Week 3 in the 2012 NFL season is one which will go down in infamy for the remainder of the league's existence. By now, you have seen, likely upwards of ten times, the touchdown call on Monday night which handed the Seattle Seahawks a win they didn’t appear to deserve and left the Green Bay Packers and all of us right-minded fans wondering how something so utterly unexplainable and indefensible could happen in a league that we have been led to believe holds accountability above all else.
I find it truly saddening that a week that featured so many exceptional performances and special moments for many teams will forever be remembered for the disgusting manner in which it was completed. If nothing else, we can only hope that this situation will provide the motivation needed to get a deal completed between the league and its real officials, and restore some of the integrity that has been so greedily flushed away by those who believed these imposter referees would suffice. It is surely clear by now that they do not and will not suffice.
Unfortunately I can’t attribute my mediocre week to just this single game, although the Green Bay “loss” did bring my numbers down a tad. Coming in at just under .500 in all three aspects this week, I continue to pray for improvement with my totals shaping up at:
Straight: 24-24 (50 percent)
Spread: 18-30 (38 percent)
Over/Under: 25-23 (52 percent)
Sadly, this is a slight improvement over last week, and I can only hope that these numbers continue to rise as I get a better feel for what each team has to offer. Let’s get into some picks for games that I can only hope are officiated by some true professionals.
Cleveland Browns (+13) at Baltimore Ravens (O/U = 43.5)
Following a frustrating loss to the Eagles in Week 2, the Ravens responded by knocking off New England Sunday Night on a field goal as time expired. This crucial win was overshadowed, however, by the brilliant play of star wide receiver Torrey Smith who caught two touchdowns less than 24 hours after learning of the death of his younger brother. Even if you weren’t rooting for Baltimore you couldn’t help but feel both sorrow and joy for Smith as he walked off the field with an ear-to-ear smile.
The Browns continue to struggle out of the gate with their stable of youngsters in the backfield. Unable to top the Bills in Week 3, it is hard to see this squad pulling off the shocker in Baltimore, hence the largest spread of the week. Personally, I think 13 is a bit low after what I’ve seen out of the Browns thus far.
Baltimore rolls at home with a big game from Ray Rice as an early lead turns into ground and pound to close out a big victory.
Carolina Panthers (+7) at Atlanta Falcons (O/U = 49.5)
The Panthers got pounded by the Giants on Thursday night in Week 3 and don’t get much of a break here as they travel to Atlanta to face the division rival Falcons. After looking like a dejected child following his poor performance against New York, I expect Cam Newton to come out fueled with both anger and embarrassment in this one. If the Falcons defense isn’t hyped up from the start they could find themselves with an early deficit to overcome.
Matt Ryan has arguably been the league MVP through the first three weeks, sporting a sparkling 114.0 QB Rating to go along with his team’s 3-0 record. It appears that he and young phenom Julio Jones have made remarkable progress as a duo, and we could be witnessing the start of a historical combination.
I think the Panthers can keep it closer than they did last week, but eventually the Falcons get the best of them at home.
New England Patriots (-4) at Buffalo Bills (O/U = 51.5)
The Pats were on the losing end of Sunday night’s matchup with Baltimore, and head coach Bill Belichick was fined $50,000 after grabbing an official at the game's finale when the officials failed to review an extremely close field goal which handed New England the loss. Belichick’s squad find themselves at a 1-2 record, which is unusual when you consider the remarkable success this team has had in recent years. Also, a divisional opponent on the road is never an easy win no matter how you look at it.
The Bills continued their seesawing ways in an unimpressive ten-point victory against Cleveland in Week 3 and have yet to show the world what they are truly made of. A victory here would go a long way to proving that they are, in fact, the above-average team that they appear to be half the time.
Unfortunately I’m predicting the other half shows up in this game as a hungry Pats offense is too much for the Bills' defense to handle.
Straight: New England
Spread: New England
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (Spread N/A due to Stafford Injury)
I will admit that I am a Lions fan, but I do not feel biased at all in saying that their overtime loss against Tennessee in Week 3 was probably the most incredible football game I have ever watched. The myriad off-the-wall plays made by both teams was staggering, but a late game blunder by the Lions offense cost them the win that they looked poised to steal in the Music City. With Matthew Stafford questionable for this one, it could be a different-looking attack for this usually air-heavy offense.
The Vikings pulled out the true stunner of the week with a victory against the heavily favored 49ers, and it will be very interesting to see if that was just a flash in the pan or a coming out party for this squad. Adrian Peterson continues to be productive coming off injury and could see a heavy load if the Vikings are able to get out to an early lead in D-Town.
I think the Lions take this one at home with or without Stafford as backup QB Shaun Hill proved once again that he is a more than serviceable replacement under center for his squad.
San Diego Chargers (-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (O/U = 44.5)
The Chiefs pulled out another shocker in Week 3, sending the Saints to 0-3 behind a career day from running back Jamaal Charles. The Longhorn alum tallied 233 yards on the ground, including a 91-yard scamper that should have put to bed all questions about his breakaway ability following an ACL tear last season.
The Chargers took their first loss of the season at the hands of the stalwart Falcons and looked fairly ugly in doing so. After mustering just three points in that loss, they will surely be looking to break out against a Kansas City defense that has allowed a ton of points thus far into the year. If Phillip Rivers can get back in line with how he was performing the first couple weeks of the year, San Diego could run away with this one early.
I think the win against New Orleans on the road will serve as a huge building block for Kansas City, and they take this one against a lesser opponent coming back home.
Straight: Kansas City
Spread: Kansas City
Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) at St. Louis Rams (O/U = 38.5)
I won’t dive back into Monday night’s outcome at the risk of going on another rant, but as we all know, the Seahawks won in Week 3. Controversy or not, Seattle has now moved to 2-1 behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and travel to St. Louis looking to stay a game up on the Rams in the NFC West.
Sam Bradford has gotten off to yet another mediocre start and could really use a statement game against a divisional opponent to kick start his season. The Rams are in the bottom half of most major statistical categories, and first-year coach Jeff Fisher will look to motivate this squad to perform the way they did in their Week 2 victory against the Redskins.
This game could be a close one due to the inability of both offenses to run away with the game, but if the Seahawks come out on defense like they did against Green Bay, then they should pull this one out on the road.
San Francisco 49ers (-4) at New York Jets (O/U = 39.5)
The 49ers fell in a stunner to the Vikings last week, and they will find themselves on the east coast for another week as they face the Jets on the road. Alex Smith dropped down a notch from his red-hot start, throwing just one touchdown to go along with a pick, and will need to avoid turnovers against a New York team which already has six takeaways on the year. A balanced run attack has been key for the Niners and Frank Gore will need to provide that stability against this tough opponent.
The Jets rallied for an overtime victory against Miami in Week 3 and sit tied atop the AFC East with a 2-1 record. Rex Ryan and company should need no more motivation than requiring a win to stay a game up on Brady and the foe Patriots, so expect New York to come out hungry in this one. With star cornerback Darrelle Revis lost for the season with an ACL tear, it will be important for the rest of the defensive secondary to pick up any slack.
A close defensive battle should ensue, but I believe the 49ers are the more complete team, and they prove it here.
Straight: San Francisco
Spread: San Francisco
Tennessee Titans (+12) at Houston Texans (O/U =45 )
This AFC South battle pits the division leading 3-0 Texans against the 1-2 Titans who are coming off a remarkable win at home against the Lions. Houston already has a stranglehold on the division, and providing even more separation here would be welcome to the hometown fans. One of the most balanced teams in all facets of the game so far this year, the Texans are an early favorite for a deep playoff run.
The Titans will look to ride the wave of momentum provided by their miraculous win in Week 3 to pull a bit closer to the division leaders, and they will surely need a strong performance to do so. Chris Johnson continues to underperform, averaging just 1.4 yards per carry, and isn’t even the leading rusher on his own team.
If Jake Locker is forced to put the team on his shoulders again as he was last week, this one could get ugly for Tennessee, but I think they will have enough confidence following a big win to at least keep it within the spread.
Cincinnati Bengals (-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (O/U = 43)
In yet another special game featured in Week 3, the Jags pulled out a late victory on an 80-yard touchdown reception by Cecil Shorts with under a minute to play. Unfortunately for Jacksonville fans, even with that reception, quarterback Blaine Gabbert only tallied 155 yards passing and continued to struggle against a defense that has been average at best.
The Bengals took down RGIII and the Skins in a high scoring affair 38-31, and the young team looks to be ready to contend with some of the league’s top oppositions. The Jags, of course, are not one of these teams. I expect the Bengals to win big on the road to make it three in a row.
Miami Dolphins (+6.5) at Arizona Cardinals (O/U = 39.5)
The surprise of the season so far could be the undefeated Arizona Cardinals who put a beatdown on Michael Vick and the Eagles in Kevin Kolb’s return to Philly in Week 3. Behind timely defensive plays and solid game management by Kolb, this team has managed a 3-0 start despite ranking close to last in both passing and rushing offense.
The Dolphins couldn’t pull out an overtime victory against the Jets last week, and thanks to an unlucky timeout they basically gave the game away after blocking what would have been the winning kick. Despite the loss, the ‘Phins showed some gusto staging a comeback against one of the league’s stronger defenses and are surely relieved that running back Reggie Bush will not miss much time, if any, with what appeared to be a major knee injury.
Although I think Miami could surprise some teams down the road, I would like the Cards to continue their improbable roll here in a close one.
Oakland Raiders (+6.5) at Denver Broncos (O/U = 47.5)
The Raiders pulled out a last-second victory against the Steelers in Week 3 on a field goal by kicker Sebastian Janikowski and hit the road to take on a 1-2 Broncos squad at Mile High this week. A strong performance from Carson Palmer was key in the victory, and it will take that type of output on a continuous basis for Oakland to find success this season on a regular basis.
Denver dropped its game against the Texans last week by just six points as Peyton couldn’t stage what would have been a game-winning drive late in the battle. Although they did ultimately take the loss, it must be taken into account that it was against one of the best teams in the league at this point, and a 330-yard effort from Peyton should leave Bronco fans feeling somewhat at ease with the close loss.
I think Peyton is finding his groove again, and with the support of the Mile High crowd, Denver wins this one at home.
New Orleans Saints (+7.5) at Green Bay Packers (O/U = 54)
If the Cardinals aren’t the surprise of the year so far, then that title belongs to the 0-3 New Orleans Saints who find the hill getting ever steeper as they travel to Lambeau to face an angry Packers squad. The Saints let last week’s game slip into overtime and to an eventual loss against Kansas City and will need to show plenty more heart if they hope to turn things around against the Pack.
Green Bay found themselves victimized by what will likely go down as one of the most memorable plays in NFL history on Monday night, and something tells me it could have been just what they needed to get their season into gear for real. The team’s 1-2 start is not representative of the talent they possess, and I still fully expect Aaron Rodgers and his offense to make a run at a division title.
The Pack take this one at home, but seven-and-a-half points to the Saints is just too much to let slide.
Straight: Green Bay
Spread: New Orleans
Washington Redskins (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (O/U = 48)
The arrival of Robert Griffin III has brought the Redskins plenty of points, but unfortunately for the fans in D.C., those points have not directly correlated with wins. The rookie quarterback is averaging nearly 300 all-purpose yards per game on the offensive side of the ball, but until some form of defensive presence is provided, this team will need all those yards and points just to remain close.
The Bucs have struggled mightily on the offensive side to this point, but a stellar run defense has been enough to keep them competitive in each of their games this season. If this team can begin to click with rookie running back Doug Martin seeing a lot of carries, then they could continue to be a pest to anyone they face, including the Skins this week.
Washington puts up more points than the Bucs can manage here and steals one on the road.
New York Giants (+2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles (O/U = 46)
Sunday night features an always exciting NFC East matchup between the Giants and Eagles, both of whom sit at 2-1 at this point in the season. The Eagles took their first loss of the year in Week 3 after sneaking by in both Week 1 and 2 and will have to provide better protection for Michael Vick if they hope to pull this one out against New York.
The Giants wore out the Panthers on both sides of the ball in Thursday night’s matchup, which provides them a bit of extra rest for this important battle. Eli Manning has started out the year strong, but he will need to bring his A-game against a strong secondary for the Eagles. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw will return after missing last week’s game, but the spark shown by backup Andre Brown will surely be utilized by the offense after last week’s solid showing.
This should provide an entertaining Sunday night game, and I see the Giants taking it in a high scoring affair.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
Chicago Bears (+4) at Dallas Cowboys (O/U = 42.5)
The Cowboys barely had enough to hold off the Bucs in Week 3 with a 16-10 victory and look to win on Monday night to remain tied atop the East with the winner of the Giants vs. Eagles matchup. Aside from DeMarco Murray, their run game has failed to get it going, and this has led to some difficulty for Tony Romo who has just four touchdown tosses along with three interceptions.
Chicago’s perennially tough defense has continued to show up through the onset of this season to lead the team to a 2-1 start, which leads the tough NFC North. With a game already separating them and the Packers in the division, the Bears would do well to win here and remain at least a game ahead.
I haven’t seen strong enough offense out of the Cowboys to predict a win over this strong Bears defense, so I’m taking the road team in a tough battle.