After absolutely crushing my upset alert in week 8 I am back at it again to provide my almost-always-expert-but-sometimes-not-so-much-expert opinion on which underdogs will emerge in week 9.
I’m not going to lie, I have my work cut out for me this week as no games really jumped out and caught my attention at first glance. But, after further review, I have found some intriguing match-ups with upset potential. I now provide to you, without further ado, my week 9 upset alert!
Atlanta (-1 ½) at Carolina
I featured Carolina as a road dog last week, so why not feature them as a home dog this week?
This defense is filthy and ballin’ out of control right now. They allow the fewest opponent plays per game at 55.6. They have allowed a total of 2 field goals over their last 2 games and are only allowing 264.0 yards/game on the season, 2nd in the NFL. Carolina’s front seven is nasty and they are #1 in the NFC in sack percentage at 9.96%. This team is physical up front, both sides of the ball, offense and defense. They roll into this game at 5-3, but could easily be 7-1.
The way to beat Carolina is to get pressure with a four-man rush. As a defense, you must get in Cam Newton‘s face and force him into terrible decisions. If you don’t win the turnover battle when playing the Panthers, you don’t win ballgames. Simple. In all three of their losses, they have lost the turnover battle by at least 2. You know who hasn’t figured out how to take the football away this year? Atlanta. They rank 32nd out of 32 teams with only 4 takeaways on the season.
Yeah, the Falcons did just beat the Jets on the road last week to snap out of their 3-game losing streak, but how impressive did they really look? It looked like the game was played in a tropical rainstorm and the Jets damn near pulled it out. Atlanta’s offense still hasn’t quite found their rhythm and their defense can’t get off the field on 3rd down. Considering Carolina boasts a top-5 defense and an offense that converts on 44.83% of their 3rd downs, it looks to be an uphill battle for Atlanta.
My Prediction: Carolina’s defense is good. Really good. I like the Panthers at home over an out-of-sync Falcons team on Sunday.
Carolina 24 – Atlanta 20
Indianapolis at Houston (-7)
Initially, this game wasn’t on my radar. But then I received a brutal update on my cellphone in the middle of my workday on Thursday. The update read: “Deshaun Watson believed to have torn his ACL in practice.”
You have got to be flipping kidding me.
Not to downplay any injury, but this one I felt for immediately. This happened in practice on a non-contact play to a 22-year-old kid who has come in and took the league by storm in his rookie year. Watson was right up there in the rookie of the year conversation and starting to make his case for MVP as well. He was clearly one of the major headlines of the 2017 season and is now done for the year. Unfortunate, to say the least.
I feel for the guy, I feel for the team, and I feel for the city of Houston.
The fact is, the Texans are not a good football team. Losing their star quarterback as well as their defensive MVP, J.J. Watt, are not things that this team is built to overcome. This defense ranks 29th in the league in points allowed, 26.9 pts/game. Even though they’ve given up a ton of points, they’ve been able to sneak in a few wins due to Deshaun Watson playing out of his mind. However, I firmly believe without Watson this team is 1-6, at best.
Maybe even 0-7.
The Colts also received news on Thursday that their star QB, Andrew Luck, will be placed on IR for the rest of the year. Indianapolis comes into Houston playing terrible football themselves. They were heavy underdogs on the verge of being completely blown out before the Watson injury gave them hope. The result of this game will have less to do with the Colts playing good football then it will the Texans being completely demoralized.
Indianapolis 20 – Houston 15
Detroit (-2 ½) at Green Bay
The Lions came out of the gates firing on all cylinders and started the season 2-0. They featured an explosive offense that complimented an opportunistic defense very well. They looked every bit the part of a team that could challenge for the division title. Suddenly, they fell flat on their face and have lost 4 of the last 5 games.
During their current 3-game losing streak, Detroit sits right near the bottom of the league in red zone efficiency on offense. They have only managed to score a TD on 30% of their red zone opportunities. To make matters worse, their opponents have scored a TD on 66.67% of their red zone drives during that span. Also, in Detroit’s first 4 games they had a turnover margin of +2.25/game. Over their last three, they have a turnover margin of -0.66/game. That is a huge difference, and if they have postseason aspirations they will need to turn that around ASAP.
Like, Monday night at Green Bay, ASAP.
The Packers, meanwhile, have looked lost since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. The good news for them is they will have had time to get healthy and mentally right as they come into Monday night fresh off their bye week.
The offensive line has been banged up all year as the starting five has only played a total of 15 snaps together! That could change on Monday as all five guys look ready to rock and roll.
On defense, the Packers are hoping to get strong safety/nitro linebacker Morgan Burnett back in the lineup. Burnett is a key contributor to the overall success of this Packer defense as he is the guy designated to wear the communication helmet on the field.
Mike McCarthy sports a 9-2 record as head coach of the Green Bay Packers following a bye week. His only 2 losses during that time were road games against undefeated teams. McCarthy has had 2 weeks to prepare for a Lions team whom he is 18-4 against, including a 10-1 mark at Lambeau Field. He has had his hands full trying to figure out a way to win without Rodgers under center, but this team still has a lot of firepower and weapons to attack an opponent with.
My prediction: Green Bay is well rested, Detroit is struggling to find themselves. Brett Hundley shocks the world.
Green Bay 27 – Detroit 24