As Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise! The NFL's sixth week turned into a feast for the underdogs who went 8-6 ATS and a very impressive 6-8 straight up. Cleveland's 35-14 whipping of the New York Giants capped a weekend of upsets as Browns QB Derek Anderson threw for over 300 yards and a pair of scores. Now we'll see which surprise teams for 2008 will continue, for better or worse.
Of course the Cleveland Browns won Monday night. It was the perfect coda to a week of upsets that turned the NFL on its ear.
Underdogs finished Week 6 in the black at 8-6 against the betting odds, but it was their 6-8 record straight up that really draws the eye – especially if you had any of the six winners on the moneyline. The Browns (+280) didn’t even need the nine points they got against the defending champion New York Giants. Monday’s 35-14 final was a monumentally poor effort for the Giants, who failed to force a punt, create a turnover or get a sack against Cleveland and QB Derek Anderson.
Nine points was hardly the biggest spread that got busted in Week 6. The St. Louis Rams (+12) won their first game of the season by going on the road and beating the Washington Redskins 19-17. The Redskins were 4-1 SU and ATS at the time; St. Louis hadn’t even cashed in yet. If you had the Rams at +400 (or better yet, earlier in the week at +500), you made the bet of the week.
The Browns and Rams were playing incredibly awful football up to this point, so to see them do so well in Week 6 was a shock. It was also a huge relief for ESPN and the Monday Night Football crew. Cleveland was 10-6 (12-4 ATS) last year and supposedly headed for better things this year. I was one of the pessimists, though, so the return of the Browns to mediocrity does not make them one of my early surprise teams for the 2008 season.
Atlanta Falcons (4-2 SU and ATS)
That was the quickest rebuilding program in NFL history. The Falcons still have their problems on defense, and two of their wins were against Detroit and Kansas City.
Still, QB Matt Ryan was NFL-ready right out of the box for Atlanta. He has five TD throws, three picks and a passer rating of 82.9. In terms of efficiency, Ryan’s levels are comparable to the perfectly acceptable play of Kyle Orton in Chicago. For the Falcons to play so well with both a first-year QB and a first-year coach in Mike Smith is almost unfathomable.
Washington Redskins (4-2 SU and ATS)
If succeeding right away under Mike Smith is a jaw-dropper, then Jim Zorn’s instant success in Washington will make your head explode. His work with QB Jason Campbell (six TDs, zero picks) has helped turn the 26-year-old into one of the best in the league. Washington’s loss to the Rams takes some of the starch out of the Redskins comeback story, but that was just one of those games: three fumbles, a last-second field goal, and a motivated Rams team playing for a new coach. Washington just needs to protect the football better.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3 SU, 2-4 ATS)
Moving to the disappointing end of the scale, the Jaguars are sputtering along this season after going 11-5 SU and ATS in 2007. Injuries in the secondary and on the offensive line have kept the Jags from making good on last year’s promise.
QB David Garrard had four interceptions in his first three games; he threw only three picks all of last season. However, Garrard is pick-free in his last three games, and the Jags upset the Broncos (-3.5) in Denver this past Sunday. There is still hope in Jacksonville.
Seattle Seahawks (1-4 SU and ATS)
They’re hopeless in Seattle. This team went off the rails so early that coach Mike Holmgren backed off his retirement plans for next summer and will instead take a “sabbatical” when Jim Mora becomes Seattle’s head coach.
Other teams suffered worse injuries in the opening week – hello, New England – but the Seahawks were already a bit thin before losing WR Nate Burleson to a torn ACL. Not winning the NFC West by default this year? Surprise, surprise.