The sting of defeat to an underdog…
Thanksgiving is less than a week away as NFL Week 11 is set to play out, which means nearly every game carries significant playoff ramifications. But as much as every team in contention desires to win, we’re going to see some upsets take place around the league.
Which teams could experience the sting of being defeated by an underdog?
We have some ideas. Here are six teams on upset alert in NFL Week 11.
Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts (-2)
It’s not surprising that the line on this game is so tight. Both teams have been surging of late, coming into NFL Week 11 with two (Titans) and three (Colts) wins in a row.
Andrew Luck is hot, and the Colts have rediscovered their long-lost ability to run the ball. However, they’re about to run into a buzz saw. Tennessee’s defense is top-four in total defense and leads the league in scoring defense, and it most recently confounded Tom Brady and Co.
On the other side, the emergence of Dion Lewis as Tennessee’s No. 1 back has given the Titans an identity on offense. And after a very rough start to the season, Marcus Mariota is clicking with his receivers.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons (-3)
This is a very intriguing matchup. It pits one of the league’s best pass defenses (Dallas) against a prolific Atlanta offense that ranks second in the NFL in passing yardage. Matt Ryan has been playing at an MVP level this year, but don’t be surprised if the Falcons don’t have a huge game through the air. Also, Dallas is no slouch defensing the run, which means Atlanta could be quite frustrated on the offensive side of the ball.
If Dallas rides Ezekiel Elliott and makes him the focal point, it typically shows up very strong offensively. Dak Prescott is much better overall when he doesn’t have to carry the offense. Meanwhile, Atlanta allows 5.2 yards per rush, which means Scott Linehan would be an idiot not to exploit that squishy unit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New York Giants (-2.5)
If we’re being honest, this game is a total toss-up. Neither team has done much of anything recently that gives fans hope that a bright future is right around the corner.
What we do know is that the Bucs are once again turning their offense back over to offensive coordinator Todd Monken. At the least, he has shown the ability to draw up a game plan that springs his receivers open for Ryan Fitzpatrick to find his FitzMagic.
On the other side, while the Bucs are atrocious against the pass Eli Manning is still prone to throw the ball to the other team. Sure, he went without a turnover against San Francisco on Monday night, but it’s worth pointing out that the 49ers are worst team in the league when it comes to creating turnovers. It wouldn’t be surprising whatsoever if he lapsed.
Houston Texans (-3) vs. Washington Redskins
Really, this game all boils down to a couple of simple things.
First, can Washington get Adrian Peterson going on the ground? In games that he’s been a major factor, the Redskins are a perfect 6-0. All three of their losses have coincided with poor showings by the veteran back.
The second issue that will determine the outcome is whether Houston’s offensive line can win at the line of scrimmage against Washington’s dynamic defensive front. If the Redskins win this battle, there’s a good chance the game is theirs for the taking.
Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Chargers (-7)
The Chargers have ripped off six straight wins and are clearly one of the best teams in the AFC. They’ve also recently gotten an injection of Mamba juice, thanks to a special visit from one of Los Angeles’ most famous athletes. They’re at home Sunday against a Broncos team that has lost four of its last five games.
Everything about this game seems to tilt in favor of the Chargers. But here’s the reason to pick the Broncos to pull off the upset: Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. These two have 17 sacks between them and have the ability to create turnovers.
Philip Rivers doesn’t fold easily, and he’s done an amazing job of not turning the ball over this year. But if Denver can just squeeze one or two out of him this game, the Chargers are ripe for an upset after so much recent success.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears (-3)
It’s going to take nothing but Minnesota’s best to knock off the surprising leader of the NFC North on Sunday night.
Chicago has been a dynamo on both sides of the ball this year, thanks to the way Mitch Trubisky has taken to Matt Nagy’s teachings and thanks to the addition of Khalil Mack on the defensive side of the ball. As such, the Bears enter NFL Week 11 with a 6-3 record and a three-game winning streak.
Minnesota, on the other hand, has not quite lived up to expectations throughout the first half of the season but is surging. The Vikings, after opening the season 1-2-1, have won four of their last five.
We’re putting Chicago on upset alert because Minnesota’s defense has come on strong of late, and because Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is finally fully healthy and ready to be the bell cow again. He transforms that offense and gives Kirk Cousins an added dynamic dimension that will push Minnesota over the top.