Upsets were the theme in both college football and the NFL this past weekend and have been a pretty regular occurrence on the gridiron so far. A lot of the ones in the NFL have taken chunks of Survivor players down, as we saw more of the same in Week 6 with losses from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens.
At this point, if you’re still left standing, I assume the horseshoe lodged in an unnamed orifice is starting to hurt … although, maybe that’s why you’re still standing as I would be too painful to sit down. Nevertheless, we’ve got five favorites of a touchdown or more this week, so it’s mostly about picking the right one, assuming you have them available.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Dallas Cowboys (-7) over Detroit Lions
It would seem that Dak Prescott will be ready to go this week for the Cowboys. Based on everything you’ve seen and read, the Cowboys are just taking it easy with their high-dollar quarterback to make sure that he’s fully ready to return. They’ve navigated choppy waters without him on the backs of the defenders, but this is a good spot to get him back into rhythm with a couple of subpar opponents before the bye week.
Prescott was cleared to practice this week, which paves the way for him to get the nod in a big game at home. While I’m not sure that the Dallas defense is this good, they are third in points per drive allowed and have only allowed 4.6 yards per play. The Lions have had one of the worst defenses in the NFL with 6.5 yards per play allowed and rank 31st in points per drive allowed. The Lions have averaged 6.2 yards per play, but have trailed a lot this season, which can skew the numbers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10.5) at Carolina Panthers
If you waited a week on the Buccaneers, you dodged a Survivor-sized bullet. They lost 20-18 to the Steelers, but are in an even bigger favorite role this week against an even more hapless team. At least the Steelers remain well-coached under Mike Tomlin and have some promise with Kenny Pickett and a strong skill group. The Panthers have a lame-duck head coach, a bad journeyman quarterback that got hurt last week and two other below-average quarterbacks dealing with injuries. Jacob Eason may very well get the start.
Even with the current state of the Bucs, the Panthers are arguably the worst team in football. They’re dead last in third-down conversion rate (shout-out Ben McAdoo), 30th in red zone touchdown percentage and have been held to 16 or fewer points in four of their six games. Tampa Bay can’t do this again this week, right?
Las Vegas Raiders (-7) over Houston Texans
Dueling teams off of bye weeks meet in Sin City and the Raiders really need this game. They’re already 2.5 games back in the AFC West standings, as the defense has not played up to snuff at all. They’re also only -5 in point differential and have outgained opponents on a per-play basis this season, so positive regression should be on the horizon. The red zone is where the Raiders have faltered, as opponents are 14-of-17 and they are just 9-of-19.
Houston brought in retread Lovie Smith and uncreative offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, so it should come as no surprise that this team has one win in five games. They’ve gone about it in a much different way than the Raiders, getting outgained by 0.8 yards per play. They’re actually fortunate to have only been outscored by 13 points, but they’ve also played some putrid offensive teams and have one of the league’s best red-zone defenses. The Texans have held opponents to seven touchdowns in 18 attempts. That’s not likely to continue, so we’ve got teams going in different directions from a regression standpoint and that makes the Raiders a solid choice.
New England Patriots (-8) over Chicago Bears
Stupid me wondered if Bill Belichick lost some zip on his proverbial fastball. The Patriots defense was really underwhelming early in the season, but New England has now allowed 15 points to the Lions and Browns over the last two weeks and those are two offenses that have moved the ball pretty well based on the stats. They did not move the ball well against New England.
The Bears haven’t moved the ball efficiently in most of their games this season and also have 10 turnovers. Justin Fields is not having a good season and really doesn’t have a lot to work with at the skill positions. He’s holding the ball longer than any quarterback in the NFL and the Patriots should find plenty of success defending him.
Chicago’s defense has also struggled, ranking 30th in third-down conversion rate against and 24th in yards per carry allowed. New England has gotten the ground game going the last two weeks and the offense actually looks better with Bailey Zappe over Mac Jones in some respects. There are a bevy of choices this week, but I think the Patriots are the one.