By DJ Gallo
Special to Page 2

We saw another round of upsets Sunday in the NFL. Jets over Patriots. The Texans beating the Jaguars. And the Browns downing the Falcons.

This came on the heels of the Lions and Dolphins pulling off unexpected victories a week ago and the lowly Raiders knocking off the defending Super Bowl champions the week before that. Upsets are all the rage in the NFL right now.

But what goes into an upset? And how can NFL teams interested in pulling one go about it?

Well, there are six steps to a textbook upset.

Step 1: Stink -- A truly great upset doesn't happen overnight. It takes weeks, sometimes years, of work to establish your team as one not worthy of the slightest respect. Make sure to lay this groundwork of failure so your opponents overlook you. Without it you cannot achieve an upset.

Step 2: Get an early lead -- I know. This step is quite difficult. Your inability to ever get a lead is part of what got you here in the first place. But don't worry. It will happen sometime. And it will likely come by way of a fluke or through your opponent's own doing rather than by anything you do by design. But getting a lead can be huge in springing an upset because it gives you room for error as the game progresses. (And trust me, there will be errors on your part, since you tend to make a lot of them.) However, take care to not get too big a lead. That can backfire and serve as a wake-up call to your superior opponent, resulting in your eventual defeat. The Titans learned this the hard way Sunday in exploding to a 26-7 lead over the Ravens, only to fall 27-26.

Step 3: Play with emotion -- Winning is old hat to the team you are playing and it can even become complacent and unappreciative in victory. But to you, winning is a rare and treasured gift. As the game progresses you will find yourself becoming more and more excited at the prospect of posting an actual victory. Harness these emotions. The adrenaline they produce can help you compensate for whatever lack of speed, strength and endurance you have that contributed to your lack of success as a professional football player.

Step 4: Keep the clock moving -- The longer you stay on the field, the better the chance that your stinkiness is going to catch up to you and cause you to lose. So keep that clock moving at all costs. Never run out of bounds. Limit incompletions. In fact, try not to throw the ball at all. Your quarterback will probably just throw an interception anyway. And coaches, do not throw your challenge flag even if your team has been robbed by an official's call. The review will only lengthen the game and the downtime can cause reality and self-awareness to set in on your team. Just try to get off the field as soon as possible.

Step 5: Celebrate your victory -- Run onto the field. Jump. Dance. Embrace. Heck, go ahead and dump the contents of the water cooler on your head coach. Act like you just won the Super Bowl. In general, make sure to behave as though you are just as shocked as viewers, if not more so, that you actually won the game. This reinforces the idea that the victory was an upset because it shows that you also don't believe you are very good and that you are completely surprised by victory.

Step 6: Continue to stink -- This is the easiest and most natural of the six steps. But it is imperative to your victory going down in history as a true upset. Think about it -- if Buster Douglas had gone on to become a dominant heavyweight after he beat Mike Tyson, his shocking victory over Tyson probably would not be regarded the same way as it is today. So while you may be tempted to try to continue winning, do not. Your continued lousiness is imperative to ensuring your legacy. You didn't see the Lions follow up their upset of the Falcons last week by winning again this week, did you? Of course not. They lost to the 49ers this week. The 49ers! And at home, to boot. That's why they are the Detroit Lions and eligible to pull off an upset each and every week: their decades-long dedication to Steps 1 and 6.

Headlines ...

Ravens comeback defeats Titans, racism

Browns give Kellen Winslow a happy Veterans Day weekend by beating Falcons

Selfish Terrell Owens selfishly draws attention to himself by selfishly not celebrating a touchdown

Clinton Portis injures hand, says NFL regular season is too long

Bill Belichick still without a Super Bowl title since Eric Mangini left

Bengals finding frequent losing oddly familiar

Things I Thought I Thought While Wondering Why God Doesn't Heal His Linebacker ...

1. After watching the Chargers score 42 second-half points Sunday in Cincinnati, I finally figured out why Chad Johnson tends to overstate his abilities and, therefore, regularly fails to deliver on his predictions: He practices all week against the Bengals' defense. No wonder he believes he is unstoppable. Six days of the week he's catching passes with no one anywhere near him and running untouched to the end zone. But then on Sundays everything changes and he's forced to deal with having defenders in his general vicinity. And this unfamiliarity with being covered is probably the same reason Chris Henry shrieks and drops to the ground every time an opposing defender gets near him.

2. Bengals fans shouldn't give up all hope. Not yet. Carson Palmer isn't throwing in the towel even with Cincinnati sitting at 4-5. Here is what he had to say after the loss to the Chargers: "We just have to keep fighting and we might be able to scrape into the playoffs. You never know -- 9-7 could get in." So true, Mr. Palmer. Nine wins might be enough for the playoffs. And that's a bold prediction by basically saying: "We're going to lose at least two more games, if not more. But definitely two more. And who knows -- maybe we'll get lucky and lose only twice and finish 9-7." Very Joe Namath-esque by Palmer. Like before Super Bowl III when Namath brashly predicted: "There's a chance we might not get crushed. No disrespect to the Colts, though, because we probably will lose. And by a lot. But who knows."

3. Palmer wasn't the only quote machine after the Chargers-Bengals matchup, however. Here's Marty Schottenheimer talking about the game's excitement: "It was the kind of game that makes the NFL the most popular sport in the world." Hmmm. The NFL is the most popular sport in the world. I see. So now we know why Schottenheimer wears his trademark glasses -- he is severely myopic. I am actually surprised Schottenheimer doesn't know more about soccer since he coaches in the playoffs as though he's trying to win by a soccer score -- like 2-0 or 3-2 or something like that. But I'd love to sit down with him and hear some of his other thoughts on the world. Like perhaps: "I mean, the McGriddle? Come on. No other country has cuisine that can match ours." Or maybe: "John Mellencamp is a universally loved musical artist and he speaks for all Americans."

4. Truly great quarterbacks maintain their level of play in even the worst conditions. Eli Manning proved yet again Sunday night how great he really is in the rain, wind and cold at Giants Stadium. Despite the elements and the Bears' stingy defense, Eli completed almost 44 percent of his passes and threw just two interceptions -- numbers that aren't too far off from his average game. So hats off to you, Eli. May those who still doubt you eat large helpings of crow. Or, better yet, be struck in the face by one of your many errant passes.

5. Speaking of the bad weather in the Giants-Bears game, not only did we learn that Eli Manning is consistent in all conditions but -- thanks to Ed Hochuli's long-sleeved referee's windbreaker -- we also learned that large pythons must be kept inside in cold, wet conditions. Hopefully there were some zookeepers and snake owners watching the game who took note, because proper python care is important. The last thing we need is for those things to get sick or angry and become hostile. They would destroy us all.

6. I enjoyed watching the Cardinals play Sunday in all red uniforms -- red jersey, red pants -- against the Cowboys. It at least gave their normal awfulness a different look. I heard an announcer call it "Cardinal Red," but I doubt that's the official name. I think it's "Embarrassment Red." Trimmed with "Surrender White."

7. So Tom Brady supposedly had a bad game Sunday and the Patriots lost? I don't know if I agree. At the end of the game he was soaking wet, covered in mud and in soft focus because of fog condensing on the camera lens. In my book that makes us all winners. Rawrrr.

DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" -- will be in stores soon.




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UPSET ETIQUETTE