Itching to watch an underdog try to overcome the odds or triumph against adversity? Simply looking to pass the time reading another NFL.com article while stuck in your cube? Nick Shook offers a bead on four us-against-the-world scenarios to track entering Week 11 of the 2022 NFL season. The order below is determined by confidence rankings, from No. 1 (most confident) to No. 4 (least confident).
The lines below provided by DraftKings are current as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 16 unless otherwise noted below.
We're noticing a bit of a theme developing in this weekly piece.
It seems like the folks who decide favorites and underdogs are undervaluing some of the more exciting teams in the NFL.
In recent weeks, it's been Seattle, which proved them right last week by losing to Tampa Bay in Munich. This time around, it's the 8-1 Vikings, a team that is coming off a signature win over the Bills.
I was wrong in picking the underdog Seahawks last week. I don't think I'll be wrong about Minnesota this week.
Gather your chains and prepare to place them around Kirk Cousins' neck. He's going to come away a winner this week -- and perhaps then folks will finally take the Vikings seriously.
Here are the four underdogs I believe in most to come away victorious this weekend.
- WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
- WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS
- SPREAD: Vikings +1.5
The Vikings just beat one of the elite teams in the NFL, and yet, as the late Rodney Dangerfield was known to say, they get no respect.
Minnesota has proven it won't go down easily, regardless of opponent, and the Cowboys might be reeling a bit after their most recent loss.
Dallas’ defense gets after opposing quarterbacks, leading the NFL in sacks with 35 through 10 weeks. The Cowboys also rank sixth or better in scoring defense, yards allowed per play and passing yards allowed per game. That sets up for a rough day for Kirk Cousins.
But Minnesota has a rushing attack that is poised to capitalize on Dallas' struggles against the ground game (29th-ranked run defense).
Dalvin Cook has been, well, cooking in 2022, and he's typically quite effective against the Cowboys, who have allowed Cook to gain 140.3 scrimmage yards per game in their three previous meetings. It hasn't always produced wins (Minnesota went 1-2 in those three games), but it's difficult to ignore Dallas' recent woes against the run in this matchup.
The Cowboys might get after Cousins, but Cook should thrive, which might eventually take some pressure off Cousins. I haven’t even mentioned the impact Justin Jefferson can make, even after his spectacular performance against Buffalo last week.
Minnesota has a better chance to win than the oddsmakers seem to believe right now.
- WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | FOX
- SPREAD: Bears +3.5
Chicago has turned a corner offensively, thanks to its willingness to let Justin Fields use his legs to make magic.
The Bears have 200-plus rushing yards in five straight games, which ties the second-longest single-season streak in the Super Bowl era. They're running at a near-historic rate, and Fields has played a massive part in their success.
Chicago has run into some unfortunate matchups and outcomes in recent weeks, especially last week, when the Bears watched their lead disappear in the fourth quarter against Detroit. Atlanta, with the 31st-ranked defense and 27th-ranked offense, doesn't bring the same firepower to this matchup.
It could be Fields, or David Montgomery, finding success this weekend. The Falcons have overachieved in getting to 4-6, and their inability to consistently make plays in the passing game means they aren't built to overcome deficits, even at home. Sure, the Falcons have shown they can run the ball, but a one-dimensional offense has limited them to 16 points per game in their last two outings. Chicago isn't a Super Bowl contender, but it’s averaged 31 points in its last four contests.
If the Bears can build a lead, I believe they will ride it out to a victory -- and prove they should not have been an underdog.
- WHERE: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)
- WHEN: 8:15 p.m. ET on Thursday | Prime Video
- SPREAD: Titans +3
Is one win over Mike McCarthy's Cowboys all it took to shift opinions of the Packers? Have we forgotten about how putrid they looked in most of their games prior to Week 10?
Sure, Green Bay took down Dallas in an overtime victory that could prove to be a turning point in the Packers' season. Aaron Rodgers is finding his stride on throws of 10 or more air yards, after all, moving from a passer rating of 80 on such attempts in Weeks 1-6 to 124.2 in the last four weeks, per Next Gen Stats.
Or it could be an aberration in an otherwise disappointing campaign.
Despite lacking much scoring punch, Tennessee sits atop the AFC South at 6-3. Derrick Henry is up to his old tricks, too, ranking in the top two in carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Henry alone creates a mismatch that could lead the Titans to victory, as Green Bay ranks 26th in rushing yards allowed per game.
The Packers are 15-3 with Rodgers as their starting quarterback at Lambeau Field when the game temperature is below freezing, as it is forecast to be on Thursday. However, cold-weather games tend to favor the run, and the Titans certainly have an attack that is worthy of respect -- even if the oddsmakers aren't giving Tennessee its due this weekend. Green Bay broke out for 200-plus rushing yards of its own against Dallas, but the team could find the sledding a bit tougher against Mike Vrabel’s second-ranked run defense.
I expect a heavy dose of Henry on Thursday. The Titans will need to rely on their hulking back to have a chance, and I think it will be enough to get the job done.
- WHERE: Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | FOX
- SPREAD: Rams +4.5
Here's a tale of two struggling teams meeting in the middle of the season with their hopes on the brink. The main question: Which one will be good enough to eke out a win?
New Orleans has run into a roadblock offensively in recent weeks, starting with Andy Dalton. Coach Dennis Allen acknowledged the Saints are searching for answers after last week’s loss to Pittsburgh, and is at least leaving the door open to a change at quarterback. (UPDATE: Allen announced Wednesday that Dalton will start against the Rams on Sunday.) Dalton has thrown more interceptions (3) than touchdown passes (2) over the last two games and owns a 2-5 record as a starter in 2022.
It will be hard for me to believe in the Saints if they don’t give Jameis Winston another look.
The Rams have their own uphill battle to fight following Cooper Kupp's ankle injury, but if they get Matthew Stafford back from a concussion this week, they'll at least have a chance of victory, especially against a Saints team that is spinning its wheels with the football.
Los Angeles needs to find a way to be better offensively than it has been to this point. This might be the week to do it against a Saints team that is dealing with a plethora of injuries and hasn't played inspired football this month.
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