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 13 of the 2022 NFL season. The order below is determined by confidence rankings, from No. 1 (most confident) to No. 4 (least confident).
It’s been a rough stretch for the underdogs lately.
Although the games I chose ended in close finishes, only one underdog (Pittsburgh) actually followed through and won in Week 12. The Steelers’ triumph over the Colts saved my Week 12 underdogs, with the other three losing by a combined total of just 17 points.
It wasn’t a huge surprise: We’re finally getting some separation in the NFL, and last week was a difficult one to find teams I truly believed had a legitimate chance to upset their opponents.
This week, the going gets easier. We have some surprise underdogs below, including the red-hot Miami Dolphins, who are somehow underdogs against the 49ers despite their five-game winning streak.
It seems the oddsmakers simply prefer home teams in close matchups more than anything, which is understandable. It’s not always that simple, though. As the resident champion of the underdog, I’m here to split my Week 13 underdog picks with two pairs of home squads and visitors whom I believe in most to come away victorious.
The lines below provided by DraftKings are current as of 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 30 unless otherwise noted below.
- WHERE: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
- WHEN: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | FOX
- SPREAD: Dolphins +4
The Dolphins haven’t lost since Week 6. Tua Tagovailoa is undefeated in games he starts and finishes in 2022. We haven’t seen any signs of Miami slowing down any time soon.
Miami owns the No. 3 offense in the NFL in terms of yards per game, including the league’s second-best air attack, and Jeff Wilson Jr.‘s arrival has turned its running game toward a prosperous future. All of this tell me this is a pretty easy underdog to choose, right?
Well, DeMeco Ryans’ defense has something to say about that. San Francisco owns the NFL’s best defense through 12 weeks and stands as the only unit to allow less than 300 yards per game this season. Running against the 49ers is an uphill battle for most teams, considering much of San Francisco’s defensive ranking is built on its stifling run defense (ranked first in the NFL).
Miami presents a unique challenge for the 49ers, thanks to Tagovailoa’s mobility. He’s not running as much as he used to, but he’s still a threat who must be accounted for. What’s more intriguing about this matchup, though, is the potential for a revenge game — and how it might figure into the outcome.
San Francisco acquired a shiny new toy in Christian McCaffrey before the trade deadline. Realizing there wasn’t enough room in the running back inn, San Francisco sent Wilson to Miami for a Day 3 draft pick, solving its numbers issue and fulfilling Wilson’s request to move to a team for whom he could play a vital role.
Wilson later expressed he still has a lot of love for the 49ers but is glad he’s with the Dolphins, where he’s clearly the best runner in a backfield that needed him. He’s also playing for former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who is once again maximizing Wilson’s abilities.
This recap serves a purpose: The Dolphins aren’t just a team that thrives through the air, but one that can also gash teams on the ground. The addition of Wilson has only further elevated Miami’s offense to greater heights, which might be precisely what the Dolphins need to defeat the NFL’s best defense.
For this reason — and for that fun revenge storyline — I feel good about the Dolphins’ chances. Keep that train rolling, Miami.
- WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS
- SPREAD: Jets +3
For the first time since the moments leading up to Breece Hall‘s season-ending injury, Jets fans have reason to set their sights higher than moral victories in 2022.
Mike White injected desperately needed life into New York’s offense in Week 12, leading to a second-half outburst that took a 17-10 game and turned it into a 31-10 blowout win over the banged-up Bears. The victory was great for morale, but does it mean the Jets are back on track to play spoiler for most postseason predictions?
We can’t say so for sure just yet. A win over Minnesota would change things, though, and the Jets are built to pull off the upset.
White’s first game as the Jets’ new starter this season gave fans a glimpse of what they’ve been seeking since he last made his mark on New York a year ago. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns, numbers fitting for a starter in the NFL for a competitive team. The Jets just might be that team.
New York’s defense has quietly become a top-five unit, ranking fifth in yards allowed per game, and fourth in both interceptions and points allowed per game. Sauce Gardner continues to bolster his case for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Quinnen Williams is coming into the form most expected to see from the former first-round pick.
It’s about more than those two, though: These Jets are playing well as a unit defensively, and with White elevating their offensive ceiling, complementary football is once again a realistic possibility for New York.
The Jets are headed to a raucous environment that won’t be easy to play in, but if their defense contains Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and Co. like Dallas did a couple of weeks ago, New York could silence Minnesota’s “skol” chants. This game could go in a number of directions, but this certainly isn’t a one-sided matchup. The key will be limiting mistakes and getting after Cousins. Luckily for the Jets, they’re a top-five unit when it comes to sack percentage, too. Time to implement the Dallas game plan and wait for the results to follow.
- WHERE: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | FOX
- SPREAD: Giants +2.5
Taylor Heinicke isn’t going to light up every stat sheet or scoreboard, but there’s no denying his role in Washington’s recent run of success.
Since Heinicke replaced Carson Wentz at quarterback, the Commanders have won five of six games, and one could make a strong argument they should have been a perfect 6-0 during that stretch. Heinicke isn’t suddenly his generation’s Dan Marino, but his insertion into the starting lineup has given Washington life it sorely lacked with Wentz on the field.
The Giants enjoyed their own run of good vibes earlier this season, winning six of their first seven games. They’ve hit a wall, though, losing three of their last four contests and showing signs that their early season run might have been a fluke. Yes, I said it. Well, when I wrote this, I whispered it in my head. But it might be true. Then again, a win over the Commanders would deal a blow to that narrative precisely when the Giants need it most.
There have been some concerning developments during the team’s cold streak. After throwing just two interceptions in the Giants’ first nine games, the Lions picked off Daniel Jones twice in Week 11. Though he didn’t throw an interception in last week’s loss to Dallas, New York’s offense remained stuck in neutral, failing to score more than 20 points for the third time in four games. Worst of all, Saquon Barkley‘s renaissance has stalled. Barkley has gained a mere 61 yards rushing on 26 carries in his last two games.
So why do I believe in the Giants this week? Well, New York is due to learn from its mistakes of the last two weeks, and a divisional showdown against Washington in front of the home crowd seems like the perfect time to get back on track.
I don’t expect it to happen on the shoulders of Barkley, not against this Commanders run defense, which ranks eighth in the NFL through 12 weeks. But I do think the Giants can create a turnover or two at the right time and capitalize — Heinicke has thrown an interception in all but one of his starts this season. Washington is far from perfect offensively, and its recent run of success has to eventually meet the law of averages.
As St. Louis rapper Murphy Lee once said, what goes up must come down. It’s time for the Giants to prove their hot start wasn’t just a bunch of blue pixie dust.
- WHERE: Ford Field (Detroit)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | FOX
- SPREAD: Lions +1
That’s obviously encouraging for Jacksonville fans, but Detroit certainly doesn’t feel to me like an underdog in this matchup, not with the way the Lions have been playing lately.
Detroit essentially dominated the Giants two weeks ago, then took the high-powered Bills to the wire on Thanksgiving. Steeled by the NFL’s highest strength of schedule through 12 weeks, the Lions are no pushover. Are they still good for a clunker or two? Sure. But in Year 2 under Dan Campbell, they seem to be playing as if they believe they can win every remaining game.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, has won two of its last three, with the victory over the Ravens standing as the team’s best win since a Week 3 blowout of the Chargers. Between then and now, though, the Jaguars trudged through a miserable five-game stretch in which they didn’t record a single win and just didn’t look good enough to beat anyone, even if the margin of defeat was never greater than a single possession.
Perhaps the oddsmakers see Detroit as the ideal opponent for the Jaguars to face as they attempt to push their arrow upward. I see it differently, though, because had the Lions held on in the final 30 seconds against the Bills, they would be in the midst of a four-game winning streak, with two of the wins coming on the road.
A second straight home game isn’t going to produce a second straight loss for these Lions. I’m certain of it. Detroit is explosive offensively and has struggled mightily on defense, though it’s been better on that side of the ball lately. Sometimes you have to trust your gut, and that’s what I’m doing with this pick. Pass the leftovers, please.