TJR: NFL Picks Week 3 - Winless Teams Feeling the Pressure
The third week of the NFL season is here, which means we have a number of 0-2 teams that will be going all out to avoid a dreaded 0-3 start. Two teams that made the playoffs last year are 0-2 (Redskins & Vikings) while two teams I was high on to start the year (Steelers & Giants) are also winless. I'll spoil it for you here by saying I pick those four teams to get their first wins this week. Why? Because I think they're better than their record and if they can get that first win they could get on that right track.
Before we get to this week's games, here are some thoughts on the Thursday night game.
Kansas City 26 - Philadelphia 16: I got this one right in picking the Chiefs, but it wasn't as high scoring as the previous two Eagles games this year. It also was pretty boring to watch. Thursday games tend to be like that sometimes. The story of the game was all about turnovers since the Eagles committed five of them (3 fumbles, 2 INTs) while the Chiefs committed zero. The Chiefs should have won by more, but the Eagles defense actually did a good job in the red zone. The issue the Chiefs will have going forward is that they are too conservative and if they play from behind they may have a tough time coming back. I'm impressed by their defense, though. They've done an outstanding job for three weeks now and could be one of the better defensive groups in the league.
Last week straight up: 13-3. Season: 22-10 (.668)
All game times are in the Eastern time zone.
Houston (2-0) at Baltimore (1-1) 1:00 pm
I'm leaning towards the Ravens on their home field because the Texans barely won against the Chargers and Titans, both of whom are teams they should be better than. Maybe the Texans aren't as good as we thought they were. I know the Ravens have some issues with Ray Rice likely being out, but I like their defense a lot despite how poorly they were against in Denver in week one. The talent is there to come together as a strong unit. I think they will play well at home. Seeing the Ravens as 2.5 point underdogs is surprising to me because if this was week one they likely would have been favored by two or three points. Ravens 20-16
Detroit (1-1) at Washington (0-2) 1:00 pm
This feels like a high scoring shootout with two teams that have dynamic offensive players to go along with a lot of problems on the defensive end. The Redskins in particular have looked awful on defense. At least with Detroit they can get after the QB with an awesome defensive line. I like the over a lot in this game even with it sitting at 50, which is a high number. They both should find it easy to score. For my pick I'm going Redskins because they're going to be desperate at 0-2 while playing at home against a beatable opponent. Redskins 34-24
San Diego (1-1) at Tennessee (1-1) 1:00 pm
It's a hard game to pick because they're two teams that are playing better than expected, but I don't think either team is playoff caliber either. The Chargers offense has proven to be above average although is it because they got to play the awful Eagles defense last week? I'm not sure yet. The Titans like to run the ball and have an underrated defense. I'm going to roll with the home team just because I think they're more capable of making key stops late in a close game. Titans 23-17
Arizona (1-1) at New Orleans (2-0) 1:00 pm
It should be an exciting game to watch if you're into passing yards because that's what these teams will do. The Cardinals are solid at home, but when they go on the road they tend to lose focus. I think the Saints should be able to spread the ball around all day and put up plenty of points. With star WR Larry Fitzgerald hobbled a bit I think the Cardinals offense will suffer a bit. Since they don't have much of a run game to speak of I think the Saints will force some turnovers and get the win at home. Saints 33-20
Tampa Bay (0-2) at New England (2-0) 1:00 pm
I tried believing in you last week, Tampa Bay. You let me down with a loss at home. The Patriots are not winning in the dominant fashion that we are used to seeing from them, but they are 2-0 so that's all that matters. I think they're superior to the Bucs in every year. From a fantasy football perspective, I'd really like to see Stevan Ridley get going. It would help out that Patriots offense immensely. I don't trust the Bucs offense enough to pick them on the road against a better team like the Pats. Patriots 24-14
Cleveland (0-2) at Minnesota (0-2) 1:00 pm
The Browns offense is going to have problems. They have a backup QB in Brian Hoyer starting and they just traded away their starting RB Trent Richardson. Defensively they are good enough that they can keep a game close. Can they score enough? Don't think so. I think the Vikings will beat them rather easily after a tough loss to the Bears last week. Ride the back of Adrian Peterson to victory. Vikings 27-10
N.Y. Giants (0-2) at Carolina (0-2) 1:00 pm
Two winless teams. It's huge for both because of that. If you start the year out at 0-3 it's very unlikely that you will make the playoffs. I'm not sure if you can use the term "must win" this early in the year, but it certainly feels like that for both teams. I had the Giants at 11-5 at the start of the year while I thought the Panthers would only win six games and struggle offensively. At least I'm right about the Panthers so far. I'll go with the Giants just because I think their passing attack can be dangerous as long as Eli Manning decides to throw to his team (his INT numbers are way too high this year). I really like Cam Newton for the Panthers, but he doesn't have enough weapons around him. For shame. Giants 27-20
Green Bay (1-1) at Cincinnati (1-1) 1:00 pm
This is not an easy game to pick because I'm a huge fan of the Packers offense, but I think the Bengals have one of the five best defenses in the league. I also think the Packers defense has the same issues that it had the last few years. I'm still going with the Packers because I believe so much in Aaron Rodgers and that passing game they have. They're hard to stop no matter where they play. For the Bengals to win, the best thing they can do is control the clock with a run game (play Bernard more than Green-Ellis) and keep the Packers offense off the field. I don't think they can do it enough, though. Packers 26-23
St. Louis (1-1) at Dallas (1-1) 1:00 pm
These are two evenly matched teams who both have issues running the football, so I expect there to be a lot of passing in this game. What defense will perform better? I like the Rams. That's not just because they're my favorite team. The reason is because they get after the QB as well as any team in the league and we've seen over the years that Tony Romo has been known to throw some costly INTs in his career. If the Rams can force him into uncomfortable situations I think they can create turnovers that will lead to a victory on the road. I've been very impressed by Rams QB Sam Bradford, who is off to a hot start. He hasn't been sacked yet (Rams improved the OLine in the offseason) and he's spreading the ball around to different targets. This will be a fun game to watch. Rams 31-27
Atlanta (1-1) at Miami (2-0) 4:05 pm
The Falcons are the better team, so I'll ride with them. However, I have to admit I've been very impressed with the Dolphins. They're 2-0 after two wins on the road and they have looked like a complete team in doing so. Their offense isn't in the top half of the league, but they've done enough. Defensively they are one of the better groups in the league whether everybody knows it yet or not. I like a lot of things about them. I just think the Falcons have too much firepower on offense even with Steven Jackson injured. It will be a close game and in saying that I'd rather have the Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan instead of second year pro Ryan Tannehill, who hasn't proven himself yet. Falcons 24-20
Buffalo (1-1) at N.Y. Jets (1-1) 4:25 pm
I think the Bills offense is better, so that's enough of a reason for me to pick them in this battle of rookie QBs. The Jets offense is painful to watch. Defensively they do a good job of keeping games low scoring, so I like the under in this one a lot. Give me the Bills with rookie QB EJ Manuel hitting on a couple of deep strikes while the Jets defense keys on the run game too much. Bills 17-13
Jacksonville (0-2) at Seattle (2-0) 4:25 pm
This is arguably the easiest game to predict this season. It's the worst team on the road against the best team at home. This will be a blowout. The point spread is at 19.5 or 20 points depending on where you look. My score will reflect a Seahawks cover, but I'm not going to touch it in terms of betting. Seahawks 34-3
Indianapolis (1-1) at San Francisco (1-1) 4:25 pm
The Colts have a bright future especially with the addition of RB Trent Richardson this week. I don't like this game for them, though. The Niners got their asses kicked by the Seahawks, which likely led to them being yelled at by coach Jim Harbaugh all week long in a way that will motivate them to play their best game of the year this week. As I mentioned yesterday, I expect Colin Kaepernick to have a huge game this week. The Colts might be able to put some points on the board, but I don't see them slowing down the Niners too much. 49ers 37-24
Chicago (2-0) at Pittsburgh (0-2) 8:30 pm
This is a case of two teams sitting here with records I didn't expect them to have. I give credit to the Bears for winning close games the last two weeks, especially the nail biter at home to the Vikings last week. I also wonder about the Steelers because they have looked terrible offensively this year. Defensively they are looking fine, though, so I think they will be able to slow down the Bears enough to get their first win of the season. What the Steelers need to do on offense is be more aggressive in terms of taking shots down the field. Will their offensive line give Ben Roethlisberger time to chuck it down the hope? For their sake, I hope so. Give me the Steelers in a close game as home underdogs (Bears by 2.5 right now). Steelers 23-20
Oakland (1-1) at Denver (2-0) 8:40 pm (MON)
The Raiders may not be as bad as some of us thought before the year (they might win four games instead of two), but they are not close to the level of the Broncos. I think Denver's second half performance against the Giants last week proved they can turn it on at any time and that's what makes them so dangerous. I expect a blowout on Monday night. Broncos 38-10
Five Favorite Bets of the Week
Last week: 4-1 Season 4-6. Great bounce back from a winless week one. The lines come from SportsBook.com.
@ Minnesota -6.5 over Cleveland - I bet this on Thursday night. I looked on Friday morning and it was at 7 points. It might go up even more because there's likely a lot of action against the Browns right now with good reason.
@ Washington -1 over Detroit - Gut feeling more than anything.
Buffalo @ NY Jets UNDER 39 - It's a low number, but I still like it.
New England -7.5 over Tampa Bay - Mostly because I'm down on the Bucs this year. I think their offense will struggle.
Indianapolis @ San Francisco OVER 46 - Feels like a high scoring game to me.
That's all for me this week. Enjoy the games and good luck to you.