As we now head into Week 3 of the NFL season, there are still plenty of questions and mysteries permeating through the league.
At this point, there are eight teams who still have a zero in the loss column, but there are also eight teams who unfortunately still have yet to pick up their first victory.
This week, big-name contenders such as Seattle and Denver will be looking to continue their wave of early success against weak competition, while disappointing squads such as the Giants, the Redskins and the Steelers will search for answers as they try to salvage their seasons.
Though there will likely be a few lousy blowout games, this weekend should once again be filled with plenty of exciting action.
Here’s a look at my picks and predictions for every Week 3 game.
Note: All lines are courtesy of Covers.com
Records Through Two Weeks
Against the Spread Picks: 20-10-2
Total Picks: 23-9
Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles
Spread: Philadelphia (-3)
Picks: Chiefs (+3), Under
Prediction: Kansas City 24, Philadelphia 20
This is a game where we’ll find out a lot about just how much Kansas City has improved with Andy Reid at the helm. So far, the Chiefs have shown much more consistency on offense with QB Alex Smith running the show, and they’ve looked terrific on defense, especially in last week’s win over the Cowboys.
That defense will be put to the test against Philadelphia’s up-tempo spread attack. But Reid should have his players motivated and up for the challenge, considering he’ll want to come into Philadelphia and get a big win in front of an Eagles fan base that heavily criticized him toward the end of this tenure.
Ultimately, the Chiefs should be able to exploit Philadelphia’s mediocre defense in a similar fashion to what the Chargers did last week, and their stout defensive front-seven should be able to make the plays necessary to keep Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy contained.
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
Spread: Houston (-2.5)
Picks: Texans (-2.5), Over
Prediction: Houston 35, Baltimore 23
After picking up two close-call wins over inferior opponents in their first two games, the Texans will now be looking to put together a dominant performance to prove they are one of the top teams in an otherwise weak AFC.
Houston should be able to finally have that showcase showing against a Baltimore team that looks like a shell of last year’s Super Bowl champion.
The Ravens simply don’t have the explosive offensive weapons needed to keep up with Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and the rest of the Texans offense.
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers
Spread: Carolina (-1)
Picks: Panthers (-1), Over
Prediction: Carolina 27, New York 24
Before the season started, I thought that this was going to be an uncharacteristically ugly and unsuccessful season for Big Blue. So far, that looks exactly like what it’s shaping up to be. The Giants have no semblance of a running game, their offensive line is soft, and their defense features a few players such as Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich and Ryan Mundy, who just aren’t starting-caliber players.
Carolina may not be on the same level as the two teams that have beaten New York this season, the Cowboys and the Broncos. However, the Panthers do have a dynamic playmaker in QB Cam Newton who should cause plenty of headaches for the undermanned Giants defense.
Though I expect New York to play inspired, following the unexpected death of Tom Coughlin’s brother this week, I just don’t think the Giants have enough playmakers on defense to keep Newton contained.
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
Spread: Washington (-1)
Picks: Redskins (-1), Over
Prediction: Washington 30, Detroit 24
It’s hard to put any type of faith in a Redskins defense that has gotten obliterated in its first two games of the season. However, when you consider that those poor performances came against two of the most explosive offenses in the league, it’s at least understandable why Washington’s defensive numbers look so bad right now.
I expect the Redskins defense to play with more pride this week at home against a Detroit offense that could be without one of its main weapons: RB Reggie Bush.
You also have to figure that Robert Griffin III will eventually shake off the rust and start playing like the superstar dual-threat playmaker we saw last year. RGIII has a great opportunity to do just that this week against a Lions defense that lacks a true standout player on defense besides DT Ndamukong Suh.
San Diego Chargers at Tennessee Titans
Spread: Tennessee (-3)
Picks: Titans (-3), Under
Prediction: Tennessee 23, San Diego 17
I’ll admit that I was very surprised that San Diego was able to shake off a disastrous loss to the Texans in Week 1 and go into Philadelphia and pick up a big win over the Eagles last week. Still, I don’t expect the Chargers to be able to repeat that feat once again this week in their second straight road game.
With the exception of a late-game collapse against the Texans last week, Tennessee’s defense has looked much better than originally advertised. The Titans, who have totaled seven sacks this season, should be able to get some serious pressure on Philip Rivers and keep the Chargers offense in check.
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints
Spread: New Orleans (-7)
Picks: Cardinals (+7), Under
Prediction: New Orleans 24, Arizona 21
So far this season, the Saints’ new-look 3-4 defense has looked much better than the historically bad unit we saw last season. However, the New Orleans offense hasn’t yet seemed to fully jell and put it all together just yet.
While I expect the Saints to be able to take care of business at home, I think Arizona can do enough defensively to keep this game interesting.
Tampa Bay Bucs at New England Patriots
Spread: New England (-7)
Picks: Bucs (+7), Under
Prediction: New England 20, Tampa Bay 17
This a matchup that features the least impressive 2-0 team in the league, the Patriots, hosting, the most impressive 0-2 team, the Bucs.
Though there have been rumblings about how Greg Schiano may be on the verge of losing the locker room, I actually expect Tampa Bay to come out and play inspired against a New England team that looked like a mess offensively in an ugly win over the Jets last Thursday.
These two teams have each played two ugly low-scoring games that have been decided by less than a touchdown, and that’s exactly what I expect this game to be.
Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Green Bay (-2.5)
Picks: Bengals (+2.5), Over
Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Green Bay 28
This is a big proving ground game for the Bengals, a team that is clearly looking to take the next step and become a legitimate contender in the AFC this season.
The Packers come into this game averaging a league-leading 482 yards per game. But they won’t have such an easy time moving the ball on a Bengals defense that is allowing just 300 yards per game.
Ultimately, this game will likely come down to whether or not Andy Dalton can create enough explosive plays in the passing game to match Aaron Rodgers. I expect Dalton to rise to the challenge, and I expect Cincinnati to come away with a big statement win at home.
St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys
Spread: Dallas (-4)
Picks: Rams (+4), Over
Prediction: Dallas 30, St. Louis 27
When I run the scenarios through my head of how this game could play out, for some reason, I just keep foreseeing a back-and-forth battle that will likely come down to a late-game field goal.
Though I think Dallas will ultimately be able to prevail at home, I wouldn’t trust the Cowboys laying more than three points to a Rams team that has enough playmakers in the passing game to go toe-to-toe with them.
Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings
Spread: Minnesota (-6)
Picks: Browns (+6), Under
Prediction: Minnesota 20, Cleveland 16
The good news for the Browns is that things can’t get any worse with Brian Hoyer at quarterback instead of Brandon Weeden. Though Hoyer is still a huge unknown at this point, he, along with explosive WR Josh Gordon, who is returning from a two-game suspension, should at least add a much-needed spark to a Browns offense that has been abysmal so far this season.
Though it would be tough to ask Hoyer to pick up a victory on the road in just his second-ever career start, I expect him to at least play well enough to keep this game close.
If Hoyer can limit his mistakes, which is something Weeden clearly couldn’t do, and if the Browns defense plays at the same level it did against Baltimore last week, this will likely end up being a close, low-scoring defensive battle.
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
Spread: Miami (-2.5)
Picks: Dolphins (-2.5), Over
Prediction: Miami 31, Atlanta 21
Much like the Green Bay-Cincinnati game, this is a proving ground game for the Dolphins as well. After starting 2-0, Miami now hosts an Atlanta team that is dealing with some injuries to key offensive players such as RB Steven Jackson, WR Roddy White and OT Sam Baker.
The Dolphins have managed to build some momentum, but if they want to prove they’re indeed for real, this is the type of game they have to win.
I think Ryan Tannehill and Miami will answer the call and handle this tough test, and pick up a big win in front of what should be one of the most energized home crowds that we’ve seen in Sun Life Stadium in a while.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Spread: New York (-1)
Picks: Jets (-1), Under
Prediction: New York 20, Buffalo 16
The two top quarterbacks from the much-maligned “crappy” 2013 quarterback class: EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, have actually performed pretty well in the first two starts of their pro careers, with the exception of a few costly turnovers by Geno.
This game will likely be determined by which of those rookie quarterbacks makes the fewest mistakes.
Though Manuel has looked a little better and a little more consistent so far this season, he’s the one who will have to face the tougher defense on the road, which is why I’d rather side with Smith at home.
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers
Spread: San Francisco (-10.5)
Picks: Colts (+10.5), Over
Prediction: San Francisco 38, Indianapolis 30
Normally, I would expect a big bounce-back effort from a team like San Francisco after an embarrassing loss the week before. But I’m a bit troubled by what I’ve seen from the 49ers this season. Is it possible that maybe the defending NFC champs just aren’t as good as they were built up to be?
It’s too early to tell, but I know one thing: After seeing what I saw last week in Seattle, I wouldn’t feel very confident laying double-digit points against a decent team like Indianapolis.
The 49ers should win this game, but Andrew Luck and the Colts offense, which now welcomes in bruising RB Trent Richardson, should do enough to at least keep this game within a single-digit deficit.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks
Spread: Seattle (-19)
Picks: Seahawks (-19), Under
Prediction: Seattle 31, Jacksonville 6
Though they’re clearly the league’s most pathetic team, you could easily make the case that the Jaguars could cover this gigantic spread. This is a sandwich game for the Seahawks, who are coming off a big win over their division rival, the 49ers, last week, and who could be looking ahead to a matchup with Houston in Week 4, so a letdown performance wouldn’t be all that surprising to see.
You also have to factor in the fact that Seattle coach Pete Carroll likely won’t want to embarrass his former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Still, when you look at Jacksonville’s atrocious offense, which will be relying on players like Blaine Gabbert (or Chad Henne), Ace Sanders and Cecil Shorts to produce plays through the air against one of the league’s best secondaries, it’s just hard to see the Jags producing enough on offense to cover, even though they are getting an almost unprecedented amount of points.
Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers
Spread: Chicago (-1)
Picks: Steelers (+1), Over
Prediction: Pittsburgh 26, Chicago 23
There are plenty of things that the Steelers clearly don’t have. They don’t have a capable offensive line, they don’t have any semblance of a running game, and they don’t have a big wide receiver that can create matchup problems with his size.
What Pittsburgh does have, however, is plenty of veteran players who have pride. Ever since their lackluster showing in a loss to Cincinnati on Monday night, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and the rest of the team’s veteran leaders have been hearing all about how this year’s team is headed for disaster.
After receiving plenty of motivation from the non-believers in the media all week long, I expect the Steelers to come out and play their best game of the season at home against a Bears team that will likely be a bit worn out after having to stage second-half comebacks in back-to-back weeks.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
Spread: Denver (-14.5)
Picks: Broncos (-14.5), Over
Prediction: Denver 41, Oakland 17
This spring, ESPN surprisingly laid off hundreds of its employees. While it always sucks to see people lose their jobs, you at least have to hope that one of the people who got axed was the person who thought it would be a good idea to put the Raiders on Monday Night Football this season.