Last Week: 6-10 Season Record: 6-10
Ouch. Last week was a rough debut for my NFL picks segment. Though to be fair, how many of you figured the Bears would beat the Steelers or the Bills would beat the Broncos? Let’s try to do better this time. Also, as a preface, I picked the Packers to win on Color Rush Thursday, like everyone else in the world. Here’s a screenshot of the text conversation I had with my mother on the topic to prove I’m not full of shit. Note the date and time the conversation starts.
So with that, let’s get to the games.
New Orleans Saints (1-2) vs Miami Dolphins (1-1) (In London)
Can it get any worse than nearly getting shut out by the Jets? The Dolphins offense had a LOT of problems against Gang Green and starts with Jay Cutler. I still think Miami is the second best team in the AFC East, however last week did not leave me optimistic. The Saints played well against the Panthers last week, getting their first win of the season as their offense looked really sharp against a Carolina team that had previously not let up a touchdown all year. The Dolphins defense has been impressive, though and I think they will keep New Orleans honest. It’s a toss up for me, but I think Miami’s style of play is better suited for what the field conditions typically are in Wembley Stadium and I think that will be the difference.
Projected Score: Dolphins 27 Saints 21
Buffalo Bills (2-1) vs Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
The Bills defense was suffocating against Trevor Siemian and the Broncos offense last week and they’re going to need to repeat that performance if they’re going to have any chance against the high-flying Falcons offense. Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes have each gotten to the quarterback twice in the first three games but offensively they have left much to be desired. Atlanta, on the other hand, has looked like the best team in the NFC in the last two weeks, blowing out the Packers and beating a really good Lions team, though under controversial circumstances.
I think the Falcons win in less controversial fashion this week. They have too many weapons on offense for Buffalo to keep up with and Atlanta’s defense will hold the lackluster Buffalo offense down.
Projected Score: Falcons 35 Bills 13
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) vs Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Both of these arch rivals came off surprising losses last week. The Steelers were beaten in overtime by the Bears in a game that is better known for a Bears miscue than it is for the Bears actual victory.
The Ravens, on the other hand, went into London last week and got ROCKED by the Jaguars 44-7. Joe Flacco was 8-18 for 28 yards and 2 interceptions and a QBR of 0.8(!!!). For reference on those who don’t know what QBR is, it measures a quarterback’s performance on a 0-100 scale, with 50 being average. In that same game, Blake Bortles’ QBR was 87.4. The Ravens will be relieved to be back in Baltimore after that overseas disaster. One of these teams has to bounce back after their poor showing and I think the Steelers will be the ones to do it, as Antonio Brown has been lighting secondaries on fire this year (shocker!).
Projected Score: Steelers 24 Ravens 16
Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) vs Cleveland Browns (0-3)
Both teams are winless despite finally showing some life in their games last week. The Bengals very nearly beat the Packers in Lambeau while the Browns’ late surge against the Colts came too little too late. The Bengals defense has played very well this season and has been overshadowed by the struggles of their offense. They currently are 9th in the NFL in total yards allowed and points allowed through the first 3 weeks of the year. The Browns still look like they have a ways to go before returning to relevance after getting lit up by a Jacoby Brissett-led Colts team. They are still waiting for the debut of top overall pick Myles Garrett, who has missed the first three games with a high ankle sprain and it doesn’t appear he will play this week either. I have the Bengals getting into the win column for the first time this year and the Browns start 0-4 for the second straight year.
Projected Score: Bengals 31 Browns 14
Los Angeles Rams (2-1) vs Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
This has the potential to be a really fun game. The Rams are coming off a victory in the greatest Color Rush game of all time while the Cowboys gave a really strong performance in their victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. Jared Goff is thriving under rookie head coach Sean McVay and finally appears to be living up to his top pick billing after a brutal rookie season. His emergence has also helped Todd Gurley return to his 2015 form, where he was the runaway winner of offensive rookie of the year. After getting demolished by Denver in Week 2, Dallas really stepped up in Week 3, especially on defense, where DeMarcus Lawrence was unblockable, seemingly in the backfield on every single play. Dak Prescott had a big game and they face another tough defense in the Rams, though that defense is coming off a rough outing, having given up 39 points to the 49ers. I think Dallas wins this one in a nail biter, late field goal by Dan Bailey being the difference.
Projected Score: Cowboys 31 Rams 28
Tennessee Titans (2-1) vs Houston Texans (1-2)
After getting roughed up by the Raiders in Week 1, the Titans’ offense has looked excellent during their 2-game winning streak. They blew out Jacksonville and dropped 33 on an excellent Seahawks defense. This Dick LeBeau defense has been up-and-down but they have shown some sparks. Houston’s offense finally broke out of its slump against the Patriots and Deshaun Watson had his best game as a pro, throwing for 301 yards (his previous high was 125) and 2 touchdowns in a narrow 36-33 defeat. JJ Watt has yet to record a sack this season but his presence alone opens up lanes for the linebackers and other defensive linemen to get to the quarterback, which Whitney Mercilus did repeatedly against the Pats. The Titans offensive line is far better than New England’s though and their defense is much tougher and they will pull this one out.
Projected Score: Titans 26 Texans 20
Detroit Lions (2-1) vs Minnesota Vikings (2-1)
The Lions are coming off a heart breaking loss against the Falcons (see the video above) while the Vikings have an extra spring in their step following a big win over the Buccaneers. 2 of Matthew Stafford’s eight fourth quarter comeback wins last year came against the Vikings and Stafford seems to have that clutch gene again this season, leading a fourth quarter comeback against Arizona in week 1 and coming inches close to another one against Atlanta last week. Case Keenum had the top QBR in the NFL last week (94.6) in a complete 180 of his performance against Pittsburgh the week prior. Detroit’s defense has been stingy though and I think they get the job done, allowing Stafford to lead another fourth quarter comeback.
Projected Score: Lions 33 Vikings 31
Carolina Panthers (2-1) vs New England Patriots (2-1)
The Panthers could only muster 13 points against a very weak Saints defense and they go against a Patriots defense that ranks dead last in the NFL in total defense. Cam Newton hasn’t looked sharp in the first three weeks of the year and Carolina’s defense was finally exposed last week after two extremely impressive performances to start the year. New England needed a great final drive by Tom Brady to squeeze a victory away from the Texans last week as Brandin Cooks had his breakout game for his new team. The Patriots are going to need Brady to be great again to get by this tough Panthers defense, but that’s not asking for a whole lot out of the greatest QB of all time. Patriots coast in this one.
Projected Score: Patriots 35 Panthers 20
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) vs New York Jets (1-2)
Did I not mention last week that the Jets wouldn’t go winless? Granted, I said immediately afterwards it wouldn’t be that game, but whatever, part of what I said was right. The defense looked like a throwback to Rex Ryan’s early days with the Jets as they were suffocating against Miami. The offense still leaves a lot to be desired but they were able to show that perhaps they won’t be the worst team of all time this year. When the Jaguars win, they win big. When they lose, they lose big. Blake Bortles had a big game in London against what is normally an excellent Ravens defense and the Jaguars seem to finally be establishing an identity as an old school ground-and-pound offense with a smash-mouth defense. Leonard Fournette has been the workhorse they needed him to be when they took him fourth overall and I think he has a career day against this Jets defense. Don’t look now, but I have Jacksonville getting to 3-1 to start the year.
Projected Score: Jaguars 34 Jets 17
San Francisco 49ers (0-3) vs Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
While the 49ers did put up 39 points on a good Rams defense on Color Rush Thursday, that number has been an outlier to start the year. Their previous two outputs offensively were 3 and 9. I feel like there’s some kind of joke or crazy input that the 49ers outputs have been 3, 9, and 39, but I’m not clever enough to make anything of that. Maybe they should be the 39ers instead! There, crisis averted. The Cardinals defensively have had 3 solid games to start the year but the offense is sorely missing David Johnson. I don’t think the 39ers are talented enough to upset Arizona, but I think they will give them a scare.
Projected Score: Cardinals 19 39ers 13 (Ok, I’m done with the 39ers “jokes” now)
Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) vs Los Angeles Chargers (0-3)
Jake Elliott’s 61-yarder as time expired last week against the Giants was nothing short of magical and the stories that abounded from that moment (from Jason Peters scaring Elliott into making it to Carson Wentz offering up his game check if Elliott made the kick) were just as enchanting. Defensively, the Eagles have been deadly while their offense, despite lacking a run game, has been effective. The Chargers, as I mentioned in last week’s picks, just don’t appear to have anything going for them despite lacking the appearance of a bad team. I think the Eagles go into the soccer stadium and drop the Chargers to 0-4 in LA.
Projected Score: Eagles 41 Chargers 21
New York Giants (0-3) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
The Giants were one of the last teams I would’ve guessed would be 0-3 to start the year, but here we are. It did take a 61-yard field goal to beat them last week but their entire offensive output came in the fourth quarter last week. So maybe that’s a sign that they are starting to figure things out. Jameis Winston was careless with the football last week against the Vikings and if he does that again against a tough Giants defense, it’s going to be a long day for the Bucs. I think he takes better care of the ball, but I also think the Giants ride their offensive momentum from last week and finally get into the win column.
Projected Score: Giants 28 Buccaneers 21
Oakland Raiders (2-1) vs Denver Broncos (2-1)
The Raiders’ offense was stifled by the Redskins’ defense last week, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. The Redskins have a good defense, yes, but I figured the Raiders’ offense would be able to put up much more than 10 points. They face and even better Broncos defense this week. However there’s a lot more familiarity with the Broncos, who they face twice a year, than the Redskins, who they face once every four years. I think they will be fine on offense. The Broncos have been mediocre offensively and it came back to bite them. And regardless of how you feel about this Von Miller penalty, you have to agree that it was crushing for their comeback chances.
The Raiders’ defense has underwhelmed and I think it’s an opportunity for Siemian to bounce back. I think it’s a competitive game, as it usually is when these teams meet, but I think Oakland squeaks past.
Projected Score: Raiders 27 Broncos 24
Indianapolis Colts (1-2) vs Seattle Seahawks (1-2)
The Colts offensively finally looked like they had a pulse last week in their 31-28 victory over the Browns. Jacoby Brissett’s legs were key in their victory and he was able to throw his first NFL TD to TY Hilton. Seattle’s offensive woes have been well-documented this season and it really came back to haunt them last week against Tennessee when their defense let up 33 to Marcus Mariota and the Titans’ offense. The Seahawks need to get their offense going if they have any hopes of a deep playoff run. I think they take a big first step towards that this week as aside from Week 2 against the Cardinals, the Colts defense has been swiss cheese this season.
Projected Score: Seahawks 37 Colts 19
Washington Redskins (2-1) vs Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
The Redskins looked really impressive in their Sunday Night victory over the Raiders last week. They held Amari Cooper to 1 catch and Derek Carr looked totally flustered while Kirk Cousins returned to form. They’re playing back-to-back prime time games against an AFC West opponent and this time they get the Chiefs, who in my opinion have been the best team in football to start the 2017 season. Kareem Hunt has been an absolute maniac to start his NFL career and while Alex Smith was mediocre last week against the Chargers, he was able to take care of the football as the defense squashed the Chargers offense. I think this game is a defensive slugfest but KC’s ability to run the football will be the difference.
Projected Score: Kansas City 24 Redskins 14
Those are my picks for this week. If you get bored of NFL football for some reason, you can watch some women’s college futbol on BTN2Go, where I will be on the call for Indiana vs Illinois at 1 pm.