NFL Predictions Week 3: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Predictions
Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8.
It's a number seared into the minds of the Broncos, the final score of the shellacking Denver received in Super Bowl XLVIII.
This week, the Broncos get an opportunity for a measure of revenge Sunday afternoon, when they travel to Seattle to face a Seahawks team that was just shocked in San Diego by the Chargers.
That Super Bowl rematch may be the biggest game of Week 3, but it's hardly the only one worth watching.
Here's a look at how the National Lead and Division Lead Writers here at Bleacher Report predict that Week 3 will play out, from upsets to blowouts and the best individual showings.
Upset of the Week
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5) over Atlanta Falcons (3 votes)
Update: Falcons 56, Buccaneers 14
As has been the case every week this season, there were any number of games that received votes for upset of the week.
Nine, in fact.
However, we're going back to the well with our Week 1 pick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who face the Falcons in Atlanta on Thursday night.
Of course, that Week 1 pick didn't go so well. Not much has for the 0-2 Buccaneers, who have been ravaged by injuries on defense and just lost to the lowly St. Louis Rams, starting third-stringer Austin Davis under center.
Head coach Lovie Smith told Jenna Laine of Sports Talk Florida that he realizes the Buccaneers badly need to "steal one" in Atlanta.
Three of our panelists believe the Bucs will do just that against a Falcons team with all kinds of problems of their own defensively.
Others receiving votes: St. Louis Rams (+1.5) over Dallas Cowboys (2 votes), Washington Redskins (+7) over Philadelphia Eagles (2 votes), Buffalo Bills (-1) over San Diego Chargers (2 votes), New York Jets (-1.5) over Chicago Bears (1 vote), Arizona Cardinals (+2) over San Francisco 49ers (1 vote), Minnesota Vikings (+9.5) over New Orleans Saints (1 vote), Denver Broncos (+5) over Seattle Seahawks (1 vote), Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5) over Carolina Panthers (1 vote), 1 voter abstained
Blowout of the Week
Winner: New England Patriots over Oakland Raiders (13 votes)
On Jan. 19, 2002, the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders battled on the snowy field at Foxboro Stadium in the AFC divisional round.
It was a contest that would go down in NFL infamy as the "Tuck Rule Game."
Charles Woodson's strip that wasn't of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a play that Raiders fans still seethe over all these years later. It helped propel the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXVI and the team's first championship.
Since then, the two teams have gone in very different directions. The Patriots have become a dynasty, winners of two more Super Bowls since. The Raiders haven't made the playoffs at all since getting blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Now, with a Raiders team that Woodson himself told Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News "sucks" traveling to New England yet again, the vast majority of our voters don't think any last-second controversies will be in the offing.
More like a pasting that Elmer the Bull would be proud of.
Others receiving votes: New Orleans Saints over Minnesota Vikings (2 votes)
Winner: J.J. Watt vs. New York Giants offensive line (5 votes)
To say that things haven't gone especially well for the New York Giants in 2014 is akin to saying that things didn't go especially well for the RMS Titanic on its first voyage.
Among the legion of problems that have plagued the G-Men through two games is the abysmal play of quarterback Eli Manning, whose 69.2 passer rating ranks 30th among 32 NFL starters.
Granted, Manning has been terrible on just about every level a quarterback can be terrible on, but it hasn't helped that the offensive line play in front of him has been spotty. At this rate, nothing will be left of Manning in Week 8 but a red spot.
This week, all that Giants O-line has to do is attempt to contain the force of nature that is Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. In the opinion of our voters, it ain't happening.
Run, Eli! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!
Others receiving votes: Chicago Bears wide receivers vs. New York Jets cornerbacks (3 votes), New England Patriots defense vs. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (3 votes), Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers vs. Detroit Lions secondary (2 votes), Indianapolis Colts passing game vs. Jacksonville Jaguars pass defense (1 vote), Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Ryan Kalil vs. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cam Thomas (1 vote)
Sleeper QB Performance
Winner: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (4 votes)
With Robert Griffin III sidelined indefinitely by a dislocated ankle, it will be third-year pro Kirk Cousins under center this week when the Redskins travel to face the Philadelphia Eagles.
After leading the Redskins to a blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2, talk radio in the nation's capital lit up with praise for Cousins. Many suggested that Cousins gives Washington a better chance to win than even a healthy RG3.
Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports, however, cautioned against reading too much into that one game:
Good quarterbacks should look sharp against bad opponents, and Cousins was exactly that. His first pass of the day went for a touchdown, and he completed 11 consecutive passes after that. When it was over, he was 22 of 33 for 250 yards and two touchdowns, and talk of the "Kirk Cousins Era" was in overdrive before the sun had set on the Redskins' first victory of the season.
But here's the thing: Are we all comfortable with the idea that Cousins is a better choice than RG3? There's the anecdotal "every fan base loves the backup more than the starter" conversations but those are usually short-lived once said backup graduates to the top of the depth chart.
If our panel is correct and Cousins plays well this week against the Eagles, the chances of a full-blown quarterback controversy in D.C. are only going to increase.
Others receiving votes: Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns (3 votes), Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (3 votes), EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills (2 votes), Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (1 vote), Geno Smith, New York Jets (1 vote), Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 vote)
Sleeper RB Performance
Winner: Donald Brown, San Diego Chargers (4 votes)
The running back position was decimated by injuries across the NFL in Week 2. Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs, Knowshon Moreno of the Miami Dolphins and Ryan Mathews of the San Diego Chargers all went down with significant maladies.
Mathews will be replaced this week against the Buffalo Bills by sixth-year veteran Donald Brown, who joined the Bolts in free agency this offseason.
According to Ricky Henne of the team's website, the Chargers are confident that the 27-year-old can pick up the slack against the Bills:
From the front office to the coaches and down to the players, everyone is confident in Donald Brown with Ryan Mathews expected to miss some time. That confidence isn’t just limited to Brown however, as Head Coach Mike Mccoy says he has complete confidence in all 53 players on the roster. As far as the run game goes, it isn’t just on Brown to pick up the slack; the whole team needs to act as one to click. That includes the offensive line dominating the line of scrimmage while the wide receivers block downfield. It also means Philip Rivers gets into a rhythm throwing the ball to keep the Bills off balance. Then there are the other two running backs on the roster, Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver, who will also play their roles. Still, all eyes will surely be on Brown, and McCoy is comfortable with the expected uptick in touches for number 34. In fact, he compared it to the recent situation of Rich Ohrnberger having to replace Nick Hardwick at the center position.
Our experts agree, although it's worth pointing out that the Bills have been stout against the run this season, ranking fifth in the league at 83 yards per game.
Others receiving votes: Joique Bell, Detroit Lions (3 votes), Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots (2 votes), Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (1 vote), Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens (1 vote), Chris Ivory, New York Jets (1 vote), Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings (1 vote), Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (1 vote), Shane Vereen, New England Patriots (1 vote)
Sleeper WR Performance
Winner: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (3 votes)
In some ways, it may not exactly be accurate to call Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams a "sleeper." After all, the rookie already had a coming-out party of sorts in last week's come-from-behind win over the New York Jets.
Adams' five catches for 50 yards paled next to the career night turned in by Jordy Nelson against the Jets (nine catches, 209 yards, one score), but Adams drew praise from head coach Mike McCarthy, according to Tyler Dunne of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
"I thought Davante really stepped up," McCarthy said. "You talk about a young man taking advantage of his opportunities; he made clutch catches, strong after the catch."
Adams appears to have surpassed Jarrett Boykin as Green Bay's third wideout, and our voters expect the former Fresno State star to keep the good times rolling against a suspect Detroit Lions secondary.
Others receiving votes: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (2 votes), Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys (2 votes), Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (2 votes), DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (2 votes), Santonio Holmes, Chicago Bears (1 vote), Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (1 vote), Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars (1 vote), Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 vote)
Sleeper TE Performance
Winner: Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (6 votes)
OK, it's probably fair to say that Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles is no longer a "sleeper."
As Marc Sessler of NFL.com pointed out, if the first two games of the 2014 campaign are any indication, Ertz is definitely awake:
Coming out of Monday night's win over the Colts, Ertz leads all tight ends and wideouts with 23.3 yards per reception among players with at least three catches.
Chip Kelly's offense thrives on chunk plays while making its money through the air by getting players open in space. After developing down the stretch last season as a matchup-beater, Ertz is emerging as one of the game's bright young playmakers at the tight end position.
Our voters are on board. After all, the guy does smell terrific.
Others receiving votes: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (3 votes), Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (2 votes), Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (1 vote), Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins (1 vote), Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks (1 vote), Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (1 vote)
Best Defensive Performance
Winner: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans (9 votes)
Yes, J.J. Watt has been the panel's pick in this spot every week this season.
Yes, J.J. Watt didn't manage so much as a single tackle in last week's blowout win over the Oakland Raiders.
However, how many other defensive ends caught touchdown passes last week?
In fact, after Watt made his first career touchdown grab, head coach Bill O'Brien told Jordan Raanan of NJ.com that the Texans will make more use of Watt as a goal-line tight end moving forward.
He makes quarterbacks cry. He catches touchdowns.
If J.J. Watt had been tasked with taking down Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, the movie would have been four minutes long.
Others receiving votes: Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins (2 votes), Thomas Davis, OLB, Carolina Panthers (1 vote), Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers (1 vote), Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots (1 vote), Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks (1 vote)