NFL Teams on Upset Alert for Week 8

Michael Schottey@SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterOctober 25, 2012

NFL Teams on Upset Alert for Week 8

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    In the NFL, favored teams aren't always the better teams.

    A host of factors go into picking favorites and underdogs. Trends have a lot to do with it, as do matchups. Home-field advantage plays a role, as does travel distance for the road team.

    Many people don't know this, but when Vegas puts out a betting "favorite," that isn't necessarily the team the oddsmakers think will win the game. Lines (how many points the spread is) have nothing to do with how much Vegas thinks the favorite team should win by. Favorites and spreads have one purpose and one purpose only: get suckers to bet on them.

    Bettors (for the most part) figure all of this out pretty quickly, but that doesn't change people week in and week out asking "why is so-and-so a favorite?"

    So, which teams are on upset alert in Week 8?

New England Patriots ("at" St. Louis Rams)

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    The Patriots are the away team in this one, but they are really far away, as the game is in merry olde England. So, the Rams aren't exactly home even if the schedule officially says they are.

    The biggest problem, as B/R's Erik Frenz has pointed out is that the Rams match up really well with the Patriots. Their four-man rush has more than enough ability to put pressure on Tom Brady (not Giants-like pressure, but still), and the defensive backs play physical and can stop yards after the catch.

    If the Patriots are going to make this the blowout their fans are expecting, it needs to be done on the defensive side of the ball by rattling Sam Bradford and forcing turnovers.

    The Patriots defense is improved, yes, but traveling overseas can do crazy things. If the Patriots walk into this one at Wembley Stadium with anything less than their best, they will lose.

Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

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    Andy Reid is 13-0 with the Eagles coming off a bye week. So, the Eagles are slightly favored here after their week off. Moreover, the Falcons have had one of the (if not the) easiest schedules. They're perfect, but their tests haven't been quite as strenuous as others.

    Yet, the Falcons have 17 takeaways on the season (10 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries). That's good for third in the league and their plus-10 give/take ratio is second-best in the league. Meanwhile, the Eagles' minus-nine is the worst.

    Strength meets weakness here, and the Eagles don't have much of a chance. Expect Reid's post-bye week trend to meet its end.

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Washington Redskins)

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    The question is not whether Dick Lebeau will put together a quality game plan to stop Robert Griffin III. Of course he will. No, the question is whether the Steelers have the healthy bodies and sideline-to-sideline speed to keep him in check.

    On the other side of the ball, the Redskins can't really stop Roethlisberger and the Steelers passing attack either. So, this game has all the look of a shootout.

    The Steelers need to do their best to hold serve and force the rookie into a few mistakes. If that doesn't happen, the Redskins are almost certain to capitalize.

Detroit Lions (vs. Seattle Seahawks)

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    The Lions are playing some of their worst football since Jim Schwartz took over the team. Matt Stafford is hitting wide-open passes and Calvin Johnson is dropping the ball when it hits him in the hands.

    The defense, surprisingly to some, is playing well and shouldn't have much trouble shutting down Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch—impressive though they may be.

    The storyline here is if the Lions offense will be able to do anything against Seattle's stout defense. Seriously, anything would be better than what it's done recently.

    Seattle hasn't been great on the road, but Detroit hasn't been real good period. If the Lions don't get things turned around, drastically, the 'Hawks will roll.

    Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."