As the NFL season slowly deflates the life out of lower-tier teams, it also takes something that is always held so near and dear at the beginning of the season: home-field advantage.
Coming into the season, it almost always feels like the odds are with the home team. Gleeful fans come in droves to cheer on their favorite team, spurring inspired performances even in mismatches.
However, as we hit Week 10 of the 2012 NFL season, that time has ended. Instead, hitting the midpoint of the season means it's time that the great teams rise to the top and destroy their bottom-feeding counterparts—even if the game comes on the road.
With that in mind, here is a look at a few road favorites that will come away victorious against their home opponents.
New York Giants (6-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-5)
Despite losing by just four points last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the final score is nowhere near indicative of the New York Giants' struggles.
The Giants got outplayed in every facet of the game, as the Steelers outgained New York 349-182 and forced by far the worst game of the season from Eli Manning.
That's certainly something that cannot happen in the future. Though lauded for their defensive-line play, the Giants rank 25th in the NFL in total defense, giving up 382.3 yards per game.
Luckily for Manning and Co., they will face off against a Cincinnati Bengals team that has lost four straight games. Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green have been fantastic, but the surrounding cast—especially on defense—has continually failed to meet expectations.
Meanwhile, you cannot expect the Giants to put forth such a paltry offensive effort two weeks in a row. Swelling in Hakeem Nicks' injured knee has gone down, and he will ostensibly be ready alongside Victor Cruz to torch Cincinnati's secondary.
To put it bluntly, you can't expect a team that has looked as bad as the Bengals to suddenly right the ship against a Super Bowl contender.
The Giants should win and do so in fine form.
Score Prediction: Giants 34, Bengals 20
Detroit Lions (4-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4)
Sunday's contest in the Metrodome will see teams whose seasons have been on diametrically different paths thus far.
After starting the season 4-1, the Minnesota Vikings have been on a nosedive. Quarterback Christian Ponder has been dreadful, which has all but ruined Vikings fans' memories of his promising start.
Even more frustrating is the lack of defensive presence, following an initial surge where Minnesota looked to have one of the best run defenses in the NFL.
On the other side of the field, the Detroit Lions are one of football's hottest teams after a frustrating start. Led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the team's passing attack leads the NFL with 307.3 yards per game.
That all was expected. But it's the team's ability to run the ball with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell and to stop opposing offenses defensively that has been most impressive.
Every season, a team finds its form in the middle of the season and rides that wave deep into the playoffs. Don't be shocked if the Lions are that team this season. On that note, they should make pretty easy work of the Vikings, who will be without Percy Harvin on Sunday.
Score Prediction: Lions 27, Vikings 13
Denver Broncos (5-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-6)
Though their playoff dreams are almost certainly dashed for this season, at least the Carolina Panthers can take solace in being next season's beloved team by the sabermetric community.
All but one of the Panthers' eight games this season has been decided by one score or less and they are just 2-5 in those contests. A reversion to the mean is obviously in store at some point, but it won't come on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos may actually be the best team in the NFL at this point in the season. In fact, according to Football Outsiders' Team Efficiency ranking, Denver is the third-best team in the league, barely behind the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots.
Manning has led an offensive surge and he may be the NFL's MVP at this point. Despite early struggles, the Denver signal-caller has thrown for 2,404 yards and 20 touchdowns against just six interceptions thus far. Those numbers give Manning a league-best 85.4 QBR and have put to rest all lingering doubts.
The Broncos have also been quietly excellent on defense. Behind Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, the defensive line has gotten pressure on the quarterback consistently, helping the Broncos rank 10th in the NFL against the pass.
All of those factors seem to point to Denver at least getting a two-score victory on Sunday.
Score Prediction: Broncos 31, Panthers 21
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