Last week: 12-4. That puts the season forecast straight up at 22-10, counting the tie as a loss.
Myriad critical injuries have clouded the forecasts for several teams and become downright natural disasters for others. It’s also desperation time for the winless teams. History says just 12 percent of teams that start 0-2 make the postseason, and that drops to less than two percent at 0-3.
All lines are from BetOnline as of 9/18 9 p.m. ET
- Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (+1.5): All of the drama surrounding disgruntled Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey is set to boil over on national television. It’s an untenable situation for both sides of the equation and needs to resolve itself quickly.
The Titans don’t care much. They need a win and they would love nothing more than to bury a division rival with a road win. The strength of their defense is the secondary and the pass rush from ageless Cameron Wake, which directly foils the Gardner Minshew-to-D.J. Chark connection that has shown a lot of promise.
Titans 20, Jaguars 17
- Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5): Two explosive offenses square off in a game that should be the primetime affair but gets relegated to early afternoon. The battle between Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson definitely whets the appetite.
The Chiefs not having LT Eric Fisher is a big disadvantage. Baltimore can still bring the pressure, with Matt Judon nicely stepping up as a guy who can bring the sizzle off the edge. The Ravens defense also has the ability to snuff out the run and force Mahomes to beat them over the top...and he will do just that. Speed kills, and the Chiefs still have it. I expect their defense to perk up at home and slow down Jackson’s impressive start a bit, too.
Chiefs 30, Ravens 24
- Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5): Which Falcons team shows up, the one blown away by the Vikings in Week 1 or the smooth contender we saw beat the Eagles in Week 2? Playing in Indy is a good litmus test. The Colts play smart and don’t beat themselves on either side of the ball.
I’m also watching this one to see how Matt Ryan & Co. attack Darius Leonard. The Colts LB was phenomenal as a rookie, but he’s been brutal in coverage situations in the first two weeks. The game film is out and teams have adjusted. Now it’s time for Leonard and his coaches to adjust to the adjustment. The Falcons’ balanced attack--assuming they try and run--and Ryan’s great play-action are a tough proving ground.
Falcons 24, Colts 21
- Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns (+3): The Browns are honoring Clay Matthews at halftime, and it’s fitting that the Rams are the foe. His eponymous son plays for the visitors. The elder Matthews was the epitome of consistent greatness for pretty much my entire cognitive childhood growing up in Cleveland. We fought to wear his No. 57, something no Browns player will ever do again.
Will the emotion help? It can’t hurt, but with all the injuries mounting in Cleveland, it’s hard to see the Browns keeping the momentum from Monday night’s waxing of the Jets. They will be without TE David Njoku and that’s a big blow to the red zone offense. If RT Chris Hubbard doesn’t play, and backup OT Kendall Lamm remains out, the biggest weakness on the Browns becomes a black hole that can suck the life out of Baker Mayfield and the team’s chances.
Rams 20, Browns 17
- Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills (-6.5): The Bills are 2-0 but haven’t exactly faced stiff competition thus far. That the 0-2 Bengals are fairly handily the best team they’ve faced says a lot. I like that the Bills have not shown much of a propensity to beat themselves, and that should carry them to another win. However, the Bengals figuring out how to use John Ross’ speed on offense can be a problem, and so can their tough defensive front.
Bills 26, Bengals 21
- Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers (-7.5): Great showcase game at home for new Packers EDGEs Preston Smith and Zadarius Smith going against an offensive line with major penalty and cohesion issues. I expect this one to be over quickly. Good week to use the Packers as a survivor fantasy pick...as long as Von Miller and Derek Wolfe don’t injure Aaron Rodgers. Then all bets are off.
Packers 24, Broncos 10
- Houston Texans at Los Angeles Chargers (-3): Two of the more disappointing (to me) teams through the first two weeks square off in what should be--on paper--one of the best matchups. The Texans have played more consistent football, and reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week Whitney Mercilus is a real problem for the Chargers offense. The Chargers not getting a single sack last week in Detroit against backup LT Tyrell Crosby concerns me quite a bit, even with Deshaun Watson’s frustrating propensity to get himself into trouble. The gut likes the visitors here.
Texans 30, Chargers 28
- Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings (-8.5): There’s a maudlin chicken vs. egg battle in this game. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has been all sorts of fowl, err foul, on the young season. But the Raiders pass coverage keeps laying ostrich eggs. Something must break and I’ll bet on Cousins to rule the roost at home. Having stud roosters like Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs will help him throw eggs at Jon Gruden and the visiting Raiders.
Vikings 33, Raiders 20
- Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys (-21.5): I picture the Dophins being like the old East German Olympians at this point. They go out, try their best to represent themselves, and then do whatever they can to avoid getting on the plane back home to the hellish reality of being part of a regime dedicated to losing and making their lives as banal and valueless as possible. Maybe Mike Gesicki can hide out in a JerryWorld bathroom. Xavien Howard can stuff himself in a ball bag and have some of his old nearby Baylor cohorts smuggle him to the sweet freedom. Brian Flores can beg the Cowboys to hire him when he gets fired for coaching this Hindenburg of a Dolphins organization.
Cowboys 47, Dolphins 9
- New York Jets at New England Patriots (-22.5): Imagine being shocked that strong-willed players in New York are not going to like playing for Jets coach Adam Gase. When you sign up for the tour of the slaughterhouse, don’t expect a petting zoo…
Patriots 38, Jets 10
- Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5): The Eagles should be expected to win this one, but all their injuries are a real cloud in an otherwise bright sky. Things are not sunny in Philadelphia with both starting WRs likely out and several other important players banged up enough the Eagles canceled practice on Wednesday for preservation purposes. Meanwhile the unbeaten Lions are at almost full strength with LT Taylor Decker appearing good to go. The Lions win if Matthew Stafford gets time to take shots and if the slumbering Detroit pass rush wakes up. I think one of those will happen, but I can’t bet on both. Should be a close game.
Eagles 27, Lions 25
- Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (+2.5): Cam Newton appears destined to sit this one out with his foot injury. In related news, Kyler Murray appears destined for his first NFL win. He can consider it a gift from one of his No. 1 overall draft pick predecessors.
Cardinals 20, Panthers 16
- New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-4.5): Don’t automatically pencil in a win for the Seahawks here just because Drew Brees is out with his thumb surgery. The Saints defense is capable of winning this one, thanks in part to rapid progress from EDGE Trey Hendrickson. He’s become one of the best pass rushers in the league, and Cam Jordan on the other side has been there for a while.
But the 12th man in Seattle is a tough place for a backup QB to take over a team. And then there’s the frustrating weekly question of, “what will the officials do to ruin the Saints this week?”
Seahawks 26, Saints 20
- Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5): The Mason Rudolph era begins for the Steelers. San Francisco is a rough spot to make such an entrance for a QB. The 49ers front is finally playing to its potential and their active back end looks sharp. I like Pittsburgh adding DB Minkah Fitzpatrick long-term, but in the short term, he’s another newbie to add to their defensive land of confusion.
49ers 33, Steelers 24
- New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5): Daniel Jones gets his first career start. It’s probably best for the Giants rookie to get that out of New York and out of the spotlight. It will be interesting to hear how much of the blame Jones gets for a soft, poorly coordinated defense giving up 5 TDs to Jameis Winston…
Buccaneers 38, Giants 21
Chicago Bears at Washington (+4):The national audience gets a second primetime look at Mithcell Trubisky and the Bears offense in three weeks. C’mon NFL, it’s bad enough we’re getting into political ad season. We seek refuge from the pointless, chaotic madness, not more of it in football form.
Bears 13, Washington 10
Because there are some you might actually want to watch this weekend…
Utah 28, USC 26
Texas A&M 33, Auburn 27
Wisconsin 27, Michigan 15
TCU 30, SMU 25
Oregon 38, Stanford 17
Georgia 35, Notre Dame 10