Here are my NFL Week 3 Picks
(7-9 last week, 17-15 for the season)
Bye teams: none
Was @ NYG – This is the week when my predictions start trending in the right direction, starting with the Thursday Night game. Last week was ridiculous, with a ton of upsets and complete collapses. This season in general has been a little silly, with some of the “best” teams in the league starting out 0-2, and some of the worst picking up wins as if they’d been doing that at all over the last decade. But these things have a way of leveling out, and I think it starts this week. The Redskins are a messy team, now in the hands of Kirk Cousins and his pair of running backs. They won big at home last week, but could have a tougher go in Week 3. The Giants are my first call for a Turn Around. They’re 0-2, should/could have won both their games, and are still my pick to win the NFC East, especially with Romo sidelined for nine weeks. I think it’s only a matter of time before Eli starts clicking, and that time could be now. If the New York defense can step up and show the world why Kirk Cousins isn’t starting quarterback caliber, Eli can step up too, find Odell Beckham, and get in some sort of groove going forward.
Cin @ Bal – Continuing with the theme of picking teams over & over until I get it right, assuming that things will shift back to normalcy eventually, I’m going to pick Cincinnati to lose again. I know, I’m being hard on them, and so far they’ve proved me wrong. But I really thought they could lay an egg in Oakland (I was one week to early, huh Ravens?), and then I thought that San Diego could give them a run for their money. But instead, the Bengals are 2-0, are playing very well, and could challenge Pitt for the division. Then why am I picking against them yet again? Because the Ravens are 0-2. Might seem counterintuitive, as Cinci has been the better team this season, but I think Baltimore responds in a big way this week. They lost in Denver, they lost in Oakland, but now they open at home for the first time in 2015. They know what doesn’t work, they’ll be playing mad, they like to beat the Bengals anyway, and this could be their first step back in the right direction.
NO @ Car – Now, getting away from my redemption picks, I’m going to chalk New Orleans up as a lost cause. I had them winning their division, even knowing that Brees wouldn’t have the great numbers that have been so typical for him over the years. But they’re winless, look pathetic on offense, not much better on defense, and to top it all off, apparently Brees is hurt. He may miss time, but at the very least he won’t be playing at 100%, which is pretty bad considering how terrible the Saints have been so far this year. This week they travel to Carolina, where the Panthers couldn’t be hotter. They’re undefeated, allow only 13 points per game, and are scoring enough to take care of business. I may not be a big Cam fan, and I do think they’re underutilizing Jonathan Stewart, but they’re winning games, and I think that continues this week.
Oak @ Cle – It’s hard to tell what to make of the Oakland Raiders. They’re a team I hate to pick against, because they’re so unpredictable, they could score 0 or 50 points on any given week, there’s no way to tell. That’s the way it’s been in Oakland for some time now; messy, unorthodox, violent, and a little confusing. They won last week vs Baltimore, a pretty big win, and I like what I see out of Derek Carr. He has some weapons around him, he has a strong arm, and the kid is learning, so perhaps the Raiders are on their way up. But the same could be said for Johnny Manziel in Cleveland. I don’t like him, don’t think he’ll amount to much, but I like the way he’s playing without fear. And so, of course, the Browns choose to start Josh McCown. They’ve been a joke for years, they look silly in their uniforms, and no one takes them seriously. But their defense has been playing OK, better than Oakland’s anyway, and it would be a huge win to take care of business at home and go to 2-1.
Atl @ Dal – This is a game between two very similar teams, very evenly matched, and so, typically, I’d just go with the home team. But we can’t forget about injuries, and that’s led to a shift in Atlanta’s direction. There is no hotter QB/WR pair right now than Matty Ice & Julio Jones. They’re on fire, have the Falcons at 2-0, and the team as a whole is playing surprisingly well under new coach Dan Quinn. As far as points scored, points allowed, home record, away record, these teams are almost identical, but where the Falcons have Ryan/Jones, the dynamic duo of Romo/Bryant is on the shelf. Both stars are out until around Week 10, and while Brandon Weeden stepped in and looked fine, the Cowboys have got to know that their team just got worse. I think Atlanta takes it on the road and takes care of business vs a banged up Cowboys squad.
TB @ Hou – So far this season, it’s been the tale of two Jameii. In his first game as a pro, he looked like a big dumb clod, throwing the ball around like it was a potato, making every rookie mistake you can possibly make. And on the other side was Marcus Mariota, playing about as perfectly as a young kid can play. Famous Jameis was derided for his lack of composure, deservedly so, and I was on board with the boos, as I never liked the guy anyway. Well, what does he do in his second game but go to New Orleans and blow out the Saints. So, I don’t know what to expect this week, and maybe that’s the way it’s gonna go this year. From the Texans, it’s just as confusing. Their defense has been bad, but that’s not helped by an anaemic offense, so perhaps there’s room for improvement. Not at quarterback, neither of their guys is any good, but at least Arian Foster seems on his way back soon, so perhaps that will help. Either way, I can’t pick Winston easily, and this shouldn’t be an easy game.
SD @ Min – I just can’t stand Phillip Rivers. I’m sure it says more about me than it does about him, but the guy’s face makes me so angry I just want to scream at the television. Seriously, I hate him and I’ve never met him; I think I have a problem. But that distaste aside, he’s also an unlikable pick in this format based on his inconsistency. He’s gifted, that’s unquestionable, but he doesn’t deliver wins consistently enough to be called great. A win at home Week 1, a loss away Week 2; is that what we should expect? Ups & downs, a 9-7 record, another playoff miss? The Vikings are 1-1 as well, lost away, won at home, so could be called a comparable team. But I think they have a bit more of that competitive edge that you’re looking for when you’re picking a team to go far. Bridgewater is improving, Peterson is back, Coach Zimmer is a tough cookie, and I like the way this team responded after getting embarrassed on Monday Night to open the season.
Jax @ NE – This one might not even be close. Although, technically the Jags are winning their division, as odd as that sounds. They’re 1-1, have a net point total of -8, and seem a better squad than the (at the moment) inept Colts, a team everyone and their brother picked to win the AFC South. But as I talked about earlier, I think we’ll see a return to normalcy in Week 3, and the Jaguars could be a part of that swing. They’re not good, they’re just pretending, and a great team will soon show them what “top tier” means. Enter the Patriots, who could not possibly be more scary. They’ve scored more than any team in the league other than the Arizona Cardinals, Gronk & Edelman are madmen, and Brady seems to want to stick it to the league with every throw. They score, they play defense well enough early in games to mound big leads, and they’re on pace to have a great season. The defense needs to stop allowing late points, but I don’t think late points will be enough for Jacksonville to make a game out of this one.
Phi @ NYJ – It’s looking like the Chip Kelly experiment might have failed. Now, I know it’s early in the season, and it’s even early in Kelly’s career as an NFL head coach. But all signs are pointing to bad things. When he first came to the NFL, he was exciting, different, ran a fast-paced offense, and caught a lot of teams off guard. But like the Wild Cat, tricks get figured out, magicians can’t hide their secrets forever, and NFL defenses catch on quick. So Chip loses his surprise edge, trades away a great young QB & a high draft pick for a crappy QB, brings in the Tebow Circus, gives LeSean McCoy away; basically, makes every bad decision in the book. Now the Eagles suck, which really shouldn’t be a shocker. The Jets are a bit surprising too, but in the other direction. Todd Bowles has his team playing tough, allowing only 8 points per game, and actually producing on offense behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. They, like the Bills, might not ultimately be able to challenge Tom Brady & Co. for the division, but they could start 3-0.
Pit @ STL – Big Ben is showing everyone why great things were expected from him in 2015. Even in an inevitable Week 1 loss in Foxboro, Ben played fairly well, upping his game the next week at home vs San Francisco. He has 4 TDs and 700 yds so far this season, and is on pace for a great year. Add in Antonio Brown (the best receiver in the game right now), LeVeon Bell (coming back from a suspension), and a defense that’s still raw but might be better than some expected, and you’ve got a Pittsburgh team that’s ready for big things. But if they want to prove that, now would be a good time. They’re on the road vs the Rams, a team that beat the Seahawks in a stunner, but lost to the Redskins in a shocker. So it’s hard to tell what we should expect from St. Louis, how well Foles will play, if their defense will step up, and how badly they want to win at home. This game will go a long way in showing which 1-1 club is the real deal; my money is on the Steel Curtain.
Ind @ Ten – I just have to believe that the Colts will figure out what’s going wrong and fix it. Not that I think Pagano is an amazing coach, but I do think that Andrew Luck is an amazing quarterback, one who can take a team on his shoulders and win when it matters. And it matters now. They’re 0-2, can’t fall to 0-3, and should have a touch more offensive rhythm after a few weeks as a unit. They’ve only scored 21 points total this year, that’s the problem, but I just can’t see that trend continuing. The Titans dominated Week 1, were owned Week 2, and will be happy to be playing in their home opener, ready to reach 2-1 and send the division favorites packing. Can they do it? Sure; Mariota is playing well, especially for a rookie. But will they do it? I wouldn’t put money on that. This is the week that things shift toward a proper balance, and I think the Colts winning will be a big part of that.
SF @ Ari – Which is the fluke for the Niners: the Week 1 drubbing of Minnesota or the Week 2 drubbing from Pittsburgh? Or is this a San Fran team that will be up & down all year long? I’d put my money on the idea that the Vikings just weren’t ready for that Monday Night opener, that the Niners just looked better than they are, and that the game vs the Steelers was more what we should expect from Kaep & Co. And there’s more bad news; they have to travel to Arizona to face the best team in the league. The Cards, behind fountain-of-youth quarterback Carson Palmer, have scored the most points in the league, even more than Brady and the Patriots. And their defense is stout, not even needing to play as well as they’re able, since none of the games so far have even been close. At home, vs a division opponent, as hot as they are, look for Arizona to keep rolling, just as long as their QB stays on his feet.
Buf @ Mia – Rex Ryan is full of hot air. As a defensive coordinator, he was great. As a head coach, he has never been. Getting your team psyched up to face the Patriots, instilling some confidence in them, that’s all well & good, but you had better be able to back your words up with actions. Brady & Co. came into Buffalo last week and showed what dominance is all about, taking their foot off the defensive pedal late, but in essence winning the game very early. The Bills just aren’t a superstar team yet, and Rex should spend more time preparing his squad than running his mouth. The Dolphins haven’t started that great either, getting beat by the Redskins last week, after I predicted that they would go 6-0. Well, so much for that. They’re not quite clicking as well as they should be, but that could happen at any time, and it could be as early as Week 3. The Bills are beatable, the Dolphins are opening at home, and this would be a good time to make a statement.
Chi @ Sea – Whether or not Jay Cutler is injured or doesn’t play really shouldn’t change much about Chicago. They have the league’s worst defense, are scoring a few points, but have gone 0-2 because they are a generally bad team that has no leadership. Cutler is a waste, Fox is a bore, that vaunted Bears defense disappeared a few years ago, and things don’t look like they’ll change any time soon. And what’s worse is they have to fly to Seattle. Now, I know that the Seahawks are 0-2 as well, but that should change this week. Seattle has played two tough road games, but goes home this week. They welcome back safety Kam Chancellor, they say they’ll get Jimmy Graham involved in the offense, and let’s face it, Chicago is a great team to have coming to town when you need to work out a few kinks. This could be a very lopsided victory, and I think it should springboard the Seahawks back toward typical form.
Den @ Det – The Broncos are lucky to be 2-0. Their defense has played incredibly well, which isn’t surprising at all, given the talent on that side of the ball and the return of D coordinator Son of a Bum Phillips. What’s odd is the way Peyton has looked. Week 1 it was as if his arm was falling off. Week 2 began the same way, until he turned on the jets, threw some TDs, and kept Denver in that game vs Kansas City. So here’s the deal: Peyton is old. He’s physically faltering, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good QB. Kubiak needs to figure out how best to use him, how to get the running game going, and how to keep this defense fresh, because the Broncos are good enough to be Super Bowl contenders. The Lions aren’t. Without Suh, their defense isn’t dominating, and their offense can’t figure out how to make up the difference. The last time these teams played the Lions won 45-10. Well, that was with Tim Tebow, not Peyton Manning, so as long as Denver plays to its potential this should be a W.
KC @ GB – Talk about a demoralizing loss. The Chiefs turn the ball over 5 times on Thursday night, and watch their victory vs their arch rivals fade away. Can they rebound? I doubt it. The Chiefs are exactly mediocre, going 1-1 and scoring exactly as much as they allow. They can only win by playing amazing defense and having Alex Smith hold the ball for 45 minutes. The Bears tried that against Green Bay in Week 1, but ultimately that wasn’t enough to keep Aaron Rodgers down. Rodgers is a football stud, playing with a cool confidence that helps lead his team to victory after victory. The Packers don’t lose at home, can’t be stopped on offense, and I doubt the Chiefs are the team to change this. Look for a one-sided Monday Night win for Green Bay.