NFL Predictions Week 4: Denver Broncos and 8 Underdogs That Will Bite Back
Of the 16 NFL games played last weekend, six of them were won by underdogs.
The NFL is a league of parity. The Buffalo Bills' win over the New England Patriots in Week 3, which saw them as seven-point underdogs, further reinforced that notion. The Tennessee Titans' win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 which saw them as 5.5-point underdogs also proved that claim.
Week 4 should be no different.
There are numerous underdogs in several games this weekend that have a chance at winning. Some appear as if they don't have a chance in hell at winning.
The Denver Broncos are one of those teams.
But as it appeared the Titans didn't have a chance vs. Baltimore, and as it appeared the Bills didn't have a chance against New England, here are eight underdogs that will bite back on Sunday.
Tennessee at Cleveland
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Cleveland enters this game as a very slight favorite over Tennessee. The point spread is at +1.
This game should be a tight low-scoring affair, but it's hard for me to see the Browns knocking off the Titans.
The Titans look a lot less intimidating without Kenny Britt. But even without Britt, Hasselbeck led the Titans down the field on a 95-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter vs. the Broncos to win the game 17-14.
Chris Johnson has run for 98 yards through three games, averaging fewer than 2.5 yards a carry. Here's to predicting that he finally breaks out vs. a Browns defense that has given up 386 yards through three games, the fourth-worst mark in the league.
Detroit at Dallas
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This is a tough game to predict. But if there was any game in this week's lineup that had a game where it could go the underdog's way, it's Detroit at Dallas.
Dallas has a fighter's mentality. At 2-1, they have won their past two games in exciting fashion. They came back late in the Niners game to win it in overtime, and did the same in the final few minutes of a contest that saw the Cowboys offense struggle against the Redskins. This Cowboys team has been in games that have gone down to the wire the past three weeks.
Detroit is 3-0 for the first time since 1980. The Lions have looked like one of the most impressive teams in all of football. They came back from a 20-point halftime deficit to defeat the Vikings last Sunday.
The Lions have an unstoppable passing attack with the combination of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. They currently rank fourth in points scored, while ranking fifth in yards and second in passing TDs.
The Lions also have the best turnover differential in the league. Ditto for point differential.
The Cowboys currently rank 16th in points allowed. The Cowboys have a solid defense. Not bad, but not great.
The Cowboys should be able to make this a competitive game, but put your money on Stafford and Johnson to come through late in the game.
Pittsburgh at Houston
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Pittsburgh enters this game as two-point underdogs at Houston. It's not a mystery as to why that is the case.
The Texans are 2-1, having nearly upset the Saints in an absolute shootout.
The Steelers are also 2-1, but they were dominated in every which way vs. Baltimore. They dominated one of the worst teams in the Seattle Seahawks, before going to Indianapolis to defeat the Curtis Painter/Kerry Collins-led Colts by three points.
OK, so these are the Steelers of last year.
However, this game should be the Steelers' coming-out party. The Steelers tend to get hyped up for big games, and after their effort vs. the Ravens, they will have a chip on their shoulder.
The Texans are a vastly improved defensive unit under Wade Phillips, but they do still have weaknesses. They currently rank 17th in rushing yards given up, while ranking 26th in yards per attempt given up. They are allowing rushers to gain 4.8 yards a carry.
Rashard Mendenhall has been a non-factor thus far in 2011. Expect the Steelers to rely heavily upon Mendenhall to establish the ground game, while setting up the passing attack. By doing so, the Steelers should be able to break off a couple of big passing plays in the play-action game with Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace.
This should be what gives the edge to the Steelers in a close game.
NY Giants at Arizona
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New York is favored in this game by over two points.
The Giants are the NFL version of "Dr. Jekyll and Hyde."
One week they look like the best team in the NFL. This was the case when they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles pretty convincingly as clear-cut underdogs last Sunday.
Then there are weeks where they look bad. Like their Week 1 loss to the Washington Redskins that saw the offense struggle to a 28-14 loss.
Which version of the New York Giants will we see this week?
The Arizona Cardinals are 1-2, but their record is a bit deceiving.
Yes, they lost a terrible game vs. the Seahawks, in which they threw for a pitiful 139 yards. Let's just say the Seahawks don't exactly have a good defense.
But the Cardinals are still a plus-three in point differential. They should arguably be 2-1, after losing a heartbreaker to the Redskins by one point in Week 2.
The Giants still have a bend-but-don't-break defense. They rank 20th in passing yards given up, but fifth in passing TDs given up.
If the Cardinals and Kevin Kolb can get back on track while passing the football, they should win in a shootout with the Giants.
Carolina at Chicago
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The Bears are six-point favorites heading into Sunday. The Bears should be favored, but not by six points.
Matt Forte had nine carries for two rushing yards against Green Bay. The Bears are averaging just 3.2 yards a carry, good for 29th-best in the league. So much for that new contract that Forte wants.
The Bears defense, which has been their foundation for years, currently ranks 19th in points allowed.
The Bears, as of the current moment, are not an NFC contender.
The Panthers aren't either, but there's more to like about this team than the Bears as of this writing.
The Panthers are about equal on defense, and offensively they have to have the edge due to Cam Newton's explosive playmaking ability.
This game could go either way, but if Newton is to keep his turnovers down to about one and continue playing at the level he's been playing at the past three weeks, don't be surprised if the Panthers pull this one out.
New England at Oakland
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This may be the game of the week. I know all eyes are on the NY Jets at Baltimore, but this game could go either way.
These two teams have completely different strengths.
The Patriots are heavily dependent upon the passing game. Their running game is anemic and falters when the passing game fails.
The Raiders' rushing attack is the best in the league. A total of 555 yards rushing and eight TDs through three weeks ranks as No. 1 in both categories.
The passing game is not good with Jason Campbell, but Campbell is not starting for the Raiders to win games. He is starting because he does not make mistakes. If there was one thing that Campbell does well, it's not turning the ball over.
When there aren't receivers open in the passing game, Campbell is able to make plays with his legs. He has two TDs rushing the football.
This will be the tale of the game.
If the Raiders can control the time of possession while pressuring Brady as they did Sanchez, the Raiders should win this game.
If the Raiders can't get any pressure in the trenches, and Brady has all of the time in the world to throw the football, it won't be pretty. The Raiders have the 28th-best defense in the NFL.
If the Raiders rush for 234 yards as they did when they embarrassed one of the best defenses in the NFL last Sunday, they will leave no doubt in peoples' minds that they are one of the handful of contenders in the AFC despite their limited passing attack.
New York Jets at Baltimore
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The NY Jets enter this game as 3.5-point underdogs in this upcoming matchup at Baltimore.
The Ravens have been one of the more impressive teams. Besides their fluke loss vs. Tennessee, the Ravens have dominated the defending AFC champion Steelers and the St. Louis Rams by a combined 58 points.
The Ravens rank second in points differential, first in turnover differential and are in the top 10 for both offense and defense. Hell, they're actually first in points given up.
So how do the Jets have a chance in hell at "biting back"?
Although the Jets look fine given their record is 2-1, there are major causes of concern for this team.
We already know about being gashed for 234 yards rushing by the Raiders in Week 3. Over the past two regular seasons, the Jets had never given up more than 166 yards rushing.
The major problem isn't the defense. The defense may not be as stout as it was in the past two seasons, but last week was more of an indicator of the Raiders being so good at rushing the football, rather than the Jets being so bad at stopping the run.
The major problem is the running game. They rank 25th in rushing yards and 22nd in yards per attempt. They are averaging just 3.4 yards a carry.
In the absence of a running game, this has forced Mark Sanchez to step up his play.
Against the Ravens, it doesn't matter how much Mark Sanchez steps up. That won't win them the game. If the Jets are to have a chance, the running game will need to make amends by having a huge game.
If the Jets can establish a running game, thereby opening up the play-action fake for the mobile Sanchez, the Jets can squeak this one out.
Denver at Green Bay
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Yes, I know what you're thinking. "What the hell?" was probably your first reaction when reading the title of this article.
Hell, it was probably the only reason why you clicked the article—to see what idiotic reason I'd give as to why the Denver Broncos would have a chance at defeating the Packers in the first place.
Let's be honest here. The Broncos have to have a lot of things go right just to the beat the Packers. Possibly everything.
They enter this game as 13-point underdogs. That is by far the largest spread of the week. The second-largest spread belongs to the Indy/Tampa Bay at 9.5 points.
The Broncos do have a chance though. In the NFL, anything can happen.
Let's get this out of the way. The Broncos defense is not going to stop Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has been perfect this year. He has completed 73 percent of his passes, and is arguably the best quarterback in the game at the current moment.
Even with the returns of Champ Bailey, DJ Williams and Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos can only hope to minimize Rodgers' explosion.
We know the Packers offense will go off. This means that Denver's offense needs to at least remain within striking distance.
Kyle Orton was fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2010. He is having a down season, as he currently ranks 24th in the NFL with a 79.1 passer rating.
The Broncos can beat the Packers if Kyle Orton keeps the Broncos in the game.
Denver really has no chance of blowing this team out or controlling the clock. They don't have the running game to do it.
The Broncos will need to match Rodgers and the Pack in the vertical passing game to win this game.
We know Orton can throw for a lot of yards; he threw for over 300 in Week 1 vs. Oakland. What also helps Orton is the fact that GB ranks 31st in passing yards given up. They are not the defense that they were in 2010.
What Orton will need to do is punch the ball in the red zone.
If the Broncos can somehow accomplish this goal of matching the Packers in a marathon of scoring, Denver can "bite back."