It’s safe to say that week two left a lasting impression on this NFL season. With quarterbacks Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger injured, the Saints and Steelers are no longer Super Bowl contenders and are closer to being push-overs than feared teams. Meanwhile, with the extra knowledge developed on each team’s outlook, we’re starting to grasp who the true contenders are. Week three is often the key week; this is where we gain the best understanding of teams’ true identities; this will be a very fun slate of games to watch. You’ll come out on top? Let’s discuss.
TNF: Titans (1-1) at Jaguars (0-2)
Spread Pick: TEN (-1.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (39)
Score Prediction: Titans 17 Jags 6
Could the NFL have picked a more tedious game for primetime than Titans-Jags? After all, these two teams are amongst the league’s most uninteresting and lowest-scoring teams. Still, in a way, their similarities make this actually an intriguing game; it’s hard to see how will come out on top. It’s easy to see Jacksonville rallying in front of their home crowd to salvage their season, but unfortunately for them, there simply worse than Tennesee in all areas. The Titans offense has more playmakers to find success against a banged-up Jaguars defense, while their insistence on the run may actually finally help them; Jacksonville is never strong in the trenches defensively. Meanwhile, Tennesee’s defense has quietly been a terrific unit, and facing an offense led by a backup quarterback in Gardner Minshew, they should continue to force turnovers, accumulate sacks, and shut down the entire offense. It won’t be a very fun game to watch, but expect the Titans to win a close, low-scoring slugfest.
Bengals (0-2) at Bills (2-0)
Spread Pick: BUF (-6)
Over/Under Pick: Under
Score Prediction: Bengals 13 Bills 23
Without even playing a home game, the Bills are already 2-0; they’re positioned to continue their hot streak with home games up ahead. That starts with their home opener; they’ll host a Bengals team that was absolutely destroyed at home last week by the 49ers. It won’t be as lopsided this time around for Cincinnati, but I definitely expect a two-score Buffalo win. The Bills have quietly one of the best home-field advantages, and there should be a lot of energy regarding their 2-0 start for the fans and players to feed off of. Furthermore, Cincinnati’s secondary has been abysmal, especially giving up chunk plays, which happens to be what Buffalo’s offense does best. Quarterback Josh Allen’s connection in the vertical passing game with John Brown is evident, and the lack of athleticism of the Bengals defense could also allow him to thrive as a runner as well. Meanwhile, the Bills’ pass rush could legitimately dominate versus a poor offensive line, and considering that head coach Sean McDermott prides his defenses on limiting big plays, they should be able to stop John Ross’ hot start. This is the classic example of two teams heading in different directions, and that’ll be evident this week.
Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
Spread Pick: MIA (+23)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47.5)
Score Prediction: Dolphins 10 Cowboys 28
The Dolphins are tanking, and the Cowboys are one of the best teams in the NFC. Yet, isn’t the 23-point a little excessive? Miami’s quarterback change to Josh Rosen could be a sparkplug, and even if Dallas dominates, there’s a better chance they’d run out the clock rather than continue to pile on. Still, this should be at least a three-score blowout win for the Cowboys. They’ve had the luxury of playing the Giants and Redskins, but quarterback Dak Prescott may be the MVP of the first two weeks in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s new offensive scheme, and it’s very hard to see Miami’s pass defense change that, especially after trading Minkah Fitzpatrick. Furthermore, there’s a chance edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence could have 4-5 sacks in this game against easily the league’s worst offensive line, and even with Rosen under center, there’s no hope for the Dolphins to score other than a gimmick play or a garbage time score. As with all Miami games this season, there’s not much to analyze, other than the game is over before it’s even come close to starting.
Broncos (0-2) at Packers (2-0)
Spread Pick: DEN (+7.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (43)
Score Prediction: Broncos 16 Packers 20
For years, Aaron Rodgers and Von Miller were arguably the two most dominant players in the NFL. Obviously, that’s no longer the case as they’ve aged, but they’re still tremendous talents; it’ll fun to watch their teams face off this weekend in Green Bay. After losses in back-to-back winnable games, the Broncos season is on life support, but unfortunately for them, they face too great of a challenge for them to overcome. The Packers defense is dominating right now, and although Denver’s offense hasn’t been abysmal, they have issues with their offensive line, and Green Bay’s pass rush has been excellent. Plus, although receiver Emmanuel Sanders has done excellent, cornerback Jaire Alexander will be able to match up against him on the outside or in the slot, thus minimizing his impact. On the other side of the ball, I do expect the Broncos defense to cause some problems, but they haven’t been impressive as expected, and Green Bay doesn’t have the type of offensive line that will cave into the pass rush duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. This may be closer than expected, but it’s definitely a game in which the Packers should secure a home victory.
Falcons (1-1) at Colts (1-1)
Spread Pick: IND (-1.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47)
Score Prediction: Falcons 17 Colts 23
Though the term may be overused, “evenly matched” is the perfect way to describe this Falcons-Colts game in Indianapolis this Sunday. It’s hard to find a distinct edge that one team has over, and as a result, this was one of, if not the hardest game to predict. It the end, it’s actually a coaching advantage that gives the Colts an advantage in this game. Dan Quinn is a fine head coach, but he doesn’t match to what Frank Reich has done in Indianapolis; he’s built a recipe for success on short notice following Andrew Luck’s retirement. Utilizing their tremendous offensive line, Reich has taken the pressure off of quarterback Jacoby Brisset, running the ball effectively. He’s not old-school in his thinking, but he’s using the strengths of the offense to control the clock, which is the way to slow down an explosive offense like the Falcons. Also, quarterback Matt Ryan has always struggled on the road, and with two offensive linemen hurt, expect an underrated Colts pass rush to find some success. This will go down to the wire, but expect Indianapolis to come away with a big win in their home opener to send them to the top of the AFC South.
Ravens (2-0) at Chiefs (2-0)
Spread Pick: KC (-5.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (52.5)
Score Prediction: Ravens 20 Chiefs 31
In a game that many are excited for, the surging Ravens will have a chance to prove that they belong amongst the league’s best teams this Sunday when they travel to Kansas City to take on the dominant Chiefs. The issue is, Baltimore’s hot streak is likely a fluke. After all, they played two bottom-ten teams in the tanking Dolphins and the rebuilding Cardinals, and actually quietly struggled against Arizona despite being at home. Plus, their biggest strength is the secondary, but they’ll be without veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith and have struggled against three-receiver formations. Does that sound like a team that’s going to be competitive versus Kansas City’s astonishing offense? There are too many weapons in place for the Chiefs offense to have any issues versus the Ravens defense, and if this game turns into a shootout, I don’t have confidence in Lamar Jackson to keep up with Patrick Mahomes. All good rides must eventually come to an end, and this week, expect Baltimore’s bandwagon to cool off with a two-score loss to Kansas City, who also has the advantage of one of the best home-field advantages in their home opener.
Raiders (1-1) at Vikings (1-1)
Spread Pick: MIN (-9.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (44)
Score Prediction: Raiders 17 Vikings 34
After two home games, the Raiders are about to embark on a very tough schedule; they won’t play a home game again until November. That starts in Minnesota; they’ll face a major challenge against a Vikings team that may be a top-ten team in the league. Oakland may have done a good job stopping the Chiefs’ rushing attack last week, but with a weak front seven, they’re not built to defend Dalvin Cook, who has been the best running back in the league over the first two weeks. Add in a weak secondary that could be exposed by Minnesota’s receiver duo of Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs, and a poor pass rush, and this could be a great game for quarterback Kirk Cousins. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ offensive line could struggle against the Vikings’ pass rush, and considering how well Minnesota fared versus Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, there’s not much for Derek Carr. I’m fully expecting a blowout in this matchup.
Jets (0-2) at Patriots (2-0)
Spread Pick: NE (-21.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (43.5)
Score Prediction: Jets 0 Pats 31
It’s unfortunate that the Jets are practically being forced to play their second-stringers this week; it would have fun to see how quarterback Sam Darnold and head coach Adam Gase performed in their first-ever matchup against the Patriots. Instead, with Darnold, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, linebacker CJ Mosley, and edge rusher Jordan Jenkins all injured, anything less than a four-score destruction will be surprising. With Luke Falk inserted as the quarterback, it’ll be running back Le’Veon Bell or bust for the Jets offense, and we all know how Bill Belichick is able to take away a team’s top playmaker. Furthermore, New York’s decimated defense doesn’t stand a chance against an offense that has scored 76 points over their first two games; this is one of the non-Dolphins game where it will be borderline unwatchable.
Lions (1-0-1) at Eagles (1-1)
Spread Pick: PHI (-5.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (45.5)
Score Prediction: Lions 20 Eagles 27
With injuries on both sides of the ball, including receivers Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey, the Eagles are unlikely to play like the elite team that they were expected to be as they wait to return to full health. As a result, they’ve fallen to only being 5.5-point favorites at home against the Lions, which I find to be shocking. Detroit has been fine to start the year, but they were clearly outplayed by the Chargers despite winning a close game, while the Eagles were very unlucky in their 24-20 loss to the Falcons. A regression back to normal should be expected this week. Detroit has struggled to protect quarterback Matt Stafford this season, and that’s not ideal facing an elite pass rush on both the outside and on the interior. It’s also unlikely that they’ll be able to establish the run, as they will once again go against common sense in doing, as Philadelphia’s front seven is elite. As a result, they won’t be able to exploit the Eagles’ weak secondary, which is an issue because on the other side of the ball, I could see Philadelphia utilizing Myles Sanders in the screen game against a weak group of linebackers, while quarterback Carson Wentz does enough facing a not special secondary to will his team to victory. Even with the injuries, the Eagles are a far superior team, and that should be reflected with the game result
Panthers (0-2) at Cardinals (0-1-1)
Spread Pick: CAR (+1.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45)
Score Prediction: Panthers 21 Cardinals 20
It can be argued that the Panthers’ season is riding on their ability to win in Arizona this Sunday; they’re 0-2 despite playing back-to-back home games. With Cam Newton sidelined with an ankle injury, they’re suddenly underdogs against a Cardinals team that has been more competitive than expected. Still, this is too talented of a team to watch their season collapse before it even really started; they’ll find a way to win. Arizona’s secondary is still very weak, which presents a good opportunity for backup quarterback Kyle Allen to succeed. Furthermore, Arizona has specifically struggled versus heavy formations, whereas the Panthers have a high success rate when utilizing those formations; a clear advantage for Carolina. Plus, the Cardinals don’t have the talent nor speed on defense to contain the Panthers’ abundance of playmakers (Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel), and it’s not as though the drop-off at quarterback will be noticeable, considering how bad Newton was playing. Meanwhile, the Panthers have enough speed in the secondary and a strong enough pass rush to contain Arizona’s offense, and don’t doubt rookie edge rusher Brian Burns’ ability to limit Kyler Murray as a rusher. It’ll be close, but expect Carolina to do just enough to pull off an upset win.
Giants (0-2) at Buccanneers (1-1)
Spread Pick: TB (-5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48)
Score Prediction: Giants 21 Bucs 41
It’s officially the start of a new era in New York; sixth overall pick Daniel Jones will make his debut for the Giants in Tampa Bay this Sunday, replacing franchise-icon Eli Manning. There’s little doubt that Jones, with plus athleticism and good footwork, will be an upgrade over Manning and could inject some new life into the team. However, Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is one of the league’s best defensive minds; he’ll throw different, unique looks that’ll likely confuse Jones enough to hamper his production against a defense that has been much better than expected to start the season. Then, there’s the other side of the football; New York has arguably the worst secondary and pass rush in the NFL, which will allow Tampa Bay, with an amazing receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, to possibly score over 40 points. Add in that the Bucs have ten days to prepare, and this looks like the makings of an absolute blowout.
Texans (1-1) at Chargers (1-1)
Spread Pick: LAC (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Under (48.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 24 Chargers 28
In a way, the Texans and Chargers are practically the same team. Both have elite quarterbacks and receivers, but are lacking talent in the trenches. Yet, even if that’s the case, the Chargers is on another planet compared to the Texans. Whereas Los Angeles has the secondary to match up with Houston’s group of receivers, including Casey Hayward Jr. to matchup with Deandre Hopkins, Houston’s secondary will be absolutely exploited by the Chargers. Additionally, Deshaun Watson has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, and that’s an issue against an elite Chargers pass rush led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Regression back to normal should be expected with this game as well; Los Angeles lost to Detroit despite outplaying them, while the Texans were only able to beat a poor Jaguars team by a single point at home. Because the Chargers are incapable of taking care of business against lesser opponents, this game will likely be closer than it should be, but they definitely should be able to win.
Steelers (0-2) at 49ers (2-0)
Spread Pick: PIT (+6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (43.5)
Score Prediction: Steelers 17 49ers 20
With Ben Roethlisberger gone, the Steelers should be finished, right? Well, not exactly. Roethlisberger was awful over the first two weeks, while backup Mason Rudolph played well when inserted in. Meanwhile, since Roethlisberger is out for the year with an elbow injury, it’s likely that Pittsburgh will run a scheme better suited to help a young quarterback, which involves more play-action and fewer isolation routes; they also will be starting promising rookie receiver Diontae Johnson over Donte Moncrief, which is a clear upgrade. Therefore, the Steelers should remain competitive throughout the season, and that starts against a 2-0 49ers team that they actually match up really well against. The 49ers’ main strength is their pass-rushing duo of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, which compensates for holes in the secondary. However, Pittsburgh happens to have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL, which should neutralize that pass rush. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ offense relies on zone-runs to option up play-action passes, but considering how well the Steelers defend the run consistently, it’s unlikely San Francisco will have the success they’re hoping for. Still, these advantages for the Steelers are likely all for nothing. Traveling from the east coast to the west coast is not an easy task, especially in a home opener, and the 49ers have the clear coaching advantage; head coach Kyle Shanahan will make adjustments, whereas Pittsburgh usually refuses to. In a close game like this one will be, it’s small aspects like adjustments that’ll make the difference; the 49ers will survive in a game that’ll likely go down to the wire.
Saints (1-1) at Seahawks (2-0)
Spread Pick: SEA (-4.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45)
Score Prediction: Saints 13 Seahawks 31
If Drew Brees were healthy, this Saints-Seahawks matchup in Seattle would’ve been one of the top games of the week. Alas, he’s not, and as a result, it’ll be up to Teddy Bridgewater to keep New Orleans in this game. If his first action last week was any indication, he’s not; he can’t throw the ball down the field and holds onto the ball far too long. Seattle’s secondary isn’t great, but Bridgewater won’t be able to take advantage, while linebacker Bobby Wagner will be able to offset dual-threat Alvin Kamara, who the Saints may try to rely on. Meanwhile, on the other side, it’s had to imagine New Orleans’ cornerbacks, who’ve been burned all season, keeping up with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, and based off of his success versus blitzes last week, this is a great matchup for Russell Wilson. It’s tough to see the Saints fall this quickly, but this week will serve as a prime example of the impact Brees has on their overall performance.
SNF: Rams (2-0) at Browns (1-1)
Spread Pick: CLE (+3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47.5)
Score Prediction: Rams 7 Browns 20
In what is probably the game of the week, the Browns will host a Sunday Night Football game for the first time in over a decade; they’ll face-off versus the defending champion Rams. With cornerback Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams both currently injured, and tight end David Njoku on injured reserved, this game doesn’t look pretty for Cleveland, who hasn’t looked impressive this season and is on a short week. Yet, there’s still a lot working in their favor as well. Rams quarterback Jared Goff has massive home-road splits, and is playing behind an offensive line that’s been awful this season. That’s not a good match in what will be a crazy environment against a strong Cleveland defensive line; especially since the Browns are strong against 11-personnel, which is what the Rams center their offense around, Los Angeles will struggle to score points in this game. This is definitely a risky pick, but I’m betting on the Browns continuing to get better as their new pieces mesh together; this could be a turning point for them.
MNF: Bears (1-1) at Redskins (0-2)
Spread Pick: CHI (-4.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (40.5)
Score Prediction: Bears 16 Redskins 6
If Titans-Jags wasn’t enough for NFL fans to endure, they’ll be treated to another primetime game versus two of the league’s worst passing offenses this season; the Bears and Redskins will face off in Washington D.C. in what is actually a very important game on Monday Night Football. If Chicago wants to remain in the thick of the playoff picture, they need to win games like this, and luckily for them, they’re well-positioned to. Case Keenum has enjoyed a nice small run for the Redskins, but per Pro Football Focus, he has too many turnover-worthy plays to warrant his current 5-0 touchdown-interception ratio; he’ll likely have a reality check this week in the form of at least two to three turnovers against a dominant Bears defense. Said defense features an elite pass rush that’ll destroy Washington’s poor offensive line, and take away rookie sensation Terry McLaurin with one of the league’s best corners in Kyle Fuller. Furthermore, although the Bears have struggled offensively this season, the Redskins defense is awful in all facets; at the very least, Chicago’s playmakers should be able to do just enough to allow the defense to lead them to victory. This won’t be a flashy game, but it’s the type of game the Bears are built to win, which they’ll do with relative ease.