Week 3 Upset Alert: How the Underdogs Can Win

Scott ReighardAnalyst ISeptember 19, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 13: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass the football while under pressure from Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears during first half play at Lambeau Field on September 13, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With two weeks under their belt, most NFL teams are beginning to see what their strengths and weaknesses are. So far, there have been upsets most of us never would have predicted, and yet there they are.

So, as the season moves on to Week 3, here are a few teams that better be on the lookout.

There are some stellar games this weekend where whoever wins the game might not seem like an upset. Would anyone think Houston over Denver would be an upset, or New England over Baltimore or Atlanta over San Diego? Yes, all three of those teams are on the road, but the Texans, Patriots and Falcons have all proven to win regardless of where they play.

These predictions are based on early-season signs and partly last year's performance. I do not think that if Cleveland beats Buffalo or if Jacksonville beats Indy that those would be considered upsets.

As Week 3 comes quickly into view with a Thursday night game, here are some teams that need to watch out for that proverbial "overlook your opponent" game or the "looking ahead at a divisional game" mentality that will oftentimes snatch defeat from an otherwise victory.

N.Y. Giants at Carolina: New Yorkers are already giving me grief, but Carolina is a very tough team at home, and coming off a solid win over New Orleans has given the Panthers a load of confidence. Yes, Eli is coming off that monumental 500-plus-yard game, but they were home and playing a Tampa Bay team that still has a lot of issues. If the Giants get off to a slow start, look for the Panthers to pounce.


Cincinnati at Washington: With a rookie quarterback, several new receivers, running backs and a re-vamped defense, the Redskins are basically one stupid penalty away from being 2-0, and many would say this game would not be an upset if the Redskins beat the Bengals. The Redskins offense is ranked No. 4, with RG III not looking like a rookie at all.

Unless Marvin Lewis comes up with a plan to corral the youngin', look for the Redskins to pull off the upset despite the injuries to the defense. The Skins are plus-five in the turnover department and the Bengals are minus two. On the road, turnovers often determine a visiting team's chances, or lack thereof. 


New York Jets at Miami: The Jets came off an impressive Week 1 victory, but sputtered and tripped in Week 2 at Pittsburgh, so which team will show up this week? By all accounts the Jets have the more talented team: a team with playoff experience, big names, big coaches, etc.

A deeper look shows the Jets are in the middle of the pack statistically. They are ranked 26 in offense and 16 in defense.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins are coming off an impressive home win against the Raiders, Tannehill didn't look so much like a rookie and Bush was a monster shredding the Raiders defense. The Dolphins are ranked 12 on offense and 18 on defense. The teams have split the last two years, with each team stealing one on the road, but if the Jets are going to pull off the victory, the defense will have to stop Reggie Bush and put all the weight on Ryan Tannehill.

For me, the Dolphins pull off the victory with a late turnover and game-winning field goal.


Philadelphia at Arizona: By all accounts, the Eagles should win this game, but these two teams have been a mystery. The Eagles commit more turnovers than Kardashians turn over boyfriends, and other than their defense showing some moxie, the Cardinals have looked average yet are 2-0 as well.

Their offense ranks 30 and average only 27:20 in time of possession, yet they handed the Patriots a rare home loss. So what gives this week? The big question is whether the Eagles can get rid of the turnover bug or if it finally comes back to bite them. My guess is that Kolb wants to get some payback, so I expect him to play well, and I think that Cardinals defense comes up big again and the Eagles flutter back home with their first loss of the year.


Green Bay at Seattle: Here is another curious game. The Seahawks lose to the Cardinals in Week 1, but look like a playoff team against the Cowboys last week. The Packers lose a heartbreaker to the 49ers at home, yet seemed more in control with the Bears. The odd factor is, the Packers defense is ranked fifth, yet the offense is ranked 23. Go figure! Both teams are on the plus side in turnovers, so perhaps the team that winds up on the minus side loses.

Seattle is so tough at home and will definitely pose a problem for the Packers. Whether it's enough to pull the upset is yet to be determined. This guy says yes.


Tampa Bay at Dallas: The Cowboys are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Seahawks, but the Cowboys looked very sharp at the Meadowlands, and not to sound redundant, but which team will show up? This is the Cowboys' first home game of the year, so expect the crowd and 'Boys to be pumped.

So, how do the Bucs win after a heartbreak loss to the Giants? One, establish the run game. The Seahawks ran all over the Cowboys. Two, get to Romo, and not just with pressure, but with sacks. Other than Romo, I think the Cowboys are a mentally fragile team and are vulnerable. If the Bucs can put together an efficient and effective game plan, they have a chance.


San Francisco at Minnesota: This is expected to be the most lopsided game of the week, but as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friends. The Vikings, if they are to have any chance at all, need to follow the Buccaneer plan. Run the ball a lot with Peterson and Gearhart, get the ball to Rudolph, their young TE and solid game management from Christian Ponder. Ponder has played efficiently, but not spectacularly, but he doesn't need to be a Tom Brady or Eli Manning right now.

For the Vikings defense, it's all about getting to Alex Smith and shutting down any run game. The Vikings defense came close a lot last week, getting Andrew Luck for two sacks, but a five or six-sack performance may have this game coming down to an important kick, and as we have seen the first two weeks, kickers are a valued commodity.

If the Vikings want to make a statement, this is the game. Yes, it's a very long shot, but the Vikings can pull off the victory with four quarters of solid play and mistakes, and possibly turnovers by the 49ers.


Detroit at Tennessee: If Tennessee wins, the only people not to be surprised will be the Titans. Jake Locker has had a couple of tough games, but the Titans have a solid defense, and if Chris Johnson can get going, it will help, but he needs for the Titans to get a little more creative on offense. Personally, I would go back to Hasselbeck to see how the season plays out, and if it goes south after four or five weeks, then just leave Locker in to take his lumps.

Detroit has not been impressive; a late-game home victory with the Rams and a beat down by the 49ers have forced prognosticators in love with the Lions to temper their enthusiasm. The Titans are completely capable of winning this game if they get some turnovers and get that running game going.


Pittsburgh at Oakland: Ah yes, the Steel Curtain against the Raydas. Bring back the 1970's, baby. A lot has changed; unfortunately for the Raiders, that change has been ugly and often.

For the Steelers, it's pretty much steady as she goes. The Steelers have had two coaches since 2000 (Cowher and Tomlin); whereas the Raiders have had eight. Kind of hard to be consistent when that is happening.

Needless to say, the Raiders can steal this game if the Steelers have West Coast doldrums and lackluster play from the Steelers offense. The Raiders can play defense at home and Carson Palmer is putting up decent numbers with the 15th-ranked offense, but the stats are not translating into points, just 26 through two games.

The Steelers are 25th in offense, but have 46 points in two games, and that's against two pretty good defenses in the Broncos and Jets. If the Raiders can get McFadden going and the Raiders defense can force Big Ben into some poor decisions, victory just might be in their grasp.


St. Louis at Chicago: Sounds improbable, right? The Bears are angry about losing to Green Bay, but here is why Chicagoans should be more concerned about the Bears than the Chicago teachers. Week 1, the Bears looked shaky against the Colts before finally pulling away, and that offensive line is back to their old ways it seems.

The Bears are generally very tough at home, but the Rams have a defense that, at times, can cause cover issues that result in quarterback sacks. Facing Stafford in Week 1 and RG III in Week 2, the Rams will get a mixture of those two in Cutler, so they'll need to watch out for the big play. On the offensive side, they are averaging 27 points per game, they're 46 percent on third-down conversions and Bradford is completing 70 percent of his passes.

The Bears cannot go to sleep on this team by overlooking them and looking at Dallas next week. I think it unlikely the Rams will beat the Bears, and this game will mark how the Bears return from a game that was in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Well, there you have it, Week 3 Upset Alerts. I hope to continue these types of articles throughout the year, so tune in often. Good luck this weekend, football fans.