The parity that exists within the NFL is extraordinary, and we’ll see this in action during NFL Week 10. The margin for victory is thin, and there is not a whole lot that separates playoff teams from the teams finishing among the worst in the league.
That’s why it’s not surprising that upsets happen every single week in this league. Last weekend we watched the Detroit Lions sock it to the Minnesota Vikings in overtime, despite their rival being favored to win by a touchdown.
So which teams will overcome the odds this weekend? Which favorites are on upset alert?
Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark
Atlanta Falcons (-2) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
On the surface, the Falcons should be favored to win this game even though it’s on the road. Atlanta has won its last two games, owns the most dangerous offense in the NFL and a defense that seems to be coming together after a rough start.
On the flip side, the Eagles have lost their last two games and four of their last five since opening with a three-game winning streak. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz hasn’t been nearly the same guy we saw during those first three games.
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) November 7, 2016
Trends aren’t everything, though. It’s worth pointing out that Philly has yet to lose at home, and the Falcons are limping into this matchup. Running back Tevin Coleman, tight end Jacob Tamme and cornerback Desmond Trufant are all out with various injuries.
And as good as the Falcons are through the air, the Eagles have been suffocating opposing passing games this year. Allowing just 218 yards per game and 12 touchdowns total, they present quite a challenge for Atlanta’s vaunted offense.
The key here is whether Wentz takes care of the football or not. He’s thrown just two touchdowns with four interceptions his past four games. A clean performance by the rookie, coupled with a run-first approach to keep Atlanta’s offense on the sideline, will result in a win for the home team.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Carolina Panthers (-3)
It’s easy to assume the Panthers will handle their business at home against the Chiefs. That is, it’s easy if you’re basing your thought process on last year’s Panthers squad. But Carolina is nowhere near the same team this year as the one that went to Super Bowl 50.
Yes, the Panthers have won two in a row to crawl up to 3-5 on the season. Were they impressive doing so? Not especially. They beat up on an equally unimpressive Arizona Cardinals squad at home a couple weeks back before eking out a win over the Case Keenum disaster … er … the Los Angeles Rams.
Meanwhile, Kansas City has been finding ways to win games this year with impressive play on both sides of the ball.
Alex Smith is healthy, running back Spencer Ware — a veritable dynamo who can do it all — is also available after passing the NFL’s concussion protocol.
And the Chiefs’ ball-hawking secondary should be licking its chops at the prospect of facing Cam Newton without two of his starting offensive linemen. Dee Ford and Co. will be all over Newton in this one, which should result in some splash plays for this opportunistic defense.
Being that the Panthers are being spotted a field goal here, oddsmakers see this as a pretty even matchup. We do not. We’re looking for Kansas City to take care of business to stay level with the Oakland Raiders in the loss column for the AFC West lead.
Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Tennessee Titans
There is no doubt that Green Bay is struggling this season. Heading into Week 10 with a 4-4 record is proof enough of this, especially when you consider the Packers just lost at home to the Indianapolis Colts.
But here’s just a bit more proof that the Packers are in deep trouble. As pointed out by Steven Ruiz of USA Today’s For The Win, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is responsible for every single touchdown Green Bay has produced this year.
Every. Single. One.
That Sunday’s game in Tennessee will be close is almost guaranteed. The Titans (4-5) have been highly competitive in all their games this season and have won their last two at home.
Second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota is developing nicely, the two-headed monster at running back — Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray — is a tremendous weapon and Tennessee’s defense is adept at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks (23 sacks, good for No. 5 in the NFL).
Nobody should be surprised if Rodgers ends up turning the ball over once or twice, leading to a huge win at home for the Titans.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5)
Given the way these two teams have played recently, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers are actually favored to beat the Cowboys.
Pittsburgh’s offense has been a shell of itself this year compared to last, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (injured once again) was atrocious last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Going up against an extremely underrated Dallas defense, it’s not a given he’ll bounce back with a huge game, even at home.
The Steelers, once renowned for their legendary defense, haven’t exactly featured a Steel Curtain this year. We’re expecting the vaunted Dallas offensive line to steamroll Pittsburgh’s front seven, paving superhighways for running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who’s been magnificent all year long, should continue to squash any talk of Tony Romo returning. He’s been the most impressive rookie in the league this year, perhaps outside of his own teammate, and was almost perfect last weekend, albeit against the Cleveland Browns.
Every week presents new challenges, and all it takes is one big game to turn things around. We don’t expect the Steelers to make it happen this weekend against the Cowboys, however. Instead, it seems far more likely that Dallas will run away with this one as the game wears on.
Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots (-7.5)
It is easy to envision the Patriots going undefeated the rest of the way, given what we’ve seen from Tom Brady and his offense since his return. But if there was any team that had what it takes to keep New England’s offense in check, it’s the one coming into town this Sunday night.
The Seahawks certainly have not been as dominant defensively the past couple of games, allowing 25 points to both the New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills. But they will be getting a key cog back in the lineup in the form of hammerhead safety Kam Chancellor.
If Seattle’s defense can keep Rob Gronkowski from going ham, then the Seahawks will have a real chance of keeping the Patriots from lighting up the scoreboard.
Of course, even if that happens, Russell Wilson and Co. will need to have a big game on the road to bring a win home to Seattle.
The biggest question there is whether the offensive line — a train wreck most of the season — can keep Wilson on his feet. One thing working in favor of the road team is that Wilson appears to have regained some of his signature mobility after a couple of early-season injuries.
Another thing working in Seattle’s favor is that running back Thomas Rawls is expected back into the lineup. With Rawls and Christine Michael, the Seahawks might finally start to get their running game going. Combined with the emergence of Jimmy Graham and the ever-dangerous Doug Baldwin, Seattle’s offense could be primed to finally explode with a big game.
One final thought here: Seattle will be itching to issue a bit of payback after watching New England celebrate in Super Bowl XLIX.