Last week was a 7-9 finish for me in what had to be one of the most unpredictable weeks in a long, long time. Between injuries and unexpected performances on a multitude of fronts, last week was hard to gauge. It can only get better from here for my Week 3 NFL predictions. I missed on Baltimore, Washington, Dallas, New England, Cleveland, Carolina, St. Louis, San Diego and Chicago.
– Baltimore simply outplayed Pittsburgh on Thursday night. The Steelers aren’t nearly as solid as we thought they might be on either side of the ball.
– Washington got better when their starting quarterback (Robert Griffin III) dislocated his ankle. Oh, and Jacksonville can’t block to save their lives… or may fantasy team’s (I’m a Toby Gerhart owner).
– Dallas isn’t as bad as everyone thought. Their offense is as good as expected and is now running the ball with purpose to success. Who would have thought running the ball with DeMarco Murray would improve the teams’ prospects? Everyone… everyone thought that. It is important to point out how the Dallas defense is playing surprisingly well.
– I picked Minnesota in an upset. To be fair, that pick was made when Adrian Peterson was supposedly playing. His absence, albeit warranted, really put a dent in that pick.
– Cleveland’s defense is very good, especially at home. New Orleans continues to look like a different team away from the Superdome.
– The Panthers defense is incredible.
– Tampa Bay had a rough finish with the injury timeout run-off, but I can’t help but think they could have done more to beat an “Austin Davis-led” St. Louis Rams team at home.
– Who else picked San Diego? I did say Seattle is quite beatable on the road, but I couldn’t go against them.
– Chicago looked beat and battered throughout their game and still won in style. Impressive. I’m not even made about missing on that pick.
Bye weeks begin next week, but for now, we will see every team in action. For a special bonus, I present two gifs from last weeks games.
Thursday, 9/18 – 8:25 pm ET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-2 @ Atlanta Falcons 1-1
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
Obviously this is a divisional matchup that figures to be closer than you would expect, but I like Atlanta in this one. Their offense was contained by Cincinnati last week, but the Falcons offense is a completely different beast at home. Tampa Bay has struggled thus far this season and I just don’t think they will be able to generate enough offense to keep up with Atlanta.
Sunday, 9/21 – 1:00 pm ET
San Diego Chargers 1-1 @ Buffalo Bills 2-0
Prediction: Buffalo Bills
How about that win for San Diego last week? The Chargers were incredibly impressive against Seattle a week ago and it isn’t a stretch to think they could be riding a bit of a hot hand into a road contest with Buffalo. However, Buffalo’s defense is solid and the Bills offense remains loaded with game-breaking talent, as demonstrated by running back C.J. Spiller’s kickoff return last week. The biggest thing here, in my opinion, is the trip out east for San Diego. It’s a long trip to take on a talented and underrated defensive unit in Buffalo.
Dallas Cowboys 1-1 @ St. Louis Rams 1-1
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
Props to both teams for earning their first wins of the young NFL season last week, on the road no less. St. Louis remains in a state of flux though without a definitive offensive attack and their defense has struggled to take shape as was expected heading into this season. Dallas, on the other hand, demonstrated a power run game that we haven’t seen in Dallas in years. With that focus, pressure is taken off of quarterback Tony Romo. It also helps a defense that isn’t as bad as people thought they would be (I told you). There is a very good chance Dallas alternates weeks on wins and losses from this week on, but for now, I’m liking Dallas to win on the road.
Washington Redskins 1-1 @ Philadelphia Eagles 2-0
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
Quarterback Kirk Cousins makes Washington a better team, but I still have to take Philadelphia in this one. The Eagles have struggled early in their two games this season, but had the offensive firepower to comeback and beat Jacksonville and Indianapolis. While the “slow starts” trend is concerning, it also speaks to how this Eagles team is underperforming right now. I think it is only a matter of time before they put it together in a full game performance. I think Philly is too good offensively, though Cousins will make this interesting.
Houston Texans 2-0 @ New York Giants 0-2
Prediction: Houston Texans
I still believe Houston will be 4-0 entering Week 5, so naturally I will them here over the Giants. New York looked competitive last week against Arizona, but the offense is still an issue and the defense isn’t a world-beater by any means. In addition, Houston is built to win these games they should win. They run the ball well and play solid defense. That is enough to beat these Giants.
Minnesota Vikings 1-1 @ New Orleans Saints 0-2
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
Obviously my upset pick of “Vikings over Patriots” didn’t really work out, but I blame running back Adrian Peterson’s deactivation more than anything (he certainly deserved/deserves to not play considering his legal issues). Minnesota has young talent, which is a dangerous thing in the NFL. It can either catch fire or can turn the season into a nose-dive as momentum with a young team is so important. New Orleans, though, is the team potentially facing an 0-3 start to the season. New Orleans will win this game behind a rowdy home crowd. Minnesota will trend up again, but that probably won’t happen until quarterback Matt Cassel is benched in favor of Teddy Bridgewater (he might see the field at the end of this game) and when the electrifying, and raw, Jerick McKinnon gets a long look at running back.
Tennessee Titans 1-1 @ Cincinnati Bengals 2-0
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
Tennessee went out a laid an egg at home against a Dallas team many thought would be near guaranteed wins this season. Not what I, or many others, expected. Now, they travel to Cincinnati where the Bengals haven’t lost a regular season matchup since the 2012 season (against Dallas on December 9, 2012). Cincinnati’s defense is one of the best and quarterback Andy Dalton is quietly putting together a solid start to his season behind a run-focused gameplan.
Baltimore Ravens 1-1 @ Cleveland Browns 1-1
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
I was actually going to predict this outcome before Cleveland went out and outplayed New Orleans last week, but now the masses have a better sense of the team Cleveland is currently fielding. The Browns defense is above average and with a competent quarterback, Cleveland can stick around in games with the best of them. Cleveland traditionally steals a game or two from their rivals in the AFC North even during down seasons, so I’ll take them upending Baltimore when they travel to Cleveland this weekend.
Green Bay Packers 1-1 @ Detroit Lions 1-1
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
I’m taking Green Bay for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This feels like one of the harder games to predict this weekend with Green Bay needing an impressive comeback to beat the Jets, at home, in Week 2 and Detroit faltering on the road in Carolina as they seem so prone to do. Detroit looks like the same team we have seen over the last couple years and those teams lost to Rodgers.
Indianapolis Colts 0-2 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 0-2
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are the class of the AFC South and are only 0-2 because they began the season with Denver and Philadelphia. Jacksonville is nowhere near the quality of those two teams as Jacksonville seems incapable of blocking on offense, much to the dismay of a fantasy owner with Toby Gerhart. Jacksonville has made some changes to their offensive line, which I can only imagine makes them better (can’t get much worse), but Indianapolis will be fine in this one. Quarterback Andrew Luck won’t let Indy fall to 0-3.
Oakland Raiders 0-2 @ New England Patriots 1-1
Prediction: New England Patriots
There are so many things I could say that would support this prediction, but I’m not sure if anyone out there is disagreeing…
Sunday, 9/21 – 4:05 pm ET
San Francisco 49ers 1-1 @ Arizona Cardinals 2-0
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals
I picked Arizona to beat out San Francisco for a wildcard spot this season and these are the games they need to win for that to become a reality. A lot of this pick depends on quarterback Carson Palmer being able to suit up for Arizona, but if he plays, that 49ers defense isn’t what is has been and Arizona can move the ball on them. The Cardinals defense is good enough to limit San Francisco offensively. I like Arizona to win at home in a big one. Drew Stanton, at this point, is the favorite to start, but I’m going to stick with Arizona regardless. They have a lot of talent on that roster.
Sunday, 9/21 – 4:25 pm ET
Denver Broncos 2-0 @ Seattle Seahawks 1-1
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle playing at home is almost a bit unfair. While Seattle has maintained a high level of focus during their recent rein of dominance, you have to wonder if they took San Diego as seriously as they should have last week and that maybe there was a slight oversight. Seattle will be as determined as ever to get back to winning against a Denver team they don’t fear in the slightest and, while I don’t think this will be as one-sided as the Super Bowl matchup, Seattle will win.
Kansas City Chiefs 0-2 @ Miami Dolphins 1-1
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
This is a toss-up, but I like Miami to win at home. The injuries just keep piling up for Kansas City. Miami’s offense isn’t as dynamic as Denver’s from a week ago, but the Dolphins should be able to move the ball and Miami’s defense is good enough to contain a run game that is without Jamaal Charles this week, even if Knile Davis is quite talented in his own right.
Sunday, 9/21 – 8:30 pm ET
Pittsburgh Steelers 1-1 @ Carolina Panthers 2-0
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
It’s easy to get caught up in what Carolina’s offense looks like on paper. They seem to lack the overwhelming star power that we are used to seeing in Denver, New Orleans and even New England. However, the offense is perfectly capable with quarterback Cam Newton at the helm, and it is actually the defense that makes the Panthers go. The Carolina defense is incredible and I don’t think Pittsburgh can overcome it on the road.
Monday, 9/22 – 8:30 pm ET
Chicago Bears 1-1 @ New York Jets 1-1
Prediction: Chicago Bears
The assumption here is that Chicago receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are feeling better than they were in San Francisco last Saturday night. If that is the case, New York still lacks the secondary to contain these playmakers. Chicago should do better moving the ball this week and pull off the same result they did against San Francisco in Week 2.