Week 10 of the NFL season offers underdogs another chance to add to their growing tally of upsets.
In each of the first nine weeks of 2012, at least three teams that Vegas pegged as the underdog ended up a straight-up winner. We can only assume that trend will continue in Week 10.
Here's a quick look at how each of the respective underdogs can become one of the upset winners this week.
New York Giants (6-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-5)
Bengals win if...
Andy Dalton takes care of the football and the special teams unit turns field position.
Dalton has been up and down in 2012, especially over the Bengals' current four-game losing streak. This isn't a great running team, so Dalton has to make better decisions and protect against giveaways. While not a great yardage defense, the Giants do force turnovers at a high rate. The special teams unit needs to make a play or two to help Dalton and the offense get some easy cracks at the end zone.
Tennessee Titans (3-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-4)
Titans win if...
There's an increased sense of urgency from every player on the active 46-man roster.
Titans owner Bud Adams rightfully put the entire organization on watch after an embarrassing home defeat in Week 9. If there's no skip in the step of Tennessee Sunday, jobs could be in danger. That should be enough motivation for the Titans to put together a better performance.
Detroit Lions (4-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4)
Vikings win if...
Minnesota's old identity returns.
The Vikings impressively started 5-2 using an efficient offense and a defense that made up for a lack of talent with a physical style. That identity has been lost over the last two weeks, especially on offense. Christian Ponder needs to forget his last month and the defense has to punch back against a Detroit offense that can move the football.
Buffalo Bills (3-5) at New England Patriots (5-3)
Bills win if...
The running backs control the contest.
Few teams have the kind of dynamic at running back as the Bills do in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, but the two feel under-utilized. While there will be temptation to attack the Patriots through the air (New England is 28th against the pass), Jackson and Spiller have to be the vehicles for an upset on the road. If Buffalo can get in the 175-yard range on the ground, this game should be close late.
Atlanta Falcons (8-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-5)
Saints win if...
The running game stays on track.
The Saints can't stop anyone on defense, so Drew Brees and the offense will have to score a boatload of points to knock Atlanta from the ranks of the unbeaten. That's certainly possible, especially if New Orleans gets another strong effort on the ground. Brees can go to work if the Saints rush for anywhere near what they did Monday night (140 total yards).
San Diego Chargers (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4)
Chargers win if...
Philip Rivers is protected for 60 minutes.
The Bucs are the NFL's top rushing defense yardage-wise, so the Chargers may be forced into a one-dimensional offense early on. If that's the case, San Diego has to keep Rivers upright. When he's been hit and pressured this season, the Chargers offense has sputtered and turned the football over.
Denver Broncos (5-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-6)
Panthers win if...
They confuse Manning once or twice and the run game controls the tempo.
Confusing Manning hasn't been an easy task, but the Falcons were able to do it with amoeba defenses in the pre-snap look. Maybe Carolina can steal an idea or two from their NFC South rivals and get a bad decision from Manning. On offense, the Panthers have to continue running the football. If this game turns into a track meet between Manning and Cam Newton, the Broncos will be an easy winner.
Oakland Raiders (3-5) at Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
Raiders win if...
They score touchdowns, not field goals.
The Cleveland Browns lived in the red zone against the Ravens in Week 9, but they settled for five field goals and lost, 25-15. Oakland can't be kicking for three when seven is available. This Ravens defense isn't the stone wall that it has been in previous seasons, but it can toughen up when pushed into the scoring zone. Like Cleveland found out, the Raiders can't pull off the upset with field goals.
New York Jets (3-5) at Seattle Seahawks (5-4)
Jets win if...
Rex Ryan's defense makes Russell Wilson look like a rookie quarterback.
Wilson has already matured into a quarterback that Pete Carroll can trust throwing the football down field, especially at home. The Jets' first focus on defense will be stopping Marshawn Lynch and the run, but forcing Wilson out of his comfort zone will be next on the list. New York needs a couple of big plays from the defense to spring the upset so far from home.
Dallas Cowboys (3-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)
Eagles win if...
Howard Mudd's offensive line comes around.
The Eagles are pushing the Arizona Cardinals as the NFL's worst blocking team of 2012. Michael Vick has been hit more than any other quarterback this season, resulting in bad decisions week after week. Mudd, a respected offensive line coach, needs to get his unit figured out before the Eagles become irrelevant in 2012.
St. Louis Rams (3-5) at San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
Rams win if...
St. Louis matches the physicality of San Francisco.
The 49ers are one of the more physical teams in the NFL, but they haven't taken counter punches well this season. Both the Giants and Vikings matched the 49ers' physicality early in games and grabbed a lead. The Rams have to throw an early haymaker and force the 49ers out of their offensive comfort zone.
Houston Texans (7-1) at Chicago Bears (7-1)
Texans win if...
The Bears get bad Jay Cutler.
In Chicago's only loss this season, Cutler threw four interceptions and was sacked seven times. The Texans won't be expecting to replicate that performance, but they will need Cutler to give the football away. The Bears are arguably the best team in the NFC when their ball-hawking defense is complemented by an effective and protective Cutler.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
Chiefs win if...
Everything goes right.
Kansas City is a poor team that makes more mistakes—especially on offense—than any team in football. If that reality isn't corrected Monday night, the Chiefs could get blown out before a national audience. A complete performance is needed for Kansas City to get its second win.
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