That was certainly the case in Week 10, when a pair of double-digit favorites went down in flames by losing outright, and two more top contenders from last year’s Super Bowl race did the same.
The New Orleans Saints (7-2) were fresh and rested off their bye week, but as heavy (-13) favorites, Drew Brees and Co. only managed three field goals in a blowout home loss to the awful Atlanta Falcons (2-7).
Underdogs Paid Huge in NFL Week 10
Even worse than the Falcons, the ostensibly tanking Miami Dolphins (2-7) visited the Indianapolis Colts (5-4) as (+10) underdogs – only to outlast the AFC South contender in a 16-12 slugfest.
And to cap off the upset parade, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) and Los Angeles Rams (5-4) – two talented top-tier teams that appeared in their respective Conference Championship games last year – lost on the road as favorites.
All of which is to say, experienced NFL bettors should always expect the unexpected when assessing the Sunday slate. To help you do just that, check out a few of the potential upset candidates brewing ahead of Week 11, courtesy of the latest odds from online sportsbook Bovada.
Divisional Matchups Ripe for Upsets in the Making
If you’re looking for a lackluster team that nonetheless has a knack for covering against the spread (ATS), look no further than the Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1).
Despite already equaling last season’s win total with six games to go, the Cardinals have struggled to score victories as rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury and top overall draft pick Kyler Murray continue to mesh. But when it comes to covering the number, Arizona boasts the best record in the league’s ATS standings at 7-3.
San Francisco 49ers (+11.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals
They’ll get a great opportunity to improve that mark this Sunday, when the Cardinals visit the San Francisco 49ers (8-1) as (+11.5) road dogs in an NFC West showdown. The Niners might be tied atop the NFL with only one loss, but in terms of ATS performance, San Francisco’s 5-4 record is decidedly mediocre.
And that record already includes a Cardinals cover, as Arizona defended its own home turf against the boys from the Bay only two weeks ago, covering as double-digit dogs in a 28-25 loss on Thursday Night Football.
Buffalo Bills (-5.5) @ Miami Dolphins
Another surprisingly effective ATS standout to watch for are the Dolphins, who looked for all the world to be tanking in hopes of an 0-16 finish and the right to pick first overall in next year’s NFL Draft. That narrative has been tossed out the window over the last two weeks though, as Miami has notched outright wins to escape the standings cellar – while improving to 5-4 ATS in the process.
The Phins will get another chance to improve in both regards this week, with the Buffalo Bills (6-3) heading to South Beach as (-5.5) road favorites. That number is a far cry from the (-17) line posted in Buffalo’s favor back in Week 7, when Miami managed to cover in a 31-21 loss that was much closer than the final score might suggest.
Miami actually held a fourth quarter lead thanks to starting quarterback turned backup turned starter again Ryan Fitzpatrick’s workmanlike performance. The man they call “Fitzmagic” has been under center ever since, keying the Dolphins’ modest two-game winning streak and giving oddsmakers every reason to cut this line down from three scores to less than a touchdown.
QBs of the Future Take Flight; 42-Year Old Legend Set for Super Bowl Rematch
If you’re more interested in watching elite football than upset hunting, the clear “Game of the Week” has to be the Houston Texans (6-3) visiting the Baltimore Ravens (7-2).
Both teams trot out dynamic young signal-callers in Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson, respectively, but it’s the latter who has taken the league by storm in just his second year. Jackson has blossomed from a “running QB” into one of the best passers in pro football, all while retaining his signature ground moves courtesy of a designed rush heavy read-option offense.
Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) vs. Houston Texans
His sizzling 47-yard touchdown scamper in last week’s 49-13 annihilation of the Cincinnati Bengals (0-9) is already the stuff of legend, but don’t sleep on Jackson’s picture perfect passer rating of 158.3 in three quarters of the blowout.
Watson and his Texans teammates may be rested after their bye week, but Jackson’s explosiveness – combined with head coach Jim Harbaugh’s relentless analytics-driven aggression – make the Ravens (-4.5) home faves here.
And speaking of bye weeks, both the New England Patriots (8-1) and the Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) are on extra rest entering their Super Bowl LII rematch.
The lack of any fatigue factor might explain why the Eagles are only (+4) home dogs in this one, especially given the clear disparity between Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz and the ageless wonder Tom Brady.