Last week’s forecast: 9-7 for the second week in a row. That’s 18-14 through two weeks.
Autumn has dawned. Okay, technically it doesn’t arrive until shortly after Cleveland and Pittsburgh kick off on Thursday night, but the fall of summer means weather tends to become more of a factor in games. This week looks pretty innocuous, thankfully.
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (-4.5): Two of the least potent passing attacks square off in a huge game in the AFC North. Mitchell Trubisky and Jacoby Brissett have each struggled to do anything more than nibble at defenses in the air. Call that matchup a wash.
The reason to like the Browns to eat is because of the rest of the offense. The Browns have two different RBs with more rushing yards individually than Steelers RB Najee Harris. Cleveland’s offensive line is better in both run blocking and pass protection, too. The ability of Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt to break off a 47-yard TD run (or two) outshines what the Steelers offense can do to Myles Garrett and the Browns defense. Cleveland’s defensive vulnerability is throwing over the top. Trubisky can’t even see the bottom of the top this year.
Browns 22, Steelers 12
- Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (+5.5): Sometimes the winds just blow unexpectedly. That’s the case with this bizarre Dolphins statistic unearthed on Reddit:
Miami has won 11 games in a row against teams whose QB has the letter “O” in his last name, but they’ve dropped nine straight against “O”-less quarterbacks. Buffalo’s quarterback is Josh Allen. No “Os” aside from the fact Allen is off to an MVP-caliber start to the season.
Bills 37, Dolphins 17
- Houston Texans at Chicago Bears (-2.5): Somehow, some way, Justin Fields attempted just 11 passes in Chicago’s loss to Green Bay last week. He’s thrown for just 191 yards in two games. The Texans defense has been spotty, but Houston does have some nice young talent on the back end and a resurgent Jerry Hughes to provide pressure up front. If Chicago is unwilling to let Fields try and win with his arm, they’re not going to win again this year--not even at home against a beatable Texans team.
Texans 19, Bears 15
- Las Vegas Raiders at Tennessee Titans (+2.5): Perhaps the two most disappointing teams in the AFC so far square off in what sure feels like a do-or-die matchup. The loser here drops to 0-3, a very difficult mountain to climb to make the postseason. Only the Lions and Cardinals have given up more points than Tennessee, and those two teams have the offensive firepower to overcome their leaky defenses. The Titans can’t keep up with Derek Carr, Darrin Waller and Davante Adams with their own broken offense, and I don’t trust their defense to rise up enough to give Derrick Henry a fighting chance to make it happen.
Raiders 34, Titans 24
- Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts (+6.5): Hard to fathom the Colts being winless after three weeks but it’s even harder to fathom their punchless passing attack putting up more points than what Patrick Mahomes & Co. are going to do to the home team’s shoddy pass defense. Real bad matchup for Frank Reich’s reeling team and this week’s survivor fantasy pick.
Chiefs 32, Colts 17
- Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (+3.5): Baltimore got ravaged by Tua and the Dolphins for four 4th quarter TDs last week. In rewatching the late-game massacre, it appeared the Ravens secondary had never practiced together. Like, ever. John Harbaugh is too good of a coach to allow that to happen again. It helps that the Patriots don’t have Tyreke Hill or Jaylen Waddle as weapons. Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are a good get-right matchup for the Baltimore secondary.
Ravens 24, Patriots 20
- Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-6): This one should be fun. Detroit is looking to score 35 or more points for the fourth game in a row. Amon-Ra St. Brown has become a massive problem for defenses, and the Lions run game is strong enough to make defenses pay for committing too many resources to shutting down the Sun God.
But the Vikings offense is potent in its own right. Justin Jefferson might be the best WR in the league right now, a complete package of a weapon. Kirk Cousins has done a good job of getting the ball out quickly and accurately, nullifying the creative Detroit pass rush. If Minnesota can avoid turning the ball over, they should be able to sneak away with the home win. The line seems way too high, however.
Vikings 33, Lions 31
- Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets (+4.5): I know they’ve struggled badly, Joe Burrow included, but the Bengals have too much talent on both sides of the ball to be 0-3. The Jets defense is certainly capable of making it so, but I’m rolling with the heart of the defending AFC champs to get it done here.
Bengals 26, Jets 21
- Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Commanders (+6.5): I’d feel better about the Commanders chances to keep pace with Philly’s prolific offense if Washington could reliably protect Carson Wentz. Losing underrated center Chase Roullier is a big blow for the team formerly known as the Football Team. This week, they’ll see what a great football team looks like. Jalen Hurts could throw for 300 and run for another 100 on his own in this one.
Eagles 38, Commanders 21
- New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (+3): A little peek behind the forecasting veil here…
I typically write with music on. As I get to this decidedly uninteresting game, I’m jamming to the new Parkway Drive banger “Darker Still.” Pretty apt album title for the Carolina Panthers 2022 season, eh?
Saints 21, Panthers 17
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Chargers (-7.5): Upset alert? Don’t laugh. Justin Herbert’s injured ribs are an equalizer here. And if the Chargers QB somehow doesn’t play--word on Wednesday is he’ll be questionable--it’s Chase Daniel time in L.A. The young Jaguars are coming off a confidence-building shutout of Matt Ryan and the Colts and have some ability to create points with an emerging offense built around Trevor Lawrence. Factor in the inevitable “Chargering” factor and I wouldn’t fault anyone who forecasts the upset. I give it a 49 percent chance of happening outright and a much higher percentage of the visitors covering the spread.
Chargers 29, Jaguars 27
- Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (+3.5): It’s been weird seeing Rams QB Matthew Stafford morph into former Rams QB Jared Goff in the first two weeks. Checkdowns, missed open receivers, ill-advised escape routes from pressure--it’s got to be a disturbing sense of deja vu for Rams coach Sean McVay, who exiled Goff to Detroit for being exactly what Stafford has been through two games this year. Seriously, check the air yards per attempt. Stafford ranks 29th at 5.91 yards. That’s not going to get it done against a dialed-in Kyler Murray. I think McVay and Stafford will awaken in this one, but it’s tough to bet on it.
Rams 28, Cardinals 26
- Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks (-1): Surely you’ve got better things to do than watch Geno Smith vs. Marcus Mariota in the matchup of the two weakest rosters in the NFL. May I suggest a trip to a corn maze or cider mill?
Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
- Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5): The two best quarterbacks of the 21st century (to this point) face off in a game that is already being relentlessly hyped by the NFL and its networks. As it should be. This is a premier matchup between two of the most balanced teams in the league.
The Green Bay pass rush figured some things out in pasting the punchless Bears, things that directly translate well against the Bucs rebuilt line. Tom Brady is going to miss Mike Evans, a receiver who is the type Green Bay’s strong secondary can struggle against. The challenge for Aaron Rodgers is having time to throw and enough trust in his young receivers to make plays. And that’s an iffy proposition on both counts. The Bucs lead the league in sacks and they're also a top-10 run defense. I’ll lean on the home team in what I see as a defensive struggle.
Buccaneers 20, Packers 17
- San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos (+1.5): If it were Trey Lance at QB for the 49ers instead of Jimmy Garoppolo, I’d probably lean more towards Denver and Russell Wilson outsourcing the Bay Area visitors. But between Garopollo’s veteran savvy and Denver’s rookie coaching pains, the Niners have too many favorable winds blowing their way. I’m confident Lance will outshine Garoppolo in time, but that time is not yet here. For the short-term, that’s a positive for SF.
49ers 30, Broncos 22
- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (-2.5): Primetime Cooper Rush vs. Daniel Jones. It’s everything you never knew you always wanted! It will be a challenge for Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to hype this QB matchup, though I’m sure they’ll go out of their way to try. Aikman might want to come out of the booth to show these young whippersnappers how to do it. Except he’d see the dilapidated Dallas receiving corps and retreat back to Buck’s bosom in the booth.
Giants 23, Cowboys 17
Ohio State 44, Wisconsin 17
Wake Forest 33, Clemson 31
Iowa State 29, Baylor 27
Georgia 68, Kent State 9
Arkansas 34, Texas A&M 30
All odds are from BetMGM as of 11 a.m. ET on Sept. 21