Teams are jockeying for playoff position, but certain home underdogs are poised to establish themselves as contenders and pull off upsets in Week 5's NFL action.
Unless you count the Minnesota Vikings' victory over the Detroit Lions, last week was largely void of massive surprises. Not only does that make the league due for some wild results, but there are also plenty of matchups that should yield some Sunday shockers.
Here are the underdogs to bet on to get the job done against favored teams in the friendly confines of home stadiums.
St. Louis Rams over Arizona Cardinals
Right from the start on Thursday night, Week 5 will stir speculation and leave analysts scratching their heads.
Rookie Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein was a superstar against the Seattle Seahawks, banging home kicks from 48, 58 and 60 yards, respectively, in the team's 19-13 win. A relentless Rams defense also frustrated Seattle all day, forcing rookie QB Russell Wilson into three interceptions.
Now, another NFC West matchup against the improbable 4-0 Arizona Cardinals is on deck, and it is likely to be a low-scoring affair once again in the Edward Jones Dome.
St. Louis is a far cry from its "Greatest Show on Turf" glory days, but third-year QB Sam Bradford is in his third offense and is making strides thanks to improved protection and skill players on the outside.
First-year wideout Chris Givens flashed the ability to stretch the field on a 52-yard bomb from Bradford, and Danny Amendola continues to prove himself as a sure-handed possession receiver to move the chains.
On the other hand, Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb is playing with lots of confidence and has the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd to throw to. Not to mention, the Cardinals themselves are the epitome of a bend-but-don't-break defense, ranking third in points allowed despite mediocre statistics in yielding yards.
Steven Jackson provides the Rams with the edge in the running game, and they can methodically work their way downfield.
Kolb will have to rely on his weapons for explosive plays in the passing game, but the Cardinals will face a stern test against the corner duo of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. All-Pro free safety Quintin Mikell also won’t make many mistakes and will likely bait Kolb into some mistakes.
This game will fortify the argument that the NFC West may be the best division in the NFL defensively, but the Rams will make more plays to emerge victorious at home.
Prediction: Rams 16, Cardinals 14
Washington Redskins over Atlanta Falcons
A come-from-behind, down-to-the-wire win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be just what the Redskins needed, and it was certainly a statement game by Robert Griffin III.
The rookie QB showed why he was the No. 2 overall pick, and he will be oozing with confidence going up against a Falcons defense that just allowed another dual-threat quarterback in Cam Newton to shred it at home.
Washington’s defense has proven to be a liability, but the offense has been everything the franchise and the fans could have hoped for in the beginning of the RGIII era.
The only secondary in the league that may be worse than the Redskins' is that of the Carolina Panthers, which Falcons QB Matt Ryan picked apart last week with his lethal one-two combo on the outside in Roddy White and Julio Jones.
This contest is bound to be another shootout, but it is away from Ryan’s comfort zone. Almost unbeatable at home, Ryan is more vulnerable outside the Georgia Dome. That said, he is clearly playing the best football of his career in 2012.
Two of the best young QBs in the game have now established themselves as clutch, but everyone is piling onto the Falcons Super Bowl bandwagon, while the 'Skins are hoping to keep their season afloat in the highly competitive NFC East. The weight of increasing expectations is not to be underestimated.
If there was a team that needed this game more, it would be Washington. RGIII and running back Alfred Morris will continue to gash a porous, 29th-ranked Falcon run defense.
Remember, the Redskins are likely a dumb Josh Morgan penalty away from being 3-1. This will be a measuring stick for how good RGIII and his team can be in the short term, and the outcome will prove that they can be quite good.
Prediction: Redskins 31, Falcons 27
New Orleans Saints over San Diego Chargers
It’s simply a bad matchup for the Norv Turner-coached Bolts, who always manage to disappoint early in the season and are off to an uncharacteristically good 3-1 start. The struggles to get off to a good start have cost this team multiple chances at the playoffs under Turner.
Meanwhile, the Saints are in total disarray sitting at 0-4, but it is important to note that none of their defeats have come in blowout fashion.
This should be yet another shootout for New Orleans, but it will also be back at home in a Sunday night, prime-time slot.
Drew Brees isn’t going to let this team go 0-5, and the Chargers are due for an early-season letdown based on their history. As poorly as the Saints defense has played, it has faced very tough units thus far. The Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins both presented very balanced attacks, and the Green Bay Packers sport the best passing game besides the Saints’ in the league.
San Diego isn’t as explosive in the passing game and looks to be missing what former receiver Vincent Jackson brought to the table. If the Saints were desperate in Week 4, they will be clawing even more to salvage the season this Sunday—and to avoid embarrassment on Sunday Night Football.
Saints fans are living on a prayer, and Breesus will light up the Superdome scoreboard to give his maligned team its first victory of the year.
Prediction: Saints 38, Chargers 28
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