So, it’s week 3 of the 2016 NFL season and I’m already dreading that awkward post-Superbowl period, when we all sit around and pretend to care about the NBA’s regular season. So far we’ve seen the Redskins and Bills start their annual 7-9 circus, the Browns become the NFL’s first minor league franchise, and the brilliance of Bill Belichick and his staff. I’m fired up, so let’s get into it.
By Matt Jarecki
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Line: Houston -1
Final Score: Houston 0 – New England 27
2 Cents: We saw Bill Belichick’s Patriots take down the highly touted Arizona Cardinals with Jimmy Garropolo at the helm, and we saw them annihilate Miami with both Garropolo and Jacoby Brisset. That should have been enough evidence not to bet against Bill and his coaching staff. That’s exactly what I did though. Shame on me. Once I got over the money I lost, I sat back and enjoyed what was surely one of Belichick’s showpiece game plans. The Patriots took away the long ball with their safeties, dominated special teams (explained here), and created a workable situation for their rookie quarterback. As for the Texans… I don’t want to be too harsh, because they are probably still coming to terms with the 37 million they decided to give to Brock Osweiler.
Arizona Cardinals at Buffalo Bills
Line: Arizona -4 1/2
Predicted Score: Arizona 24 – Buffalo 17
2 Cents: Arizona might be the second best coached team in the league… or maybe I just really loved All or Nothing. Either way, Arizona is stacked with offense, defense, and coaching. Buffalo, on the other hand, sealed their fate as soon as they hired Rex. This one seems obvious: Arizona is better in almost every aspect, the Bills defense is susceptible to big plays, and the Bills just fired the most talented coach on the staff in former offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The catch: Arizona’s traveling to the cold, windy east off a big win, and Rex Ryan has a way of rallying his troops.
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Line: Carolina -7
Predicted Score: Carolina 27 – Vikings 20
2 Cents: Carolina and Minnesota are surprisingly similar teams right now. Both have a top ten defense, both have injured workhorse running backs, and both have more-than-competent defensive minded coaches. The glaring difference: Carolina is led by superhuman Cam Newton. Nothing against Sam Bradford (who has been impressive in his short time with the Vikings), but he looks (and plays) like a little boy compared to Cam. The catch: Vikings get cornerback Xavier Rhodes back this week, who at 6-1 is one of the leagues better match-ups against Carolina’s other monster, Kelvin Benjamin.
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals
Line: Cincinnati -3
Predicted Score: Denver 17 – Bengals 10
2 Cents: Put your money on Denver. Listen, everyone wants to talk about Trevor Siemian’s mediocrity, but that’s all they’ll need him to be in this game. Cincinnati is a middle of the league defensive team and a middle of the the league offensive team. At just 2.8 yards per carry the Bengals cannot rush the ball. Meanwhile, Denver is 2nd in the league against the pass after facing Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. Sorry Bengals fans, all signs point to an upset. The catch: The Bengals are coming home for the first time this season, and went 6-2 at Paul Brown Stadium last year.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Line: Green Bay: 7 1/2
Predicted Score: Detroit 24 – Packers 21
2 Cents: This is upset-city folks. I get it, the Packers have been phenomenal at home, and have historically owned their in-division rival Lions. Just try to put your Rodgers-worship aside for a second and listen to my logic. Since Jim Bob Cooter took over as the Lions offensive coordinator in week 8 of last year, the Lions have gone 7-3, and Matthew Stafford has a 23 to 2 TD to interception ratio. That’s absurd. In that same time-period, the Packers have gone 5-5, with Rodgers’ TD to interception ratio at 16-6. It shouldn’t be ignored either, that the Lions handed the Packers 1 of their 2 home losses last year. The catch: Nobody can run on Green Bay.
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: Baltimore -1
Predicted Score: Baltimore 20 – Jacksonville 24
2 Cents: Both of these teams want to throw the ball, but both have top 10 passing defenses. Neither team can run the ball, but both teams are vulnerable against the run. Baltimore has allowed 4.5 yards per rush, while Jacksonville has allowed 4.1. Flacco is playing very Flacco-ish this season. Bortles has been worse, throwing for the same amount of TD’s as Flacco, with one more pick. This game comes down to the Ravens, who have gone 3-5 in their last 8 road games, traveling to humid Jacksonville. The catch: Baltimore has the better head coach and quarterback, a winning combination in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins
Line: Miami -10
Predicted score: Cleveland 7 – Miami 24
2 Cents: I don’t even want to discuss this game. Cleveland has just 20 players with over 3 years of NFL experience on their roster (Josh Mccown is one of them), compared to Miami’s 30. Cleveland is on the road, starting a rookie QB in his first game. That in itself should be enough information. Expect Miami’s front 7 to ruin Cody Kessler’s debut. The catch: Miami has allowed the third most rushing yards, while Cleveland is averaging 6 yards per attempt on the ground.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants
Line: New York -4
Predicted Score: Washington 13 – New York 24
2 Cents: Just like his teammates, I don’t trust Kirk Cousins. New York went out this off-season and spent big on their defense, and it appears to be working. The Giants are 4th in the league against the rush, meaning Cousins is going to be passing a lot (he’s coughed up 3 interceptions in the first 2 games). As far as the whole Beckham vs Norman rivalry, it will be prove to be over-hyped, as Eli Manning looks down the field at budding star Sterling Sheppard, and comeback player of the year candidate Victor Cruz. The catch: New York has lost 4 out of their last 5 home games, strangely enough.
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans
Predicted Score: Oakland 27 – Tennessee 21
2 Cents: Oakland’s defense, both rushing and passing, has been atrocious over the first two games of the season. Cornerback Sean Smith is clinging to his job for dear life. That being said, the Titans aren’t exactly a high powered offense, and they should have lost last week to the Lions. There are three factors here that give the Raiders the edge despite their defense: They are gaining a hundred more yards per game than the Titans, they have the better quarterback, and most coaches (including Jack Del Rio) are better than Mike Mularkey. The catch: The Titans slowed down the game last week against another high-flying offense in Detroit.. Let’s see if they can do it 2 weeks in a row.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Line: Seattle -9
Predicted Score: San Francisco 17 – Seahawks 21
2 Cents: The numbers are all over the place in this match up. Seattle’s points allowed per game is the best in the league, while San Francisco is 16th in that category. San Francisco’s offensive points per game is top ten, while Seattle’s is 31st. Chip Kelly’s 49ers have put up over 20 points on two top ten defenses (yes, the Rams have a top 10 defense). Meanwhile, Seattle has scored 7.5 points per game against Miami and LA. Ultimately though, Seattle has the better quarterback, a top 5 run and pass defense, and is coming off an embarrassing loss to the Rams. The catch: Seattle has gone just 3-3 in their last 6 home games, and Russel Wilson’s inability to scramble made him largely ineffective last week at LA.
Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Line: Tampa Bay -6
Predicted Score: LA 6 – Tampa Bay 17
2 Cents: Last week doesn’t scare me a bit. The Rams have Seattle’s number, and were facing a gimpy Russel Wilson. Tampa Bay is a young, talented team that couldn’t bounce back from fluke turnovers against one of the leagues best squads at home. This one’s easy. Let’s not forgot that Case Keenum admitted to “seeing ghosts” against a mediocre 49ers defense. LA plans to run the ball, but they will run into the leagues 8th ranked rushing defense that’s allowing 78 yards per game, and only 3 yards per carry. Tampa Bay will bounce back big, with the far superior quarterback, wide receiver group, and something to prove after a blowout loss. The catch: The Rams are 9th in the league against the pass, allowing just 204 yards per game, and the Buccaneers will be without starting running back Doug Martin.
San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts
Line: Indianapolis -3
Predicted Score: San Diego 24 – Indianapolis 31
2 Cents: The Chargers have looked promising this year despite season-ending injuries to Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead. Melvin Gordon has come along after a disappointing rookie season, and they are top 5 in points per game, and total points scored. The Colts, on the other hand, are 0-2 after two close losses to Detroit and Denver. Look for Andrew Luck and the Colts to bounce back against a Chargers team that’s gone 1-8 in their last 9 road games. Both teams have leaky passing defenses, and both teams have prolific quarterbacks, but key injuries will start to catch up to San Diego this week. Look for T.Y. Hilton to have a monster performance against a weak secondary. The catch: Philip Rivers is playing some of the best football of his career up to this point in the season, with a 70% completion percentage, and a 5-0 TD to interception ratio.
New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs
Line: Kansas City -3
Predicted Score: New York 21 – Kansas City 24
2 Cents: Kansas City lost twice at home last year: once against the Broncos by a touchdown, and once against the Bears by a point. Since then, they’ve gone 7-0 at home, and 12 – 1 overall. Andy Reid will have this team ready to roll after a tough loss to the Texans on the road. The Jets are a good team under the leadership of Todd Bowles, and Fitzpatrick has a chance to light it up against a so-far mediocre Chiefs pass defense. I’m going with the better quarterback-coach combination playing at a rowdy Arrowhead stadium. The catch: New York has the superior defense in this match up, and with 7 sacks in two games, they have a chance to ruin Alex Smith’s day.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles
Line: Pittsburgh -3 1/2
Predicted Score: Pittsburgh 28 – Philadelphia 17
2 Cents: I am a believer in whats going on with Carson Wentz in Philadelphia. Doug Pederson who, to people outside of league circles, came out of nowhere, is showing that he made the most of his time as an assistant coach under Andy Reid. The bad news is, the Eagles are running into the Steelers, who are scoring 31 points per game, and have the best quarterback in the game (until Brady returns). After facing the Browns and Bears, the Eagles have basically progressed from double A, to triple A, to the second best team in the league. Not to mention Pittsburgh is tied for 7th in the league with 2 turnovers in 2 games. Carson has his work cut out for him. The catch: Philadelphia’s defense has allowed the 4th fewest yards per game, and have themselves 2 turnovers.
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
Line: Dallas -7
Predicted Score: Chicago 13 – Dallas 24
2 Cents: The Dak Prescott haters are slowly fading away as we head into week 3. While he hasn’t thrown for any touchdowns (or interceptions) Prescott has quietly thrown the Cowboys into second in the league on 3rd down conversions; the down that made Brady and Peyton their money. Dallas has the better team overall in this match up, with the better O-line, 5 less points allowed per game than Chicago, and 9 more points scored per game than Chicago. The catch: Brian Hoyer came in the game with a sense of urgency when Cutler went down last week. With a talented receiving group, Hoyer’s auditioning to take Cutler’s job.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Line: New Orleans -3
Predicted Score: Atlanta 27 – New Orleans 31
2 Cents: These teams are so evenly matched it’s ridiculous. Both teams have B to B+ quarterbacks, both teams have descent receiving cores, both teams are horrible on defense and… both teams will miss the playoffs this year. Nevertheless, the Saints have the edge in this game with the better quarterback, the better coach, and a Mercedes-Benz Superdome that will be loud for Monday Night Football. The catch: Despite the 1-1 record, Matt Ryan has been lights out this year, with 5 TD’s and 1 interception.