Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 3 NFL Picks
Week 2 in the NFL had more than its fair share of twists, turns and unexpected endings. Heading into Week 3, the only thing that is clear is that in the NFL, parity has never been better and officiating has never been worse.
The biggest game of Week 3 is the Patriots/Ravens matchup that is a rematch of numerous big AFC playoff games in recent years.
Our B/R Panel of Experts
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight-up.
|Writer||Week 2 ||Overall|
New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers
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B/R Consensus: Giants (6-5)
Vegas: Giants (-1.5)
The Giants are better when they're passing, and the Panthers defense isn't going to be able to stop Eli Manning when he's forced to go to the air.
Eli Manning can’t afford to have another multiple-interception game against the Carolina
Panthers offense. Cam Newton’s speed and passing will challenge the Giants, but Keith Rivers and Mathias Kiwanuka will be the difference-makers on defense in a New York win.
The Giants can throw the ball, and they will against this Panthers secondary. The Panthers can run the ball, and they will against this Giants defensive front. The difference will be Cam Newton and his ability to keep plays alive outside the pocket, giving his receivers all the time they need to get open against an extremely porous Giants secondary.
Carolina's a very unpredictable team right now, but I feel they match up very well with the Giants. Cam Newton could have a big day against that depleted New York secondary, and the much-maligned Panthers pass defense did a good job against Drew Brees. I think they'll keep the ball rolling in a close home victory.
The Panthers earned some street cred with their win over the Saints, but the Giants come to town with a better defense and offensive weapons galore...and Eli Manning knows how to win.
St. Louis Rams at Chicago Bears
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B/R Consensus: Bears (8-3)
Vegas: Bears (-8)
Everyone wants to talk about how bad the Bears offensive line is, but the Rams aren't exactly excelling in that area either. Julius Peppers will have a field day, and Sam Bradford will spend most of the game on his back.
Your first upset of the week; the Rams defense is good enough to seriously frustrate and
shut down Jay Cutler. Chris Long and Robert Quinn are good enough to make J’Marcus Webb look silly.
The headlines in Chicago all week have been about Jay Cutler's attitude, but he has some right to be upset after his offensive line completely collapsed against the Packers. Things don't look to be much better against an underrated Rams defensive line. Sam Bradford will need to carry the Rams with Steven Jackson probably missing the game due to hamstring issues. Expect a defensive battle.
The Rams have played incredibly tough the last few weeks, and the Bears are apparently close to imploding, but overall this team will pull together and overcome a solid defense, as well as stifle a Rams offense which just doesn't have the protection to keep Sam Bradford upright.
Sam Bradford and the Rams are coming off an emotional win at home over the incredibly talented RG3. And even though St. Louis hasn't played well on the road the past few years, Coach Fisher has this group playing the best football they've played in years. Chris Long and Robert Quinn will force Jay Cutler into making those same boneheaded mistakes he made against the Packers in Week 2.
Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns
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B/R Consensus: Bills (8-3)
Vegas: Bills (-3)
Both of these have some young talent but are far from complete. In the end, I think the experience of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the immaturity of Brandon Weeden will be the storyline here.
The Browns defense shouldn’t be overlooked, but neither should C.J. Spiller at running
back. Spiller is playing excellent football, and his speed is enough that the Cleveland outside linebackers will be left in his dust all day.
Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and the rest of the Browns offense showed signs of life against the Bengals, signs that should carry over into their showdown with the Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked much improved against the Chiefs, but the Browns defense, especially at home, will make him look closer to the guy we saw against the Jets in Week 1.
The Cleveland Browns were a vastly improved team in their Week 2 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Bills are still searching for an identity. No Joe Haden hurts Cleveland, sure, but that doesn't mean the Bills can just pass at will. Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson appear far more comfortable. It's time for the Browns to win, and they'll do it this week.
The Browns may have the only quarterback in the NFL who is likely to make more mistakes than Ryan Fitzpatrick. C.J. Spiller has put this team square on his shoulders, and could be poised for another big day against Cleveland's porous run defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
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B/R Consensus: Cowboys (10-1)
Vegas: Cowboys (-7)
Like last week against the Giants, the Bucs aren't going to roll over and give the Cowboys an easy victory. Still, as a young team coming into Cowboys Stadium, I think they'll be overmatched against a Dallas team that could put up serious points through the air.
The home opener in Dallas will bring the Cowboys their second victory of the season. Expect Dallas’ back seven to get to Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers wide receivers. If they can keep Doug Martin bottled up, this will be an easy win.
Greg Schiano's team showed some promising signs through the first two weeks of this young NFL season, but one thing it can't seem to do is rush the passer without blitzing. Tony Romo will make the Bucs pay for having to send five or more guys, and Miles Austin will have a big game.
I'm fully expecting Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to bounce back by picking on a weak Tampa Bay secondary. Dallas should prevail in its home opener.
Tampa Bay fought hard in New York but came up on the short end of a battle of offenses. The Buccaneers look morbid against good passing teams, and Tony Romo should be able to carve them up just like Cam Newton and Eli Manning did in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively.
Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans
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B/R Consensus: Lions (Unanimous)
Vegas: Lions (-3)
The Lions offense has yet to look anything like 2011's version, and the Titans defense should be a remedy for that. Speaking of remedies, running against the Lions has been pretty easy for the past two weeks (decades?), and Chris Johnson might have one last chance to tantalize fantasy owners.
The Lions need a rebound game after their loss to the 49ers, and the Titans will offer them a chance at a win. Detroit’s offense shouldn’t stall out against the Titans like they did versus San Francisco, but they have to get their run game going this week.
The Lions have to find a way to get the rest of their offense outside of Calvin Johnson on track. Stafford-to-Johnson can only work for so long.
The Titans, meanwhile, have looked pretty pathetic on both sides of the ball. Chris Johnson has been paid and, apparently, left the building, but the Titans can move the ball against a pretty pathetic Lions secondary. The Lions win a shootout.
Tennessee is in disarray, and the Lions are frustrated after losing to San Fran on Sunday night. The defensive line will keep Locker (or Hasselbeck) on their toes, and the Titans don't have anything defensively to slow down the Lions offense.
The Titans are just a mess right now. They can't move the ball or stop anyone. Throw in the fact that the NFC is just a much better conference and Detroit is the pick.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
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B/R Consensus: Colts (10-1)
Andrew Luck is better than Blaine Gabbert. For two rebuilding teams, it's as simple as that.
A lot depends on who is at quarterback for Jacksonville, but the Jaguars' injuries are piling up. The Colts aren’t the more talented team on paper, but they are healthier and have the momentum heading into Week 3.
Andrew Luck looked composed and in command last week against an admittedly porous Vikings defense. That should continue this week against division foe Jacksonville, whose own young quarterback was made to look foolish against the Texans. Expect a low-scoring affair.
The Colts and Jaguars are similar in terms of talent. Indianapolis has the better quarterback and is playing at home. The Colts take a close one.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
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B/R Consensus: Jets (10-1)
Vegas: Jets (-3)
Ryan Tannehill better have his bags packed, because he's about to get an all-expenses-paid trip to Revis Island. With so little offensive talent, the Dolphins will struggle to get going against the Jets defense, even at home.
The New York Jets are not the Oakland Raiders, and the Miami Dolphins will do well to note that. Reggie Bush carried Miami to their first win in Week 2, but he won’t find the running lanes against the Jets that he did in Oakland. Darrelle Revis' health could swing the vote on this one.
Though this is one of roughly four games the Dolphins actually have a chance of winning this year, Rex Ryan and company will get after Ryan Tannehill and take away Reggie Bush. Meanwhile, Mark Sanchez will do just enough to make up for his putrid performance the last time the Jets traveled to South Beach.
Ryan Tannehill has likely never seen anything like what Jets head coach Rex Ryan will be sending at him on Sunday. If the Jets get a good performance out of their run defense, they shouldn't have too much trouble with Miami's receivers. They have to find a way to get Mark Sanchez into rhythm early against Miami's secondary.
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
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B/R Consensus: 49ers (Unanimous)
Vegas: 49ers (-6)
Normally, I would pick against the Vikings and remind everyone that they've pushed both games this season to the wire and how every game could be, essentially, a coin flip. But this is the 49ers, and the Niners defense will not let Christian Ponder and company keep this close.
The 49ers will move to 3-0 on the year—all against the NFC North—with an easy win over the Vikings. If Minnesota scores at all in this one, we’ll be surprised.
The government should intervene and declare this game illegal. The Niners are coming to Minnesota and will lay waste to all that stand in their way, much as Minnesota's namesake did so many centuries ago. Alex Smith has shown to be in complete command of Jim Harbaugh's offense, and Justin Smith and company are way, way too much for Christian Ponder and the Vikings.
I might not be in the majority by thinking this might be closer than many think, but this is too big a hill to climb for the Vikings. Their best hope is to get Peterson going and keep Christian Ponder upright, but the Vikes defense has been disappointing so far. That, more than anything, will doom Minnesota this week.
This will be the 49ers' third straight NFC North game in as many weeks. Expecting a different outcome would be downright foolish considering Alex Smith and San Francisco's defense are playing at the highest level possible right now. Unless Brett Favre and Greg Lewis make a comeback, I don't even expect this one to be close.
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints
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B/R Consensus: Saints (10-1)
Vegas: Saints (-9)
It's the battle of the beatens! Both teams enter 0-2, and both teams have invented new ways to disappoint their fanbase in the early parts of the season. Defensively, neither team can stop anyone, so I'll pick Drew Brees in the shootout.
One of these playoff contenders will move to 0-3 after this one, and it’s hard to bet against the Saints losing at home with so much on the line. If Brandon Flowers is still out, Drew Brees will pick apart the Chiefs defense in a big way.
Two desperate 0-2 teams that many felt would contend for their division crowns face off in the Superdome. Drew Brees and the Saints offense needs to cut out the turnovers and the penalties. The Chiefs played far too conservatively against the Bills—not that it matters much. Brees and company get their first win.
Things are a bit ugly in New Orleans right now, but you better believe there will be some serious moments of contemplation and self-analysis. This team is too good on paper to start the season 0-3, and no one is going to let that happen—and that's an edict from the top down.
Kansas City is in big trouble after two stinkers to open the season. The Saints are also 0-2 and playing in New Orleans. Drew Brees is going to take it out on the Chiefs.
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins
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B/R Consensus: Bengals (6-5)
Vegas: Redskins (-4)
Before the Redskins' injury news, this was probably their game to lose. Without Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker, however, it won't be as easy to frustrate Andy Dalton and slow down the Bengals' receivers.
Robert Griffin III is human after all. The Redskins lost a close one in Week 2, and that hangover coupled with having to slow down the potent Cincinnati offense will be too much for the young Washington team.
RGIII showed he wasn't quite the finished product after all in St. Louis, though he still looked great getting his team into the end zone. On defense, the Redskins will miss Orakpo and Carriker against a very balanced Bengals offense that is able to take advantage when defenses commit to pressure. Look for another big day from A.J. Green.
The Bengals were lucky to beat the Browns at home, giving up 27 points. Something is wrong with that defense, which means Robert Griffin III and Washington's suddenly explosive offense could do some serious damage in their home opener. The 'Skins survive a high-scoring affair in their first full game sans Brian Orakpo.
The Bengals' struggling secondary could easily cost them against the dynamic Robert Griffin III this week. They could hardly handle Brandon Weeden last week, and RG3 is a vastly better and different quarterback than Weeden. At the same time, the Redskins defense will be ready for Andy Dalton. Clearly, we're already seeing some regression from Cincinnati this year.
Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals
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B/R Consensus: Eagles (9-2)
Vegas: Eagles (-4)
I've picked against the Cardinals twice and have gotten burned twice. That defense stymied Tom Brady, so Michael Vick should turn the ball over even more than usual. The Eagles' margin of victory this season has been razor thin so far, and the Cardinals have seriously overachieved.
Two teams with identical 2-0 records face off in the desert. The Eagles defensive line will be the key here. If they can get to Kevin Kolb, the Eagles will find an easy victory. Trent Cole and Jason Babin should have fun with this one.
The Eagles are winning in spite of their quarterback. The Cardinals are winning without a quarterback. The team without a quarterback—but with perhaps the toughest secondary in the league—comes out on top after getting Vick to do what he does best: turn the ball over.
Dating back to last season, the Eagles have won six straight, and the Cardinals have won seven of their last eight. This Arizona defense is legit, but so is Philly's. On the road, I can't see the Eagles dominating, but I'm giving them a three-point victory.
Arizona's defense showed they are capable of keeping them in every game, yet I still don't believe in Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals offense. They aren't going to have the luxury of winning every game by putting up 20 points, so until their offense shows me something I'm taking the 2-0 Philadelphia Eagles.
Atlanta Falcons at San Diego Chargers
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B/R Consensus: Falcons (6-5)
Vegas: Chargers (-3.5)
Home cookin' has everything to do with this pick, as both teams could threaten to score a lot of points and both teams will count on turnovers to keep the score low. Going to the West Coast is never easy, especially for a young team, and the Falcons will find that out the hard way in Week 3.
The Chargers defense has been hot to start the season, but the Atlanta offense has been too. If the Falcons can play like they did on Monday night, they’ll give San Diego their first loss. The key is the Atlanta offensive line, which needs to play up to the competition.
The Falcons' high-flying act heads out west for a showdown with a new-look Chargers defense that can actually get after the quarterback. Melvin Ingram and his teammates could make Matt Ryan's life miserable. For the Chargers, Philip Rivers seems to lose receiving options and just discover new ones week-to-week and year-to-year. The Chargers in what should be a great game.
The Falcons are going to have to travel west on a short week, which means a focused energy each day in practice at Flowery Branch and no day off to rest. As long as health isn't a concern, Atlanta's offense should continue to show it's the real deal and 2012 is a coming-out party.
The outcome of this game depends on the running game and the defense. San Diego's defense is finally playing well enough to help the offense, and the Chargers should have Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates back from injury.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders
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B/R Consensus: Steelers (Unanimous)
Vegas: Steelers (-4.5)
Carson Palmer's stat lines have looked better than his play so far this season, as his receivers have been bailing him out time and again. Expect the Steelers to dial up all kinds of pressure and Palmer to have flashbacks from his old Bengals matchups against Dick LeBeau.
This one shouldn’t be close. The Raiders are the worst team in the NFL, and the Steelers look like a playoff team (again). There’s no way the Oakland cornerbacks will be able to keep up with Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace.
The Raiders are in a for a long season as well as a long afternoon against a Steelers team that will make Darren McFadden a non-factor and Carson Palmer a mess. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller will all have big days against a team that is at least a year away from competing.
A west-coast trip isn't going to cause the Steelers to stumble—not against a team that's struggling in all phases of the game as much as the Raiders are right now. Though Pittsburgh should yet again have issues running the ball, Ben Roethlisberger's passing is more than capable of carrying the Steelers through. And that defense? Against Carson Palmer? I think we all know where this is going.
Oakland didn't show up in Miami and has injury issues at cornerback. It also can't get the running game going. Playing at home helps, but playing Pittsburgh doesn't. The Raiders will rebound, but probably not enough to get a win.
Houston Texans at Denver Broncos
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B/R Consensus: Texans (9-2)
Vegas: Texans (-1)
The Broncos got exposed a bit on Monday night, but their ability to come back and make it a game late in the fourth was pretty impressive. This game should go down to the wire, but I like Arian Foster and the Texans' ability to close it out.
Peyton Manning’s three-pick first quarter against the Falcons better get remedied fast. Facing the best defense in the AFC, Manning can expect to be hit early and often. Houston’s balance on offense will keep Manning off the field, and when he is under center the Texans defense will make his life miserable.
Matt Schaub and the Texans get their first real test after opening against clearly inferior teams in the Dolphins and Jaguars. Peyton Manning can exploit the Texans secondary—if he gets time to throw. A combination of the running game and three-step drops will get the better of J.J. Watt and friends.
Peyton Manning has virtually owned the Texans in his career, but this is a new Texans team. Still, the Broncos at home will edge the Texans at the gun. If Denver can force Houston to be one-dimensional, the Texans will struggle to score.
Houston has played two weak teams to open the season, and Denver will present their first real test. Houston has the type of defense and running game that can both limit Peyton Manning and keep him off of the field. Houston in a close one.
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
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B/R Consensus: Ravens (6-5)
Vegas: Ravens (-3)
A bounce-back game for both teams, and they both need a win here. The Patriots offensive line is a mess, and the Ravens will need to take advantage of that, but I have a rule to never pick against Tom Brady, so I won't.
Two teams smarting from brutal last-minute losses look to rebound in this rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game. The Ravens reverted back to their maddening form on offense. Cam Cameron simply has to remember he has Ray Rice when his team's passing game is getting clobbered. The Patriots will be without Aaron Hernandez, which means Ed Reed will be free to take one of Tom Brady's passes to the house.
This game, admittedly, could go either way. Both the Patriots and Ravens are coming off losses, with New England being more embarrassing than Baltimore, and a big game from Tom Brady and company could follow. However, the Ravens, when on, have seemed stronger than New England, who are still trying to get it together on both sides of the ball. It will be close, but Baltimore will pull it out.
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
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B/R Consensus: Packers (8-3)
Vegas: Packers (-3.5)
I'm really torn on this matchup, as the "12th Man" and Seattle's defense should keep the Seahawks in this one for a while. I just can't envision Russell Wilson beating Aaron Rodgers, however, and I think the Packers' veteran-laden team will find a way to win against the young 'Hawks.
This was supposed to be Matt Flynn vs. Aaron Rodgers, and then Russell Wilson happened. Even so, Wilson’s Seahawks will be way overmatched against the Green Bay pass rush and passing game. The Seattle crowd will keep this closer than it should be.
The Packers defense looks to be on the upswing, but the offense still has some big question marks, namely: What is wrong with Aaron Rodgers? Nothing, actually, except that he's faced two good defenses that know how to defend him. The Seahawks fall into this category.
How will the Seahawks protect Russell Wilson? They'll run the ball, keep the formations tight and stay out of 3rd-and-long. The Seahawks pull off an upset.
Seattle still has offensive line issues, especially if Russell Okung is out again, and that will be what kills them in this game as the Packers' front seven is coming alive. Defensively, it won't be easy for a sometimes-misfiring Aaron Rodgers and friends, but they'll get the ball moving enough to overcome the stiff Seahawks D.
The Seahawks will be at home for the second week in a row, and we all know that playing at the Link poses major problems for opposing teams. Look for the Packers' offensive inconsistencies to continue as Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman will have Green Bay's receivers on lockdown.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."