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 9 of the 2022 NFL season. The order below is determined by confidence rankings, from No. 1 (most confident) to No. 4 (least confident).
The trade deadline has passed, and we're finally starting to get some separation between NFL teams.
Well, at least at the top of the league.
Right now, the NFL's heavyweights can be grouped into a convenient trio: Philadelphia, Buffalo and Kansas City. Then ... there's the rest.
Minnesota is the only division leader with a commanding advantage in the standings right now. Everyone else has little room for comfort, fueling an unusually tightly packed season for the NFL.
There are just two matchups this week between winning teams, and three games between teams currently holding playoff slots.
There are also three divisional games, and we know those are always important. Two of them are included among my underdog picks for this week. One features a team that is enjoying a surprisingly successful season to this point, while the other is a classic tale of David versus (not-quite-as-strong) Goliath.
Here are the four underdogs in which I have the most confidence to pull off an upset in Week 9.
The lines below provided by DraftKings are current as of 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 2 unless otherwise noted below.
- WHERE: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
- WHEN: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | FOX
- SPREAD: Seahawks +2
I'm done picking against Seattle for the foreseeable future. I mean, what more does Geno Smith need to do to convince us that his team's for real?!
The Seahawks' most recent win -- a 27-13 dispatch of the Giants -- is a convincing data point. It proves to me that, while this team might be operating with a bit of a talent deficit, these 'Hawks certainly don't lack desire. Pete Carroll and Co. also have reason to believe in themselves in Week 9, as Seattle took down Arizona in an ugly 19-9 victory back in Week 6. Just three weeks later, they meet again, and the Seahawks can help their Cinderella narrative a whole lot with a season sweep.
Arizona has split its last two games, but its offense is still struggling, devolving into an attack in which Kyler Murray knows his best option on just about every snap is DeAndre Hopkins. Slow starts apparently don't exist to Hopkins, who has 22 catches, 262 yards and a touchdown in his first two games of this season. But the Cardinals lack much outside of Nuk, and against this Seahawks defense (which struggles in the tackling department), the going might be easier on the ground. Arizona hasn't committed to the run nearly enough this season, even with Eno Benjamin showing flashes of potential. Kliff Kingsbury be wise to pound the rock more this weekend.
I'm not looking to DK Metcalf, who's still dealing with a knee issue, as some sort of equalizer. He has struggled in every game against the Cardinals to this point in his career, finishing below 60 receiving yards in each contest. Meanwhile, Tyler Lockett sure left some meat on the bone against New York, losing a fumble and straight dropping a would-be touchdown.
I am going to lean on Kenneth Walker III, though, who introduced himself to the NFL with an outstanding October: 403 rushing yards (at 5.8 yards a pop) and five touchdowns in four games. He's only been the starter for the last few games, yet he's already proving to be a difference-maker to whom Arizona must pay plenty of attention.
Geno and Pete are defying the odds, while Kyler and Kliff continue to fall short of expectations. Like I said, I'm done doubting the Seahawks.
- WHERE: TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Fla.)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS
- SPREAD: Jaguars +1.5
It's almost shocking to see a Raiders team that is fresh off a shutout loss listed as a favorite. I mean, Las Vegas is 2-5 and looked lifeless in New Orleans last weekend. At least the Jaguars showed some fight in their London loss to Denver.
It feels like Trevor Lawrence's positive start to the season happened ages ago. The second-year quarterback is responsible for nine giveaways since Week 4, tying with Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett for the most in the NFL in that span. Making matters worse, Lawrence posted a season-low passer rating of 52.2 last week.
A silver lining exists in Jacksonville, though, and its name is Travis Etienne. He's racked up 356 rushing yards in his first three starts (Weeks 6-8), marking the most in a back's first three career starts in Jacksonville's history. The Raiders' 25th-ranked defense is surprisingly good against the run, ranking 10th. But the threat of the run just might give Lawrence an opportunity to turn this season around. Las Vegas struggles to get after quarterbacks, ranking dead last in sacks and turnovers. If ever there were a time for Lawrence to cut down on giveaways, this is the week.
Matchups between struggling teams tend to get weird, and it's already been a strange NFL season. Let's ride with the Jaguars, because above all, that losing streak (currently standing at five games) has to end eventually, right?
- WHERE: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Fla.)
- WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS
- SPREAD: Rams +3
Oddly enough, these teams seem to be rather similar. Both have offensive line issues. Both are underachieving. And both are coming off losses in which they held halftime leads.
The Rams are the road team and the one with uglier issues up front to this point, so it makes sense to see them listed as underdogs. Los Angeles put 14 points on the board in the first half against San Francisco, perhaps catching the 49ers by surprise with a couple of quality drives. Then the wheels fell off, leading to a 31-14 loss. Tampa Bay lost last Thursday night to Baltimore, 27-22, in a game the Buccaneers could've won if they'd been able to manage more than a couple of second-half field goals before the game's final minute.
Tampa Bay can't push the ball downfield, no matter how much Tom Brady might want to. The Bucs also haven't run the ball with any legitimate purpose since Week 1. Simply put, the offense is anemic and the defense hasn't lived up to expectations.
The Rams hold a slight edge solely because their defense has performed better statistically to this point. The difference isn't significant, but in games against underwhelming offenses (Carolina, Atlanta, Arizona), Los Angeles has come out on top. This seems like another instance in which L.A. squeaks out a win over a struggling team.
- WHERE: Ford Field (Detroit)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | FOX
- SPREAD: Lions +4
The fourth selection in this weekly piece usually doesn't come with as much confidence from me, and this matchup is no different.
Detroit's defense has been terrible, the worst in the league overall, and it is set to meet a Packers offense that just might be figuring things out after struggling through most of this season's first two months. Green Bay is coming off a loss in Buffalo, but for the first time perhaps all season, the Pack found a way to throw downfield. And these Lions are not the Bills.
Having said that, the Lions have an offense that tends to be capable of keeping up. Detroit jumped out to a 21-7 lead over Miami in Week 8, eventually taking a 10-point lead into halftime. Then the dam burst, allowing Miami to nab a 31-27 victory.
I don't have a ton of confidence in Detroit, but if the Packers don't build on what they assembled in Orchard Park, they could get caught. And Dan Campbell's bunch is due for a win.
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