Each week in the NFL, teams who weren't expected to win force experts to re-evaluate what they thought about the league. It's called parity, and the NFL has it.
This week, there is no shortage of games that could leave those experts and other fans of the game scratching their collective heads. With several scrumptious matchups, here's a look at some of the best shots at a huge upset.
All betting lines courtesy of Vegas Insider.
|Away Team||Home Team||Winner|
|Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals||Colts|
|Atlanta Falcons||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|Cleveland Browns||New England Patriots||Patriots|
|Oakland Raiders||New York Jets||Raiders|
|Detroit Lions||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Miami Dolphins||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers|
|Buffalo Bills||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Buccaneers|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Washington Redskins||Chiefs|
|Minnesota Vikings||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens|
|Tennessee Titans||Denver Broncos||Broncos|
|St. Louis Rams||Arizona Cardinals||Cardinals|
|New York Giants||San Diego Chargers||Chargers|
|Seattle Seahawks||San Francisco 49ers||Seahawks|
|Carolina Panthers||New Orleans Saints||Panthers|
Jacksonville Jaguars (+3 vs. Houston Texans)
After one of the most disappointing starts to the season in Jacksonville history—not much of one, but still—the Jaguars have turned their season around thanks to wins in three of their last four contests. Including a win over—guess who—the Houston Texans.
The Texans will likely be one frustrated team after losing to the Jags two weeks ago and dropping their 10th straight game to the New England Patriots last week, but the facts don't lie. Houston is 20th against the rush, and Maurice Jones-Drew appears to be rounding back into form with two straight games of more than 75 yards rushing.
Jones-Drew will be the key to the Jaguars getting the victory because, as John Oehser of Jaguars.com points out, the veteran has gained more than 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the last five games against the Texans.
Prediction: Jaguars 23, Texans 20
Indianapolis Colts (+6 at Cincinnati Bengals)
The success of Andrew Luck without Reggie Wayne continues to look worse with each passing week, but the talent that remains on this team has to turn it around, right? Maybe not, according to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders:
For Andrew Luck, going from Wayne to Heyward-Bey is like taking a baby's bottle and giving it a dirty syringe.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 4, 2013
This week will determine if the Indianapolis Colts truly lost their heartbeat, as former interim head coach Bruce Arians told Mike Wells of ESPN.com, when they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, who just recovered from a recent two-game slide of their own.
The Bengals rank eighth in both rushing and passing yards per game as well as possessing an offense that includes explosive players like A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, but they are led by an inconsistent Andy Dalton.
The real battle here will be between the two quarterbacks who have failed to live up to expectations over the last four weeks. Need numbers to back that statement up? Dalton has thrown six touchdowns to nine interceptions over his past four games while Luck has thrown for two touchdowns and five interceptions over that same stretch.
Prediction: Colts 20, Bengals 14
Carolina Panthers (+4 at New Orleans Saints)
Remember when both of these teams finished the 2012 season at 7-9? It's hard to think that either of these teams had losing records just a year ago with the seasons they are putting together now.
The Carolina Panthers are winners of eight straight, including victories over the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots. But the Saints, despite losing in blowout fashion to the Seahawks, are favorites in the Superdome—as is typically the case.
But one of the best predictors of the future is looking at the past. For this game, it comes just one week prior, when New Orleans was pounded by Seattle. Here are a few numbers broken down comparing the Seahawks and Panthers defenses:
|Team||Pts/G||Rush yds/G||Pass yds/G||Total yds|
|Seattle||15.5 (Second)||107.2 (13th)||117.3 (First)||3,414 (First)|
|Carolina||13.1 (First)||80.3 (Second)||209.6 (Sixth)||3,478 (Second)|
Another nugget of information is that defensive end Charles Johnson and running back DeAngelo Williams returned to practice on Wednesday, as reported by the Panthers' official Twitter account:
DE Charles Johnson and RB DeAngelo Williams are participating in practice today.— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 4, 2013
With a lot on the line including the NFC South lead and potentially the No. 2 seed in the NFC, the Panthers' defense and the play of Cam Newton and the offense's three-headed rushing attack of Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert will be the difference as Carolina wins its ninth straight.
Prediction: Panthers 21, Saints 13