I know it’s a cliché, but one of the things that I love about football is the oft-repeated idea of, “On any given Sunday…” that the lowliest team can beat the best. With so many intangibles and unknowables, things like weather, turnovers, injuries, luck, etc. there are no guarantees. Upsets happen all the time. That’s why they play the games. One team might look better on paper, but they don’t play on paper; they play on the field.
This past week has seen more than its fair share of upsets. Last Sunday, Denver dominated Dallas, and Jacksonville won an ugly contest against Buffalo, huge upsets by double-digit underdogs. In other games, 6-point underdog Atlanta beat New Orleans, 5-2 Las Vegas lost to 2-6 New York (Big Blue), and Travis Henry-less Tennessee, 7-point underdogs, beat Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Co. in Los Angeles.
These games absolutely wrecked my picks last week. I wasn’t upset, though. I love upsets. I especially love them when a really lowly team like Jacksonville takes down a contender like Buffalo, or when a team I’m not particularly fond of, like Dallas, gets thumped at home in Jerryworld.
Week 10 has opened with a huge upset, as 6-2 Baltimore, favoured by more than a TD, were humbled by Miami 22-10. In my Thursday Night pick column, I expressed concern about Lamar Jackson’s workload, combined with playing on short rest. I picked Baltimore, though. It was the safe pick. My wife ridiculed me. “Miami all the way,” she said. She has a much better memory than I; over the past 20-odd years, she’s seen too many tired players wilt in that Miami humidity. I might have to start giving her space in my column regularly if she continues to show me up like that.
Looking at the remainder of this week’s slate, I see the potential for a number of upsets. Will any of them materialize? Only time will tell. They have to play the games.
Any given Sunday…
Week 10 Picks
Winners in Bold
Buffalo at New York J
Buffalo got absolutely humbled last week, as their high-powered offense was stymied. That game highlighted the team’s only real weakness: lack of a solid running game. I expect a big effort, and a big win, against New York. Upset potential: Low
Tampa at Washington
The defending champs’ worst game in last season’s playoffs was against Washington, and Tom Brady will be without the services of Gronk and AB. Upset potential: Slight
Atlanta at Dallas
Atlanta has shown some spirit recently, including winning a close game last week, the type of games they have a reputation for losing. Dallas got humiliated last week, as the defense struggled and the offense turned in its second straight subpar performance. Also of note, Atlanta lost to Dallas last season in a game where they jumped out to a 20-0 lead, led 29-10 at the half, and led 39-24 with 8 minutes left in the game. This was the game where Dallas kicked the winning FG after recovering an onside kick, a play where Atlanta infamously stood around watching the ball instead of recovering it. Upset potential: High
NO at Tennessee
Tennessee has been on a bit of a roll, and are slight favourites in this one. However, their offense was just dealt another blow as Julio Jones was placed on IR. Upset potential: High
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
It’s hard to get a read on Indy. They haven’t really beaten a quality opponent, but they’ve lost a number of close ones to some really good teams. One thing that they have been good at is beating up on bad teams, though. Upset potential: Slight
Detroit at Pittsburgh
With news coming that Big Ben has Big COVID, this game has gotten a lot more interesting. I’ll be hoping for an upset here, but it’s Detroit, so who knows. Upset potential: Intriguing
Cleveland at New England
The Pats are slight favourites in this game, but I wouldn’t call this one an upset no matter who wins. Both teams run the ball well, and both have solid defenses. Could be a low-scoring affair. Upset potential: N/A
Minnesota at Los Angeles Bolts
The Bolts are slight favourites at home. Both of these teams are banged-up on defense, which could make for a high-scoring affair. Upset potential: High
Carolina at Arizona
Arizona are big favourites despite the fact that Kyler Murray is unlikely to play. The possibility of Cam Newton getting into this game makes things interesting, but Arizona’s defense makes an upset here unlikely. Upset potential: Low
Philadelphia at Denver
Denver is favoured slightly at home, but no outcome would really be considered an upset. Upset potential: N/A
Seattle at Green Bay
Russell Wilson returns from a finger injury, and Aaron Rodgers also returns, having been freshly de-wormed, and possibly bathed as well. Green Bay are slight favourites at home. Upset potential: Moderate
KC at Las Vegas
What a weird scenario this is. Vegas, as a franchise, has the reputation for being the bad boys of the NFL. It certainly has been a trying season for the team. Racist coach. Top wideout kills someone. Another player acts like a complete asshole with guns. But here’s the thing: NONE of those people are with the team anymore, each having been dismissed for their transgressions. Kansas City, on the other hand, likes to keep their assholes around (Frank Clark being the typical example). KC stinks, Mahomes isn’t even a top-ten QB right now, and I’m loving every minute of it. Vegas are slight favourites at home, but no outcome seems unthinkable in this one. Upset potential: N/A
Los Angeles R at San Francisco
LA decided to roll the dice and risk the delicate balance of team chemistry by adding chronic pain-in-the-ass Odell Beckham, Jr. (not to be confused with Sr., who fights junior’s battles for him on social media), to a team that already looked pretty good. Starting wideout Robert Woods promptly tore his ACL in practice. Hmmm. I expect LA to handle San Fran easily in this one, but who knows. Upset potential: Low-ish