NFL Picks Week 1: The Top Underdogs Who Can Win Outright

Elliott Pohnl@@ElliottPohnl_BRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2010

NFL Picks Week 1: The Top Underdogs Who Can Win Outright

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    HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 29:  Running back Donald Brown #31 of the Indianapolis Colts rushes against linebacker Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans on November 29, 2009  at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Colts won 35-27.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Gett
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    With the NFL season set to kickoff Thursday night it's time to make some picks.

    Vegas has anointed the Giants the biggest favorites in week one and apparently shown little faith in the Lions, making them the biggest underdogs.

    Could the the new-look Lions buck the odds and win outright in week one against a Bears team littered with problems?

    Here's a look at the probability of the underdogs in all 16 games pulling off the upset against the favorites.

Oakland at Tennessee

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 28:  Quarterback Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans throws during their preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on August 28, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/Getty
    Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images

    Line: Titans at -6

    Upset Probability: 1 out of 10 (Lowest)

    The Raiders are expecting Jason Campbell to play in the opener, but Oakland will be without the services of reliable runner Michael Bush. That means unreliable running back Darren McFadden, who has been nursing a hamstring injury in the preseason, will have to produce. The offensive line will also have to show improvement and keep Campbell from taking a pounding.

    That's a lot to ask.

    The Titans no-name defense figures to be stout against the run this season and Chris Johnson will be fresh and ready to go against the Raiders defense. A productive outing by Vince Young could lead to an easy win for Tennessee.

Arizona at St. Louis

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Quarterback Derek Anderson #3 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up before the preseason NFL game against the Washington Redskins at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defea
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Line: Cardinals at -4

    Upset Probability: 2 of 10 (Very Low)

    The Rams are starting a rookie quarterback and find themselves in tatters on both sides of the ball. Aside from Steven Jackson, St. Louis has few sure-things ready to contribute against the Cardinals.

    Arizona has plenty of problems of it's own, but what better way to figure things out than by playing the woeful Rams? Derek Anderson should impress in his debut to lead the Cards to a much needed win in the opener.

Carolina at New York Giants

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks to pass against the New England Patriots on September 2, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Line: New York Giants at -6.5

    Upset Probability: 2 of 10 (Very Low)

    The Panthers have battled injuries on the offensive line in the preseason, which could translate to a slow start for the normally potent rushing attack. Matt Moore enters his first season as a starting quarterback looking over his should after his preseason struggles. Jimmy Clausen might not be ready yet, but he will be soon.

    The Giants will lean heavily on the offense this season and should be able to move the ball against the Panthers. Eli Manning has the weapons around him to produce and the emergence of a running game from either Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs could help New York coast to an easy win in the opener.

Cincinnati at New England

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots walks to the sideline after throwing an interception against the New York Giants on September 2, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Line: Patriots at -4.5

    Upset Probability: 3 of 10 (Low)

    The Bengals have tons of star power, but that doesn't mean it will lead to production in week one. Cincinnati will likely try to take advantage of New England's secondary and could expose Carson Palmer to pressure from the front seven. Even though it's a contract year for him, Cedric Benson isn't likely to get off to a great start against the Pats.

    The Patriots have managed to circle the wagons despite Tom Brady's ongoing contract negotiations and Randy Moss complaining about not being loved. Bill Belichick's team should be anxious to get on the field and attack the Bengals early and often through the air.

San Diego at Kansas City

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers in action against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on August 27, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Line: Chargers at -4.5

    Upset Probability: 3 of 10 (Low)

    The Chiefs offense remains a work in progress as week one approaches. Matt Cassel's ability to run a team effectively is still a question and the arrival of Thomas Jones could spell less touches for the dynamic Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs will have to find a way to get to Philip Rivers if they want to even hang close.

    The Chargers are far from perfect, but an aggressive defense and a loaded offense is difficult to overlook. Despite the continued absence of Vincent Jackson, San Diego has Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates at Rivers' disposal, along with play-making running back Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. The Chargers simply have too much firepower for the Chiefs to contain.

Dallas at Washington

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    HOUSTON - AUGUST 28: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys looks fora receiver as he receives some pressure from defensive tackle Amobi Akoye #91 of the Houston Texans during a football game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on August
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Line: Cowboys at -3.5

    Upset Probability: 4 of 10 (Low)

    The Redskins have been distracted by the Albert Haynesworth situation and hindered by the injury to Donovan McNabb. Although the quarterback is expected to make his debut against a familiar foe Sunday, there are still plenty of questions for the Redskins offense that must be answered. Aside from the 67 year-old Joey Galloway, McNabb doesn't have a reliable No. 2 option at receiver.

    The Cowboys have plenty of weapons at receiver for Tony Romo and two reliable running backs. Unless the Redskins defensive line plays out of its mind, Dallas should be able to move up and down the field in Landover.

San Francisco at Seattle

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    OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 28:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers passes against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL preseason game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 28, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Line: 49ers at -3

    Upset Probability: 4 of 10 ( Low)

    Pete Carroll's move to the lovely Pacific Northwest might be reason for enthusiasm, but the Seahawks have problems and aren't likely to find answers in the first game against the 49ers. The lack of a running game could spell doom for fragile Matt Hasselback.

    The 49ers are a tough defensive team and have a fresh Frank Gore in the backfield. If there was ever a game for Alex Smith to shine, it's in the opener against the Seahawks secondary.

Minnesota at New Orleans

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the San Diego Chargers at the Louisiana Superdome on August 27, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Line: Saints at -5

    Upset Probability: 4 of 10 (Low)

    The Vikings don't look quite as good as they did a few weeks ago. Brett Favre finds himself without his most reliable receiver and might not be quite ready to carry the Vikings offense in his first regular season game. Minnesota's best chance seems to lie in hoping the Saints are distracted by the hoopla surrounding Thursday night's game.

    New Orleans will probably be fired up to get back to the field. Drew Brees and the Saints offense is difficult for anyone to stop, including the talented Vikings defense. New Orleans probably won't be able to run the ball, but a 300-yard game by the Most Valuable Player seems likely.

Denver at Jacksonville

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 22:  Running back  Maurice Jones Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars  is brought down by defenders of the Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on November 22, 2009 in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville defeated Buf
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Line: Jaguars at -2.5

    Upset Probability: 6 of 10 (Decent Chance)

    Maurice Jones-Drew is always the focal point of the Jaguars offense. He should be fresh in the first game, but the Broncos know where the ball is going and should be ready to load up the box and make David Garrard take to the air. Jacksonville's secondary could struggle against Kyle Orton and Denver's short passing game.

    The Broncos aren't going to be able to keep up with many teams on the scoreboard this season, but the Jaguars could be an early exception. If the offense clicks, Josh McDaniels should be able to dictate the game with methodical drives keeping Jones-Drew on the sidelines.

Atlanta at Pittsburgh

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    DENVER - AUGUST 29:  Quarterback Dennis Dixon #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks for a recevier against the Denver Broncos during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Line: Falcons at -2.5

    Upset Probability: 6 of 10 (Decent Chance)

    The Falcons overachieved last season and didn't do much to improve in the offseason. Despite posting an impressive 7-1 record as a favorite in 2009, Atlanta is walking into a difficult situation in week one. Aside from Roddy White, Matt Ryan still lacks a No. 2 option at receiver. The Falcons will get pushed to the brink by a scrappy Steelers squad.

    Dennis Dixon's talent hasn't been enough to overcome his mistakes as of yet, but his epiphany could come at any moment. Pittsburgh is likely to pound the ball at the Falcons and concentrate on stopping Atlanta's Michael Turner. The Steelers haven't controlled the line of scrimmage in many games recently, but week one could be a different story.

Miami at Buffalo

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    TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 19: C.J. Spiller #21 of the Buffalo Bills runs with Gary Brackett #58 of the Indianapolis Colts during game action August 19, 2010 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)
    Brad White/Getty Images

    Line: Dolphins at -3

    Upset Probability: 7 of 10 (Good Chance)

    The Dolphins acquired Brandon Marshall to give first-year starter Chad Henne a valuable weapon at receiver. The move is likely to pay dividends throughout the season, but it might take a while for chemistry to develop.

    Rookie C.J. Spiller played well in the preseason and appears ready to challenge for Rookie of the Year honors. The exciting running back gives Chan Gailey's offense a versatile weapon able to impact the game as a receiver and a rusher. The scrappy Bills get a good performance from Spiller and Trent Edwards and pull of the upset.

Baltimore at New York Jets

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    BALTIMORE - AUGUST 28:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens passes against the New York Giants at M&T Bank Stadium on August 28, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens lead the Giants 17-3. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Line: Jets at -2

    Upset Probability: 7 of 10 (Good Chance)

    The Jets have gone Hollywood on Hard Knocks, providing viewers with a glimpse into one of the more entertaining teams in the NFL. The reality show and the contract talks with Darrelle Revis provided a distraction that kept observers from focusing on the Jets problems. It starts with Mark Sanchez, who at minimum must be a capable game-manager.

    The Ravens secondary has huge question marks, but Sanchez hasn't demonstrated the ability to take advantage of opportunities on a consistent basis. There's no reason to believe it will happen in the opener. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco has shown he can be consistent even without weapons. He should get a chance to enjoy his new toys in week one.

Cleveland at Tampa Bay

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    DETROIT - AUGUST 28:  Jake Delhomme #17 of the Cleveland Browns throws a first quarter pass while playing the Detroit Lions during preseason game on August 28, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Line: Bucs at -3

    Upset Probability: 9 of 10 (Excellent Chance)

    The Bucs are playing at home, which probably explains why they are favored in week one. It might be the one of the few times the teams will be favored all season long, but there just isn't enough proven talent on either side of the ball to expect Tampa to beat anyone, even the Browns.

    Cleveland might not be very talented, but there are veterans at key positions, especially quarterback with Jake Delhomme ready to begin his career in Cleveland. Jerome Harrison should be able to run the ball against the Bucs defense, leading to a mild upset in week one.

Green Bay at Philadelphia

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 27: Kevin Kolb #4 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs for yardage during a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on August 27, 2010 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
    G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images

    Line: Green Bay at -3

    Upset Probability: 10 of 10 (It's gonna happen)

    The Packers are a trendy Super Bowl pick, but enter week one with young players playing in key positions. The biggest problem could be in the secondary, with Atary Bigby and Al Harris out with injuries. Aaron Rodgers might have to win the game all by himself for Green Bay, which has struggled in games at Philly in recent years.

    Kevin Kolb figures to throw the ball all over the field Sunday and he should be able to move the chains against the Packers' secondary if he gets time. Philadelphia has enough firepower to outscore Green Bay in week one and win what should be an exciting game.

Indianapolis at Houston

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 21:  Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans in action during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on August 21, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Line: Colts at -2

    Upset Probability: 10 of 10 (It's gonna happen)

    The Colts have had the Texans' number throughout history, but that might be about to end. Peyton Manning has weapons all over the field, but a questionable run defense might be their undoing Sunday.

    Arian Foster looks to exploit a run defense that ranked 24th in the NFL in 2009 and Matt Schuab should be able to throw the ball all day long if he gets time. The Texans are hungry for the playoffs and a win over the Colts in week one would be a huge early statement.

Detroit at Chicago

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    DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 02:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions drops back to pass in the first quarter of the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field on September 2, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Line: Bears at -6.5

    Upset Probability: 10 of 10 (It's gonna happen)

    The Bears offensive line was horrible last season and appears to be even worse this season. Making matters worse, Jay Cutler and his receivers aren't quite on the same page yet in Mike Martz's complicated offense.  Chicago is likely to experience more growing pains in week one.

    Matthew Stafford has more weapons around him this season, including dynamic rookie Jahvid Best. The Bears secondary is a weakness that could be exploited by NFL teams all season long. The Lions clearly shouldn't be six point underdogs, and they will prove it by pulling off the upset Sunday.