NFL Picks Week 3: Survivor Pool Locks and Games To Avoid

Elliott PohnlFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2010

NFL Picks Week 3: Survivor Pool Locks and Games To Avoid

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    NFL Week 3 boasts several divisional games and could produce a handful of underdogs pulling off upsets.

    Among the locks this week, New England figures to rebound nicely from last week's loss to the Jets against struggling Buffalo.

    Elsewhere, Green Bay and Chicago meet at Soldier Field in a battle of undefeated teams. The Packers are favored, but face a stiff challenge against the improved Bears defense.

    Here's a look at the predicted winners of all 16 games in Week 3.

No. 16: Tennessee at New York Giants

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Line: New York Giants at -3

    Why the Giants Could Win: Every team has bad games, and that's exactly what happened to the Giants last week against Peyton Manning and the Colts.  This week, Eli Manning should be able to find success and help compensate for the struggling running game.  The struggles of Vince Young should allow the Giants defense to focus solely on stopping Chris Johnson.

    Why the Titans Could Win: The Colts attacked the Giants on the ground with success in Sunday night's win, which means the Titans should be hopeful Johnson will rebound from a sub-par performance in the loss to the Steelers.

    Prediction: The Giants win in a close game, and the Titans start thinking about reverting to Kerry Collins at quarterback.

No. 15: Buffalo at New England

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    Line: New England at -14

    Why the Patriots Could Win: Despite being thin at running back and struggling in the secondary, the Pats have a huge margin for error Sunday against the 0-2 Bills.  Tom Brady should have a big game and could look to rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez early and often.

    Why the Bills Could Win: There is almost no hope for Buffalo at New England.  The Bills could get a spark from newly-inserted quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and still boast one of the NFL's deepest collection of running backs.  That doesn't mean the chances of winning will be very good.

    Prediction: The angry Patriots start slow before pulling away and winning big.  Will Chan Gailey ever get his first win in Buffalo?

No. 14: Cleveland at Baltimore

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    Line: Baltimore at -10.5

    Why the Ravens Could Win: Joe Flacco needs to have a game to work out the kinks with his receivers.  Sunday's match-up against the woeful Browns appears to be that game.  The Ravens offense has been a huge disappointment this season, as Ray Rice has yet to get going and Flacco has put up mediocre numbers while locking on receivers.  That could all change Sunday.

    Why the Browns Could Win: Cleveland has been competitive in the first two games, which is the good news.  The bad news is the overall lack of firepower on offense, which has been a problem for several seasons.  If Cleveland wins, it will be because Baltimore doesn't come ready to play and again fails to execute on offense.

    Prediction: Baltimore wins easily.  Cleveland is in for yet another long season under Eric Mangini.

No. 13: Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay

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    Line: Pittsburgh at -2.5

    Why the Steelers Could Win: How good has Pittsburgh's defense been so far this season?  So good that the Steelers are favored on the road against a 2-0 opponent despite being poised to start Charlie Batch at quarterback.  The Bucs offense is improved, but not improved enough to find success against a revitalized Troy Polamalu and the Steel Curtain.

    Why the Buccaneers Could Win: Mike Williams has shed his label of being nothing but trouble and flourished early in his rookie season in Tampa, providing Josh Freeman with a big-play threat.  The secondary appears to be the one area where Pittsburgh may be vulnerable, meaning Williams could make some plays Sunday.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh wins in an ugly, low-scoring game as Batch gets the job done.

No. 12: Cincinnati at Carolina

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    Line: Cincinnati at -3

    Why the Bengals Could Win: It starts with the play of the young defense, which looked dominant last week in the win over Baltimore. The Bengals will be going against rookie Jimmy Clausen Sunday as he makes his first start, and should have plenty of opportunities to create turnovers.

    Why the Panthers Could Win: The backfield duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart has done very little in the first two games of the season. If Carolina can find a way to run the ball, Clausen has a shot to win his first career start in the NFL.

    Prediction: The Bengals rediscover Cedric Benson and win easily on the road.

No. 11: Atlanta at New Orleans

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    Line: New Orleans at -4

    Why the Saints Could Win: The Saints defense has been very impressive in the first two wins of the season, and Drew Brees has put up solid numbers despite missing some throws he normally makes.  The Saints offense isn't clicking on full cylinders yet, which should scare the Falcons.

    Why the Falcons Could Win: Atlanta's secondary has played surprisingly well early, and the Falcons have the running backs and the system to move the ball while playing keep-away from Brees and the Saints' mighty "O".

    Prediction: The Saints start slow before finishing strong to win another close game.

No. 10: San Francisco at Kansas City

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    Line: San Francisco at -2.5

    Why the 49ers Could Win: Alex Smith showed something late in the heartbreaking loss to the Saints Monday night.  Smith displayed leadership, poise, and ability while helping the 49ers offense march down the field late.  If he plays well Sunday, San Francisco should be able to manufacture a big road win.

    Why the Chiefs Could Win: At some point, Matt Cassel is going to have to win a game by getting the passing game going in Kansas City.  The 49ers are difficult to run against, meaning Cassel might need to turn things around Sunday.  If the Chiefs defense keeps playing well, a 3-0 start to the season is a possibility.

    Prediction: The 49ers are a desperate team and play like it Sunday, recording their first win of the season.

No. 9: Detroit at Minnesota

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    Line: Minnesota at -11

    Why the Vikings Could Win: No matter how many receivers miss Sunday's game or how badly Brett Favre plays, the Vikings still have Adrian Peterson to lean on.  Despite getting inconsistent play from his O-Line, Peterson has run the ball effectively this season and should do so again Sunday against the Lions' front seven.

    Why the Lions Could Win: Jahvid Best is the Lions offense at the moment.  Fresh off a historic performance against the Eagles, Best brings his big-play ability to Minnesota.  If he can break some huge gains to keep the game close, the pressure could get to the Vikes.

    Prediction: Minnesota can't afford to start the season with three losses, and plays well Sunday to pull off a relatively easy win.

No. 8: Dallas at Houston

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    Line: Houston at -3

    Why the Texans Could Win: Houston's offense might just be more prolific than the mighty Colts' attack, thanks to the emergence of Arian Foster at running back and Jacoby Jones as the third wide receiver.  If Matt Schaub gets protection, he should easily surpass the 300-yard mark again.

    Why the Cowboys Could Win: Lost in the Texans' 2-0 start has been the amount of yards given up by the defense in the passing game.  The Cowboys can't run the ball, but they have the weapons to flourish against the Texans' secondary.

    Prediction: Don't put your money on Houston in this one.  The Cowboys right the ship, for the moment at least, by winning a shootout Sunday.

No. 7: Washington at St. Louis

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    Line: Washington at -3.5

    Why the Redskins Could Win: If last week was any indication, Donovan McNabb should be able to pick the Rams apart while the 'Skins running game continues to be a work in progress.  Washington should be able to cover the spread and then some Sunday.

    Why the Rams Could Win: The Rams haven't looked awful in the first two games of the season, and with Sam Bradford playing at home, the team could catch the veteran 'Skins napping.

    Prediction: The Redskins won't overlook the Rams and will win easily thanks to strong play from the defense, putting Bradford on his back all afternoon long.

No. 6: Philadelphia at Jacksonville

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    Line: Philadelphia at -3

    Why the Eagles Could Win: After saying Kevin Kolb would be the starter, Andy Reid changed his mind and said Michael Vick would start Sunday and going forward.  Vick's improvisational skills add another dimension to Philly's West Coast offense and should help the Eagles move up and down the field Sunday.

    Why the Jaguars Could Win: For all the talk about Vick, the Eagles barely managed to beat the Lions Sunday and looked awful on defense.  If Jacksonville can find a way to move the ball and avoid crucial turnovers, an upset is possible.

    Prediction: The Eagles win in a close game with Vick leading the way.

No. 5: Indianapolis at Denver

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    Line: Indianapolis at -5.5

    Why the Colts Could Win: The run defense is still a problem, but the offense isn't. The Colts controlled the ball and the game itself last week against the Giants, and should be able to do so Sunday against the Broncos defense.

    Why the Broncos Could Win: Kyle Orton has played very well to start the season, and Knowshon Moreno and the offense showed flashes of explosiveness against the Seahawks. If Denver can run the ball, the game could be close down the stretch.

    Prediction: The Colts have too much firepower for the Broncos, making them a safe pick on Sunday.

No. 4: San Diego at Seattle

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    Line: San Diego at -5.5

    Why the Chargers Could Win: The Chargers got an unexpected boost from Mike Tolbert last week after the injury to Ryan Mathews.  While Philip Rivers continues to figure things out in Vincent Jackson's absence, the Chargers running game should provide balance and allow San Diego to control the game.

    Why the Seahawks Could Win: Things always seem better at home, and Seattle could rediscover the magic of Week 1 against the Chargers, who are far from a perfect team at this point.  If the secondary can hold up against Rivers, the Seahawks should be able to at least hang around.

    Prediction: San Diego exploits Seattle's secondary and wins, but it won't be easy.

No. 3: Oakland at Arizona

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    Line: Arizona at -4

    Why the Cardinals Could Win: Arizona's defense misses Karlos Dansby and is coming off a thrashing at the hands of the Falcons.  Thankfully, the Raiders bring an anemic unit to Glendale Sunday with little threat of producing consistent drives up and down the field.

    Why the Raiders Could Win: Tom Cable is keeping the nation in suspense as he ponders his starting quarterback for Sunday's game.  The most likely choice is believed to be Bruce Gradkowski, who relieved Jason Campbell last week and helped the Raiders avoid a home loss to the Rams.  Oakland seems to move the ball with the steady Gradkowski under center, and Darren McFadden could have another monster game Sunday.

    Prediction: At this point, Derek Anderson and the Cardinals are anything but a lock.  The Raiders pull off a big road win behind McFadden and the tough defense.

No. 2: New York Jets at Miami

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    Line: Miami at -2

    Why the Dolphins Could Win: Chad Henne was far from perfect against the Vikings in last Sunday's win, but he played well early and has given the Dolphins steady leadership under center.  Henne should be able to rely on Brandon Marshall again this week, especially with Darrelle Revis likely to miss the game with his hamstring injury.  The Dolphins have one of the best defenses in the NFL and have been tremendous against the pass early in the season.

    Why the Jets Could Win: Coming off the best game of his young NFL career, Mark Sanchez looks to add another strong game to his resume.  It won't be easy, but if he gets help from Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets could easily pull off the minor upset.

    Prediction: The Dolphins manage to win in an ugly, low-scoring game.

No. 1: Green Bay at Chicago

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    Line: Green Bay at -3

    Why the Packers Could Win: Clay Matthews already has 12 tackles, six sacks, and a forced fumble after the first two games of the season.  Monday night, he should have a chance to improve upon those numbers against a struggling Chicago Bears offensive line.  If Aaron Rodgers can exploit Chicago's secondary, Green Bay should be able to avoid a minor upset in the Windy City.

    Why the Bears Could Win: Jay Cutler has been fantastic in the first two games of the season, sustaining drives and standing in against the pressure.  Matt Forte's involvement in the passing game has been huge for Mike Martz, and could prove to be the difference against the blitzing Packers Monday night.

    Prediction: The Bears shut down the run and force Aaron Rodgers to win the game by himself.  Chicago wins late in a close game and becomes the NFL's most surprising 3-0 team.