I finished last week with a 10-6 record on my predictions. I missed on San Diego, New York [Giants], Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City and Pittsburgh as each team seemed to show something new that was relatively unexpected entering the week.
– San Diego was impressive on the road in Buffalo. Buffalo is solid, but lacks the efficiency on offense to win games. Their defense remains underrated and talented, but they aren’t as formidable as they were last season. The fact that the Chargers were able to cope with the trip to the east coast is what was really surprising.
– I never considered Houston a playoff team, but I thought they would beat a Giants team that has struggled to do much of anything through their first two weeks. Running back Rashad Jennings was impressive and he is to thank for New York’s production. Without his effectiveness, the Giants offense likely wasn’t going to find a groove in the passing game.
– I almost had the pick with Cleveland practically giving the game away to Baltimore at the end. Cleveland will win a couple games against the likes of Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati (two games) in the remaining season.
– Detroit plays well at home and Green Bay is still struggling to find a rhythm. I didn’t expect the Packers to have these sorts of troubles offensively heading into Week 4.
– Kansas City returned to the run game and Miami abandoned the run game. Both teams were equally effective, but Kansas City’s perseverance won out.
– Wow Pittsburgh. Carolina was looking like a dominant defensive team, but Pittsburgh thoroughly outplayed them. Impressive.
Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Seattle, St. Louis and Arizona are on byes this week. Here’s my gif for the week. There are a number of teams who could use the defensive prowess of that banner. I’m looking at you Jacksonville…
Thursday, 9/25 – 8:25 pm ET
New York Giants 1-2 @ Washington Redskins 1-2
Prediction: Washington Redskins
No team has won on the road this season when playing a Thursday night game. Now, I don’t think that is a set rule moving forward, but traveling on an incredibly short week certainly isn’t a cake walk. The Giants offense looked better last week, but the Redskins defense is actually quite formidable this season. Quarterback Kirk Cousins will do enough in what figures to be a close – probably low-scoring – matchup on Thursday night.
Sunday, 9/28 – 1:00 pm ET
Green Bay Packers 1-2 @ Chicago Bears 2-1
Prediction: Chicago Bears
The Green Bay offense has been inconsistent with running back Eddie Lacy struggling to get going and quarterback Aaron Rodgers struggling to get the ball around to his receivers. Those issues begin with the offensive line play, which has been bad. Rookie center Corey Linsley hasn’t been bad, but missing your starting center is bound to impact an offensive line’s continuity. Chicago’s defense will probably give up yards to Lacy and Rodgers, but I think two big, tough road wins have done enough for the Bears mentally to pull out a win at home against their rivals.
Buffalo Bills 2-1 @ Houston Texans 2-1
Prediction: Houston Texans
Buffalo is a team with a solid defense, missing star linebacker Kiko Alonso for the year, and an offense that can make profound impacts on games from time to time. If Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel can pick up his play, Buffalo will be even more dangerous. However, going on the road against a Houston team that utilizes a power run game and a solid defense of their own doesn’t bode well for the Bills. Again, if Manuel can play better, Buffalo wins this. Instead, I think he is going to struggle with the Houston pass rush coming his way.
Tennessee Titans 1-2 @ Indianapolis Colts 1-2
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
This one feels pretty easy. Tennessee will turn things around as they have some talented, young playmakers on their roster, but the Colts are coming off a “feel-good” game against Jacksonville and figure to play well at home. There is also a decent chance Tennessee is forced to use backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, which is great news for Colts fans.
Carolina Panthers 2-1 @ Baltimore Ravens 2-1
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens
This is one of the harder games to pick this week with a talented, physical Panthers team hitting the road to take on Baltimore. Carolina was manhandled last week, at home, against Pittsburgh and, frankly, I can’t get that image out of my head. If Pittsburgh can do it, so can Baltimore at home. Also, in a tight matchup like this, you look for an “X-factor” and that is Baltimore, and former Carolina, receiver Steve Smith Sr. He is an emotional guy who plays tough against everyone. Now, his former team, who let him leave rather unceremoniously, comes to town. Smith could play like a man possessed.
Detroit Lions 2-1 @ New York Jets 1-2
Prediction: Detroit Lions
The Jets should be 2-1 and could be even 3-0 with two close losses to Green Bay and Chicago. Now, Detroit comes to town. Detroit is one of the hardest teams to gauge on a week-to-week basis as they play like a top-10 team at home, but then seem to seem to lay an egg on the road like they did in Week 2 at Carolina. I think Detroit wins this one behind their passing game with quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson as New York still lacks serviceable cornerbacks. That said, don’t be surprised if Detroit looks uncharacteristically awful offensively in a close one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-3 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 2-1
Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers
Tampa Bay is like my fantasy football team. Motivated to come up with new and exciting ways to lose games and do so in dramatic fashion. Seriously, is anyone picking Tampa Bay to go on the road, following their abysmal performance last week in Atlanta, to beat Pittsburgh? If Pittsburgh puts together a performance similar to theirs in Carolina last week, this will be very one-sided. That said, Tampa Bay should actually be happy to see quarterback Mike Glennon taking over while Josh McCown is injured.
Miami Dolphins 1-2 @ Oakland Raiders 0-3
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
Miami isn’t necessarily a bad team. Last week, they were moving the ball, at will, on the ground, but inexplicably decided instead to make quarterback Ryan Tannehill throw the ball 43 times. Tannehill hasn’t been good in this young season, but he good enough to beat Oakland. This game is in London, which makes this an unpredictable game given the multitude of additional factors, but the safe bet is on Miami.
Sunday, 9/28 – 4:05 pm ET
Jacksonville Jaguars 0-3 @ San Diego Chargers 2-1
Prediction: San Diego Chargers
Are we back to last season’s “always pick against Jacksonville rule?” Well, yes… for at least one for week anyway. Rookie Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles is for real and will have the Jaguars competing better than they have been to this point. The entire Jacksonville offense should improve and I expect Jacksonville to be dangerous down the stretch, but I have to take San Diego this week. The Chargers are looking for real and we should probably take a week to see what Bortles can do before trusting him to overcome Jacksonville’s offensive line woes and defensive woes… and well… team woes. I’m thinking Bortles throws for just under 300 yards, two touchdowns and two picks and makes this closer than expected.
Sunday, 9/28 – 4:25 pm ET
Philadelphia Eagles 3-0 @ San Francisco 49ers 1-2
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco is reeling. They don’t seem to want to run the ball and quarterback Colin Kaepernick has yet to really carry the team with his arm (I remain skeptical if he can at all). Defensively, the 49ers have looked mediocre and as a team, San Francisco has been outscored 52-3 in the second half this season. Those are legitimate concerns moving forward and now here come the Eagles who have been the exact opposite. Philadelphia has faced a double-digit deficit in each of their games this season and have come back to win, making them the first team in NFL history to do so. Still, I am taking San Francisco. I think the 49ers will have a renewed focus on the run game and play a rough, physical style of play that will allow them to outlast Philadelphia’s fireworks offensively.
Atlanta Falcons 2-1 @ Minnesota Vikings 1-2
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta is a different team outdoors and Minnesota really isn’t a terrible team. That said, Atlanta’s lone loss this season was to Cincinnati, who is arguably the best team in the league to this point. You can’t hold their “outdoor-play” against Cincinnati’s defense against them. Minnesota, on the other hand, throws rookie Teddy Bridgewater into the fray. I think Bridgewater will surprisingly make this a game. There will be rookie mistakes, but like Bortles in Jacksonville, Bridgewater will be great player and should play better the more he plays.
Sunday, 9/28 – 8:30 pm ET
New Orleans Saints 1-2 @ Dallas Cowboys 2-1
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
Dallas has looked impressive this season, but this is the stretch I predict will result in a lot of “back and forth” in their win-lose column. New Orleans is still a scary talented offense and the Dallas defense, while solid to this point, can’t cover the tight end position. Now, they face down Jimmy Graham. That could be trouble. It also is worth noting that Dallas has traditionally struggled at home since the construction of “Jerry World” in 2009 going 22-19 in regular season games. It’s so nice, it’s like a resort for opposing teams. New Orleans will hard to slow down offensively, but this will be close as running back DeMarco Murray has been running very well for Dallas and should exploit the Saints defense.
Monday, 9/29 – 8:30 pm ET
New England Patriots 2-1 @ Kansas City Chiefs 1-2
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
This is probably the hardest game to pick this week. On one hand, the Patriots have looked very average through three weeks, yet they are still the Patriots. On the other hand, the Chiefs are ravaged by injuries, but played well on the road last week and now head home to play in one of the rowdiest stadiums in the league. I’m taking Kansas City because primetime games tend to lean towards the home team and with the Chiefs presumably returning to a run-focused gameplan, the Chiefs should be able to keep the ball out of quarterback Tom Brady’s hands.