Last-Minute Predictions for NFL Week 3

Nick Kostos@@thekostosContributor ISeptember 22, 2013

Last-Minute Predictions for NFL Week 3

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    Week 3 of the NFL season is at hand, and we will soon learn quite a bit about who the real contenders are in 2013. 

    Teams standing at 0-2 are fighting for survival, while teams at 2-0 are looking to distance themselves from the pack. There are a number of intriguing matchups between 1-1 squads as well. All in all, it will be a tremendous week of football.

    With that, here are my last-minute predictions for NFL Week 3.

Cincinnati Will Upset Green Bay

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    The Bengals host the Packers in one of the best games on the Week 3 slate, and while Green Bay is favored to win, Cincinnati will triumph in a matchup of two of the NFL's top-tier squads.

    Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the league regardless of position, but the Bengals possess a superior defense. The unit should be good enough to slow down Green Bay's offensive assault and give Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton opportunities to win the game.

    Dalton hasn't exactly dazzled thus far this season, but neither has Green Bay's defense, which currently ranks 30th overall. The Bengals will move the football and put points on the board. Expect big statistical outputs from Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovani Bernard.

    Ultimately, the Bengals will win because their defense is capable of making more stops than Green Bay's is. 

    That adds up to a Cincinnati victory at Paul Brown Stadium.

Houston Will Beat Baltimore by Double Digits

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    Last year, the Texans eviscerated the Ravens 43-13 at home.

    While Sunday's result won't be as lopsided, expect Houston to win in Baltimore by double digits.

    Ravens running back Ray Rice likely won't play as he recovers from a strained hip flexor that's kept him out of practice all week—a huge blow for the Baltimore offense. While backup running back Bernard Pierce is a terrific secondary option, he doesn't have Rice's versatility.

    Houston is coming off back-to-back comeback victories, and while both wins came against lesser competition, they speak to the team's overall toughness. The Texans are mentally strong, and they won't fold in a hostile environment like Baltimore.

    The Ravens passing attack has yet to really get going, and Houston's defense won't allow it to start clicking in Week 3. 

    Give me the Texans to win by no fewer than 10 points.

Sam Bradford Will Lead St. Louis to an Upset Victory over Dallas

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    Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has enjoyed a successful start to the 2013 season, throwing for 651 yards to go along with five touchdown passes. He appears poised to fully break out in his fourth NFL season, and I expect him to continue his torrid start on Sunday in Dallas.

    The Cowboys defense is allowing 8.6 yards per passing attempt, which is 28th in the league and should have Bradford licking his chops.

    Bradford will connect early and often with receiver Tavon Austin and tight end Jared Cook, and the Rams pass rush will get to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, leading to a Rams upset victory in Dallas.

Cleveland Will Keep It Close Against Minnesota

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    It didn't take long after the Browns' shock trade of running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for many to start writing the epitaph on their 2013 season.

    And while Cleveland certainly won't be contending for a playoff berth this year, the 53-man roster is better than many think, specifically on defense. Those who are calling for a Vikings blowout win on Sunday are off base.

    Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, starting in relief of an injured Brandon Weeden, might not be the franchise signal-caller that Cleveland fans have pined over, but he is a solid option. Furthermore, the return of receiver Josh Gordon from suspension will help the offense.

    The Browns rush defense is only allowing two yards per carry, so this won't be a cakewalk for Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson

    While the Vikings will ultimately win the game, it won't be easy. Expect Cleveland's defense to keep the team in the game well into the fourth quarter.

Trent Richardson Will Average Less Than 3.5 YPC Against San Francisco

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    Running back Trent Richardson will make his debut for the Colts, and while he'll have a solid career in Indianapolis, expect an inauspicious start against the 49ers Sunday.

    San Francisco is an angry team, coming off its 29-3 whitewashing at the hands of the Seahawks last Sunday night. Jim Harbaugh's squad will get back on track and beat the Colts.

    On the season, San Francisco's defense is allowing 3.6 yards per carry on the ground, while Richardson is averaging 3.4 per. At the end of the game, both totals will be lowered, much to the delight of the 49ers faithful.

    Richardson won't be able to get going, and Harbaugh will triumph over his former college quarterback at Stanford.

EJ Manuel Will Outplay Geno Smith

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    It's a battle of rookie quarterbacks at MetLife Stadium, as EJ Manuel and the Bills take on Geno Smith and the Jets in an AFC East showdown.

    Both teams are 1-1 and have played surprisingly good football to open the campaign. This contest will show which of these two squads, if either, is capable of making noise in the AFC wild-card picture.

    Expect Manuel to get the better of Smith in a Buffalo victory. Manuel has sparkled thus far, throwing three touchdown passes against one interception. He led Buffalo on a game-winning drive last week against the Panthers.

    While Smith has acquitted himself fairly well, he struggled in the fourth quarter of Gang Green's Week 2 loss in New England, throwing three interceptions in that stanza.

    The Bills have the better 53-man roster and the better neophyte quarterback. They will beat the Jets on the road and improve to 2-1.

Miami Will Improve to 3-0 with Its Win over Atlanta

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    The Miami Dolphins have enjoyed an excellent start to the 2013 season, winning both of their games on the road, including an impressive victory last week over Andrew Luck and the Colts.

    Much of that success should be attributed to the play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the team's pass rush, which has garnered nine sacks in two games.

    While the Dolphins face a stiff test on Sunday against the Falcons, expect Miami to come out on top.

    Defensive end Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing are both out for the season. Running back Steven Jackson is out for two to four weeks. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will miss at least eight weeks, and wide receiver Roddy White is still not at 100 percent. Left tackle Same Baker will also be on the sideline. 

    Even Julio Jones is questionable for the game.  

    Defensive end Cameron Wake will terrorize Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and Tannehill will make enough plays against Atlanta's No. 30 pass defense to send Miami to 3-0.

Eli Manning Won't Throw an Interception

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    Giants quarterback Eli Manning has struggled mightily through the season's first two games, throwing seven interceptions. In a related story, Big Blue sits at 0-2, and a loss on Sunday in Carolina would make it very difficult to contend for a playoff spot. 

    But in the coach Tom Coughlin and Manning era in New York, the Giants have always performed well with their backs against the wall. As such, you should expect Manning to come out sharp Sunday.

    In 2007, the Giants started 0-2, and they ended up winning the Super Bowl. They were 0-1 in their Super Bowl season of 2011 as well. 

    Manning won't throw an interception against Carolina, and the Giants will save their season and send the Panthers to 0-3.

Tampa Bay Will Lose Another Heartbreaker, This Time in New England

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    Conventional wisdom says that the 0-2 Buccaneers, reeling and on the verge of having their season completely fall apart, will be annihilated by the 2-0 Patriots in Foxborough.

    Throw conventional wisdom out the window. This game will be closer than you think.

    The fact of the matter is that if the Patriots had opened the season with two good teams instead of the Bills and Jets, they'd be 0-2. And Tampa Bay has held the lead in the final minute of each of its first two games and has managed to lose both. The gap between these teams isn't as pronounced as the records would indicate.

    The Patriots rush defense is allowing four yards per carry—a fact that likely has Buccaneers running back Doug Martin salivating. Tampa Bay should be able to run the ball all over New England. 

    In the end, New England will win because of the disparity at quarterback. Tom Brady is an all-time great, while it shouldn't surprise anyone when Bucs signal-caller Josh Freeman is eventually benched.

    But Tampa won't lose in blowout fashion. Expect another heartbreaking defeat for the Bucs, one that just might send coach Greg Schiano's hot seat bursting into flames.

Pittsburgh Offense Won't Get on Track, and the Team Will Fall to 0-3

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    Through the season's opening two games, the Steelers offense is ranked 31st overall, with only the Jaguars between them and the basement. The failures of the unit are the main reason why Pittsburgh sits at 0-2.

    On Sunday Night Football, the Steelers welcome the 2-0 Bears to Heinz Field. If you think Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Co. are going to put on an offensive display against Chicago's defense, I have an island in the Caribbean to sell you.

    Offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Roethlisberger don't appear to be on the same page, and the Bears aren't a squad you get well against.

    Chicago's defense will suffocate the Steelers offense (much like Tennessee and Cincinnati did) and send Pittsburgh to 0-3.