NFL Teams on Upset Alert for Week 9
Things are really starting to shake out in the 2012 NFL season.
Through the first few weeks, sure, it was difficult to tell what truly constituted an upset. Was it just the Vegas odds? Which teams were truly "better"? Which teams were just living off hype? How much did the replacement refs screw with the natural balance of NFL order?
Now, just over halfway through the season, it's easier to distinguish the NFL's haves from the have-nots. The problem is, in an era of parity, even the haves have big fatal flaws. No one is bulletproof—no one.
So which teams have the best chance of being upset this week?
San Diego Chargers (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)
The Chargers are not clear "haves" in the NFL, but the Chiefs are clear "have-nots." The Chiefs are terrible, just terrible. Honestly, the team has talent (plenty of it) on the roster but is playing stupid football and getting absolutely nothing of value from under center.
The coaching staff isn't giving the Chiefs much help either. The defense has fallen off the map, and the offense can't even figure out a logical game plan to use Jamaal Charles.
Still, this is the AFC West, and that Chiefs team can beat the Chargers. Frankly, if the Browns can beat the Chargers, anyone has a chance (no offense, Browns fans; I'll get to you later).
If the Chiefs want to win, they need to go into the game with the same game plan that the Browns won with: a ton of running and a bunch of mental errors by the Chargers. That should be easy.
Atlanta Falcons (vs. Dallas Cowboys)
The Falcons are "perfect" on the season. Sadly (for them), unlike in college football, the chances of winning out in the NFL are pretty remote. Chances are, they are going to lose. The chances of them doing so this weekend are actually pretty good.
The Cowboys have a history of beating undefeated teams. While that history may not be predictive, some of the matchups favor "America's (former) Team" as well.
Miles Austin is great both before and after the catch and won't be dependent on beating one-on-one matchups against a talented Falcons secondary. Dez Bryant, when he is on, is a physical freak of nature. The Cowboys' pass-rushers can take advantage of a vulnerable Falcons offensive line.
Really, though, this upset would have little to do with how the Falcons play. They're good, they're going to be good, and everyone knows that.
No, if the Cowboys pull of this upset, it will be because they step up and start to actually play up to their talent level. They haven't this season. At least, they haven't since Week 1. If they play to their potential, if Jason Garrett has them prepared, the Cowboys can beat anyone, even the Falcons.
Baltimore Ravens (vs. Cleveland Browns)
See, Browns fans, I told you I would take care of you!
The game plan to win this game is the same as last week: run the ball down the Ravens' throats and play stellar defense. It isn't the prettiest strategy, but it works for the Browns, and it's how AFC North fans expect things to go.
Even when healthy, the Ravens' run defense isn't as great as the Chargers had been before Trent Richardson ran roughshod over them. No, seriously, as spotty as the Chargers have been, they've shut down running backs pretty well. Frankly, they had Richardson bottled up quite a bit as well; he just ran through them.
Against the Ravens' less-talented, more-hobbled run defense? Let's wait and see...
Chicago Bears (vs. Tennessee Titans)
As of right now, no unit is playing better football than the Bears defense. In all likelihood, that should continue against the Titans.
However, the Titans' offensive tackles—Michael Roos and David Stewart—are probably the best tandem that the Bears have faced and maybe the best they will face all year.
Roos, coming off an appendectomy, has the raw talent and certainly the toughness to stop Julius Peppers. (I repeat: he just had his inflamed appendix removed and is ready to play football again.)
Maybe the Titans, even with protection, aren't able to put up a lot of points. That's probably true, but the Titans have a solid defense as well (especially in the front seven) and can get after the passer in their own right.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."