Week 9 NFL Picks: Dallas Cowboys and Sunday's Upset Specials
Parity has reigned supreme in the National Football League this year. Either the guys who set the point spreads in Las Vegas need to go back to the drawing board or someone in the NFL has gotten their hands on some super energy pills, because in 2012 it's been all about the underdog.
So far this season, underdogs are a staggering 56-33-2 against the spread. When looking at just underdogs from the NFC, the numbers are even more startling, as those teams have combined to go a ridiculous 35-10-1 against the spread.
Given those numbers, it would stand to reason that whether you're looking to win some extra cabbage (where gambling is legal, of course) or just come out on top in your office pool, underdogs are the only way to fly, so here's a look at the most likely upset specials for Week 9.
(Home teams in CAPS)
CLEVELAND BROWNS (+4) Over Baltimore Ravens
Given that the Baltimore Ravens are seeking their fifth-straight season sweep against the Cleveland Browns, it may seem a bit strange to call a two-win Browns team a potential "upset special," but there are a couple of reasons to believe that the Browns may be set to pull out a win against one of their most hated rivals.
First, the Baltimore defense, which has been ravaged by injuries, was exposed badly in a loss to the Houston Texans two weeks ago, although head coach John Harbaugh wasn't making any excuses when speaking recently to Tayloy Bechtold of the Associated Press via Yahoo Sports.
"We have all the players we need and we have all the scheme we need," Harbaugh said. "Now what we have to do is organize it in a way that gives our players a chance to play their fastest and their best under pressure, on the road against good teams, and at home."
The Ravens have won 14 straight games at home, but have struggled on the road this season, as has quarterback Joe Flacco, who has thrown for fewer than 200 yards a game with four interceptions and a 55.9 quarterback rating away from home this year.
Combine the Ravens' issues on defense and road woes with an improving Cleveland team that has won two of their last three games, and the stage is set for the Browns to pull out another squeaker at home that will please the long-suffering fans of the franchise immensely.
The Pick: Cleveland 17, Baltimore 16
Dallas Cowboys (+3) Over ATLANTA FALCONS
This week's Sunday night game features the last undefeated team in the National Football League, as the 7-0 Atlanta Falcons attempt to stay perfect, while the 3-4 Dallas Cowboys try to keep another season from slipping away.
As is often the case in the NFL, it was turnovers that did in the Cowboys in last week's loss to the New York Giants. Despite erasing a 23-0 deficit, the Cowboys were unable to pull out the victory due to six giveaways. One of the Cowboys' offensive stars realizes that their window in 2012 is closing rapidly according to Alan Ferguson of the Associated Press via Yahoo! Sports.
"It's to that point in the season where you don't have time," said tight end, who had a franchise-record 18 catches for 167 yards. "Nobody cares about battling. They don't. They want to see you win. ... The clock's ticking. You have to be able to find a way to get on top."
The Falcons had little trouble with the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but struggled to defeat the Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders in their last two home games. Even without the services of running back DeMarco Murray, a desperate Cowboys team has more than enough offensive firepower to hand a shorthanded Atlanta defense their first loss of the season.
The Pick: Dallas 27, Atlanta 24
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