Week 3 NFL Picks: Early-Week Favorites Guaranteed to Cover Spread

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Week 3 NFL Picks: Early-Week Favorites Guaranteed to Cover Spread
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The best thing about having a Thursday night game every week of the NFL season is that, by the time we've digested a week's worth of action, another week is already on the precipice of beginning.

That means with Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season finally in the books, we have little time to waste in preparing for Week 3. 

However, with an NFL-record 20 teams sitting at 1-1, it is more difficult than ever to judge what we have seen on the field.

Fortunately, that isn't the case for these teams. Coming in as favorites in their Week 3 contests, these are squads with favorable matchups that should get even more positive results on Sunday.

Here's a look at some early-week favorites that are guaranteed to cover the spread this week. 

(Note: All spreads are thanks to Bovada.)

 

Buffalo Bills (-3) at Cleveland Browns

After getting eviscerated in Week 1 by the New York Jets, Buffalo looked like a completely different team in Sunday's 35-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

A preseason sleeper for a ton of analysts, the Bills were every bit the team people thought they would be. The oft-hyped front seven took down Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel five times and only gave up three points before two garbage-time touchdowns.

On tap is a Cleveland team that also looked much improved over its opening-week performance. Brandon Weeden performed admirably, completing 26 of 37 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns, giving most Browns fans a massive sigh of relief.

Nonetheless, let's just say I'm not buying the Weeden resurrection. The Cincinnati Bengals front seven failed to get pressure on the rookie signal-caller all game, giving him an inordinate amount of time to throw.

That won't be the case against the Bills. Look for Weeden and, as a result, the Browns offense to revert to Week 1 form on Sunday and for Buffalo to fully recapture that preseason hype.

Score Prediction: Bills 27, Browns 14

 

Detroit Lions (-3.5) at Tennessee Titans

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

By far the most disappointing offense so far in 2012 has been the Lions (cut to all Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson fantasy owners nodding).

After simply struggling with turnovers in Week 1's victory over the St. Louis Rams, the entire offense (understandably) took a step back against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Stafford threw for just 230 yards, but the real story of his ineffectiveness can be told through advanced stats.

Through two games, Stafford has the 20th-ranked DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), which is Football Outsiders' measure of how a quarterback does versus a replacement-level player.

Stafford's QBR, which is an ESPN-developed measure for quarterback play, is just 45.5, good for 24th in the NFL.

After tying for the league lead with nine dropped interceptions in 2011, this regression was relatively expected. 

Nonetheless, look for a return to form against an anemic Titans defense. Tennessee has allowed 72 points this season, good for third worst in the league, and has allowed 403 yards per game, tied for 25th thus far.

Going back to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, the Titans have both the fourth-worst overall defense and fourth-worst pass defense in the league. 

If there is any week for the Lions to break out of their funk, it will be this one. 

Score Prediction: Lions 34, Titans 17

 

Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins (-4)

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

We could use advanced metrics, standard stats or the naked eye, but they would all tell us the same thing about the Bengals defense: It's been reprehensibly bad thus far in 2012.

Coming into the season, most expected a slight regression on both sides of the ball. The Bengals' schedule, which was middling in 2011, had been ratcheted up to the level of a playoff team, and it stands to reason that a relatively surprising team would revert to the median.

Only, it seems that the offense has improved, while the defense has fallen off a cliff. 

That means Sunday should be Redskins rookie sensation Robert Griffin III's third straight scintillating performance.

So long as the defense can keep Cincinnati under 28 points (which could be difficult with Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo out for the season), look for Washington to come out ahead in a relatively easy victory and cover.

Score Prediction: Redskins 34, Bengals 24

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