Who is on upset alert week 9 in the NFL? I’ll give you my choice for a 4 point underdog or greater I think can win outright. This week’s pick……..
The Carolina Panthers (+4) at Washington Redskins.
I’ll go with the Panthers, coming in as 4 point underdogs on the road against the Redskins this week. This has been a season from hell for Carolina, as they currently sit at 1-6 on the year, and have yet to get a win on the road. (a big reason they are considered fairly big underdogs here). Combine that with having to go against rookie sensation Robert Griffin in his house, and the result is Vegas pegging the Panthers as 4 point underdogs. The Panthers have been playing better ball lately however, and nearly pulled off an upset last week against one of the NFC’s elite, the Chicago Bears. I not only think Cam Newton and company can cover the spread this week, but I think they’ll win outright.
Despite losing the game, the Panthers probably played their best game of the season last week in Chicago. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that their best effort of the year came in their first game after firing GM Marty Hurney, and the Panthers were actually on pace to beat the Bears last week before Steve Smith slipped on his route with 6 minutes left in the game, resulting in a pick-6 for Chicago CB Tim Jennnings which gave the Bears a 20-19 lead (Chicago would miss the ensuing 2 pt. conversion). Newton would actually lead his team to a FG on the next drive, but the Bears would answer back with one of their own at the end of the game, giving them a last second 23-22 victory.
Going against the tough Bears D, the Panthers hit on several big plays, put up extremely solid yards yards (through the air at least), and converted over 50% of their 3rd down opportunities. They gave Jonathan Stewart and DeAngello Williams a combined 28 rushing opportunities, and while the two didn’t put up huge yards on the ground, the fact that they may a concerted effort to get the running game established was a positive. Ultimately the team would have to settle for 5 field goals in the game. They will be going from a match-up against one of the league’s best D’s to one of it’s worst this week however (the Redskins have been terrible on that side of the ball this year), and should turn many of those field goals into touchdowns this game.
Carolina has been playing better defense lately as well, and it’s not a given that RGIII, rookie Runningback Alfred Morris and the rest of the Washington offense have their way against them this week. The Carolina defense sacked Jay Cutler 6 times last week, and held the Bears to only one touchdown on offense and zero big plays. The Panthers have been getting big-time production from their defensive ends lately, with the combination of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy combining for 10.5 sacks over the team’s last 4 games. They did lose former All-Pro Linebacker Jon Beason for the season recently, but have Luke Keuchly to replace him (they took him in the first round this past April as an insurance policy for Beason). Keuchly led them in tackles last week, and will probably lead them in that category the rest of the season as well. They will be counting on him big time to contain RGIII on Sunday. They are also getting a surprisingly productive season from another Linebacker as well, Thomas Davis (also a former first round pick). Davis has torn his ACL 3 times in his career so far (all 3 times in the same knee as well) and the Panthers went into this season with the mindset that any contributions he gives them would be a bonus. He has been really productive for them since the team’s bye week. This game will be hyped up as a match-up of RGIII vs. Cam Newton, but it is really all about how the Quarterbacks match-up against the opposition’s defense, and I think Griffin will find that the Panthers D are not the slouches they are sometimes made out to be.
Washington wouldn’t be considered a fairly big favorite in this game (I considered any favorite over 3 points a fairly high favorite) if they didn’t have some good things going for them. The 2 major points for them in this game is the fact that it’s being played at FedEx field, and the dynamic Rookie duo the ‘Skins possess in Morris and Griffin (who has been a match-up nightmare for defenses so far this season). I honestly don’t think the game being played in Washington matters one bit. Redskins fans are notoriously mild, and the team hasn’t really fared that well there this season (the team is 1-2 at home so far, giving up an average of almost 30 points a game). Containing Morris/Griffin will be a challenge, but obviously as you can see from my thoughts above, I think the Panthers defense will be up for it.
A couple off bonus points…………
- After struggling to get WR Steve Smith going in the team’s 5 games before the bye, Smith has turned his season around. He has 14 receptions for 201 yards in his 2 games following the bye week.
- RGIII has one of the worst group of pass catchers in the league, that unit is very low on talent. Santana Moss has been awful this year, and outside of one big play (a 70 yard td reception against the Falcons) has done absolutely nothing. Griffin needs to get Pierre Garcon back in a bad way, but will have to wait at least one more week, as he will not be back this week.
- The Steeler’s D caused Griffin to complete less than 50% of his passes for the first time in his career. No one can confuse a QB like legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, but at the same time there is a chance something in RGIII’s game may have got exposed last week.
- Washington will have their bye week following this game. I don’t think this will be a huge factor in the game, but at the same time every second anyone of the players spends thinking about bye-week plans is one less second they could be preparing for their opponent
- Carolina only has one win this season, but Washington but not overlook them this week or they could find themselves sitting at 3-6 on the year, and most likely out of the playoff hunt.
There you have it, the Mangler’s choice for a Week-9 underdog-upset. I laid it on the line with my thoughts above, now let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.