least, but this is where I draw the line. That Cinci offense is horrible. Tennessee isn't exactly the greatest show on turf, but they're competent and that will, I believe, be enough.
10 - Miami (+9) @ Carolina
Let me put this as simply as possible: The Panthers should win, but I like the Dolphins to cover a big spread. These are famous last bettors words, but +9? Not sure about that.
11 - New England (-11) @ Denver
Conversely, the Patriots, I feel, will make mincemeat of the Broncos. Paxton Lynch is only going to get better in the minds of everyone the longer their QB situation deteriorates with him on the sideline. For those who are interested, Brock Osweiler did quite famously win a game as the Broncos' QB in their Super Bowl winning season of 2015, but he did so playing poorly with a great defense. That probably isn't going to be the case this time...
12 - Houston @ LA Rams (-12)
The Rams are legit. We know that now. It says everything about this week's mismatches that they're only 12/14 on our upset list.
The Texans are not completely done yet, but this will be a stern test for a defense missing it's key players and a QB in Tom Savage who has thrown 1 (one) TD in in his career to date...
13 - Seattle (-6) @ Arizona
There are some minor concerns about injuries on defense for the Seahawks, and in fact I had this a little higher in my first draft. I think the Seahawks will do more than enough, however.
14 - Cleveland @ Detroit (-12)
I'll bet on the Browns when they are worth betting on. This game might be a watershed in more than one career inside the Browns HQ. The Lions are beatable if you're a good team, and a serious implosion that puts Cleveland on the road to 0-16 (off the back of 1-15 last season) would be end of days stuff.
Shaun Lowrie is the founder and editor of Pickwatch, a site designed to give you a new perspective on experts in the NFL media by tracking their performance when picking games or predicting draft picks, team performance, or player potential. You can contact him at [email protected] or on twitter at @pickwatch