Upset Central: Which NFL Underdogs Will Win in Week 3?
It seems like we've seen a lot of upsets already through this young NFL season. It seems like that to me, anyway. But officially, only eight underdogs have won out of 32 games. Four upsets a week? That is nothing out of the ordinary.
What we have seen, however, is a whole bunch of close contests. By my count, 23 of the first 32 games have been decided by one score (eight points or less). That is a huge number, and it is fantastically exciting for the game of football.
While many underdogs have been able to keep it close to their favored opponents, most haven't quite been able to get over the hump.
Here are the five teams I expect to do exactly that in Week 3.
San Diego Chargers (+3) at Tennessee Titans
The jury is still out when it comes to these teams.
No one believes the Titans are for real, because we have become accustomed to them acting as a proverbial league doormat. Their successes are passed off as mistakes made by their opponents. They beat Pittsburgh on the road, and we say, “Well, the Steelers had a bad game."
As for the Chargers, they have played six quarters of great football, and two quarters of terrible, incompetent football. Thus, they are 1-1 when they should be 2-0. But that’s always the story with San Diego: They lose a game they should win, then win a game they should lose. You do that the whole season, and you’re looking at 8-8.
Everything points to this game being a close one. The Chargers have to contain Chris Johnson and force Jake Locker into undesirable passing situations. They also can’t commit those costly turnovers that have become all too common for them. The offense will move the ball consistently like it did last week, and the Chargers will take this game with a late field goal, 23-20.
Baltimore Ravens (+2.5) vs. Houston Texans
Notice, if you will, that this game is taking place in Baltimore. Also remember, if you will, that the Ravens won the Super Bowl last year.
The Ravens are, and have been for some time, a very strong home team. I think people are still trying to get the stench of Baltimore’s Week 1 stink bomb out of their nostrils. But the Broncos are the best team in football. The Ravens are a better team than what Denver left in a heap on that field. Obviously, the Browns aren’t the greatest measuring stick, but the Ravens beat them in a rough game. That still counts.
Plus, the Texans aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. They could, and probably should, be 0-2. Their entire team sleeps through first halves. The offense has to be prodded with a casting iron to get going. The defense, supposedly the strength of the team, isn’t shutting anyone down. They have this obnoxious time-share with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, which we just know is going to end in explosive disaster. I’m not so sold on the Texans.
The simple reason for this upset pick is that I’m not so sure the Ravens aren’t the better team here. They take it at home 31-24.
Buffalo Bills (+2.5) at New York Jets
I can feel myself turning a corner with the Buffalo Bills.
Remember when Jeff Tuel was going to be the starting quarterback for the Bills? That seems like a long time ago. I don’t want to make crazy overstatements too early, but E.J. Manuel appears to be worth every bit of the first-round pick Buffalo spent on him. He may not be the most technically sound QB in the league, but my gosh is he exciting. The Bills have had talent on their roster for years but just couldn’t get the quarterback position figured out. Manuel may be able to transform this team in the coming years. I really like what I'm seeing.
The Jets are heading the other way, in my book. Yes, they beat Tampa Bay. Yes, they stayed within three points of mega-superpower New England on the road. Yes, Geno Smith can sling the ball and scramble around. I just don’t like the way the Jets look. Unlike Buffalo, they have very little talent around their young signal-caller. Unlike Buffalo, their offense has not moved the ball well. Unlike Buffalo, they won’t be winning in Week 3.
I am confident in the Bills in this game. I think they win, and I think they win comfortably. Buffalo lays the smack down, 28-10.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) vs. Chicago Bears
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
I don’t know for sure, but I imagine it is a rare occurrence for the Steelers to be underdogs at home. Look, I know the Steelers aren’t playing well. They can’t run the ball. They can’t pass protect. Even Ben Roethlisberger, the rock of this team, has struggled early on. But, to be fair, they have played two good defenses in Tennessee and Cincinnati. Also, their defense has played better than people realize by not letting these games get out of hand. Even if the offense comes out flat again against Chicago, the defense will keep them close.
The Bears, on the other hand, are a team that I like quite a bit. I am a big fan of the defense, which has always been solid. And now the offense seems to have addressed its biggest issue, the line, as Jay Cutler has been sacked only once so far this season. I know Cutler is prone to making mistakes. It would be easy for me to say he’s going to throw three, four or seven interceptions and sink his team with turnovers. But I don’t necessarily think that’s why the Steelers will win.
The Steelers will win because they absolutely have to. The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t go 0-3. Period. Final: 19-16.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7.5) at New England Patriots
Yeah, I’m pulling out the big guns.
For this to work, I’m going to need a lot out of the Buccaneers. I need the ball in Doug Martin’s hands more than in Josh Freeman’s. I need a smart game plan in the passing game so Freeman doesn’t even have to chance to throw interceptions. I need a big day out of Vincent Jackson and the receiving corps, mainly making things happen after short receptions. And most of all, I need a shutdown performance from the defense, which is where this gets messy.
I’m going to need help from you, as well, Tom Brady. You did all you could last week to keep the Jets in the game. It would be just dandy if you could do that again. If confirmation had come out that Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski were scheduled to play, I wouldn’t think twice about New England winning this game. But that hasn’t come out. And their replacements were so bad last week, I can’t help but feel like the Buccaneers can stay in range.
It’s a desperation game for the Buccaneers. Josh Freeman is fighting for the starting role. Greg Schiano is fighting for his head coaching job. They really don’t want to start 0-3. I don’t expect it to be pretty, and even as I write this I feel the urge to delete this pick altogether. But I’ll stick with it and predict Tampa Bay wins a sloppy game, 17-16.
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