Another week, another tie, and for just the second time since 1997, there was at least one tie in consecutive weeks. For the first time ever, a player retired at halftime. There were some astounding special teams blunders, from this to that, and a perfectly-executed fake punt. Sacksonville got its revenge against the Patriots, the Buccaneers continue to defy all expectations by pulling off another stunnning upset, and the Giants offensive line remains terrible, and so does my record, at 16-14-2, so this is a redemptive weekend for me, and here are my picks.
Jets vs Browns: It seems that kickers remain an issue for many teams, and Zane Gonzalez remains no exception, as he lost his job to rookie Greg Joseph. The Browns have tantalized themselves so far this season, but I don’t think their mistakes will cost them a victory against the Jets. I’ll pick the Browns to finally win a game for the first time in what would be 635 days.
Packers vs Redskins: The Packers nearly lost thanks to typical Mike McCarthy late-game mismanagement and a Clay Matthews penalty that has everyone confused. With one of the worst offensive lines in the league so far and an unimposing receiving corps, Alex Smith and the Redskins won’t be able to match Aaron Rodgers and his band of bad boys. The Packers will remain atop the NFC North at 2-0-1 after this one.
Saints vs Falcons: Atlanta defeated the Panthers for the fifth time in their last six match-ups, and the Saints narrowly avoided a loss to the Browns. Drew Brees has a career 95.7 passer rating against the Dirty Birds, and Michael Thomas averages 103 yards per game against them, and that combination will be the difference in this game. The Saints won’t have to press the panic button, and they’ll even their record at 1-1-1.
Broncos vs Ravens: Another battle of inept quarterbacks. Baltimore’s defense has allowed the fifth-lowest passer rating this season so far, and they could push that even lower after facing Case Keenum. The Ravens will take this one.
Bengals vs Panthers: Cincinnati has its third 2-0 start in the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era, and Dalton is on pace for an MVP-caliber season. These teams have met only once in the Dalton-Newton eras, back in 2014 when they managed a 37-37 tie. Carolina has allowed the 11th-highest passer rating against this year and will be facing an elite rushing defense, meaning Cam Newton will have to test a secondary that has allowed just 6.4 yards per attempt. The Bengals will start at 3-0 and find themselves Kings of the North for another week, at least.
Giants vs Texans: Eli Manning was sacked six times on Sunday night, and Deshaun Watson is still shaking off the rust. I am not one to overreact, but teams that start 0-2 almost never recover. In a battle of desperate teams, Lamar Miller will have a field day against a Giants rush defense that is allowing a gaudy 5.2 yards per carry, and the Texans will put an early end to the season for New York.
Titans vs Jaguars: Tennessee won both games against the Jaguars last year, but that doesn’t change the fact that Marcus Mariota ranks 38th in passer rating this year, and against Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, that could look like a positive entering the game. The Jaguars will start 3-0.
49ers vs Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes is on pace to throw for nearly 4,700 yards, 80 touchdowns, and post a 143.3 passer rating, which would be the greatest single season for any athlete ever. Yes, that’s not going to happen, but the 49ers have allowed a 99.0 passer rating against, and the Chiefs pass defense is even worse. In an Arrowhead Stadium shootout that may be more boisterous than the fans, the Chiefs will win.
Raiders vs Dolphins: We all know that Khalil Mack has done more by himself this season with the Bears than the Raiders defense has done as a whole, and that includes having the second-worst rush defense in football. Going against a resurgent Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake, the Raiders will falter, and the Dolphins will remain in first place in the AFC East.
Bills vs Vikings: This might be my shortest game-based annotation. No need to go in-depth, as the Bills are favored to lose by 16.5, and will lose by even more.
Colts vs Eagles: Carson Wentz is back, and the Colts are still struggling to find an identity. Against a team like the Eagles, the formula of over-relying on Andrew Luck won’t work. Philly recovers from a loss against Tampa Bay and sends Indianapolis packing.
Chargers vs Rams: Battle: Los Angeles. The Rams look every bit like the team they were envisioned to be at the start of the season, and the Chargers nearly faltered against Buffalo. The Rams will shut down Philip Rivers and Co.
Bears vs Cardinals: Khalil Mack has been a one-man wrecking crew with the Bears, even more so than what he was as a Raider. As a result, the Bears lead the league in sacks, and against an average offensive line, this game could be a blowout. The Bears will roar their way to a victory in the desert.
Cowboys vs Seahawks: Ezekiel Elliott against the 23rd-ranked rush defense will prove to be a lopsided affair. The Seahawks’ fall from grace has been scrutinized intensely, and no amount of Russell Wilson heroics can save them. The Cowboys will win this game in a minor upset, and Seattle will fall to 0-3.
Patriots vs Lions: There’s more commotion surrounding this game than any other this week. Bill Belichick has a new book with vivid details, and he will also be coaching against former fellow defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. New England will win this game easily despite the circumstances, because we all know how the Patriots have constantly thrived despite dealing with adverse circumstances.
Steelers vs Buccaneers: There are reports that Mike Tomlin has lost the locker room, and that notion was solidified by Antonio Brown’s actions. With the Bengals, Ravens and Browns all likely to win their games, the Steelers cannot afford to start 0-2-1. But with the turmoil, the fact that the loss of Ryan Shazier has proven they cannot defend, I see the Buccaneers winning in Tampa Bay and doing the exact opposite of what I thought they would do in the first three weeks of the season.