Predicting 1 Big Upset for Every Week of the NFL Season
That's right, no NFL team is safe from the shock and awe of a surprise upset.
Factors like travel time, positional strengths and the lights of prime-time will determine the biggest upsets of the year.
So, what teams are going to be carrying out these upsets on a week-to-week basis?
Let's take a look at the biggest upset on the horizon for each week of the 2012 NFL season.
Week 1: Washington Redskins over New Orleans Saints
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
It is hard to imagine the New Orleans Saints starting this season off with any kind of positive momentum.
With an interim-interim head coach in place and a feisty Week 1 opponent in the Washington Redskins, all the pieces are here for an upset.
The Saints passing offense is undoubtedly terrific, but the Redskins have an underrated secondary that finished 12th in passing yards allowed last season.
New Orleans will be vulnerable the first few weeks of the year and Washington will pounce on the opportunity to start the season with a win.
Week 2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over New York Giants
Al Bello/Getty Images
The New York Giants will be put right in the prime-time spotlight as they open the season on special Wednesday night against the rival Dallas Cowboys, but what about the next week?
Will the Giants be able to give full attention to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
This will be an opportunity for the Buccaneers to find their footing and take steps in the right direction for the 2012 season.
The deep play ability of Vincent Jackson should open up the field for the Bucs' offense and allow Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount to gash a sluggish Giants defense up the middle.
Week 3: Seattle Seahawks over Green Bay Packers
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The storyline of this game was supposed to be Matt Flynn vs. Aaron Rodgers, but Russell Wilson spoiled that treat by winning the Seahawks starting job.
Oh well, the QB battle was a side story anyway. What may make the biggest difference in the final score is Green Bay's travel schedule.
In Week 1 the Packers play at San Francisco before heading back home in Week 2 for a contest with the arch-rival Chicago Bears.
Green Bay then flies back across the coast for this meeting with Seattle.
The talent disparity is large, but the Seahawks may be able to take advantage of a tired team and jump out to an early lead.
Seattle's defense is good enough that they just might be able to hold onto it and pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Week 4: Buffalo Bills over New England Patriots
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Buffalo has a lot of pieces that can disrupt the consistently successful approach of Brady and Belichick.
The Bills defensive line can wreak havoc up the middle and on the edges. Eliminating an already weak New England rushing attack will allow the defense to play the pass frequently.
Tom Brady may be one of the best to ever play the game, but when an opponent knows you are going to throw and Mario Williams is breathing down your neck, things can become difficult.
Throw in the fact that New England will be on a short week and the recipe for an upset is in place.
Week 5: Kansas City Chiefs over Baltimore Ravens
Rob Carr/Getty Images
In Week 3 Baltimore is on Monday Night Football and Week 4 sees the Ravens on Sunday Night Football.
What happens in Week 5 when the purple birds are thrust back into the daylight in a matchup with a weaker opponent?
This is the kind of trap game that can spell disaster for a team.
Baltimore is better than Kansas City in almost every facet of the game, but will the Ravens be properly motivated after two prime-time games?
Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis combine for too good of a rushing attack to be glossed over.
Week 6: Cleveland Browns over Cincinnati Bengals
Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
Sometimes in long-standing divisional rivalries, factors such as skill, wins, and playoff potential can have little meaning once the whistle blows.
Cincinnati is currently the clear big boy in Ohio, but the Browns are always tough at home—and especially against their in-state rival.
If Trent Richardson can establish a presence early and help the Browns win the time of possession battle, anything can happen.
Week 7: Jacksonville Jaguars over Oakland Raiders
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
This prediction obviously hinges on Maurice Jones-Drew playing football this season, but assuming he is donning a Jaguars helmet by Week 7, this could be a huge win for Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is much better on defense than most people give them credit for and Carson Palmer should have a tough time establishing a rhythm.
Blaine Gabbert can be successful in the short-to-intermediate passing game, and utilizing a nickel-and-dime type offense can wear down the Raiders front-seven.
Week 8: Miami Dolphins over New York Jets
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
However, by Week 8 rookie QB Ryan Tannehill should be settling into a groove and learning the flow of an NFL offense.
The Jets offense, on the other hand, has been unable to show any semblance of flow this preseason.
New York's defense can only carry them so far and while the secondary may be able to best Tannehill, the Dolphins rushing attack can overwhelm the Jets defensive line.
Week 9: Tennessee Titans over Chicago Bears
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
In what may be the most evenly-matched week of games on the NFL schedule, the Tennessee Titans are going to take a win away from the Chicago Bears in Week 9.
Chris Johnson has the speed to get around most defensive lines and cause trouble on the edge, but can he escape Julius Peppers?
In a word, yes.
Johnson can be utilized around the freakish skill of Peppers by first assaulting the Bears' less-than-stellar secondary.
Wear Chicago down with the pass and then unleash the speed of "CJ2K."
A winning formula in a mild (extremely mild) upset.
Week 10: Minnesota Vikings over Detroit Lions
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
The NFC North division always beats itself up, and this year should be no different.
In this case, Minnesota is clearly the low man on the division totem pole, but will almost certainly play the Bears, Packers and Lions tough.
Detroit beat the Vikings in overtime last season in Minnesota and it would be foolish to believe that loss has been forgotten.
The Lions do have an excellent rotation along the defensive line that can slow down Adrian Peterson, but something is telling me that Detroit may be looking ahead to a Week 11 showdown with Green Bay.
Not a wise move.
Minnesota has talent, and it will show in Week 10.
Week 11: Indianapolis Colts over New England Patriots
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
That is no typo, the Indianapolis Colts are going to beat the New England Patriots in Week 11.
The mystique of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning may be gone from this match-up, but the "future vs. the present" aspect of Brady vs. Andrew Luck will be on full display.
With all playoff hope for the Colts likely long since vanquished, games like this will be what Indy plays for this season.
New England has one of the worst secondaries in the league, and that makes them beatable.
Are the Colts going to best the Pats often?
No, but in Week 11 Indy will score the upset.
Week 12: San Diego Chargers over Baltimore Ravens
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
By Week 12 the world will know if the San Diego Chargers plan on living up to their untapped potential and competing atop the AFC, or settling for mediocrity.
My money is on the former, and that is why a Week 12 upset over the Baltimore Ravens seems realistic.
San Diego's passing game is versatile enough to avoid the key members of the Ravens secondary and spread the ball to all areas of the field.
The question will be if the Chargers can slow down Ray Rice.
The Ravens will be coming off a tough Monday Night Football contest with the Steelers and traveling across the country on short rest.
Rice may take an extra quarter or two to establish his usual ground dominance, and that will allow San Diego to capitalize.
Week 13: St. Louis Rams over San Francisco 49ers
Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
For the second time in four weeks the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers will meet in Week 13, but with a vastly different outcome.
Inside the friendly confines of their dome, the Rams can avoid the league's best rushing defense and allow Sam Bradford to spread the ball around to his receivers.
The 49ers were only average against the pass last season and any hope of beating them comes from an aerial assault.
St. Louis' top-10 passing defense will not fall victim to much of Alex Smith and the 49ers offense's play action attempts.
That means this upset will fall squarely on the Rams front-seven's ability to slow down San Francisco's rushing attack.
Most weeks this would be a poor proposition, but on this week, in this dome, it just might work.
It won't be a blowout, but St. Louis will win.
Week 14: Detroit Lions over Green Bay Packers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Lambeau Field is simply not nice to the Detroit Lions.
Detroit has not escaped Green Bay with a victory since 1991, before Brett Favre had ever even worn green and gold.
So, why is 2012 going to be different?
Because the Lions are finally capable of matching up with the Packers.
Green Bay's passing defense was one of few to actually rank worse than Detroit's last season in yards per game.
And with neither team having much of an offensive backfield this is clearly going to come down to the vertical passing game.
Detroit's pass rush should cause more problems for Aaron Rodgers than Green Bay's does for Matthew Stafford.
And more time to throw to Calvin Johnson can only bode well for the Lions.
Week 15: Dallas Cowboys over Pittsburgh Steelers
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
This rivalry used to have such a luster to it.
While it may not be what it once was, the match-up of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Dallas Cowboys does mean something.
And in Week 15, it is going to mean everything to the Cowboys, as they likely battle for a playoff spot.
Dallas' much improved secondary will play a role, but the X-factor will be if Tony Romo can withstand the Steelers pass-rush and array of ball-hawks.
I believe he can, and a prime-time meeting with one of the game's most storied franchises will be the perfect jolt for Dallas' playoff push.
Week 16: Seattle Seahawks over San Francisco 49ers
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Can Seattle surprise the collective football world and make the postseason?
This Week 16 contest with the 49ers may help determine just that.
Seattle is a tough team to beat at home and the rivalry between these team's head coaches adds an interesting bit of drama to this already heated rivalry.
Cross-country trips after a Monday Night Football game have become a theme for losing on this list, and that trend does not end here.
The Seahawks always churn out some big wins every season, and this will be one of them.
Week 17: Carolina Panthers over New Orleans Saints
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
There is so much potential for this Week 17 clash between the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints.
Will just one team be fighting to make the playoffs? Maybe both? Perhaps one will have already clinched the division?
The possibilities are endless, but the Panthers are clear underdogs heading into the Superdome.
Cam Newton can cause problems for any team, and eating the clock and keeping Drew Brees off the field is essential to victory.
On the Saints cozy turf that is possible, as Carolina has a multitude of rushers who can work the clock and slow down the pace of the game.
Not the biggest upset of the season, but one that could have huge consequences.