NFL Picks Week 10: Upset Specials to Watch for in Sunday's Action
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Even the boldest of upset picks don't even seem like much of a stretch in Week 10's NFL action.
As unpredictable as the league can be, teams matched up with such disparate records can generate some of the most captivating action Sundays have to offer. That remains the case in the latest slate of games, as you'll see in one particularly juicy NFC South showdown.
Check out this trio of stunners that you can take to the bank.
Oakland Raiders (3-5) over Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
Maybe not. Taiwan Jones has electrifying speed to fill in for Run DMC, and versatile fullback Marcel Reese may also get some carries in the backfield. Something will ultimately have to give when the Raiders' second-worst rushing offense takes on the Ravens' fourth-worst run defense.
After rallying back and nearly beating the Tampa Bay Bucs in Week 9, Oakland does have some positive momentum to build on. QB Carson Palmer has been exceptional in so many obvious passing situations when playing from behind and without any production from McFadden.
The defense will have to rally after getting lit up by Bucs RB Doug Martin for 251 yards and four touchdowns. Facing Ray Rice doesn't exactly do the Raiders' front seven any favors.
The Raiders have been horrible in the red zone, scoring a touchdown just 40 percent of the time (h/t TeamRankings.com). But this is the most favorable matchup they have faced in weeks from that standpoint, even though the Ravens have shown some bend-but-don't-break tendencies throughout the year.
This will be a more evenly matched game than anyone gives it credit for between two pass-happy teams and leaky defenses.
The Raiders will pull out a shocking, last minute victory for the second time in 2012 over an AFC North opponent, this time on the road in M&T Bank Stadium.
Final score: Raiders 37, Ravens 31
Carolina Panthers (2-6) over Denver Broncos (5-3)
Cam "Sophomore Slump" Newton out-dueling Peyton Manning?
Well, sort of. A Panthers upset will be more to the credit of Ron Rivera's defensive schematics than anything the 2011 No. 1 overall pick does for the Panthers on offense.
When Manning played in Indianapolis, he frequently struggled against the San Diego Chargers when Rivera was the defensive coordinator there. 2011 changed that dynamic to say the least: Manning went on a year-long hiatus to recover from multiple neck surgeries, while Rivera took the head coaching gig in Carolina.
Obviously the two haven't met since the Chargers officially ended Manning's run of seven consecutive 12-win seasons by picking him off four times in Week 12 of the 2010 season. San Diego returned two of the interceptions for touchdowns in a 36-14 victory (h/t NBC Sports via AP).
Here we are again. Although Rivera isn't calling the plays on defense, his influence has brought a massive improvement to the Panthers' unit in his second year at the helm.
Manning is having an MVP-caliber campaign, and may be on his way to winning his fifth such award. That remarkable story will encounter a brief deviation in Carolina, though.
Newton will continue to build on his bounce back game at Washington with his most efficient game of the year in front of a raucous home crowd desperate to see a competitive Panthers team. The schemes that have puzzled Manning over the years will force him into more mistakes than usual, and the Panthers will make just enough plays to keep their paper thin playoff hopes alive for one more week.
A fun side note about this outcome: it will only make Denver's subsequent showdown with the Chargers that much more exciting.
Final score: Panthers 27, Broncos 24
New Orleans Saints (3-5) over Atlanta Falcons (8-0)
The oddsmakers (h/t Odds Shark) only have the spread favoring the visiting Falcons by one point. It makes sense, considering the Saints' recent improvement and the likelihood that Atlanta won't stay undefeated for much longer.
That said, this should still be considered a substantial upset simply due to the mismatch between the Falcon offense and the Saints' defense.
Although New Orleans gave up just 13 points against the Eagles in Week 9, Philly still racked up 450 yards of total offense. That's not going to cut it against Atlanta, especially with all the weapons at QB Matt Ryan's disposal.
As is the case almost every single week, though, the Saints have the edge under center with Drew Brees on their side. As long as the Super Bowl XLIV MVP is still able to take the field, there is hope in New Orleans.
Ryan has been particularly spectacular at home throughout his career, but with the exception of this year, has struggled on the road. It certainly appears he's taken a step forward in his fifth season.
Alas, he is not in the same class as Brees, who is growing more and more accustomed to winning shootouts with the exception of last week's game. Considering he can still produce such a lethal passing attack with little running game and arguably the worst defense in the league, why can't he overcome the undefeated Falcons?
Going once, going twice...
This isn't the Georgia Dome; this is the Superdome. It will be Brees that continues to rise to the occasion in a Herculean attempt to salvage the Saints' 2012 season in the midst of the Bountygate scandal.
Too much is at stake for New Orleans, and with linebackers Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma continuing to adjust to playing alongside each other, it's only a matter of time before the defense steps up with a shutdown performance.
Sunday may be just the perfect time for it to happens, and the Saints could definitely use it.
Final score: Saints 31, Falcons 20
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