With two losses in the first two weeks, a number of high-profile teams are perilously close to pushing the panic button in Week 3. The Seahawks, Ravens, Colts, and Eagles were all highly touted entering the new season, but all four have yet to enter the win column. Will the third time be the charm for these faltering contenders, or will they hit a hat-trick of losses to open the year?
Let’s do a brief breakdown of those pivotal games, together with the rest of Week 3’s complete 16-game slate as we pick which teams will come out on top against the spread. Also, don’t miss our top five Week 3 sleeper candidates, which you can find here.
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2015 NFL Week 3 Picks
Thursday, September 24
Washington Redskins (+4) at New York Giants (8:25 PM ET)
While the Redskins have looked impressive, particularly with an improved running game and defense, it’s still tough to trust Cousins’ ability to play mistake-free football, especially on the road.
Writer’s Prediction: The Giants get their first win of the year, 24-17, as they cover (-4) at home.
Sunday, September 27
Atlanta Falcons (-1.5) at Dallas Cowboys (1:00 PM ET)
Although Atlanta hasn’t been all too convincing in its two wins – its margin of victory is a combined six points – the banged-up Cowboys will find it very tough to cope without Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Randy Gregory and possibly Jason Witten.
With the Dallas running game (averaging just 3.4 yards per carry) struggling big time, it’s hard to see a Brandon Weeden-Terrance Williams combo outdueling Matt Ryan and Julio Jones (22 catches, 276 yards, two touchdowns), who has been unplayable through two games.
Writer’s Prediction: Atlanta (-1.5) deals Dallas a heavy 31-10 loss in Jerry World.
Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) at Tennessee Titans (1:00 PM ET)
Can things get much worse for the Colts? Andrew Luck, who was a popular MVP candidate this season, has five interceptions (and a lost fumble) against just three touchdowns in two games. He also hasn’t been helped by his running game and defense, both of which have been underwhelming.
Don’t overreact too much, though. Andrew Luck is still a terrific quarterback and this Colts team is too good to go 0-3. After going up against the very tough defenses of the Bills and Jets, his offense should have a much more favorable matchup against a markedly mediocre Titans D.
Writer’s Prediction: The Colts (-3.5) get their first win of the year, 31-21.
Oakland Raiders (+4) at Cleveland Browns (1:00 PM ET)
Everyone wants to believe Johnny Football has turned the corner, but it’s not quite time to back him by more than a field goal against anyone, not even the Oakland Raiders. Remember, while Manziel beat a rookie quarterback last week for his first career win as a starter, Derek Carr and the Raiders accomplished the more impressive feat by hanging 37 points on a solid Ravens defense.
Writer’s Prediction: The Raiders (+4) rock Cleveland with a 28-14 road win.
Cincinnati Bengals (+3) at Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM ET)
The Bengals have been dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage early on this season, and should be able to hold their own against a Ravens that is also formidable in the trenches. The Bengals also have an ace in the hole with A.J. Green, who has torched a subpar Ravens secondary for over 130 receiving yards in two of his last three meetings with Baltimore.
The Bengals are 4-1 in their last five meetings with the Ravens.
Writer’s Prediction: The Bengals (+3) beat the Ravens again, 21-17.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+14) at New England Patriots (1:00 PM ET)
The Patriots made quite a statement by dropping 40 points on the road against Buffalo and the so-called best defense in the league. The Pats offense has simply been a machine, with Brady completing close to 70 percent of his passes with a 7:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio through two games.
However, the Pats simply haven’t been reliable covering double-digit spreads. In the last three years, they’ve been favored by 10 or more points 10 times, and have gone just 2-8 against the spread in those games.
The Jags aren’t looking too bad either. The Blake Bortles-Allen Robinson connection produced two touchdowns against Miami, while the defense got the better of the Dolphins offense.
Writer’s Prediction: The Jags lose 34-24, but cover as +14 underdogs.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (1:00 PM ET)
Just two weeks into the season, the Saints are already in bad shape. They’re 0-2; their defense still stinks; their running game has been nonexistent (3.4 yards per carry); and their star quarterback Drew Brees has an ailing shoulder.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have a solid defense and a do-it-all quarterback in Cam Newton that’s been propping up a subpar receiving corps and so-so ground game.
With Brees’ health a major concern, the Saints will need some divine intervention to escape Carolina with a win.
Writer’s Prediction: The Panthers go 3-0 with a 24-10 win over the Saints.
Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5) at New York Jets (1:00 PM ET)
After stifling the struggling Colts in Indianapolis en route to victory on Monday night, the 2-0 Jets have another favorable matchup against the 0-2 Eagles. Philly’s offensive line has been horrific through two games, which is why its running game is producing a pitiful 2.1 yards per carry, dead last in the NFL. They don’t stand a chance to gain any more against a dominant Jets D-line.
While the Eagles’ own front is just as dominant and should keep the Jets running game in check, Brandon Marshall has emerged as downfield threat that can gain big yards against a shaky Eagles secondary.
Writer’s Prediction: The Jets (-2.5) send the Eagles crashing down to 0-3 with a 21-17 home win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5) at Houston Texans (1:00 PM ET)
The Texans offense is all sorts of bad right now. Ryan Mallett (27-of-58 against Carolina) proved he’s not much better than Brian Hoyer at quarterback, while the running game has been missing Arian Foster in a big way.
Jameis Winston is a rookie and a turnover-prone one at that, so it’s tough to trust him just the same. But his ceiling is so much higher than what the Texans QBs are capable of. At the end of the day, Tampa Bay should still has a better shot of keeping it close than the Texans offense does of winning by a touchdown or more.
Writer’s Prediction: The Bucs fall 24-21 on the road, but cover the +6.5 spread as road underdogs.
San Diego Chargers (+2.5) at Minnesota Vikings (1:00 PM ET)
The Chargers’ supposedly improved O-line crumbled against the Bengals, and could be in for another long night against an impressive Vikings front that pressured Matthew Stafford on close to 40 percent of his dropbacks.
Adrian Peterson, who broke out for 134 yards on the ground against Detroit, could also find similar success against a San Diego run defense that coughed up 175 rushing yards to the Bengals.
Writer’s Prediction: The Vikings (-2.5) get the big home win, 27-24.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-1) at St. Louis Rams (1:00 PM ET)
This game basically comes down to whether the Rams and their dominant defensive line can disrupt Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense. But the Rams’ poor showing against the Redskins didn’t inspire much confidence in terms of their chances of stopping Pittsburgh’s prolific passing game.
Big Ben is a master at evading pressure and extending plays; Antonio Brown (18 catches, 328 yards, two touchdowns) is a big play waiting to happen, especially against the Rams’ iffy secondary; and Le’Veon Bell will be back from suspension to provide a safety valve if the Rams do get past a very solid Steelers O-line.
Writer’s Prediction: The Steelers (-1) roll over the Rams, 31-14, on the road.
San Francisco 49ers (+6.5) at Arizona Cardinals (4:05 PM ET)
The Cardinals are a really bad matchup for the Niners. With Carson Palmer at quarterback, the Cards are back to throwing the deep ball with consistency. That was something San Francisco really struggled defending against Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Cards’ run defense, which is giving up just 3.4 yards per carry in the early going, can take away the Niners’ bread and butter on offense.
Arizona is also pretty reliable at home, going 12-2 in its last 14 games (10-4 against the spread).
Writer’s Prediction: The Cardinals (-6.5) crush the Niners at home, 35-21.
Buffalo Bills (+3) at Miami Dolphins (4:25 PM ET)
It’s only been two weeks, but the Dolphins are already showing signs of dysfunction. The running game has been nonexistent, and the run defense hasn’t been much better. There are also grumblings that Ndamukong Suh isn’t sticking to the script on defense. This looks like a perfect opportunity for the Bills to bounce back from their humbling at the hands of the Pats.
Writer’s Prediction: The Bills (+3) beat the Dolphins, 21-14, in Miami.
Chicago Bears (+15) at Seattle Seahawks (4:25 PM ET)
Poor Chicago. Not only will the Bears be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler after injuring his hammy, they’ll also be facing a fired up Seahawks team in Seattle that will be in desperate need of a win following an 0-2 start.
Unless Jimmy Clausen suddenly plays the game of his life or Matt Forte goes berserk – both of which are highly unlikely against this Seahawks defense – it’s hard to see how Chicago goes into Seattle and escapes with a win. The Seahawks are 7-0 (4-2-1 against the spread) in their last seven home games.
Writer’s Prediction: The Seahawks steamroll right through the Bears, 35-10, and cover comfortably as -15 favorites.
Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions (8:30 PM ET)
The Broncos’ gutsy road win at Kansas City proved two things: 1) the defense is truly elite, as evidenced by the five turnovers it caused, including the game-winning fumble recovery returned for a touchdown, and 2) Peyton Manning is just fine… as long as he runs the offense his way.
Look for the ferocious Broncos pass rush to have its way with a Lions O-line that was manhandled by Minnesota last week, while Manning produces enough offense to get the easy win over the struggling Lions.
Writer’s Prediction: The Broncos tame the Lions, 24-13.
Monday, September 28
Kansas City Chiefs (+7) at Green Bay Packers (8:30 PM ET)
As the Packers showed in their win over the Seahawks, they’re just about unbeatable at home. Not even the loss of Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy could slow them down. They’ve now won their last 10 games in a row at Lambeau, with the Pats and Seahawks among their victims.
While the Chiefs can put pressure on Rodgers with the pass rush, it’s doubtful that Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles and the offense can put enough points on the board to hang with Green Bay.
Writer’s Prediction: The Packers (-7) win No. 11 in a row at home, 28-17.
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