Last week: 8-8 on a weekend chock full of nuts, and upsets. 25-23 for the season forecast.
- Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams (-7): The Vikings try to bounce back from last week’s horrific effort in losing to Buffalo by facing arguably the best team in the league this season, in Los Angeles no less. Doing it without standout defensive end Everson Griffen, who is out with mental health issues, makes it that much tougher. Kirk Cousins will have to carry the offense and protect the ball better against a Rams defense which oddly ranks near the bottom in creating sacks despite having Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh up front.
Rams 27, Vikings 17
- Philadelphia Eagles at Tennessee Titans (+4): Tennessee gets Marcus Mariota back as the starting QB. They should also get right tackle Jack Conklin back after missing weeks with an injury.
They’ll need every last reinforcement they can get. It likely still won’t be enough, not with Carson Wentz back and a week under his surgically repaired knee. The Eagles have yet to strike big on offense through three games. Tennessee can be stingy, particularly in the red zone (best TD percentage in the league), but I expect the Eagles to find enough success to prevail on the road.
Eagles 24, Titans 14
- Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers (-10): The Bills caught lightning in the bottle against Minnesota last week. I don’t see them being able to ride the lightning and master Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Green Bay. The harvester of sorrow strikes justice for all and carries Green Bay.
Packers 32, Bills 17
- New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars (-7.5): The Sam Darnold experience has not progressed all that well since his Week 1 torching of Detroit. He doesn’t get a lot of help from his line, and that’s a problem against Calais Campbell and the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s loss last week was a necessary humbling for the team, and I believe they refocus nicely against the young visitors.
Jaguars 23, Jets 13
- Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-7): Miami is 3-0, New England is 1-2. The Patriots appeared severely devoid of weapons for Tom Brady in getting trounced by the previously toothless Lions defense on Sunday night. So why are the Patriots still favored by a touchdown?
The combination of too much respect for an injury-ravaged Patriots team and the lack of due respect for a fast and relatively healthy Dolphins crew is very tempting from a gambling point of view. The Patriots might very well right the ship and sneak out a win, but I don’t think they’re seven points better than the Miami team of the last three weeks.
Patriots 21, Dolphins 20
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears (-3): Jameis Winston returns from suspension, but does he return to the starting lineup? At this point, no decision has been made on if Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick will start for the Bucs. The magic has faded from Fitzpatrick, though he is the first QB in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards three games in a row. Tough to sit that.
This is also quietly an important game for Mitchell Trubisky. He’s not made enough progress for the home faithful in his second season. Tampa doesn’t rush the passer all that well, and that can help the pressure anxiety which seems to impact Trubisky a little too much.
Bears 33, Bucs 24
- Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys (-3): Expect some sacks. Detroit and Dallas rank 2nd and 3rd in sack percentage through three games, a stat which likely surprises casual fans of both teams, let alone the general NFL fan. The difference in the game, and the reason why I like the Lions to pull off the road upset, is the offensive line discrepancy. Believe it or not, Detroit’s has been significantly better at protecting Matthew Stafford than Dallas’ vaunted line has at keeping Dak Prescott upright. Stafford is the least-sacked QB in the league per dropback; he goes down on just 2 percent of his dropbacks. Prescott is in the bottom five for sack percentage, going down on over 10 percent of his pass sets.
Lions 33, Cowboys 31
- Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5): Just on the premise that I can’t see a team with Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu being 0-4, even if the Texans are handily the league’s worst at both OL and CB. Somehow, Bill O’Brien finds a away. If not, he might be trying to find a new job soon…
Texans 31, Colts 26
- Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons (-5): The injuries on the Atlanta defense are really troubling. Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen both being out for the year means teams with a balanced offense and big-play receivers can find a lot more success. Guess what Cincinnati has in A.J. Green and a decent rushing attack.
I also like the Bengals defense and how it can match up with the Falcons offense. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had a lot of success in Detroit with a similar style defense against these Falcons. Matt Ryan will not match last week’s historic outing, where he set the NFL record for passer rating in a loss. The home fans will take him doing a lot less in a victory. It’s a partly cloudy forecast in favor of Atlanta, but I love the visiting Bengals with the points.
Falcons 27, Bengals 24
- San Francisco at Los Angeles Chargers (-10.5): The air is sucked completely out of the 49ers balloon with Jimmy Garoppolo’s knee injury. Even with him playing fairly well, the 49ers still were struggling to win. I’m a believer in a team rallying in the first week to compensate for a fallen leader, but the Chargers have ample experience of their own on that front and will fend off the fighting C.J. Beathards.
Chargers 29, 49ers 10
- Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (+3): The Josh Rosen era kicks off for the winless Cardinals. Seattle is a good opponent to throw the first-round QB into the fire, though Earl Thomas at safety proved last week he’s still got some boom. This should be a good week for David Johnson fantasy owners. Should be.
Cardinals 20, Seahawks 17
- New Orleans Saints at New York Giants (+3.5): Michael Thomas has been a godsend for grateful fantasy owners, myself included. He could post another game of 12 catches, 125 yards and a TD...and that would actually lower his season average. The Giants cannot match that, not even with Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley and certainly not with their practice-squad level offensive tackles.
Saints 33, Giants 24
- Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3): Pittsburgh comes in off a short week after their Monday night win, a much-needed boost when facing the archrival Ravens. In a series where nearly every game is decided by one score, it’s been oddly streaky. Pittsburgh has won the last three after the Ravens captured four in a row.
I believe that changes here. Both teams have shown the ability to put up points on offense. Baltimore has also shown the ability to stop the other team, something Pittsburgh’s defense doesn’t do consistently. Joe Flacco appears fairly dialed in and aware he cannot make the egregious errors which frequently pockmark his pseudo-elite career.
Ravens 29, Steelers 27
- Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders (-3): In one of my other jobs, I wrote 4 reasons why the Browns will win in Oakland for Browns Wire. Since I wrote that on Wednesday morning, I’ve become more convinced that Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense is going to light up the Raiders and their bottom-tier pass defense. It’s extraordinarily hard to have faith and confidence in Hue Jackson as the Browns coach. I have an easier time squeezing my 6-5, 220-pound frame into some old 34x34 jeans than I do in trusting Hue. But those pants still get on with a little butter and slight tearing. Cleveland has enough of an overall talent advantage here to survive the minor hole in the crotch and buttery knees.
Browns 25, Raiders 20
- Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (+5): Von Miller and the Broncos fearsome defense against Patrick Mahomes and the electric Chiefs offense? Yes, please. I might even stay up past halftime to watch this one play out. For the Chiefs to win they’ll need to play offense past halftime, something they haven’t done in two weeks. I smell a slight, temporary dulling of the illustrious KC attack.
Broncos 34, Chiefs 28
Just for fun…
Colorado 32, UCLA 20
Oklahoma State 38, Kansas 30
Texas Tech 37, West Virginia 35
Texas 26, Kansas State 21
Ohio State 30, Penn State 27
Notre Dame 24, Stanford 20
Ohio 31, UMass 28