Last week: 11-5, pushing the season forecast to 18-14 through two weeks

All lines are from BetOnline as of 4 pm ET on 9/22

Thursday Night

- Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans (+7.5): Davis Mills gets his first NFL start for the Texans. Yes, Deshaun Watson is still on the active roster. I don’t get it either. Do something, Mr. Goodell…

Having said that, I watched Mills in his first action against the Browns and you know what? He’s not awful. Nor are his receivers. The Panthers defense looks fantastic through the first two weeks. Good challenge to see if Mills can handle the big stage but also an underappreciated challenge for Carolina’s defense. Really. 

Panthers 24, Texans 17

Sunday Games

- Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars (+7.5): Urban Meyer will learn the hard way that these Cardinals are not Ball State. Jacksonville’s defense is still looking for its first takeaway of the season. 

Cardinals 33, Jaguars 18

- Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (-5): This game could legitimately decide the AFC South race. The Titans are 1-1 and could bury the more-flawed-than-advertised Colts to 0-3 with the home win here. Between the Carson Wentz injuries, the OL woes and a secondary straight out of the Big 12, the Colts are in serious trouble if Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown & Co. get it figured out. Given how the Titans have played thus far, that’s certainly not a given. Still a good week to use the Titans in your survivor fantasy game. 

Titans 34, Colts 19

- Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions (+8): It’s easy to be down on my Lions, and they stand little chance in this game with their youthful secondary and Dollar General wide receiving corps. But watch T.J. Hockenson in this one. The Ravens have given up abundant catches and yards to Darren Waller and Travis Kelce in the first two weeks, and now they draw Hockenson--who has the most receptions of any TE through two weeks. Hock might put up 11 catches for 116 yards and a TD. These are two of the five worst pass defenses in the league, so buckle up and hammer the over at 50.5!

Ravens 44, Lions 30

- Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills (-7.5): The Bills are coming off a 35-0 shutout win in Miami, and that puts a lot of weird clouds in the forecast. How much of that was awesome defense vs. a terrible performance from Tua Tagovailoa and his post-injury replacement, Jacoby Brissett? How concerning is it that Josh Allen stayed in his weird funk even in a blowout win? Will the Bills be overconfident coming off the too-easy win? Is Football Team QB Taylor Heinicke capable of stressing the Bills defense?

Bet on this one at your peril…

Bills 24, Football Team 17

- New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (-3): The Saints turned in the best performance of any team in Week 1 and the worst performance in Week 2. New England is a bad place to try and settle into normalcy. 

Patriots 20, Saints 17

- Los Angeles Chargers at Chiefs (-6.5): Regroup and recoup week for the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes after their come-from-ahead loss on Sunday night. The Chargers can make it very interesting if they avoid the mistakes that cost them in their own Week 2 loss to Dallas. The lack of speed in the middle-of-field defense for Kansas City (outside of Tyrann Mathieu) is a real problem against guys like Austin Ekeler and even Justin Herbert on the QB scramble. But in a shootout, take the team with better overall firepower. 

Chiefs 37, Chargers 31

- Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (-3): My thoughts on Matt Ryan in Atlanta are aptly summed up by a band that is ardent Giants fans, Coheed and Cambria, in their (fantastic) latest single, Shoulders,

You're going out of your way

Just to keep me down

Maybe we weren't made for each other

And I'm just the one you can keep around

Man your own jackhammer, man your battle stations!

Giants 28, Falcons 24

- Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns (-7): The Justin Fields era begins for Chicago. It’s not a terrible place to try him out, with the Browns defense oddly underwhelming through the first two weeks. Cleveland has yet to establish a defensive identity this year beyond “we’ve got a lot of talented guys on the field”. Fields can exploit that if Browns DC Joe Woods doesn’t do something a little more proactive with guys like Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, John Johnson, Denzel Ward & Co.

See? The Browns have some fantastic pieces on defense. Time for them to assemble the puzzle…

Browns 27, Bears 20

- Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3): There are questions about Ben Roethlisberger’s availability for this AFC North matchup. Frequent readers know what that means: hedge time!

If Roethlisberger plays, the Steelers win 28-17

If Roethlisberger sits, the Bengals win 30-11

- Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders (-4): Our first look at Jacoby Brissett in Miami was not a positive one. And now he gets his first start in Miami against the unbeaten Raiders, who sure do not appear to be a fluke through two weeks. Las Vegas is very good at counterpunching and wearing the opponent out. This one might end earlier by TKO… 

Raiders 30, Dolphins 12

- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams (+1.5): Probably the best game on the slate, with Tom Brady and the unbeaten Bucs getting a real test with the new-look Rams behind Matthew Stafford. Yet for all the media focus that will be on the quarterbacks, I think this game comes down to which team can more efficiently run the ball.  

Rushing yards can be misleading. They tend to be evaluated by bulk numbers, but yards per carry is far more important than total rushing yards. More to the point, the ability to effectively run the ball on first down or second-and-short is often one of the most telling predictors of an outcome. And here’s the surprise: the Rams do this a lot better than the Buccaneers through two weeks. I’ll tepidly hang my predictive hat on that.

Rams 24, Buccaneers 20

- Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings (+2): Just a hunch here, but I have a hard time believing this Vikings team is bad enough to start 0-3. Seattle is certainly capable of winning and probably deserves to be favored, but I’m looking more macro-level here. Don’t ask me how it happens, but Mike Zimmer’s crew finds a way to get off the winless track.

Vikings 22, Seahawks 20

- New York Jets at Denver Broncos (-10.5): Love someone as much as the NFL’s schedule makers love the Denver Broncos. This is the third game in a row to start the season where the Broncos face a team that will be winless after Week 3. The sledding gets tougher in Week 4 with Baltimore, but until then, enjoy the fruits of a ridiculously favorable early-season schedule, Broncos fans… 

Broncos 32, Jets 13

- Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5): When I sat down to write this forecast, I had the Packers winning comfortably on the backs of the Aaron Rodgers-Davante Adams connection. The 49ers have no answer for it, especially with their injury-riddled secondary.  

But then I contemplated the other offense vs. defense matchup, and I sense the Packers could be in real trouble here. Their pass rush doesn’t exist, period. Their LBs aren’t bad but they’re not capable of screwing up what Kyle Shanahan’s diverse offense wants to do unless they get some help.  

So now I’m genuinely conflicted. I can make compelling arguments for either team to win. Then there’s the X factor: It’s Green Bay in prime time. Even on the road, expect at least one outrageously bogus, unfair call to go their way at a juncture where it offers its biggest positive benefit to the Packers. Prove me wrong, NFL…

Packers 28, 49ers 26

Monday Night

Eagles at Cowboys (-4): Finally we get a compelling NFC East matchup that should engage viewers. It’s been a little while. My money is on Dak Prescott and his merry band of talented pass-catchers to exploit some holes in the Eagles defense, more than what Jalen Hurts and the Philly offense can do to Dallas’ own woeful back 7. I’m also looking forward to seeing the evolution of Tony Pollard over Ezekiel Elliott as the top Cowboys RB continue, and how hard it will be for some Dallas fans to reconcile it. 

Cowboys 34, Eagles 28 

College Games

Wisconsin 24, Notre Dame 20

Arkansas 30, Texas A&M 27

Clemson 23, North Carolina State 21

Oklahoma State 32, Kansas State 27

Alabama 52, Southern Miss 10

Michigan State 20, Nebraska 16