NFL Teams on Upset Alert for Week 16
In the final weeks of the NFL season, an upset loss could mean the difference between a shot at the playoffs or an offseason spent answering annoying questions from reporters about what went wrong.
In Week 15, the teams that I predicted to be on "upset alert" went 1-2, and the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams both fell at home in exactly the same manner in which I predicted. The Patriots made mistakes against a tough defense that continually pressured them, and the Rams let Adrian Peterson run right down their throat.
Of course, I also put the New Orleans Saints on "upset alert," but they apparently paid attention, cruising to a 41-0 victory.
Remember the guidelines for "upset alert": underdogs are determined by Vegas odds (FootballLOCKS.com); putting a team on "upset alert" is not picking them to lose (it's just putting them on notice); potential "upset alert" teams are based on matchups, trends and team-specific scenarios.
So which teams should be worried in Week 16? Read on to find out.
Miami Dolphins (vs. Buffalo Bills)
The Dolphins are favored because it's the end of the year, neither of these teams are playing very well and neither team is playing for anything important. All of that adds up to a likely win for the home team.
Of course, it doesn't help the Bills that they were blown out of the water last week in a neutral site game against the Seattle Seahawks. Buffalo could not have looked worse, as they allowed Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the rest of the Seahawks' offense to run all over them and put up a 50-spot.
The Dolphins, my friends, are not the Seahawks.
Before we hand this game to the home team, let's take a moment and remember the last time these two played. The Bills went into that game with a historically awful run defense and then shut Reggie Bush and the rest of the Dolphins' backfield down.
If the Bills do the same this weekend, they'll have a fun flight home while celebrating their easy victory.
Indianapolis Colts (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)
The Chiefs' offense is terrible—like ridiculously terrible.
Expecting Brady Quinn, Matt Cassel or anyone else that the Chiefs decide to roll out there to move the ball with any sort of effectiveness is quickly being added to the textbook definition of insanity. Yet, one has to remember that this is the Colts' defense we're talking about—not exactly an ultra-talented unit either.
More specifically, Jamaal Charles could have a great game against the league's 23rd ranked rushing defense. The Chiefs might not need to pass the ball if the Colts don't find a way to shut down the run game.
If the Chiefs are able to run the ball effectively and Andrew Luck—who has been trending downward as of late—makes a few rookie mistakes, the Chiefs could steal this game from their playoff-bound opponent.
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)
The Pittsburgh Steelers need to beat the Bengals if they want to get to the playoffs this season, but the Bengals are in the exact same situation: essentially, "win or go home." This game should be a test of which team has more mental will power to get the job done.
99 times out of 100, you'd have to bet on the Steelers in that situation.
Yet, this is a different-looking Bengals team this season. This is a Bengals team that—speedbumps aside—has started to prove they can play with the big boys. The same team that thrashed the New York Giants can do the same to Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, things are coming to a head between Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. If these two aren't on the same page against the Bengals' tough pass rush, it will be a long day for Big Ben, who could spend most of his time picking himself up off the turf.
The Steelers, along with the rest of the teams on this list, need to bring their best in Week 16 or they will head home with upset losses.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.