Week 2 of the NFL season was very illuminating. Trends are starting to develop and teams are starting to either showcase their abilities or have their flaws exposed.
The Chargers’ offense was surprisingly potent despite the loss of Keenan Allen, the Lions seemingly have a more balanced offense without Megatron, the Vikings may have the most heart of any team, and the NFL’s charter franchise, the Chicago Bears, may be the worst team in football.
On top of all of that, the NFL continues to experience a rash of injuries to high-profile and impactful players. This week alone Danny Woodhead, Jay Cutler, Adrian Peterson, Jimmy Garoppolo, and many others were lost to injury for either the whole season, or at least a substantial portion of it. This has been an ongoing problem for the NFL and if they have any interest in curtailing these occurrences, then drastic steps must be taken (but that is an article for another day).
Without further ado, let us examine week 3:
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
At some point logic would dictate that the loss of so much talent would eventually undermine the Patriots’ winning ways. Wouldn’t it? Cill Belichick will be tasking third string rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a 3rd round draft pick, with leading a Gronk-less Patriots to a victory over a formidable Houston Texans defense, led by three time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt.
Thus far the Patriots have been more reliant on the power run game, utilizing Lagarrette Blount’s physical running style to open up passing lanes for quarterbacks not named Tom Brady. But at some point all the missing personnel has to catch up with New England and Houston has a team with a lot of speed on offense and a lot of talent on defense. I like the Texans to hand New England their first loss.
Arizona Cardinals @ Buffalo Bills
There is no rational reason to justify the Cardinals losing this game. They literally are more talented at every position and their coaching staff is far superior.
Buffalo did manage to put up 31 points on a bewildering Jets team, but anyone who watched that game can attest to the fact that the Bills offense was far from clicking.
Having your quarterback run around like a chicken with its head cut off in hopes of him making a big play is not an offensive game plan…and it won’t work against the Cardinals. Arizona wins.
Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers
As I stated earlier, no team has more heart than the Vikings. After losing Teddy Bridgewater for the season the Vikings managed to pull out victories with a career backup and a quarterback who had been on the team for a grand total of 15 days. Adrian Peterson, who has been largely ineffective, is likely to miss significant time (possibly the rest of the season) with a torn meniscus and yet Minnesota finds themselves at 2-0 and in control of the NFC North.
With all that being said, they will not beat Carolina. Wins over a poor Titans team and a Packers team that seems out of sync is a far cry from picking up a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. Newton is clicking with Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin, and that defense is still a force to be reckoned with.
Despite the feel-good story that is Sam Bradford, I like the Panthers in this one.
Denver Broncos @ Cincinnati Bengals
Entering this season I thought the Broncos were doomed. They had lost a number of defensive starters, Aqib Talib had mysteriously shot himself in the leg, and they were apparently replacing Peyton Manning with Mark Sanchez.
Fast forward to week 3 of the NFL season and Denver is 2-0, the defense is still dominant, Talib escaped all investigation and punishment, and Trevor Siemian has taken the reigns and is steering this team to success.
I like the Bengals and I am a fan of Andy Dalton, but Cincinnati is struggling to run the ball and outside of A.J. Green, there has not been a consistent threat offensively.
I like the Broncos, even without Demarcus Ware, to get the big win on the road.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
What is going on with the Packers? Aaron Rodgers seems off with his receivers, Green Bay inexplicably abandons the run despite a productive Eddie Lacy, and the defense has obvious holes that teams are able to exploit.
The Lions lack talent and discipline, but are being propelled on the sheer will of Matthew Stafford. In each of Detroit’s games this season Stafford has been called upon to lead game-winning drives. The Lions are 1-1 on the strength of Stafford’s brilliant play and the weakness of a lone poor decision.
Based on what I have seen so far I want to pick the Lions. But I can’t. With home field advantage and a seemingly healthy Aaron Rodgers, I cannot go against the Packers. I am going with Green Bay, but fair warning if you are a gambler, I would steer clear of this one, because it would not surprise me to see the lions pull off the upset.
Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Well my preseason pick to win the AFC South has really pooped the bed these first two games. Bortles has seemed to stagnate in his development somewhat and the young defensive core is taking more time to adapt than what was initially hoped.
But they are facing a Ravens team that is a shell of its former self. They have a starting running back that would likely be cut form most teams, their best defensive player Terrell Suggs is no longer the game-changer he once was, and their biggest offensive threat is a 37-year old receiver coming off of a ruptured achilles.
The Ravens play smart and they play physical, but if the Jaguars can execute they should pull this one out. I like Jacksonville at home.
Cleveland Browns @ Miami Dolphins
As I have pointed out on several past articles, the Browns are actively trying to tank this season. The Dolphins on the other hand are not. And rookie head coach Adam Gase is desperate for his first victory. The Browns at home are the perfect cure for that ailment. I like the Dolphins to run over and through a Browns team that is on it 3rd quarterback in 3 weeks.
Washington Redskins @ New York Giants
Kirk Cousins is having some major accuracy problems. You cannot blame his offensive line, because Cousins is among the least pressured quarterbacks in the NFL. To further compound the problem, Matt Jones has yet to stand out as the featured running back thus leaving the Redskins with a thoroughly ineffective offense.
Conversely, the Giants have looked very good thus far. The new defensive additions are paying off early dividends and the offense has managed to consistently drive down the field and put up points. With the better quarterback and playing at home, I really like the Giants to take this one.
Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans
The Oakland offense has been very good so far, outscoring the Saints and even putting up a good amount of points in a losing effort to Atlanta. But that defense has been dreadful. They have not shown the ability to stop anyone despite budding superstar Khalil Mack and the addition of Bruce Irvin. Luckily for them they are facing the Titans.
The Titans defense is far from formidable, in fact anyone who saw their game against the Lions knows that their pass defense is exceptionally vulnerable. Unfortunately for the Titans the Raiders excel at passing offense. At the end of the day I have faith in the Raiders to put up points and no faith in the Titans to keep pace. Raiders win.
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
I do not care that the Seahawks have one of the worst scoring offenses in the NFL and I do not care that their star quarterback is playing with a severely sprained ankle. The fact of the matter is that the Seahawks (barring a fluke play) will likely shut out the 49ers in Seattle regardless of who starts at quarterback for San Francisco. Seahawks win even if they only score on a safety.
Los Angels Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
So the Bucs have shown early signs of schizophrenia. In their opener Jameis Winston looked like a burgeoning MVP, in game 2 he looked like he was playing for the other team. We can all agree that the Rams are not that good, despite their upset victory over the Seahawks, but they do have Todd Gurley who at some point is poised for a breakout game.
This is a simple formula though; the Rams are still starting Case Keenum at quarterback. Therefore I cannot pick them to win. I like the Buccaneers because they have a professional quarterback lining up under center and the Rams do not.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Right now the Steelers look the like the team to beat in the AFC. That offense is rolling and the defense is more than holding its own. Add to the fact that they get Le’Veon Bell back in week 4 and Pittsburgh looks like a juggernaut. The Eagles have looked very good themselves, playing stout defense and being led by a rookie quarterback who has seemingly had no problem adjusting. I am not ready to induct Carsen Wentz in Canton just yet (unlike all the commentators/analysts on ESPN) but he is looking very good.
But this game is Wentz’s first real test. The Browns are purposely terrible and the Bears may be even worse. The Steelers are the most talented and best-coached team the Eagles have faced this season and personally I like the Steelers to find a way to rattle the rookie and outscore the surprising Eagles.
San Diego Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts
This is a toss up game. Neither team is impressive and neither should contend for playoffs. The Chargers are at the disadvantage due to the number of injuries to key contributors. They have lost Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen for the season and first round rookie draft pick, Joey Bosa, has yet to play. The Chargers have limited weapons and they were not exactly overflowing with talent to begin with.
On the flip side the Colts lack talent on the offensive and defensive lines and without those foundations a team cannot be successful. I do not have much respect for either coach and think that both of them are among the worst in the league.
At the end of the day the Colts are at home and I think Andrew Luck is a better quarterback, so I am going with the Colts to win.
New York Jets @ Kansas City Chiefs
I really had high hopes for both of these teams. With the signing of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the franchising of Mohammad Wilkerson I thought the Jets were poised for a legitimate playoff run. Andy Reid is a proven coach with a fair amount of talent on a Chiefs team that has one of the most underrated home field advantages in all of sports. But after watching both teams these first few weeks, I can honestly say that both teams have looked very mediocre.
The Jets gave up 31 to the Bills and somehow looked worse in victory than they did in defeat against the Bengals. And as impressive as Kansas City looked in their comeback against the Chargers, they looked equally ineffective against a stout Texans team.
Honestly I have little to no faith in either one of these teams. I am going with Kansas City over the mere fact that they are at home. If this were in New York (New Jersey actually; the Bills are New York’s only team) then I would pick the Jets. But it’s not, so I won’t. Chiefs win.
Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys
Boy do the Chicago Bears suck. And that was before 14 of them landed on the injury report. Jay Cutler, Lamar Houston, and Danny Trevathan are already out, and at least three of the Bears defensive secondary are listed as at least questionable. But even if they were 100% healthy it would not matter. The Bears lack depth, they lack a quarterback that can avoid turnovers, they lack a running back that can grind out yards and they lack a defense that can stop anyone.
I like Dallas in this one. Dak Presott has shown that he can handle the big stage and Ezekiel Elliott is poised for a breakout game. I like Dallas to run away with this one by 15+ points. It is going to get ugly fast.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
Hopefully this Monday night game will be far more enjoyable than this last one. It should be an entertaining shootout. Drew Brees has been incredible in the Superdome over the years and the Falcons have been showing some fire under the guidance of head coach Dan Quinn.
I actually think the Falcons may have the better overall team, if for no other reason than they have a defense that can occasionally stop an opposing team. But this game is taking place in New Orleans and while in that city the Saints are much more formidable.
I like the Saints. Statistically Brees is always much more potent at home and the Saints are just a different team there. Later in the year when they play in Atlanta the Falcons will get their receipt.