This is going to be a weekly thing I do through the end of the season. As with my college football picks, if you use this to gamble, I pray for you (because my picks this weekend SUCKED).
Let’s get picking.
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) (in London)
Ah, the London games. I have a question, Roger, if you really want to try and build an NFL audience in London, why are you sending them the Jaguars? Regardless, the Jaguars are tricky to figure out this season. The defense was dominant against the Texans in Week 1 and were torn to shreds by Tennessee in Week 2. Blake Bortles does not appear to have regained his 2015 form (yes, he was actually pretty good in 2015, seems hard to believe) and while Leonard Fournette has been solid, it hasn’t been enough to really get the offense going. The Ravens’ defense looks as good as ever as they absolutely destroyed Andy Dalton and Deshone Kizer to start the year. I think the same continues this week.
Projected Score: Ravens 23 Jaguars 7
Denver Broncos (2-0) vs Buffalo Bills (1-1)
The Broncos have looked sharp to start the 2017 season and Trevor Siemian continues to shove former first round pick Paxton Lynch into a corner and refuses to relinquish the starting quarterback job. Gotta hand it to the kid, I didn’t think he’d last this long. That being said, the defense has been as good as ever and gave the Dallas Cowboys fits last week. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s offense barely got going against the Jets and they were limited to 3 points against the Panthers. Their defense isn’t good enough to win games for them by itself and I think Denver takes care of business.
Projected Score: Broncos 34 Bills 10
New Orleans Saints (0-2) vs Carolina Panthers (2-0)
The Saints are 0-2 to start the year and it’s in large part due to, shocker, the defense. Rookie first rounder Marshon Lattimore looks like a really good pick but aside from him the secondary got picked to shreds by Sam Bradford and Tom Brady (can’t really blame them for the latter, not even the ’85 Bears can stop a pissed off Brady). Carolina’s offense, though, hasn’t really tested opposing defenses too much. The 49ers held their own in Week 1 and Buffalo held them without a TD in Week 2. Yet Carolina is 2-0 on the strength of a defense that hasn’t allowed a TD all season. Granted, they’ve faced the 49ers and Bills, but it still says a lot when a team holds two professional offenses out of the endzone. I think Carolina’s defense is going to be the difference and they’re going to quietly start the season 3-0.
Projected Score: Panthers 20 Saints 16
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) vs Chicago Bears (0-2)
The Steelers defensively have yet to truly be tested, as the quarterbacks they have faced are Deshone Kizer, a rookie second rounder making his first ever NFL start, and Case Keenum, so of course the overall numbers are going to look good. It stays just as easy for the Steelers this week as they face Mike Glennon and the Bears, who got their bells rung by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. To be fair to Glennon and the Bears, the Bucs had an extra week to prepare due to their Week 1 game with the Miami Dolphins being pushed to Week 11 as a result of Hurricane Irma. Glennon had a solid game against the Atlanta Falcons and the Bears damn near won the game. However, the Steelers have too many weapons on offense and a talented enough defense to keep the Bears in check. The whispers for Mitchell Trubisky turn to inside-voices in Chicago.
Projected Score: Steelers 28 Bears 13
Atlanta Falcons (2-0) vs Detroit Lions (2-0)
A matchup of early unbeatens, the Falcons and Lions both look like they’re going to be threats in the NFC. The Falcons barely escaped the Bears in Week 1 but bounced back by repeating their performance in the NFC Title Game last year, putting the smackdown to the Green Bay Packers in primetime. Their young and wiry defense looks to be taking another step forward in year 3 under Dan Quinn and they’re going to be difference-makers in the franchise’s attempt to finally get over that Super Bowl hump. The Lions, for me, have been a surprise thus far. Looking at their schedule to start the season, I was convinced they were going to start this season 0-3 and really put themselves in a hole in their attempt to return to the playoffs. But their defense has looked excellent so far in their games against the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants. Matthew Stafford is also showing that he is in the upper tier of quarterbacks in the NFL and it seems like the retirement of Calvin Johnson last year was a good thing for Stafford’s development. He has spread it out a lot better since losing one of the greatest receivers of all time, and now defenses have to worry about every receiver getting the ball, not just Megatron. But I think the Falcons’ young defense make the difference and they pull this one out.
Projected Score: Falcons 30 Lions 20
Cleveland Browns (0-2) vs Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
For those of you who watched “The League,” this matchup is a physical embodiment of what an actual “Sacko Bowl” would look like. One of these teams has to win, sadly. Though the Browns do look much improved from last season and Deshone Kizer is definitely one of the best quarterbacks they’ve put out since 1999 (that’s saying very little), they still have a LONG way to go before returning to relevance. Yet they are favored on the road this weekend, how is that possible? Well it’s because it turns out the Colts cannot function without Andrew Luck, who has been sidelined with a bum shoulder. There is no timetable for his return, much to the chagrin of Colts fans, who have had to endure Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett through two weeks. To Brissett’s credit, he’s still just learning this offense, having joined the team just days before the regular season opener in a trade with the New England Patriots after putting on one of the greatest preseason performances of all time. They did have a chance to beat the Cardinals in OT, but Brissett immediately threw an interception and it was a chip-shot field goal for a Cardinals win. I think the struggles continue for the Colts and the Browns get their first win of the season.
Projected Score: Browns 24 Colts 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) vs Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Sam Bradford is out again for the Vikings and that’s a shame for Vikings fans because he looked really sharp on Monday night Week 1 against the Saints. The defense looks good, which is to be expected of a Mike Zimmer squad, and Dalvin Cook looks like the heir apparent to Adrian Peterson. But Case Keenum did not get the job done against the Steelers and there’s no reason to think he can get it done against an underrated Buccaneers defense. The Bucs played their first game of the year last week against the Bears and dominated in every facet of the game. Their offense won’t have as much success against the Vikings this week, but their defense will hold them down enough to where I think they win comfortably.
Projected Score: Buccaneers 24 Vikings 13
Houston Texans (1-1) vs New England Patriots (1-1)
Deshaun Watson has a lot of work to do if he’s to take the Texans far in the AFC. However, he showed in the Thursday Night game with the Bengals last week that he can take over games with his legs. The Texans also have a formidable defense that obliterated the Bengals in that tilt with a front seven that’s as dangerous as any in the NFL. However, it will be this defense that keeps the Texans from getting run out of the building against the Patriots. The Pats got lit up by Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt in Week 1 against the Chiefs, but Tom Brady showed in Week 2 against the Saints that when he’s pissed off, he’s unstoppable. And he’s hard to beat even when he’s content. Defensively, Dont’a Hightower appears to be a game-time decision and his availability could be big for New England’s ability to stop the Texans’ ground attack. I don’t think the Texans have enough firepower to out-duel Tom Brady, though, and the Patriots get back over .500.
There truly is no wrath like the wrath of the gods.
Projected Score: Patriots 30 Texans 17
Miami Dolphins (1-0) vs New York Jets (0-2)
The Dolphins’ defense looked really sharp against the Chargers in Week 1, despite their absent middle linebacker, but they definitely still have some work to do offensively as they adjust to Jay Cutler at the helm while Ryan Tannehill nurses a leg injury. Jay Ajayi, however, showed last week that he wasn’t a one-hit wonder last season and will continue to be a focal point of this offense. The Jets have one of the least talented rosters I’ve ever seen. The 0-16 columns are legitimate. I don’t think it will come to fruition because they are still professionals, and there’s a reason 0-16 has only happened once despite all the bad teams in NFL history. But when your passing attack is Josh McCown throwing to Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse, that’s a recipe for disaster. The Jets won’t go winless this season, but they won’t prove me right about that prediction this week.
Projected Score: Dolphins 35 Jets 7
New York Giants (0-2) vs Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
I’ll be completely honest, I had the Giants winning the NFC East before the season started. On paper, I felt they were the most talented team in that division on both sides of the ball. But offensively they have been woeful and Brandon Marshall is nowhere to be found. The defense still looks good, but it’s really hard to win games when your scoring outputs are 3 and 10. The Eagles, on the other hand, look like they could be a really fun team to watch this year if they can put it all together. The pieces feel like they’re in place for a run. Jim Schwartz has reinvigorated this defense and Carson Wentz appears to have taken a step in the right direction in year 2. This is going to be a defensive slugfest and I want to say the Eagles are more likely to win this game, but I just have a gut feeling that the Giants are going to pull this one out and get themselves in the win column, despite my gripes about them. Hell, I ripped Texas A&M to shreds in my college football picks and they beat Arkansas in OT.
Projected Score: Giants 14 Eagles 10
Seattle Seahawks (1-1) vs Tennessee Titans (1-1)
The Seahawks’ offense has been far below expectations this season. They struggled mightily against the Packers and 49ers in their first two games this season. Struggling against the Packers, fine, that defense has loads of untapped potential. But the 49ers? A defense that gave up 41 to the Rams on Thursday night? There are some problems with the Seahawks offense and it’s more than just Eddie “Feast Mode” Lacy. The offensive line struggles appear to have finally caught up with the Seahawks and it’s now showing. The defense has been spectacular, as usual though and that’s what’s keeping the Seahawks from starting 0-2. The Titans got manhandled by the Raiders in Week 1, then did their own manhandling of Jacksonville in Week 2. Which Titans team shows up this week? DeMarco Murray doesn’t appear to be healthy and I think that’s going to hurt the Titans’ offense and I think the Seahawks take this one, but it’ll be close.
Projected Score: Seahawks 17 Titans 13
Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) vs Green Bay Packers (1-1)
To not score any TDs with guys like AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Joe Mixon, Giovanni Bernard, and Jeremy Hill on offense is unacceptable. Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ offense has been putrid to start the year. Granted, they faced good defenses in the Ravens and Texans, but to muster a grand total of 9 points between those two teams? The Marvin Lewis era has gone on well past its expiration date and unless a run comes out of nowhere, he’s likely done after this year, if he even makes it that long. The Packers offensively have done their traditional thing of being underwhelming in the first few weeks of the season before exploding in the second half and leading the team on a deep playoff run. I think the offensive woes continue this week, but the defense will bounce back after getting pummeled by Atlanta. And I’m going to make a bold prediction here: the Bengals’ offense will not score a TD for a third consecutive week. MARK IT DOWN!
Projected Score: Packers 23 Bengals 6
Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) vs Los Angeles Chargers (0-2)
If I were to ask you before the season started who the most impressive team in the NFL would be, how many of you would say the Chiefs? Alex Smith’s days as the starting quarterback for the Chiefs appeared to be numbered, especially after the Chiefs traded up to take Pat Mahomes 10th overall. But Smith has been saying to the haters “I’m not done with this yet,” and has gone on an absolute tear to start the year. Which is a good thing for both him and Mahomes, who I felt like coming out of the draft would need more than a year on the bench before he’d be ready to handle an NFL playbook. And don’t even get me started on Kareem Hunt. I saw some ability flashed at Toledo in college, but I did NOT see this coming. He’s been wildly impressive thus far. It’s a small sample size, but Hunt currently leads the entire NFL in rushing heading into Week 3. Not bad for a third round rookie from a mid-major school. The Chargers are 0-2 but both games have been nail-biters to the Broncos and Dolphins, the latter of which they had a chance to win but Yunghoe Koo missed the potential game-winning field goal. The Chargers don’t have the look of a bad team but it just feels like they’re missing that big difference maker on both sides of the ball. They’re just decent in every facet of the game and that can be dangerous in the NFL. And unfortunately for them, they run into the red-hot Chiefs while sitting at 0-2.
Projected Score: Chiefs 38 Chargers 21
Oakland Raiders (2-0) vs Washington Redskins (1-1)
Derek Carr’s leg appears to be fine. After breaking it at the end of last season, there was some concern that it might affect him early in the season. Well he’s looked really sharp in the Raiders’ victories over the Titans and Jets and Marshawn Lynch looks well-rested after missing last year to retirement. The Redskins, on the other hand, look like they miss former offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who took over head coaching duties with the Los Angeles Rams this season. Kirk Cousins hasn’t looked quite himself and despite beating McVay’s Rams last week, the 6th year signal caller has looked remarkably average. The Raiders’ defense is mediocre at best, despite the greatness that is Khalil Mack, so perhaps this is the week Cousins gets back on track. Even if he does, though, I don’t think it will be enough to beat Carr and the Raiders.
Projected Score: Raiders 31 Redskins 21
Dallas Cowboys (1-1) vs Arizona Cardinals (1-1) (Monday Night)
The Cowboys flat-out sucked last week in Denver. You can really sum up their effort with one play by Ezekiel Elliott. This is a guy who is going to court for the right to play and this is the effort he puts forth? He did have the wherewithal to know his effort wasn’t enough and admitted he needed to be better, though, so I guess that’s a start. The Cardinals haven’t been much better. After laying down on their backs for the Lions to rub their bellies in Week 1, the offense put on a laughable performance against the Colts in Week 2, only squeezing out a win because the opposing quarterback was a guy who maybe knew about 5 plays in the playbook. The Rams drop 46 points on these guys and it takes you overtime to score 16?
They look completely lost without David Johnson, who is out for an extended period of time with a wrist injury, and that’s surprising considering the other weapons they have on offense. Defensively they still look strong but the offense needs to step it up big time if they want to beat this Cowboys team. They won’t, though, I think a fire is going to get lit under Elliott’s ass and he’s going to bounce back in a big way in prime time.
Projected Score: Cowboys 35 Cardinals 24
And as for this past Thursday night game, even though I didn’t publish it, I did have the Rams winning over the 49ers, though definitely not by a score of 41-39 in the greatest Color Rush game ever. So what if I didn’t publish it? I’m counting it towards my record next week. Don’t like it? Write your own blog.