Real picks for games with real refs. How long until someone complains about a game-changing call the regular refs make?
Cleveland (0-3) at Baltimore (2-1)
The Ravens pulled out a very tough and emotional win last Sunday night against a talented Patriots team. And once again they look like a good, balanced team.
Joe Flacco is second in the league in passing yards and has only thrown two interceptions. Ray Rice is seventh in the league in rushing yards and tied for first in rushing touchdowns. The Ravens also have two receivers—Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones—tied for fourth in the league in catches for 20 or more yards.
The defense isn’t as stingy as it used to be, but it is tied for second in the AFC in takeaways with six. Cleveland is first in the AFC in takeaways with seven, but five of those came against the Eagles in Week 1 and the Browns still couldn’t win the game.
Carolina (1-2) at Atlanta (3-0)
Some people are calling the Falcons the best team in the league right now. They beat the undefeated Chargers last week by 24 points and are tied with the Texans (another undefeated team) for the best point differential in the league (plus 46).
Matt Ryan has the best quarterback rating in the league. Meanwhile for the Panthers, Cam Newton has a quarterback rating nearly 36 points lower than Ryan’s (23rd in the league) and is tied for fourth in the league in interceptions thrown.
The Panthers couldn’t even challenge the injury-depleted Giants at home, losing by 29 points.
New England (1-2) at Buffalo (2-1)
The Bills are tied for first in the AFC East and it’s not with the Patriots.
The Bills' two wins have come against teams that were—at least at the time—winless. The strength of those wins, and even in the Week 1 loss, was the running game. Fred Jackson was injured and is questionable this week. C.J. Spiller took his place and got hurt last week and is doubtful. Tashard Choice was next in line and had a productive day against the Browns.
The banged-up running backs will have a tough go of it against the Patriots, who are seventh in the league in rushing yards against.
You can also bet the Patriots will come out with some angst for not only losing their second consecutive game—which does not happen very often—but also for the manner in how they lost last week. Whether you agree with the calls and penalties, it was a physical game and the Patriots were visibly frustrated after it. So they’ll be looking to right the ship and very decisively as well.
New England wins.
Minnesota (2-1) at Detroit (1-2)
Had the Lions not botched a fourth-down play in overtime against the Titans and gone for the field goal, it could be possible this game would be for first place.
Even without Matthew Stafford, should he not play, Shaun Hill can get the job done and he proved that last weekend. He has a career 62-percent completion percentage and 41 touchdowns compared to 23 interceptions and last week went 10-13 with two touchdowns.
The Vikings are surprisingly leading the division but are doing so behind an efficient passing game and statistically strong defense.
But at home, the Lions have won eight of their last 11 contests.
San Diego (2-1) at Kansas City (1-2)
The Chiefs finally broke into the win column, beating the winless Saints. Despite a rough start to the season, the Chiefs have the most rushing yards per game in the league.
The Chargers, however, are fourth in the league in rushing yards against per game. The Chargers should see a boost of their own in their running game with Ryan Matthews playing in his second game back from injury. Last week Matthews carried the ball 10 times for 4.4 yards per carry. Another week of practice should mean a bigger impact.
San Diego wins.
Seattle (2-1) at St. Louis (1-2)
The Rams did not get much from Sam Bradford and a banged-up Steven Jackson last week. The offense gained a total of only 160 yards, went 3-13 on third downs, never got into the red zone and turned the ball over twice.
The Seahawks were gifted a win due to multiple poor calls on the last play of the game but their defense still had the potent Packers offense in check. The Seahawks rank 10th in the league in passing yards allowed per game and second in rushing yards allowed per game.
San Francisco (2-1) at New York Jets (2-1)
Part of how the Vikings were able to defeat the 49ers was the efficiency of quarterback Christian Ponder. The Jets do not pose that threat, with starting quarterback Mark Sanchez 32nd in the league in completion percentage at 50.5 percent.
The Jets very well could’ve lost last weekend against the Dolphins had it not been for Reggie Bush’s injury and two Dan Carpenter missed field goals. But now the Jets will have to go without Darrelle Revis who injured his ACL last week and is out for the year.
The 49ers still boast a very strong defense that should take advantage of the inconsistent play of Sanchez.
San Francisco wins.
Tennessee (1-2) at Houston (3-0)
The Titans finally got on the board last week, beating the Lions in overtime. Despite the team scoring 44 points, Chris Johnson still only managed 24 yards rushing on 14 carries and no scores.
Jake Locker had a good week last week, but if Johnson can’t get going against the Texans' fifth-ranked run defense, then their fourth-ranked pass defense will be able to key on Locker and make it a long day for him.
The Texans are cruising right now, taking advantage of a favorable schedule, and this game should continue that trend.
Cincinnati (2-1) at Jacksonville (1-2)
The Bengals have won both games by only a touchdown each, but they do have a winning record. The Jaguars have played two games against teams currently with winning records and both of those games were losses for the Jaguars.
Andrew Dalton is eighth in the league in passing yards and fourth in QB rating. They also have the 15th ranked rushing attack. Add in rookie Mohammed Sanu’s passing skills out of the Wildcat, which he showcased last weekend throwing a 73-yard touchdown, and the Bengals just have more talent and different looks to offer the Jaguars then Jacksonville’s one-sided offense revolving around Maurice Jones-Drew does.
Miami (1-2) at Arizona (3-0)
The Cardinals defense has looked very strong in the first three games. Their passing defense ranks ninth in the NFL in yards allowed per game. And despite a 29th-ranked passing offense, the team finally got Larry Fitzgerald involved, catching nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, his first of the season.
That pass defense should fare pretty well against a Dolphins offense that seems to be afraid to really attack through the air. The passing game looks conservative and the receivers aren’t making plays. The Dolphins looked good the first two-and-a-half games thanks to Reggie Bush, but he was injured late in the first half of last week. He thinks he can play this weekend, but even if he does it’ll be interesting to see how effective he isn’t when he isn’t at 100 percent.
Oakland (1-2) at Denver (1-2)
The Raiders may have gotten a win against the Steelers last week and the Broncos did lose, but fortunes can change for both teams this week.
Oakland statistically is better passing the ball. That could be because in the Raiders' first two games they were behind big and needed to pass, but the stats are what they are. And the Raiders have yet to face a passing defense ranked higher than the one the Broncos have (15th in the league in passing yards allowed).
If Peyton Manning and Co. can jump on the Raiders early and can force them to pass the ball, they may be able to turn around their two-game losing streak.
New Orleans (0-3) at Green Bay (1-2)
Was Sean Payton this important to the Saints' success? He’s partially responsible, but the Saints still have a lot of talent on the field, including Drew Brees at quarterback. This just looks like a team completely beaten down by the offseason controversy.
Two of those three losses came at home too.
They could have trouble against a Packers team at home and very angry about how they lost last week.
The Packers rank first in the league in passing yards allowed per game. The Saints passing game is the only thing on offense or defense ranked inside the top 20 in the league which will further challenge them.
Green Bay wins.
Washington (1-2) at Tampa Bay (1-2)
RG3 hasn’t put up as big a game passing as he did in his debut, and although he’s still playing very well, it’s possible it may be hurting his team, who has lost two in a row.
Part of that could be due to Pierre Garcon missing both games due to injury. He is questionable for Sunday. The Redskins will also be without running back Roy Helu, who was placed on IR on Wednesday. Running back Evan Royster is also questionable.
The Buccaneers are playing their competition closely. They rank first in the league in rushing yards allowed per game, tied for 10th in sacks and tied for third in the NFC in turnover differential. What they need to do now is put points on the board. The Redskins are fourth in the league in most points allowed.
Tampa Bay wins.
New York Giants (2-1) at Philadelphia (2-1)
Michael Vick is tied for the league lead in interceptions thrown, and he’s seventh in the league in times sacked, though he’s been hit even more. The team also leads the league in total turnovers. The offensive line just cannot protect him.
So how will he fare against a team notorious for its pass rush, led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora?
While the offensive line tries to figure out how to stop the Giants defensive line, the Eagles secondary will have to regroup from last week’s performance against the Cardinals. Kevin Kolb, who started the season as the backup, beat the Eagles for 222 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Giants and Eli Manning boast the second best passing attack in the league, so it will be an even bigger challenge and struggle for the Philadelphia secondary.
New York Giants win.
Chicago (2-1) at Dallas (2-1)
Both teams’ defenses have played pretty well in the early going.
Dallas has scored the fewest points per game in the league. The Bears have caused more turnovers than the Cowboys. The Bears have also just edged out the Cowboys in points allowed.
That being said, the Bears have lost six of their past nine games on the road. They also crashed and burned in their previous prime time game, while the Cowboys flourished on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions to start the season in prime time.
The Cowboys haven’t played any pretty games, but they are capable of grinding out wins.
Bye Week: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh
Last Week: 5-11