Observer Roundtable NFL and upset picks: Pats on upset alert?
Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots (-6.5)
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers (-3)
Baltimore Ravens @ Los Angeles Rams (+2.5)
America’s Team facing off against the reigning champions makes for an electric atmosphere this weekend in Foxborough. Dallas sends arguably the most fluid and multifaceted offense of the Pats’ schedule to date; especially in light of Dak Prescott’s explosive performance last weekend in Detroit, I expect the Patriots to struggle. Dallas wins.
Recent weeks have proven Jimmy G’s competence in huge situations, and Sunday Night Football presents a critical piece of the NFC playoff puzzle. Both teams hold a narrow lead in their respective divisions, and with the Packers coming fresh out of bye, I look forward to a tight matchup in the Golden City. 49ers win and cover in a nail-biter.
Nothing appears to stop Jackson’s Ravens. The statement feels plain, but in light of their exigent schedule as of late, their win streak deserves due credit. The Rams’ recent defensive insurgence poses a potential setback to their dominance, but Baltimore looks too good on both sides of the ball for this trend to gain relevance. Baltimore easily wins and covers.
The Cowboys and Prescott especially put out a very strong showing on the offensive side of the ball, something they had been searching for over the last few weeks. The Pats, on the other hand, have faltered some when it comes to scoring points. Nonetheless, Dallas has proven to be an inconsistent team at times, especially against quality opponents. Patriots win and cover.
It seems like the 49ers are still trying to re-establish their identity after a loss to Seattle and a scare from the Cardinals. Seattle was able to highlight some of the issues that the 49ers still have with a game that could have been much worse had things gone Seattle’s way. There is no denying their defense is elite, but Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance in tight situations is lackluster. The Packers led by Aaron Rogers will put out another strong performance and win outright.
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have been an absolute unit as of late. Led by their MVP candidate quarterback, the Ravens have been able to hang significant amounts of points on their opponents and I don’t see that train stopping here, especially after a huge win over Houston. Baltimore wins and covers.
The Patriots offense has struggled recently, but if anyone can turn it around, it’s Bill Belichick. I can’t bet against the Patriots this week, especially when they are playing the Cowboys, a team that hasn’t shown up against quality opposition. Their best win is the Eagles, and they haven’t beaten a single above .500 team this season. Expect the Patriots to make the right changes on offense, and win and cover.
The Seahawks win over the 49ers two weeks ago exposed some insecurities in the 49ers defense for the first time, and expect Aaron Rodgers to again exploit those. The Packers defense will make some big plays, and Rodgers will again step up. Packers win outright.
This seems like a possible trap game for a Ravens team that has been playing so well, but I can’t stomach picking a Rams team whose offense has been so anemic recently. Jackson won’t have as big a game as he is used to as of late, but the Ravens defense should shut down Jared Goff and the Rams’ poor run game. Ravens win and cover.
The Pats defense has been ridiculously good, and the Cowboys may be a tad overhyped, but I’ve got a weird feeling about this one. With a road game at Houston looming, it seems as much as a trap game as the Pats might face. The Cowboys offense is good enough to put up some points and hold off an inconsistent New England offense. Dallas wins outright.
I could definitely see Green Bay pulling off the road upset, but their 26-11 loss to the Chargers remains an ugly blotch on their schedule. That recent dud puts some doubt on their capabilities on the road, against a 49ers team whose only loss is a buzzer beating overtime defeat to an elite Seattle squad. Give Jimmy G and the 49ers to win and cover.
I think the Rams can slow down Lamar Jackson and the Balitmore Ravens’ Heisman-filled offense, but I have my doubts about what Jared Goff can do against a rapidly improving Baltimore defensive unit. I like the Ravens to win and to cover thanks to the small spread.
In what seems like a yearly NFL tradition, the Cowboys have failed to live up to ridiculously high preseason expectations. Dallas has not defeated a team with a winning record all season, but, by virtue of an extremely weak NFC East, they are on track to make the playoffs. I do not expect the Cowboys to earn their first major victory over the best team in the NFL, and New England’s defense will continue to dominate as the Pats easily cover while trouncing the Cowboys.
The 49ers seemed to recover pretty well from a heartbreaking divisional loss to the Seahawks as they comfortably defeated the Cardinals. Jimmy Garoppolo looked less than stellar as the Arizona defense picked him off twice. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers has only thrown two interceptions all season and is clearly the more consistent quarterback. With the continued help of sympathetic refs, Rodgers should lead Green Bay to an outright victory.
In a statement blowout victory over Houston, the Ravens cemented the belief that they would be the greatest challenger to New England in the NFL. Lamar Jackson continues to record monster numbers and looks to be the best quarterback of the 2018 draft class by far. The Rams have disappointed after their Super Bowl appearance last year and do not have the offensive firepower to keep up with Baltimore. The Ravens win and cover.
The Patriots found a way to come back and earn a solid win on the road in Philadelphia, and I expect them to continue to roll against the Cowboys. The Cowboys have been atrocious against good teams this year with losses to the Saints, Packers and Vikings and their best win coming against the Eagles. Patriots win and cover.
Both teams are coming in with a narrow one game lead in the division, and this game will prove crucial to the playoff picture. The 49ers have not looked like the best team in the NFC over the last three games that included two narrow victories over the Cardinals and a loss to the Seahawks. Despite this, I expect the 49ers to find a way to get a signature win late in the fourth quarter and solidify themselves atop the NFC. 49ers win and cover.
The Ravens are on an absolute roll right now, and I don’t expect that to change in Los Angeles this weekend. The Rams narrowly avoided an upset from the Bears last week, and they will have to play much better if they want to beat a red hot Lamar Jackson. I don’t think the Rams will be able to put up enough points to match the Ravens offense, and I like the Ravens to win and cover.
UPSET PICKS OF THE WEEK:
Analysts continue to evaluate Big 12 matchups with vast uncertainty. Perhaps most startling is the 19-point spread between Oklahoma and TCU this weekend. After already devastating the Longhorns and nearly pulling the away upset against Baylor two weeks ago, the Horned Frogs come to Norman as potential spoilers for the Sooners this weekend. Both teams struggle with consistency issues this season, and I expect TCU to draw first blood and catch Oklahoma with uncharacteristic consistency from quarterback Max Duggan. Horned Frogs over Sooners!
It’s hard to really wrap your head around why UCLA has been underperforming for the last few years, especially considering where they are located in terms of talent and recruiting. Nonetheless, the 4-6 Bruins will take on the No. 23 USC Trojans in what will be another chapter in their rivalry series. Before playing Utah, UCLA has found some success on the offensive side of the ball, going on a three-game winning streak before it was halted at the hands of the Utes. In a rivalry game, anything can happen and I have a feeling UCLA will come to play. The game has the potential to be a good one and I think the Bruins will pull off the upset.
Colorado has looked a lot better recently, but they still haven’t been rewarded often, as they have only won one of their last five. I expect that to change this weekend, as their defense will finally step up and take down a shaky Washington offense. Especially given that this game is in Boulder, I think Colorado needs to make a statement here to salvage their season and they will by knocking off Washington.
So since nailing my first upset pick of the year, I’ve proven pretty bad at these, so I’m just going to take a shot in the dark this week. On Nov. 2, Drew Brees visited the Purdue locker room and delivered a legendary pump-up speech. The Boilermakers then won two straight gutsy games and are now coming off a bye week. I’ve tried different ideas for picking these upsets and not many have worked, so give me the Brees effect; Purdue upsets Wisconsin as 24-point underdogs.
Lovie Smith and the Fighting Illini have slowly started to change their program’s reputation as a bottom feeder in the Big Ten. While they are known for surprising victories over more traditional powerhouses like Wisconsin and Michigan State, I find that it is more interesting that Illinois has consistently played a class above other weaker divisional opponents as they crushed Rutgers and Purdue. This development clearly depicts the upward mobility of the program, and I believe that they will take another giant step towards relevance by beating Iowa on the road. The Hawkeyes may have just pulled off an impressive win over surging Minnesota, but they will overlook this game and pay for it.
Fresh off of its first ACC win of the year via a 49-6 trouncing of Duke, I like Syracuse to pull off the upset on the road against Louisville. The Orange were a team that many people thought might be Clemson’s toughest opponent in the ACC at the beginning of the season, but their season has consisted of one disappointing loss after the other. I think the Orange have found some of their identity and they are set to pull off another victory.