Week 2 Record: 9-7
Correct: Jets, Panthers, Giants, Patriots, Cardinals, Broncos, Ravens, Steelers, Eagles
Incorrect: Cowboys, Falcons, Titans, Texans, Rams, Chargers, Packers
Overall Record: 21-11
I stumbled a bit in week two, but an Eagles’ win on Monday night in the Windy City kept me over .500.
Here are my picks for week three:
Texans 20, Patriots 14
This was easily one of the hardest games to pick. If Jimmy Garoppolo was healthy, I’d have New England winning by one possession. In just his second NFL start, Garoppolo lit up the Dolphins for three touchdowns before suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the game. New England would go on to win, 31-24, but third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett only led one scoring drive in five chances. Houston comes in playing good football, holding Kansas City to just nine points last week. However, Houston is playing their first game on the road, in prime time, and against Bill Belichick. It’s scary to pick Houston, but I just don’t see Brissett putting up steady numbers against a Houston defense led by J.J Watt.
Ravens 24, Jaguars 19
Wasn’t this the year of Gus Bradley’s rebuild? Playing in a division that has been weak in recent years, Jacksonville was supposed to have all the pieces this year to make a postseason run. Blake Bortles at quarterback in his third year with offensive weapons like Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas, TJ Yeldon, and Chris Ivory. Plus, a defense loaded with top picks. But through two games, Jacksonville lost at home by a touchdown to Green Bay and followed that by falling behind 35-0 in San Diego, eventually losing by 22 after a pair of garbage time touchdowns. Baltimore showed resiliency last week, scoring 25 unanswered points to erase a 20-0 deficit to win in Cleveland. Baltimore starts 3-0.
Vikings 16, Panthers 24
The Vikings christened their new stadium with a huge win over division-rival Green Bay with Sam Bradford making his debut. Now, they face the defending NFC-Champion Panthers on the road. Carolina has won 14 straight home games dating back to 2014. The Vikings may have played inspired in front of their hometown fans under the bright lights last Sunday, but they will run into trouble (and a tougher defense) this week in Carolina. Minnesota’s defense does keep it close, though.
Cardinals 30, Bills 20
After being embarrassed in week one at home, Arizona finally looked like a Super Bowl contender in week two. Carson Palmer threw for three touchdowns and the Cardinals’ defense forced five turnovers in a dominating 40-7 win over Tampa Bay. Buffalo was scorched in their home opener by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets, now the Cardinals get their turn for another offensive explosion against the Ryan brothers.
Rams 7, Buccaneers 17
The Rams have yet to score a touchdown in two games, but held on to beat Seattle, 9-3, in their return to California last Sunday. They head to Tampa Bay on Sunday, where the Buccaneers are ready for their home opener after the aforementioned 33-point loss in Arizona in week two. In a defensive struggle, Jameis Winston out performs Case Keenum and the Bucs move to 2-1.
Steelers 34, Eagles 17
The Carson Wentz story line through two games has been a great one. Wentz has led back-to-back wins, but those victories came against teams that combined for nine wins and 23 losses in 2015. Philadelphia’s secondary struggled with Terrelle Pryor in week one and Eddie Royal on Monday night. All signs point towards Antonio Brown having a big day in Philly on Sunday, bouncing back after being held to just four catches in a win over Cincinnati last week. Steelers move to 3-0 on the heels of a big offensive day.
Chargers 24, Colts 23
If you take away the second half of the Chargers’ week one loss to Kansas City, San Diego’s defense has been superb. The Colts are 0-2 and Andrew Luck reverted back to making costly turnovers last week in Denver, throwing a pick-six and fumbling late in the 4th quarter that was returned for the game-sealing touchdown. San Diego’s offense has already lost Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead for the remainder of the season, but Phillip Rivers was still able to throw for four touchdowns with Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams in San Diego’s blowout of Jacksonville last Sunday.
Redskins 17, Giants 27
The Giants’ offense did not reach the end zone in week two, but their defense was able to hold Drew Brees and the Saints to just 13 points in the Meadowlands. Kirk Cousins has struggled the last two weeks, and cost the Redskins a win against Dallas last week with a crucial red zone interception. Eli Manning returns to form with a big day against Washington and the Giants take the NFC East lead with a 3-0 record.
Browns 9, Dolphins 21
Rookie Cody Kessler will become the Cleveland Browns’ 26th different starting quarterback since 1999 when he takes the field on Sunday in Miami. Kessler will also be the fifth different Browns’ starting signal-caller in the last five games dating back to last season. Like Cleveland, Miami is also 0-2, but they will be given the upper hand at home against a quarterback making his debut. The Browns have lost 11 of their last 12 road games.
Broncos 13, Bengals 17
I’m giving the Bengals the advantage in this one. Broncos’ quarterback Trevor Siemian has won his first two games, but has thrown four interceptions to one touchdown in those two games, averaging 222 yards per contest. Now, Siemian goes on the road for the first time as a starter, and Paul Brown Stadium should be rocking, looking to rattle the young quarterback into a few mistakes. If Cincinnati can avoid the big turnovers that usually lead to Denver winning games, they can hold on to win this one by single digits. In two games, Andy Dalton leads the NFL in passing yards despite the absence of Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert and the loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason.
Lions 20, Packers 24
Since 2013, Aaron Rodger is 4-0 at home in the month of September, with 10 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Last season with limited weapons, Rodgers was still able to lead Green Bay to a win in Detroit on a game-winning Hail Mary heave on the last play of the game. With Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson healthy, Rodgers has a big day in the Packers’ home opener. Detroit’s secondary was shredded by Andrew Luck in week one, and blew a lead against Marcus Mariota last week. Rodgers gives them all they can handle in more at Lambeau Field this Sunday.
Raiders 23, Titans 16
Derek Carr and the Raiders lost what many (myself included) thought would be a convincing win last week against the Atlanta Falcons. The Raiders secondary was bruised by Matt Ryan to the tune of nearly 400 passing yards and three touchdowns. They go up against a tougher defense in Tennessee, but they can use the sturdy rushing duo of Latavius Murray and DeAndre Washington on top of their passing attack to pull out a win in Nashville this weekend.
49ers 10, Seahawks 13
Seattle’s offense has managed just 15 points in two games this season after being picked by many to reach their third Super Bowl in four years. Their defense has only allowed 19 points, and return to the ’12th Man’ where they usually play better. I’m hoping with this pick that Russell Wilson returns to how he played at the conclusion of last season, but I think the Seahawks’ defense leads the way in a low-scoring victory for Seattle.
Jets 24, Chiefs 14
Another tough game to pick, but I’m going with the hot hand. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall combined for 227 receiving yards and Matt Forte ran for 100 yards and three touchdowns as the Jets put up 37 points in Buffalo last Thursday. Although the Chiefs play better at Arrowhead, I just can’t get over their poor offensive showing in Houston last Sunday. The Jets’ offense doesn’t put up those same numbers like they did against Buffalo, but their defense holds Kansas City to 14 points and the Jets move to 2-1.
Bears 10, Cowboys 22
Can you script a worse start for Chicago? They lost in Houston to a good Texans club, then were embarrassed on Monday night at home against a rookie quarterback and the Philadelphia Eagles. On top of that, quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a thumb injury that looks likely to keep him out multiple weeks. With Brian Hoyer at the helm, I don’t give the Bears much of a chance on the road against the Cowboys, who are coming off a big win in Washington last Sunday.
Falcons 34, Saints 37
As usual, Brees and the Saints will score a bunch of points when they return home to Louisiana. I expect a shootout between Brees and Ryan, who have combined for 1,416 passing yards and 10 touchdowns through two weeks. I see the Saints coming out on top by a field goal, but with these two offensive juggernauts it could come down to who has the ball last.