Welcome to Upset Watch, a new column I'll be writing every Thursday this season for ESPN Insider. Each week, Football Outsiders uses a proprietary formula to forecast the expected point spread of each game based on our current DVOA ratings (explained here) and, early in the season, our DVOA projections. In Upset Watch, I'll take a look at the game we foresee as the most likely upset of the week based on the current line and our predictions, and we'll break down the statistical trends and splits that show how the underdog can pull off a surprising victory. We'll also feature the underdog in the week's other games which is most likely to cover a larger point spread, even if that team has only a small chance of winning outright.
Upset Watch launches in Week 1 with perhaps the marquee matchup of the entire first week of the season, a chance for us to learn once again that it is better to excel on both sides of the ball than to excel on just one.
Upset Watch: Pittsburgh (+1.5) at Denver
On one hand, Denver beat Pittsburgh at home in the playoffs to end the Steelers' 2011 season.
On the other hand, that was a fluke and not really indicative of how good the teams were last year.
Manning fever is the reason the Broncos are favored over a stacked Steelers team coming off a 12-4 season, but that fever is ignoring the other side of the ball. Even in last year's playoff win, the Broncos gave up 400 yards to the Pittsburgh offense. The big difference between these teams is that Pittsburgh is good on both sides of the ball and Denver is not.