Upset Watch Week 9
2 Nov, 2017 by Shaun Lowrie
So anyway, what has happened over the last few weeks is not entirely unexpected. The NFL has leveled out a little, with the supposed RANDOM CHANCE nature of the league giving way to people re-assessing their opinions of whether teams are actually good or not based on this season's form.
I mentioned this 2 weeks ago, but it's worth keeping tabs on how the media perceived each team in pre-season, and how that's fed the narrative of 'all the teams are bad and none are good'.
Preseason Average Ranking
Week 9 Average Ranking
That's almost half the NFL that the NFL media got wrong. I'd even go so far as to say that the media is still underrating the Jets and Bears based on their QB situations, as they are better teams than some of those above them in the averages (Miami, Baltimore) and the Dolphins are substantially worse than the 23.9 average.
So now here we are in week 9, and what we're finally getting is that handle on things in 2017. Not over the last 5 years, but right now. Yes, the Jags are legitimate playoff contenders. So are the Bills, and no, the Giants aren't a sleeper pick, and the Raiders haven't become the new dominant team in the AFC West. We know exactly where those teams stand, or more importantly, we sometimes don't - but we don't assume they will win or lose based on previous seasons.
So with that in mind, let's look at week 8's results, and then get on with the picks.
** Road Team**
** Home Team**
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New York Jets
Los Angeles Chargers
New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs
New Orleans Saints
San Francisco 49ers
They were our picks, and because our most important column is the final one, it was another great week vs the spread. We nailed our top pick (Carolina) which, if you're going with the straight up odds, would have been a huge win. We will probably use some of this in future columns, as an outright winner pick as an upset is sometimes worth double or even treble the amount of an ATS pick with sportsbooks.
Top 5 + Bottom 5
Season so far:
Units (5 unit stakes)
Top 5 + Bottom 5-0.5
What a mixed bag. As I explained back when we started this column, the scoring I'm using is as much to find the value in these picks as anything. As the season progresses, it may be worth evaluating whether a 'top 5' is even realistic, as the chance of upsets declines on the basis I described above, ie: that the public and experts get a better idea of how good and bad teams are.
So let's do this, Week 9:
1 - Buffalo @ NY Jets (+3)
I'm a big believer in the Bills, but I've said it a number of times now, that the Jets are playing hard and have a better, more talented team than it may seem at times.
I actually picked up Tyrod Taylor in fantasy football this week, but he's a long term investment. The Bills are a team that sometimes has to grind out wins, they don't generally tend to explode on offense, so I think the Jets have a great chance to stay in this one.
The question marks about the Jets' ability to close out games are still there, but they have been in 3 close games in a row now and are due a reward for their good play.
2 - Baltimore (+4) @ Tennessee
Ok technically this is off the board, but it looks like Joe Flacco will play, and Vegas Insider currently lists the Ravens at +4. I'm actually a fan of the Titans this season, but they really struggled over their last few games to put points up. Even with Marcus Mariota back, they couldn't score a TD against the Browns. Admit it, you'd be disappointed if you couldn't do that yourself, with 10 other middle-aged people you collected at random.
That's my Browns dig of the week, because they're not playing. Although somehow, they did manage to lose their bye week by screwing up the trade for A.J. McCarron. Amazing.
3 - Atlanta (+1.5) @ Carolina
Notice how close this game is. I think it's a fair reflection of how unpredictable these two teams have been this season. The Falcons had to win last week because the alternative was simply that their season was over. Now, they need to win in presumably better conditions than last week's rain-fest in NYC.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are like the Titans. They're winning without playing well, and I fancy that they might find this week a stern test compared to the flaky Bucs last week. They're a team we're on the right side of at the moment, so let's hope that continues...
4- Denver (+8) @ Philadelphia
Now then. This is an ATS pick only. I think the Eagles should still win, but I don't like the spread against Denver's defense. Specifically, Philly desperately needed a LT before the trade deadline, and I think the Broncos pass rush can do some serious damage against Carson Wentz and the makeshift line in front of him.
I really like the Eagles this year, and theoretically, Brock Osweiler's Broncos should have them licking their lips. Weird. Stop it guys.
6 - **Arizona (-2) ** @ San Francisco
This was originally written with the opening line, however it has moved to -2 Arizona so can't be classed as an upset, but I'm sticking with the pick.
The Cards are playing with a backup QB against a team that has failed to win all season and is playing with a guy who are also playing with their backup.
This makes no sense to me. The Cards lost Carson Palmer, and Drew Stanton came in and stunk the joint out. Yup, as expected, but the Niners are a thoroughly different opposition to the Rams, and Stanton has had a week to prepare. More importantly, the Cardinals offense as a whole has had a week to prepare for the Niners defense - or as I refer to them, 'The End Zone Tour Guides'
You can have that one for free.
The rest of week 9's slate:
6 - Detroit @ Green Bay (+2.5) - The Packers ran the Saints close for three quarters. I think they'll run the Lions even closer. I'm taking the points here
7 - Oakland (-3) @ Miami- Home 'dog logic says this is a harder trip for Oakland than Miami. I still think they've got this though.
8 - Cincinnati @ Jacksonville (-4.5) - I was tempted by the points here, but I think we need to believe in the Jags. The Bengals were lucky to beat the Colts last week, and this Jags D might be the best in the NFL...
9 - LA Rams (-3.5) @ NY Giants - This is a nice spread as the Rams are on the road. The Giants defensive situation is so bad that if it was 7.5pts I'd still take the Rams to cover.
10 - Washington @ Seattle (-7.5) - I did want to say that the Seahawks aren't a big scoring team ordinarily, but the Redskins are struggling so badly with injuries that when I watched their game two weeks back, I thought I'd tuned into a re-run of ER. Speaking of which, thoughts are still with my Bears and TE Zach Miller on the bye week. GWS.
11 - Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-7) - The Bucs aren't very good and the Saints are on a roll. Not only that but Jameis Winston is banged up, and I think Fitzmagic finishes this game for them (a sentence that will conveniently also be rendered accurate if they win comfortably and he comes in to take a kneeldown, thus covering every eventuality...)
12 - Indianapolis @ Houston (-12) - Just 12? Look the Colts aren't as bad as they can seem, but they kind of are. And DeShaun Watson is about to give them a taste of what is to come for the next 4 years minimum. Also, book it, the Colts place Andrew Luck on IR next week and effectively draw the curtain on 2017. Jacoby Brissett, we hardly knew ye.
UPDATE: DeShaun Watson's injury moves this right up the board. I will see where it comes out once the spread is established. Early indications are it will be around +7. If you got the Colts early... good for you.
13 - Kansas City @ Dallas (Push) - It's a push, so the chances of an underdog win are literally zero. I'm guessing this one may just edge towards KC by the end of the week, but I'd actually say Dallas if you pushed me. Oh. You are pushing me as that's what I do. Well, Dallas then.
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