Halfway through the season, and we’ve seen our fair share of upsets around the league. That trend should continue in NFL Week 9.
Looking at the point spreads for the weekend’s action, we’re pinpointing six teams on upset alert. Starting with the London game, these are the games that have us thinking the underdogs are ready to eat.
Houston Texans (-2) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston’s defense lost its leader last weekend. Now without J.J. Watt, this already struggling defense is going to have its hands full with opposing offenses the rest of the season. Minshew Mania descends upon London Sunday morning and the Texans will have a hard time keeping their opponent off the board in this overseas thriller.
On the other side, Deshaun Watson has been incredible this season but has also had a couple of pretty glaring stinkers against the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs (quite recently, at that). Jacksonville’s defensive front can bring the pressure, and the Texans, who could be without both starting tackles, struggle to keep good pass rushers from wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Tennessee Titans vs. Carolina Panthers (-3.5)
A team that struggled offensively for most of the season is suddenly scoring points now that Ryan Tannehill has replaced Marcus Mariota. Tennessee won its last two games, and Tannehill has impressed leading the way with 505 passing yards, five touchdowns and just one interception. Carolina’s defense will represent a new challenge for the former first-rounder, which is why the Panthers are favored to win.
However, the Panthers are coming off their worst offensive performance of the season in San Francisco. Kyle Allen threw three picks and was sacked seven times. While Tennessee doesn’t bring quite that level of defensive potency, the defense is playing very well and can bring pressure. It’s going to be fascinating to see how Allen rebounds, especially in light of the latest details on Cam Newton.
New York Jets (-3) vs. Miami Dolphins
Okay sure. The Dolphins are really bad. Like, cover your eyes bad. They struggle to run the ball and will even more so after trading Kenyan Drake to Arizona. That creates even more of an issue for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Co. to overcome.
But there are two significant reasons to doubt the Jets this weekend. First, nearly half the team is listed on the injury report. That’s not hyperbole, folks. This team is banged up with a capital B.
Secondly, Sam Darnold is having a hell of a time right now. The second-year quarterback threw just two touchdowns and seven interceptions in his last two games. Miami’s defense showed signs of life in the first quarter against Pittsburgh on Monday night. An effort similar to that could spark a huge upset for the winless Fins.
Detroit Lions vs. Oakland Raiders (-2.5)
Fans could be in for quite an offensive showdown in Oakland this Sunday as Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr duel it out against defenses that struggle against the pass.
The reason we’re high on the Lions this weekend is that Stafford is playing out of his mind lately. The former No. 1 overall pick is playing perhaps the best football of his career and is coming off a two-game stretch that saw him pass for 706 yards and seven touchdowns. Oakland’s secondary is not good, and the Raiders struggle to create pressure, too. This sets up for a huge afternoon for Stafford against the Raiders.
Indianapolis Colts (-1) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
This game could get very ugly. The Colts will be without star receiver T.Y. Hilton this Sunday, and likely for weeks afterward. Meanwhile, the Steelers are likely going to be without star running back James Conner and backup Benny Snell has been ruled out.
Without a strong rushing attack, it’s easy to assume Mason Rudolph will struggle with consistency in the passing game. That seems to tilt the game in Indy’s favor. However, the Steelers are very dangerous defensively. They’re at home, and without Hilton in the lineup, Jacoby Brissett could be in for a tough afternoon at Heinz Field.
Of course, all of this is moot if the Colts can run through Pittsburgh’s defense. Though, the Steelers are allowing just 3.7 yards per carry and have given up just four rushing scores all season.
Cleveland Browns (-4.5) vs. Denver Broncos
Another game that could spiral into the “unwatchable” category, Cleveland vs. Denver is a difficult game to call.
After placing Joe Flacco on injured reserve, the Broncos will be rolling with Brandon Allen under center. He has zero experience at the NFL level outside of preseason games. An offense that struggles to protect its quarterback and just lost its best receiver to the 49ers, will seemingly be hard-pressed to make anything happen in the passing game.
On the other hand, despite all that star power on Cleveland’s offensive roster, the Browns have been awful this year. Now they’re going against a defensive team that, despite poor sack numbers, defends the passing game well. Baker Mayfield has been brutal with decision making and could easily have another awful game in Denver.