NFL Picks Week 3: Final Predictions for Every NFL Game
The NFL season is in full swing.
Although it seems like a long season, 16 games doesn't leave teams too many opportunities. Getting ahead or falling behind early can be detrimental to a team's playoff chances.
Week 3 is very important, a "make-or-break" of sorts.
Making the playoffs after starting the season 0-2 is difficult. In fact, teams that go that road have only a 12 percent chance of making the postseason. And starting 0-3 makes it virtually impossible. Since the NFL adopted the six-team-per-conference playoff model, only three have gone into the postseason after starting 0-3, and none have won the Super Bowl.
There is a sense of urgency for the winless teams this week. A "win or go home" mentality that leaves fans, coaches and players alike feeling the panic.
According to the predictions, some teams will sink to the bottom of the ocean this week. Let's take a look.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) vs. Carolina Panthers (0-2)
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This game can be dubbed the "battle of the rookies." Blaine Gabbert will get his first start in the NFL for the Jaguars, while Cam Newton will look to get his first win.
Newton is off to a fantastic rookie season. He has thrown for over 400 yards in each of his first two games, totaling 854 yards. That's the good news. The bad news: He has four interceptions and three touchdowns while losing both games.
With Blaine Gabbert getting the call in Jacksonville, Newton has a great opportunity to win over his home fans by giving them their first win of the season, and just the fourth win in two years.
Gabbert gets the start after Luke McCown's dismal Week 2 performance against the Jets. Gabbert, the Jags 10th overall pick in the draft, was a fantastic quarterback at Missouri. He was hyped up entering the draft, and many experts expected him to go No. 1 instead of Cam Newton.
Gabbert will look to prove why he should have been the No. 1 pick in the draft, but he won't have enough to work with. Gabbert has virtually no prime targets with a busted up receiving core in Jacksonville.
I look for Newton to have another good game and seal the victory, preventing the 0-3 hole.
Panthers 27, Jags 13
New England Patriots (2-0) vs. Buffalo Bills (2-0)
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It was obvious the Bills were improving heading into 2011, but nobody expected them to go 2-0 to start the season.
Harvard graduate QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been fantastic, proving many doubters wrong. He has found multiple targets and driven the Bills down the field in key moments. He is anchored by the dual running threat of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. Jackson has been very impressive, also exceeding expectations.
The question won't be the Bills ability to score points. They have a very potent offense that has racked up 79 points in their first two games. The high scoring is likely to continue with the Patriots secondary being increasingly suspect—they gave up 422 yards to Chad Henne in Week 1 and 378 yards to Philip Rivers in Week 2.
Fitz could be without two key receivers this week; Stevie Johnson and Roscoe Parrish are both questionable with injuries.
Brady on the other hand has targets all over the field, he makes unknown receivers look like future Hall of Famers. The Bills will need a miracle to stop Tom Brady, even without one of his star tight ends. Aaron Hernandez is out two-to-four weeks with a knee injury.
The game will come down to the wire, but the Bills will fail to break their 15-game losing streak against the Patriots this week. Patriots improve to 3-0.
Patriots 31, Bills 26
Detroit Lions (2-0) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
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Is there any team more exciting than the Detroit Lions?
This team was a virtual guaranteed loss every week for the past five years. They were absolutely pathetic on both sides of the ball. America found themselves asking the same question every year: "Why the heck am I watching the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving?"
Well times have changed in the Motor City! The Detroit Lions are, for the first time since the '90s, relevant contenders.
They have their flaws, though. The Lions struggle to stop the run, and don't have a potent running attack; but Mathew Stafford is climbing up the ladder and showing us why he is an elite NFL quarterback.
What makes Stafford so great? Two words: Calvin Johnson.
Johnson disrupts defenses like few receivers in recent memory. His combination of size, speed, athleticism and hands makes him a threat in any area of the field. His favorite place just happens to bet the endzone.
But Johnson doesn't just create for himself, he opens things up for the likes of Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and Jahvid Best, making Stafford's life much easier.
The defense ain't bad either. They create turnovers and punish opposing quarterbacks.
I look for Peterson to have a big day on the ground, but it won't be enough. The Lions go into Minnesota and seek some revenge for the past 12 years, improving their record to 3-0. The Vikings will be in the impossible 0-3 hole.
Lions 33, Vikings 20
Houston Texans (2-0) vs. New Orleans Saints (1-1)
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The biggest story surrounding this game is Arian Foster's health. Foster was limited in practice Thursday, and it is unlikely the 2010 rushing champion will play on Sunday.
Fortunately for the Texans, they have second-year RB Ben Tate to take the carries. Tate is coming off back-to-back 100-plus yard games and sits third in the NFL in rushing yards (219). Tate is also first in attempts (47), first in rushing first downs (16), and first in carries of 10 yards or more (eight).
The Texans defense is also first in the NFL. They are leading in points allowed as well as yardage allowed. That is a miraculous turnaround from last years historically bad season. But this week will be a much bigger test for Wade Phillips' team.
Regardless, this is an upset pick for the week. The Texans will come out strong and make the Saints play from behind. The pressure will get to Brees and he will throw his first INT.
After a poor game against Miami, the Texans offensive line will bounce back and prevent the pressure from getting to Matt Schaub.
Texans 22, Saints 20
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
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Honestly, did anybody expect Andy Dalton to be this good, this quickly? I'm not sure people even realize how great he has played. I mean, has been really, really good so far this season.
I have to be honest, I expected the Bengals to win two or three games and enter the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Dalton is the future of this organization. Last week against the Broncos, the former Horned Frog threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception. Before coming out of the game due to injury in Week 1, Dalton was 10-of-15 for 81 yards and a touchdown. Not too shabby for the young man.
This week he will be without wide receiver Jordan Shipley, but he will still find his target. The Bengals will steal the victory late and improve to 2-1.
Bengals 23, Niners 20
New York Giants (1-1) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
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The Giants really can't catch a break.
They started the season with a depleted secondary thanks to multiple season-ending injuries including rookie CB Prince Amukamara. This week the offense took a blow after Domenick Hixon went down with a season-ending knee injury for the second consecutive season.
I'm sure Tom Coughlin really wishes he would have held on to Steve Smith. Smith just so happens to be on the other side of this matchup, and I look for him to have a good game.
Vick's status is uncertain after his Week 2 concussion. Whether it's him, Vince Young, or Mike Kafka under center, the Eagles win this game.
I think the Eagles will punish the Giants poor secondary and limit Eli Manning's production on the other side of the ball. They will also need to do a good job of preventing the Giants from establishing their notorious power running game.
The Eagles win this game and improve to 2-1. They should be 2-0 entering Sunday's matchup, but the Falcons were given the opportunity for a Week 2 comeback after Vick went down with the concussion.
Eagles 33, Giants 20
Miami Dolphins (0-2) vs. Cleveland Browns (1-1)
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The Miami Dolphins' season is already over. With the Jets, Patriots and Bills in their division, they have no chance of making the postseason. If they were smart, they would swallow their pride and enter the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
But they aren't, and they won't.
They will continue to have hopes, and continue to fail. Their defense has regressed after last season's top 10 finish, Chad Henne is a hit or miss, with an emphasis on the miss, and Reggie Bush is about as much of a starting running back as Steve Slaton.
The Browns will establish the run and Colt McCoy will prove why people had high hopes for him this season. He will have his breakout game this week and Peyton Hillis will have his first 100 yards performance of the season.
The Dolphins will find themselves in that unfortunate 0-3 hole while the Browns improve to 2-1 in what should be a great AFC North race.
Browns 26, Dolphins 18
Denver Broncos (1-1) vs. Tennessee Titans (1-1)
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The Titans are coming off an improbable Week 2 upset of the Baltimore Ravens. They are under new leadership with a new head coach and new quarterback. Matt Hasslebeck has been great for the Titans thus far.
Kenny Britt has been a huge part of Hasslebeck's success. He is really establishing himself as an elite wide out and the Broncos have noticed. With few other prime targets, they will likely set out to shut Britt down. This will open up the game for Chris Johnson.
Johnson has been poor so far this season, failing to get things going after his contract dispute. Time for Johnson to get back to reality and prove why he deserved to become the highest paid running back this season.
The Broncos have failed to stop the run in their first two games. They are ranked 28th in the NFL in stopping the run, allowing 131 yards per game. Johnson is sure to breakout this week.
And no, Tim Tebow won't take any snaps, so get over it Broncos fans.
Titans 21, Broncos 16
Baltimore Ravens (1-1) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-2)
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Sam Bradford is probably sitting in a film room right now shaking like a shelter dog on a vet table.
Don't worry Sam, your not the only one watching the Ravens Week 1 annihilation of Ben Roethlisberger and shaking. Nobody is fooled by their Week 2 hangover loss to the Titans. The Ravens are scary, especially on defense.
Terell Suggs was silly good in Week 1, sacking Big Ben three times, forcing two fumbles.
Bradford will be panicked in the pocket on Sunday, forcing throws and making mistakes. He will have very little chance to throw the deep ball and he won't want to sit in the pocket long.
The good news: Bradford is a great mobile quarterback. He is very accurate outside of the pocket, and he will likely look to use that to his advantage. But that doesn't mean he will have a good game and get the Rams their first victory of 2011.
The Rams still have a ways to go before they are contenders, but luckily for them, and 0-3 start isn't so bad thanks to an absolutely shocking NFC West.
Ravens bounce back and win big in the Rams' house.
Ravens 27, Rams 10
Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) vs. San Diego Chargers (1-1)
You have to feel sorry for Todd Haley and the Chiefs. After a huge improvement in their 10-6 season last year, the Chiefs have gotten of to one of the worst starts in NFL history.
In their first two games, they have been outscored 89-10. That is truly astonishing. I mean, WAC schools could put up better competition in the SEC. This is just sad.
They go into Week 3 without their best defensive and offensive players, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles respectively. Again, you have to feel sorry for them.
On the other side of the matchup, the Chargers are coming off a 35-21 loss to the Patriots. The timing couldn't be worse for the Chiefs. Philip Rivers is going to go to work, and the Chargers defense is going to prove their worth.
The Chiefs stole the division from the Chargers last season. Time for revenge.
Chargers 38, Chiefs 13
New York Jets (2-0) vs. Oakland Raiders (1-1)
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Why is the feature photo that of a kicker, you ask?
Simple, Sebastian Janikowski will be the key to this match-up. This is another upset pick for this week.
The Oakland Raiders are coming of a tiring loss against Buffalo. They will look to rebound this week against an over-hyped, overrated Jets team.
The Raiders will use Darren McFadden and Michael Bush to keep the Jets on their toes, then allow Jason Campbell to fire the deep ball over the top. This should be exciting to watch.
The Jets will be starting a new center in place of injured All-Pro Nick Mangold. That will increase their inability to run the football. Mark Sanchez will be forced to do too much and come up short.
Janikowski won't be hitting any 63-yard field goals anytime soon, but he will put the ball through the uprights four times in this one, including the game winner.
Raiders 26, Jets 24
Green Bay Packers (2-0) vs. Chicago Bears (1-1)
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This is an intriguing game that could easily see an upset. A rematch of last year's NFL Championship, this game could be the game of the week.
The Bears really struggled to protect Jay Cutler in the first two weeks of the season. He was beaten up last week and even voiced his concern on the constant pressure to the pocket. The Saints sacked Cutler six times in a 30-13 beat down.
It is impossible for Culter to be at ease in the pocket this week, and the likes of Clay Matthews won't make him feel any better.
Aaron Rodgers will have a big game and find targets all over the field while confusing the Bears defense. Look for a smash mouth game with heavy hits and big tempers.
Packers 28, Bears 23
Atlanta Falcons (1-1) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
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The Falcons are lucky they aren't 0-2. If Michael Vick doesn't leave that game in Week 2, there is no way the Falcons win. The Eagles outclassed them and were the better team.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons are overrated and that will be proven further this week in Tampa. Turner should have another 100 yard rushing performance, but Ryan will struggle to find the endzone and they will settle for field goals in the redzone.
The Bucs, led by Josh Freeman, really need this home victory. This is an important divisional game that could turn out to be huge come December.
Look for a low scoring affair in which the Bucs outscore the Falcons in the second half. Freeman will have another great fourth quarter and seal the victory for the Bucs. Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount will have a great game as well.
Buccaneers 24, Falcons 20
Arizona Cardinals (1-1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (0-2)
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As one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks are a favorite in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. They are likely to win between one and three games and lock up a top three pick, if not No. 1.
Kevin Kolb, Beanie Wells and Larry Fitzgerald should have big games against the Seahawks' poor defense and the Birds defense should finally register a respectable result.
The Seahawks have scored 17 points in two games, including zero points in a shutout loss last week to the Steelers.
The NFC West is really depressing.
Cardinals 28, Seahawks 12
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) vs. Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
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Sunday Night Football is going to get ugly this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers head to Indianapolis where they will look for another shutout.
Unlike the Chiefs, there is no reason to feel sorry for the Colts. They have had plenty of attention and glory in Manning's reign as quarterback. His absence further confirms that the Colts are nothing without him.
Nothing apart from a two win football team. This Colts squad has no chance this season, and as Grantland columnist Bill Simmons said last week, they could be the only team in the NFL smart enough to forfeit the season and enter the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
Can you imagine? Andrew Luck under Manning's wing for a few years? Learning how to become an incredible NFL quarterback, much like Aaron Rodgers under Brett Favre.
After averaging just 3.6 yards per carry in the first two weeks, look for Rashard Mendenhall to have a breakout game against the Colts. He will likely have his first 100 yard performance of the season and could find the endzone more than once.
James Harrison and the defense will have some things to say as well.
Get ready Indianapolis, you're in for a long night.
Steelers 36, Colts 15
Washington Redskins (2-0) vs Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
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Tony Romo will likely play with his cracked ribs and punctured lung, but will be without his biggest threat, wide receiver Miles Austin.
Romo is going to be cautious in the pocket and not have much chance for the deep ball. The Redskins have already vowed to attack Romo and aim for his midsection.
The Redskins are sick of losing. They have a fantastic front seven and their secondary is improving. But it's the offense that has been so intriguing this season. Nobody expected Rex Grossman to be good, and he has been great, along with running back Tim Hightower.
Grossman has looked comfortable and confident and has made this throws. He will face a weak Cowboys secondary, but he has to act fast, as the Cowboys will be bringing the heat from the guys up front.
I see Grossman out-dueling the hampered Romo and stealing the Cowboys home opener to remain atop the NFC East at 3-0. A remarkable turnaround for Mike Shanahan's men.
Redskins 24, Cowboys 20