This season's NFL underdogs are continually given a bad reputation. They’ve been beaten already, some pretty badly, but that’s not reason to bet thinking they’ll get blown out in Week 3.
It’s far too soon to start counting out teams from being at least able to contend for four quarters.
The Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns are both winless, yet the Vikings are more than five-point favorites at home. Then there are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that has lost its first two games in the closing seconds by a combined total of three points.
Use your heads, people. The Vikings aren’t a powerhouse and the New England Patriots aren’t the same offensive juggernaut from past seasons.
Check out all of my picks and further reasoning behind three underdogs I’ve picked to beat the spread this week.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (+5.5) at Minnesota Vikings
In a battle of winless teams, the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings are both desperate to get in the win column. For the Vikings, defense has killed them to this point, but it has been offense that has plagued the Browns.
This week, Browns star wide receiver Josh Gordon rejoins the team after serving a two-game suspension. Quarterback Brandon Weeden may be replaced by Jason Campbell after Weeden sustained a thumb strain on his throwing hand during the team’s Week 2 loss.
Regardless of who is behind center, the Browns would be smart to run the ball against a Vikings defense that has given up 120 yards per game on the ground this season.
On defense, the Browns will make things hard on the Vikings even with star running back Adrian Peterson at full speed. Cleveland’s new-look D is fourth in the NFL, allowing just 59.5 yards per game on the ground. The Browns' pass rush has been disruptive, too, and will give struggling quarterback Christian Ponder enough trouble to keep this game within a field goal.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+9) at New England Patriots
Costly defensive penalties have led to a dismal 0-2 start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Without them, the Bucs may very well be undefeated heading into a Week 2 matchup against Tom Brady and the unbeaten New England Patriots.
Like the Pats, the Bucs are posting a top-10 defense that has relatively contained both opposing rushers and passers, allowing an average of 17 points. This game will be a true test for the Bucs’ new-look secondary, especially without the services of safety Dashon Goldson, who was suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit in Week 2.
This game is being bet like the Pats of 2012 are facing the Bucs, but that simply isn’t the case.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+10.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh is pretty familiar with the offense that Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is bringing to Candlestick Park in Week 3. After all, the two coached Colts quarterback Andrew Luck together in that system at Stanford.
The San Francisco 49ers were embarrassed on Sunday Night Football last week by the Seattle Seahawks. These Colts are not nearly as imposing defensively as the Seahawks, but they shouldn’t be overlooked either.
Offensively, it all comes down to Luck for the Colts. If Indy can find any semblance of a running game with Ahmad Bradshaw now entrenched as its primary ball-carrier, Luck can utilize the play-action pass to beat the aggressive 49ers’ D.
The Niners are certainly better than what they showed on Sunday against the Seahawks, but so are the Colts, and San Francisco’s defense has proven to be beatable, surrendering 28.5 points per game so far.
Even in a lopsided defeat, as long as Luck stays in the game, he’ll keep his team close enough to make a late comeback.