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Week 3 Predictions

Posted Sep 22, 2017

Who are you picking to win the week 3 games?

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Los Angeles (1-1) at Santa Clara 49ers (0-2): This is a fascinating matchup of the two youngest head coaches in the leagues, with the Niners as home dogs, built largely on the Rams win over the hapless Colts. I don't put much store in series stats, but the Niners have won the last three meetings, boosting their series lead to 68-64-3, in what was a fierce rivalry after they joined the NFL from the AAFC, but lacked some luster when the Rams moved to St Louis. LA Mark II scored 20 against the Skins in last week's loss, where they had trouble getting the ball to their wideouts, and even more trouble stopping the run. This makes sense because they're playing Mark Barron, a blown-up safety, and Alex Ogletree, an outside backer, inside in Wade Phillips' 3-4, and their safeties don't give enough help. The Niners haven't scored a touchdown yet this year, though Carlos Hyde ran well against the Seahawks, and the Niners' held Seattle to just 12 home points. It may boil down to whether Johnny Hekker has another fake punt play in the game plan, or who you like better, Jared Goff or Brian Hoyer. Pick (made Thursday): Rams

SUNDAY AT WEMBLEY: Baltimore (2-0) 'at' YOUR Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1): Did you know this is as close as London has ever had to a game between two teams with winning records? In 2011 the Bears were 3-3 and Bucs 4-2. The Ravens are also the first unbeaten team to play in London. There are a lot of similarities between these teams, though the Ravens' D is more solid, and Joe Flacco isn't quite as un-elite as Blake Bortles. The loss of Marshal Yanda is a blow for Baltimore, and the Jags' D, which had been very strong until the third quarter last week, when three consecutive short fields and turnovers doomed them, might find pressure on Flacco easier to generate. Their secondary won't worry about the Raven receivers, which leaves Baltimore playing the Jags' Tractor Tom offense, only they don't have a Leonard Fournette. Still, I like that Ravens' D more than the Jags O. Pick: Ravens

SUNDAY BACK IN THE USA

Denver (2-0) at Buffalo (1-1): A tough road trip for the Broncos, whose demolition of Dallas on Sunday night was impressive. What leads me to think they can do it again, even if their rookie left tackle Garrett Boles doesn't play, is the way they are run blocking for CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles. Trevor Siemian seems to understand he has weapons if he can just find them downfield, Tyrod Taylor may understand that too but his weapons aren't as good and he has trouble finding them, leading him to break the pocket earlier than he needs to. Pick: Broncos

New Orleans (0-2) at Carolina (2-0): The Panthers didn't look very convincing winning 9-3 over Buffalo, but their D has allowed only two field goals in the first two weeks, while the Saints' have allowed 55 to Minnesota and New England. We haven't yet seen the bells and whistles of the new-fangled Panther attack featuring McCaffrey and Joseph, and they really miss Greg Olsen, but still at home, pick: Panthers

Pittsburgh (2-0) at Chicago (0-2): NFC North offers two of the more intriguing trap games of the week. The Bears D played well against the Falcons, not so much in Tampa, but part of that is down to the pressure of playing offense with a limited set of options. John Fox says he is sticking with Mike Glennon, which you could understand if he was set in the long term in Chicago, as Mitch Trubitsky might well learn bad habits quickly. But he probably gives the Bears a better chance of winning. Hard to see the Steelers' D not being able to capitalize on Glennon's slow reads and releases. Pick: Steelers

Atlanta (2-0) at Detroit (2-0): If the Bears are intriguing at home, the Lions are downright dangerous. Holding the Giants to 10 on the road isn't as impressive as it might seem, nor was running up 35 on Arizona in week one, but you have to look at the way Matt Stafford is playing within a game plan based on controlling the ball. And he scrambled to keep Lions' drives alive in New Jersey. But Atlanta fired on all cylinders against Green Bay last week, though the Packers are already all beat up after just two weeks. The Falcons were 6-2 on the road last year, and though I'm always hesitant about picking away teams without good cause, I think last week showed us good cause. Pick: Falcons

Cleveland (0-2) at Indianapolis (0-2): Darnold Bowl I! Interesting to match up Kizer and Brissett here, because their scouting reports were remarkably similar. The Browns' D is better than the Colts, and that might be crucial, because Indy's best weapon is TY Hilton if Brissett can begin to find him deep. The Browns have a group of unheralded receivers, and might need a big game from Isaiah Crowell, but they might not get it. I hate picking anyone in this game but pick: Colts

Tampa (1-0) at Minnesota (1-1): Minnesota is for real defensively, and match up pretty well with Tampa's bigger receivers. But I have two words for you: Case Keenum. Now realistically, Jeff Fsher's Rams were able to Keenum a couple of wins: play tight D, run the ball well, get a couple of scrambling big plays from Case. The Vikes can do the first two, and Kennum might find Diggs and Thielen comforting targets. At home the Bucs' D was the key to their 29 against the Bears: Keenum's the opposite of Glennon: seeing things OK but without the arm to take advantage. This one sees the Bucs as less than three point favourites at home, which means there's no faith in the home field advantage. Pick: Bucs

Houston (1-1) at New England (1-1): Last year's playoff game between these two was a lot closer than the score looked, but the Pats took advantage of some Brock Osweiler turnovers. This time it's Deshaun Watson at QB for Houston. The advantage is he can make things happen as Houston's weak O line struggles even with the Pats' rush, the downside, based on looking at last week's game, is that Watson struggles with reads and doesn't have much zip on the ball. The Pats will likely try to take away DeAndre Hopkins, but if he isn't Watson's first read that might not matter, so they may also simply try to keep him in the pocket and deny him big plays. Houston's D might keep them in the game a while, but look for the Pats to pick at it til they score. Pick: Pats

Miami (1-0) at Newark Airport Jets (0-2): When Josh McCown took a knee to end the first half last week, the NFL office sent a memo to all networks banning them from referring to it as 'victory' formation. They didn't need to. London-Born (aka Jay Ajayi) could wind up gaining enough yards to meet the team plane for London somewhere in Long Island. Pick: Dolphins

New Jersey Giants (0-2) at Philadelphia (1-1): The Giants may get more out of Odell Beckham this week, but unless they can protect Eli better, it might not matter. They could use more from Marshall or Sheppard too, and any of their backs (I don't really think of them as running backs until they start running). Janoris Jenkins should be back for New York, and remember, their D allowed only 17 to the Lions, and 19 to the Cowboys, and the Eagles aren't as polished an offensive team, with inconsistency at wide receiver and big question marks at running back. Pick: Eagles

Seattle (1-1) at Tennessee (1-1): Maybe the most interesting game of the week. The Seahawks have scored only 21 points in their first two games, which is down to an O line which makes the Giants' look like the mid-80s Washington Hogs. It puts lots of pressure on the defense, which has come through, and they may be able to blanket the Titans' receiving options. Against the Jags, Tenessee didn't come alive til Jax handed them the ball in the third quarter, and they put the offense more in Marcus Mariota's hands in terms of moving him around. That may be harder to do against the Seahawks. The real matchup to watch is Seattle's rushers against Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, or the Seattle linebackers against Tennessee's tight ends. Or whether Derrick Henry gets the carries and is as successful as he was against the Jags. Or most of all, whether the Titans can crash that shaky Seattle line. Pick: Titans

Cincinnati (0-2) at Green Bay (1-1): You'd almost think the Bengals are thinking how a nice shiny new QB under the rookie salary cap for 5 years would look. They may improve when Vontaze Burfict comes back from what was a harsh suspension, but if someone can explain why they draft guys like Mixon and Ross and then don't use them, please do. The Packers draft guys and use them. They need to because they are incredible banged up for this early in the season, including both starting tackles, something which even the Bengals ought to be able to figure out and capitalize on. Pick: Pack

Kansas City (2-0) at Carson Chargers (0-2): Another fascinating matchup because the Chargers really do need a win at 'home' after missing a chance for OT in Denver and a win against Miami on missed field goals. They will realize pressuring Alex Smith is the best route to beating the Chiefs, but Andy Reid will be trying to move Smith around and get rid of the ball quickly to minimize those opportunities. This has all the flavour of a trap game for the Chiefs, but it's still hard to pick against them. Pick: Chiefs

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Oakland (2-0) at Washington (1-1): The third under the radar compelling matchup, because if the Skins can run the ball, Kirk Cousins becomes what Derek Carr is, but with better downfield options. They looked good at it against the Rams last week, while Marshawn Lynch seemed to be reverting back to beast mode for the Raiders, but partly because the holes weren't being blocked for him. Pick: Skins

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Dallas (1-1) at Arizona (1-1): The Cowboys were brought back to earth by the Broncos last week, but Arizona is very much back on earth, not mile high, and though they've seen the problems up front for Dallas (would they more wish for Leary back from Denver or Doug Free back period?) the Cards aren't going to be able to apply as much pressure. You can riddle the Dallas secondary, but maybe not if you're Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald in your mid 30s. It's always tough to go on the road two weeks in a row, which is leading a lot of people to pick the desperate for their first win Cards, but pick: Cowboys

LAST WEEK: 10-6 SEASON 18-13

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