It took eight weeks for our first upset with a favorite of more than seven points, but we’ve seen four of them in the last two weeks, depending on the number you grade the Titans against the Rams.
In any event, underdogs have not only been barking, they’ve also had some bite. The survivor fields have thinned, and those still in the running have to be ecstatic as we head into Week 10.
My entry here has survived the bloodbath of the last two weeks. The picks have been the Rams, Packers, Broncos, Bengals, Ravens, Cowboys, Patriots, Bills and Colts. The “Games to Consider” went 0-3 last week to fall to 22-8, but the Colts got there Thursday night as the official pick.
Let’s see what the options are for Week 10.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Baltimore Ravens (-7.5) over Miami Dolphins
The big favorite role Thursday night for the Ravens seems a bit scary, especially coming off an overtime game against Minnesota, but Baltimore has no business losing this game. The Dolphins will use Jacoby Brissett again or Tua Tagovailoa, who wasn’t healthy enough to play last week.
The Miami defense has gotten a bit better lately but has still allowed 5.8 yards per play. The Dolphins’ offense is averaging just 4.7 yards per play. Baltimore is actually in the negatives in yards-per-play differential because the defense has missed so many tackles, but Miami doesn’t seem like the type of team to exploit that weakness. Miami is last in the league in yards per catch and just outside the bottom five in yards after catch.
Most contestants have taken the Ravens, much like I have. I’m trying to play this out for real until I lose a game but will keep the teams I’ve used under consideration for those that haven’t. You could hold off on the Ravens and take them at the Bears without the short-week travel if you want, but this week and next week are the last good chances to take them barring a major injury to an opponent given the remaining schedule.
Indianapolis Colts (-10.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars
The Colts were last week’s pick, so they are unavailable to me, but they look to be a great option for those who still have Indianapolis on the board. Jacksonville pulled off the 9-6 shocker against the Bills last week, but it was another ugly offensive performance from the Jaguars, and Trevor Lawrence is now dealing with a sprained ankle.
The turnovers have slowed down for Lawrence and the Jaguars, but the Colts have 20 takeaways to lead the NFL. The Indianapolis offense is now 10th in yards per play after racking up a whole bunch of positive gains and big plays against the Jets. Carson Wentz seems to be settling in, aside from the couple of awful decisions he makes in every game.
Remember that depending on your specific format, you’ll have to take at least 18 of the 32 NFL teams. You could take the Colts on the road against the Texans on Dec. 5 or the Jaguars on Jan. 9, but this likely is their biggest remaining favorite spot.
Buffalo Bills (-13) at New York Jets
Look, the Bills are on here by default because they’re the biggest favorite on the board, but something is clearly wrong with this team. Teams coming off the bye are now 3-9 ATS, so I’ll give Buffalo a pass for looking bad against Miami, even though the Bills are one of the teams that covered. Looking bad a second straight week is a huge concern.
Buffalo has no business losing this game. Those who have the Bills do still have additional chances to take them, like Week 12 against the Saints, Week 15 against the Panthers, Week 17 against the Falcons and Week 18 at home against the Jets, but they are the biggest favorite of the week and deserve a mention on that alone.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-9) over Detroit Lions
This game embodies what makes survivor contests so difficult as the season goes along. This is the only spot left to take Pittsburgh. The remaining schedule is at Chargers, at Bengals, Ravens, at Vikings, Titans, at Chiefs, Browns and at Ravens. There is not a single spot I’d be comfortable taking Pittsburgh outside of this one. Like I said earlier, you’re going to have to take some unsavory teams when you need to take 18 or more of them.
The Steelers don’t win by margin with their paltry offense and play a lot of low-scoring games. A lot of things can happen in low-scoring games. You can fall on the wrong side of turnovers. Missed field goals could play a role. It could be any number of things with a team that doesn’t win comfortably.
This is a short week for Pittsburgh coming off “Monday Night Football.” The Lions are off the bye, which has not been kind to teams this season.
I’d be surprised if the Steelers lose this game. But having full confidence to use Pittsburgh in this kind of format with other options is hard.
(Author's note: Ben Roethlisberger is on the COVID list and will not play for the Steelers, who are now -6.)
Arizona Cardinals (-10) over Carolina Panthers
This was one of the teams I was torn between for Week 10, but ultimately decided I had more spots to use Arizona down the line than the team I picked. Timing also matters. I have to file this article by Tuesday afternoon, and Kyler Murray’s status was still up in the air at that point.
It really shouldn’t matter if Murray starts or if Colt McCoy gets the call again with Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker on the other side, but I’d rather have more certainty with the quarterback situation before locking this one in.
The Cardinals do face the Seahawks next week, and this is one of those divisional sandwich games that could potentially trip up Arizona, though it really shouldn’t be that big a factor. Arizona is just better in every way.
The Cardinals are a top-five red-zone offense, and the Panthers are a bottom-five unit. Arizona is much more successful on third down. The Panthers’ defense is better from a yards-per-play standpoint, but the strength of schedule factors in a lot there. If I had more clarity on the QB situation, Arizona would probably be my pick, but I don’t have it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-9.5) over Washington Football Team
The Buccaneers are off the bye, which hasn’t been good for teams to this point, but a team like Tampa Bay with some injuries and a 44-year-old QB should be good to go after the break. The Bucs won eight straight games after last year’s bye, including Super Bowl LV.
Washington is also off the bye here. The Football Team doesn’t seem capable of keeping up with the Buccaneers. Washington’s defense has forced only nine takeaways and has allowed 5.9 yards per play, compared to 5.4 for the Buccaneers. The Bucs are third in yards per play on offense, and Washington is 17th.
Tampa Bay has been successful on third down 49 percent of the time, which ranks second to Kansas City. Washington is 27th at 34.7 percent, and the defense is dead last, allowing opponents to convert 56.5 percent of their third-down attempts. The Bucs are a top-10 red-zone team. Washington ranks 31st. Everything from a statistical standpoint suggests Tampa Bay should win with relative ease.
This game seems to have serious blowout potential, while the others could end up much closer than the spread would suggest.
Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers