Time for the NFL Week Three picks. We looked back at Week Two and previewed the best matchups this week on the podcast. Sam and KAM typically give their picks away on the podcast so if you want them in advance (and who doesn’t?), then check it out! On to this week's games:
***These are Wednesday lines for Week Three. If you pick later in the week and need help with adjusted lines just find me on twitter, @samuelpearce, and I'll help you out. That's what friends are for!***
Los Angeles (-1.0) @ San Francisco:
Is the NFL conducting an experiment? "How terrible can our TNF game be, and we'll still get better ratings than everything else on TV?" San Francisco is really bad. LA is slowly improving. And LA could have a pretty legit front seven on defense if they can be more consistent. But they're not and that's why this line is so thin. That being said, the Rams defense is the "best" unit in this game. By that I mean, the Rams defense is better than the 49ers defense (though the 49ers looked okay last week), and better than either offense. Aaron Donald is probably their best player, but he wasn't great last week in his first game back. If he plays better (he should) and helps to bottle up the San Francisco ground game, then the 49ers will have to lean on Bryan Hoyer and their awful passing attack. Neither team will impress but the Rams should win this game that I don't recommend watching:
Baltimore (-3.5) vs Jacksonville, from London:
Is the NFL conducting a second experiment? "Can we consistently make the London game even worse than the Thursday game?" Unless you're a fan of one of these teams, this game just makes you cringe. Then you hear that it's the London game and that makes it sound even worse. I don't know exactly why, but there's a definite psychological effect when you hear the words "...in the London game..." Does the NFL really need these London games? With continued reports of low ratings problems for the NFL, is expansion to London that critical right now? I'd argue that the combination of Thursday games, London games, Saturday games, and any other time that they play outside of Sunday (like the opening weekend's stupid MNF doubleheader), hurts the Sunday product. A couple weeks ago, Rick and I discussed this on the podcast, but mostly in regard to the 4:30 Fox game and the NBC SNF game. We really like a great game that we can focus on in those time slots. But it does come at the expense of the 1:00 games. That's okay though since we know America wants to tune in to those two time slots. If it's some combination of the Cowboys, Packers, Steelers, and a few other teams, even better. But then you take a couple more games out of that time slot and you've got even less going on in the early Sunday games. Only a few years ago, the greatness of the 1:00 time slot was that so many games meant you were bound to get a few awesome finishes, all going on between 3:30 and 4:15 Eastern. Sometimes you had 5-6 crazy endings at once, maybe a couple of those games going to overtime. Before the DirecTV Red Zone channel even existed (ancient history, like a dozen years ago), basketball Kevin and I used to watch Sunday Ticket in my old apartment and we actually had to use the remote and jump between all these games that were ending at once. It was a ton of fun. Then in 2007 I had my first HDTV and I got talked into signing up for the Red Zone channel in HD by a DirecTV sales lady who had a great sounding voice over the phone. It was a life-changing decision. Most of my friends lived nearby and we all got together to watch Red Zone. That last hour or so when the early games were ending never disappointed. NFL Sundays were a BIG deal and that window right in the middle of the day was the absolute highlight. But in the last decade the NFL has taken too many games away from that time slot. Last Sunday we had a beautiful September day in Upstate New York so I took my wife and daughter hiking and then out for breakfast, and we got home just in time for the second half of the early games. I was excited to tune in and catch all of these great games. It was such a disappointment. The "highlight" was the Bills almost scoring late to steal a win in Carolina. The final score was a 9-3 Panthers victory. And that was the exciting ending. There are bound to be bad games every week. And there are also games that look bad on paper that end up being great. So this is a numbers game. If you want to have at least a few awesome endings at once, maybe up to 5-6, and as a result, an hour of must-see, can't-possibly-miss TV, you need more games. The NFL should reconsider their new approach. Are good ratings (despite bad games) on Thursday nights and other time slots worth detracting from the Sunday product? Or should they rededicate, solidify, and own Sunday afternoons? I'd like to see the latter.
Oh yeah, as for this Sunday morning game in London, Baltimore is giving up a mere 5.0 points per game (PPG) through two weeks. And less than 100 yards per game (YPG) rushing. Jacksonville needs to run to win and Baltimore will shut that down early, which should lead to a couple excruciating Blake Bortles interceptions. But Jacksonville's defense is really legit too. And Baltimore's Marshall Yanda, the best player in the NFL that you've never heard of, is unfortunately out for the year. So this has all the makings of a typically ugly London game. But Joe Flacco's at least capable of making some plays late; Bortles is not. Ravens to cover but buy down the half point if that worries you:
New York (+6.0) @ Philadelphia:
Both teams lost last week but I'd argue that Carson Wentz continues to improve. There are ups and downs, but he kept Philly close against a very good KC team at Arrowhead. If I'm an Eagles fan (and thankfully I'm not), I'm happy with Wentz's development and I'm excited about how up for grabs the NFC East is in 2017: The Cowboys may be in for a tougher season than they're fans want to admit, and the Giants just suck through two weeks. So why not Philly? The only glaring problem right now is the lack of a run game. Getting 83 YPG rushing won't work. Wentz will get even better faster if Philly can run the ball enough to keep defenses honest. But they won't have that totally fixed this week. For all of their offensive shortcomings, New York still has a really legit defense and they're even more dangerous if they can prepare for Philly throwing the ball 50 times and ignoring the ground game. Now, the New York offense is dreadful (more on that later this week in a separate column). They're averaging less than 7 PPG, less than 50 YPG rushing, and Eli Manning has thrown more picks than TD's. Most of this stems from their inadequate offensive line, but the GM, the head coach, and the quarterback deserve PLENTY of blame as well. Smart fans knew that the line would struggle before the season started but since fantasy football dominates so many discussions, the stupid majority drove this false narrative that "Eli's got weapons and the Giants could be really good this year..." That lead to inflated futures numbers for the Giants in Vegas, as well as bad lines the first two weeks of the season. But now that the Giants have been so bad through two games, there's a little bit of overreaction the other way. Six points is a big number in a divisional game with two stout defenses, and two quarterbacks that are so turnover prone (five combined giveaways in two weeks). Also, Philly may be missing as many as three starters from their secondary on Sunday, including cornerback Ronald Darby. So this may be an opportunity for Odell Beckham to get going. Don't get me wrong, the Eagles should win this game, but Giants to keep it closer than six points:
Denver (-3.0) @ Buffalo:
Buffalo covered last week, which is sort of like a real win if you're a Bills fan. But they only managed to score a single field goal. The Bills are averaging 12 PPG and just over 300 YPG. Those aren't good numbers and they may actually be inflated thanks to a Week One over the tanking New York Jets. Now they have to try to move the ball and get into the end zone against a Denver defense that may be the best in the league. A year ago, Denver struggled against the run, but they seem to have addressed that and did an excellent job against Dallas last week. Denver's only giving up 52 YPG rushing this year. That's bad news for Buffalo since the Bills of the last couple seasons generally need to run the ball to succeed. If Denver contains Buffalo's ground game, how likely is it that Tyrod Taylor can beat the excellent Broncos secondary over the top? This doesn't sound good for Buffalo. Last week I took the Bills to cover on the strength of their defense, but also because I don't trust the Carolina offense. This week I think the Bills face a better offense. While I don't expect Trevor Siemian to be the same player on the road, I think he'll give Denver just enough to win this game, especially if the Broncos defense can help him out with field position. Bills on the first half line is worth considering, but Broncos to cover and win this game:
Atlanta (-2.5) @ Detroit:
Even KAM had to acknowledge how good Atlanta looked on Sunday night against Green Bay. The Falcons offense looked unstoppable and their defense really got after Aaron Rodgers. Now they head to Detroit to face a Lions team that's off to their own solid 2-0 start. Though it's a small sample size, Detroit is actually 1 PPG better than Atlanta on offense, and 3.5 PPG better on scoring defense. Again, small sample size, but don't overlook the Lions, a Playoff team a year, and a squad that should be better this year. If you subjected yourself to the embarrassing Giants loss to the Lions on MNF this week, you may have heard Jon Gruden highlight the Lions free agency moves in the offseason to solidify their offensive line. It was a fitting time to illustrate the importance of line play after what we'd just seen from the Giants. But back to Detroit... this rebuilt line has helped to actually run the ball, something they've struggled with for years. The Lions are averaging 110 YPG on the ground. Not exactly the '72 Dolphins ground game, but a step in the right direction. Matt Stafford continues to become a better quarterback in the post-Megatron era; he's already thrown 6 TD's in the first couple games, to only 1 pick. And he's completed passes to 8 different receivers. Detroit's starting to show us a balanced and efficient offense. But they're not Atlanta yet. The Falcons eliminated any Super Bowl hangover concerns last week, and they should be viewed not as an NFC contender, but the conference favorite until someone knocks them off. Falcons to cover and beat a third NFC North team in as many weeks:
Miami (-7.0) @ New York:
***Editor's note: Greg Armstrong has taken a break from scouting the college quarterbacks that will be available in the 2018 NFL draft to give us another optimistic Jets outlook this week.***
A seven point spread for this game seems very accurate. Miami squeaked out a win over San Die... I mean, Los Angeles while New York played a competitive half before eventually getting blown out in Oakland. Before the season the rhetoric was that the New York defense would have to hold opponents because the offense was miles behind. Through two games the opposite is true. The Jets have scored more points than preseason Super Bowl hopefuls, the Seahawks and the Giants.
It's the home opener for the Jets and Dolphins fans typically pack MetLife when these two teams play. I expect the half-empty stadium to have plenty of Dolphins fans this time as well. I do think, however, that the Jets come into this game motivated to perform and build on their good first half last week in Oakland. Miami swept the season series a year ago, and arguably bring a better team to town this year. The Dolphins are a touchdown better than the Jets, but it's the NFL, and anything can happen on game day. I not only think the Jets will cover, but that they'll win outright. Josh McCown will have a great day; Matt Forte, who probably shouldn't even be playing, will get over 100 yards from scrimmage. Expect Jermaine Kearse to be good again as well. The biggest surprise will be the Jets defense. They'll get enough pressure on Jay Cutler to not only get a few sacks, but also force a couple turnovers. Look for Jamal Adams to get the first interception of his pro career.
Stay away from this game if you can, but if you find you yourself gravitating towards it, and you just can't resist, put your money on the home team. I love me a good home dog. Jets to cover:
Seattle (+2.5) @ Tennessee:
Before each season I look at the schedule and try to predict two or three "must-see" games for each week. Some weeks I can't narrow it down and I get excited for a week with several games with Playoff implications. Yes, I do this in August. Yes, I should probably get another hobby. But anyway, this was my "must-see" prediction for Week Three. It's still a huge game for both teams, but not what I expected. Tennessee was beaten at home by Oakland in their opener, so they're not exactly moving up the pecking order in the AFC. At least not yet. Seattle was beaten Week One in Green Bay, which would be okay if they had looked more impressive in Week Two. They beat a bad San Francisco team. Barely. It's painful to watch them try to move the ball downfield, they've scored exactly one TD in their first couple games, and they have the only offensive line in the NFL that makes Eli think he's got it pretty good in New Jersey.
This game will play out similarly to what we see saw Week One in Green Bay: The Seattle defense is good enough to keep them in the game, maybe even force an early turnover that the Seahawks convert into a field goal on a short field. Points will be hard to come by for both teams for a half, maybe even three quarters. But the Tennessee offense will be patient and I expect Marcus Mariota to play a smart game. If they need to win by playing a field position game, they'll do that. They'll also try to continue running the ball after rolling up nearly 200 yards on the ground in their win in Jacksonville last week. Derrick Henry may be receiving the bulk of the carries now and he's the perfect back to use here, where punishing yards will need to be gained against the Seattle defense. Tennessee will hopefully find a way to use DeMarco Murray as well. Not just Sunday, but throughout the year. They have a solid line and two good backs. They need to take advantage of that to continue to set up a better passing game for Mariota. And despite all of Russell Wilson's play-making ability, it may be Mariota on Sunday that makes a few critical drive-extending plays to win. Titans to win a close game, but enough to cover the 2.5:
Cincinnati (+10.0) @ Green Bay:
***Editor's note: Kimberly Ann Maley is slowly getting over the Green Bay debacle in Atlanta last week. In typical KAM-fashion, she's put the loss behind her and she's focused on this week!***
Could Aaron Rodgers be without his number one target when Green Bay takes on Cincinnati at Lambeau on Sunday? Jordy Nelson left the Atlanta game Sunday night with a quad injury and we know that any extended absence for Nelson could be detrimental to the Packers' passing game as they try to keep pace with Detroit in the NFC North. Randall Cobb left the Atlanta game early too, with a shoulder injury, so Green Bay is struggling with some of the same difficult injuries that hurt them at the end of last season. And with "easy" games against Cincinnati and Chicago up next on the schedule, is it possible that Green Bay's medical staff will want to take a conservative approach with their star wide receivers? Knowing how important their long-term health is to this team, I wouldn't doubt it.
For Cincinnati, this is not a good time to make their first trip to Lambeau since 2009. The Bengals fired their offensive coordinator after their loss to Houston, and it's hard to seem them getting a lot better in a hurry. Their shaky offensive line will match up with Green Bay's unimpressive defense, so this may come down to which of those units can improve the most this week. Andy Dalton would certainly like to see his line play better, although he's been off target this year, even when he's had time to throw. Newly promoted offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, will most likely emphasize the need for Dalton to get the ball to AJ Green and Tyler Eifert as much as possible. We noted on the podcast this week that Kevin King was a bright spot for Green Bay in Atlanta last week. Playing at home, I expect King, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and the rest of the secondary to continue to improve.
Now before I give you my pick, here's your mini-history lesson: Aaron Rodgers is one win away from doing something that only six other NFL quarterbacks have been able to do in their careers. That's beat all 31 of the other NFL teams. Who's the one to elude him? Believe it or not, it's just the Bengals. As an aside, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning are the only two quarterbacks to beat all 32 teams, something that Aaron hopefully never does as he needs to retire a Packer. His legacy grows this week as he joins the "31 Club" and despite the injuries, the Packers win big on Sunday:
Kansas City (-3.0) @ Los Angeles:
***Editor's note: Jeremy DeBottis has joined us this season to help preview the Chiefs each and every week. Jeremy will be picking the NFL games with us every week and dropping some occasional Chiefs knowledge on the website. We'll be sure to get him on the podcast too. Enjoy his take on how the Chiefs overcame injuries and obstacles to beat the Eagles in Week Two, and read on for his Chiefs/Chargers pick.***
I hate the line in the Kansas City/Los Angeles game because it has the makings of a three point game and nobody wants to push. Los Angeles is playing a very pass-heavy offense right now. Not only do they lack balance but I like Andy Reid's ability as a coach to defend the Chargers predictable offense. More importantly, I like the rest of Reid's experience against the Chargers rookie head coach.
Los Angeles does have a good young pass rush, but the Chiefs have demonstrated in the first two weeks that they can wear down good defenses. I like them to do it again; Chiefs to cover the field goal spread:
Oakland (-3.0) @ Washington:
You don't have to be a member of the Sabol family to be exited for a Super Bowl XVIII rematch! Well, maybe you do, but if this doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will. Even with the NFL's perfectly symmetrical cross-conference scheduling in the realignment era, it still seems like these two teams never play each other. Hence, Marcus Allen "running with the night" coming to mind as I got ready to preview this game. The Oakland offense has been great so far. Derek Carr is completing 75% of his passes! And the Raiders have scored 71 points in two weeks. The Redskins haven't been as impressive. They have the talent on offense to move the ball, but they struggle to complete drives. They're ranked 24th in the league when it comes to 3rd down conversions, converting only 8 of 24 so far this year. Conversely, the Raiders are ranked 3rd. They convert over 54% of the time! Since Washington gives up a 50% conversion rate on 3rd down defense, that indicates that Oakland will have no problem moving the ball and maintaining drives on Sunday night. The Redskins appear to be more committed to running the ball this year. Last week in their win in LA, the Skins ran the ball for 227 yards using a stable of running backs. It would obviously benefit them to do the same this week and keep Derek Carr off the field. I think they'll have some success doing that, but they're not consistent enough to trust. Raiders to cover the field goal in Maryland:
Dallas (-3.0) @ Arizona:
***Editor's note: Rick York is back this season to help preview the Cowboys each and every week. For now, check out Rick's excellent review of the Week One Cowboys-Giants game on our weekly football pod. (It's a better listen than Rick's reaction to the game in Denver...) And enjoy his preview this week as the Cowboys travel to Phoenix to take on the Cardinals.***
The 1-1 Dallas Cowboys face another tough road test on Monday Night Football. Arizona may have lost David Johnson for the season, but they still have enough offense to give Dallas a run for their money. Carson Palmer has looked solid, their new running back by committee, led by CJ2K, is proving to be capable, and JJ Nelson is a legitimate downfield threat. The Dallas defense will need to play more like they did in Week One than last week, and make Palmer uncomfortable early. Limiting the damage that Palmer can do with his arm will make a life a lot easier for Dallas on Monday night.
On the other side of the ball, the Dallas offense hasn't lived up to its potential yet in this young season. Dak Prescott has been good but not spectacular. Hopefully last week's showing against the excellent Denver defense will be a season low point for him. Ezekiel Elliott was all but taken out of the Denver game. Dallas won't win any games if and when that happens. The Cowboys have all the right personnel in place to finally explode and play like they did for most of 2016. I hope we finally see that this week. I'm not as confident as I was last week, but I still think America's Team takes it in a close one:
Did you like our NFL picks this week? Hate the picks? Want to play along and teach us how to pick? Let our experts know what you think:
|Sam finally had a decent season in 2016 and hit a 55% success rate on his NFL picks. So your best bet is to fade his picks this year. It won't hurt his feelings.|
|The voice of thefootballpod.com, KAM's so good that she's been known to pick both NFL and college games. She'll share her picks as long as you don't trash talk her Packers.|
|Need power picks and the power sweep, both? Then look no further than Kevin's picks. This Western Pennsylvania football product knows the game as well as anyone.|
|She's not only the best bartender in town, but #PaytonsPicks set the pace in 2016, to the tune of a 56% success rate! Catch her if you can. Or just wisely follow her picks.|
|He's our resident Cowboys expert, so you'll hear from Rick a lot this year. As for his picks, #RicksLocks are as money as Dallas playing as the one seed in the NFC Playoffs.|
|Founder of theredbeat.com, and a contributor at turnonthejets.com, Greg is the newest member of the team. He's the biggest Jets fan we know (and willing to admit it...)|
|After making the rounds on the podcast circuit for years, we finally have our Kansas City Chiefs expert weighing in, writing columns, and picking games. So pay attention!|
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