NFL Week 3 Picks
After a season where I won the Gridiron Experts Staff Pick ‘Em contest, I’ll be providing my picks every week for you, our readers. Last year, I went 64.5% straight up, and 55.4% against the spread… so I’m hoping to replicate that success this year. Each week, I’ll give you my picks for the game, and a short write-up centered around the key reason why I’m making the pick that I am. You can also click over to see all our Free NFL picks for the week with the staff.
In Week 2, we hit a few bumps in the road. My picks were 9-7 straight up and 6-10 against the spread. My lock of the did come through though (2-0 for the season). We’ll look to rebound this week.
Tennessee (-1.5) @ Jacksonville
In this annual Thursday Night affair, the Titans will travel to Jacksonville and try to shake off a tight loss to the Colts in Nashville last weekend. On the other hand, Jacksonville had a close game against the Houston Texans, ultimately falling short by a score of 13-12. Marcus Mariota & Co. will need to play better on the offensive side of the ball and convert timely third downs, something they struggled with against Indianapolis. They also split carries 50/50 between Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis last week. Henry has proven in his career that he needs to be fed the ball to produce… so look for the carry share to shift towards him on Thursday night. With that said, I feel that the difference in this one will be the Titans’ defense and their ability to shut down Gardner Minshew and Leonard Fournette. The Titans’ secondary has been quite good so far this year, so I tend to favor them in that matchup. With start DB Jalen Ramsey requesting a trade this week, the Jags are likely a bit distracted and might not be as prepared as usual on a short week. With the memory of Derrick Henry’s “beast-mode-esque” 99-yard touchdown run from last year looming, I like the Titans to take this game on the road. Titans 24-18.
Cincinnati @ Buffalo (-5.5)
Many are surprised that the Buffalo Bills have started 2-0 this year. Fewer people are surprised that the Bengals are 0-2 through two weeks. Believe it or not, Andy Dalton is among the NFL leaders in passing yardage through two weeks. Yes, Andy Dalton. Even more surprising, Gio Bernard and Joe Mixon have combined for 54 yards rushing so far this year. Yes, 54. John Ross has been the sole bright point in this offense, posting 270 receiving yards through two games. Tyler Boyd is also producing, but this offense is not at its best without Joe Mixon churning on all cylinders. Unfortunately, they have one of the league’s best defensive units on the other side of the ball this week. Through two weeks, the Bills rank 5th in the NFL in points allowed per game and have been especially stingy against the run. QB Josh Allen is providing quite the spark for this team, adding a dual-threat to the gameplan with his rushing ability. He’s scored twice on the ground this year to match his two passing touchdowns. Unfortunately, the rest of their rushing attack comes with question marks at the moment. Devin Singletary is questionable for this contest, which would leave Frank Gore to shoulder the load. Stay tuned on this one as the week goes on. WR John Brown has racked up 195 yards and a TD through two weeks and can take the top off of a secondary at any given moment. I think he’ll do that at least once on Sunday and Buffalo will take this game comfortably at home, covering in the process. Bills 26-20.
Miami @ Dallas (-21.5)
The Dolphins are awful, and their best defensive player is now a Steeler. They’ve lost their first two games by a score of 102-10. I’d usually stay away from lines this big… however, we pick every game. There’s no rational statistic that shows me I should expect the Dolphins to come even close in this one. Dak will have a huge game. Zeke will feast. Look for Devin Smith to catch a long TD too for good measure. This one won’t be close. Cowboys 36-10. (LOCK OF THE WEEK)
Denver @ Green Bay (-7.5)
Denver is fresh off a heartbreaking loss to the Bears and currently sit at 0-2 for the season. Joe Flacco has been pedestrian, averaging 280 yards a game and favoring the likes of Courtland Sutton and the ageless Emmanuel Sanders. Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay continue to split the backfield work 50/50 as neither has truly broken out yet. Frankly, there’s not a ton to be excited about in this offense. The Packers, on the other hand, are riding high with their newfound defensive prowess. They rank 2nd in the NFL, having only allowed 19 points this season. Aaron Rodgers will lead the offense and is likely to lean on his stud WR Davante Adams in this contest. What remains to be seen, however, is if the Pack will commit to RB Aaron Jones as their workhorse. Last week, Jones rushed for 155 yards and a TD. Seemingly, that production should safely place him as the lead back… but we’ve learned to never assume when it comes to the Green Bay backfield. One can hope that Matt LaFleur will see the light, but we can’t be positive. When you put the Packers’ strong defensive unit against the NFL’s 28th ranked scoring offense, it doesn’t spell good news for the Broncos at Lambeau. Packers 24-16.
Atlanta @ Indianapolis (-2.5)
The Colts are 1-1 and if it wasn’t for a late missed field goal and some bizarre clock management by Tennessee, they might be sitting at 0-2. Jacoby Brissett has been average this year, and while he’s only thrown for 336 yards in two games, he does have a 5:1 TD to INT ratio keeping Indy afloat. He’s been throwing TY Hilton’s way a ton so far this year, completing 12 passes for 130 yards and 3 TDs. After that, the next closest WR has 3 receptions. Marlon Mack has been quite solid for the Colts, rushing for 225 yards and a TD through two games. Mack will need to excel to give the Colts a chance to compete on Sunday. Atlanta pulled away from the Eagles late on Sunday night, ultimately winning the game 24-20. While Matt Ryan has thrown for 624 yards through two games, his 5:5 TD to INT ratio has certainly held Atlanta back. Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones are both proving to be elite options for Ryan, with Ridley totaling 169 yards on 12 catches, compared to Jones’ 137 yards on 11 catches. Ridley’s 2 TDs and Julio’s 3 TDs add up to the 5 Ryan has thrown this year. He’ll need to spell in other receivers to keep the Colts on their toes. To me, the difference in this one will be which offense can make the plays late. I think Atlanta has more playmakers and can execute a late drive to pull this upset on the road. Falcons 24-23.
Baltimore @ Kansas City (-6.5)
Well, this one should be exciting. Both teams are 2-0 right now, and both quarterbacks are on fire. Lamar Jackson has thrown for 596 yards and 7 TDs so far this year. He hasn’t thrown an interception yet and has added 126 rushing yards on 19 attempts. Patrick Mahomes, the reigning MVP, has the same number (7) of touchdowns but has thrown for a whopping 821 yards through 2 games. Even without Tyreek Hill, Mahomes is unstoppable. He’s been spreading the ball around to the likes of Sammy Watkins (15/247/3), Travis Kelce (10/195/1), Demarcus Robinson (7/172/2), and Mecole Hardman (4/61/1 with another long TD called back.) Kansas City’s offense still reigns supreme in the NFL, but Baltimore’s has been nothing to scoff at either. In addition to Jackson’s phenomenal production, Mark Ingram has rushed for 154 yards and 2 TDs. Rookie WR Marquise Brown has logged 233 yards and 2 TDs receiving, while TE Mark Andrews has pulled in 16 balls for 220 yards and 2 TDs. This might end up as one of those games where the last team with the ball gets the win. Given that, I think I trust the Chiefs’ 2-minute offense more than the Ravens and could see Mahomes tossing a late TD to ice it at home. Chiefs 35-27.
Oakland @ Minnesota (-7.5)
After Week 1 wins, both of these squads took an unfortunate step back this week. Oakland fell at home to the Chiefs, while the Vikings were edged out at Lambeau. Kirk Cousins ranks dead last in the NFL with only 328 yards through two games. This is especially disappointing given the amazing receiving options Cousins has on the outside. Adam Thielen & Stefon Diggs have combined for just over 200 total yards through two games. With two playmakers of this caliber, Cousins will have to get them more involved if he wants this offense to click. Dalvin Cook, on the other hand, seems to be churning on all cylinders. Cook has rushed for 265 yards and 3 TDs through two games, proving to be the lone spark for Minnesota thus far. For Oakland, Derek Carr has also been pedestrian, throwing for 457 yards through two contests, and tossing only 2 TDs vs. 2 INTs. Rookie RB Josh Jacobs had a fantastic first game, but then inexplicably only touched the ball 12 times in the Raiders’ loss to Kansas City. Gruden & Co. will need to involve Jacobs more if they want to have a successful season. In the receiving corps, TE Darren Waller and WR Tyrell Williams have emerged as Carr’s favorite targets. Look for them to play a role Sunday. Even early in the season, this is a pivotal game for both teams. In the end, the Minnesota defense will be the difference, and I like the Vikings to win and cover this one at home. Vikings 28-18.
NY Jets @ New England (-22.5)
Tom Brady vs. Luke Falk? Got it. Patriots 34-10.
Detroit @ Philadelphia (-6.5)
The undefeated Lions (1-0-1) will head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles. Philly is coming off a loss to the Falcons on Sunday Night Football in a game where they finished just a few yards short of the end zone. Carson Wentz has paced the passing attack this season with 544 yards and 4 TD to only 2 INT. His favorite WR targets, though, might be absent from this contest as both Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson are no lock to play. Instead, Wentz will have to key in on TE Zach Ertz and WR Nelson Agholor. Mack Hollins and JJ Arcega-Whiteside will also step into the fold with the potential absence of their starting two WR and backup TE Dallas Goedert. On the ground, Philadelphia has shared the work between rookie Miles Sanders and veteran Jordan Howard. Neither has scored nor has either run away with the job, so we’ll need to see how this one develops. Detroit knocked off Los Angeles at home last week, holding off the Chargers late. Matt Stafford has thrown for 630 yards and 5 TDs so far this season, favoring the likes of WR Kenny Golladay and TE TJ Hockenson in the early going. Golladay was especially effective last week, as he reeled in 8 of 10 targets for 117 yards and a TD. Kerryon Johnson leads the Detroit ground attack and should handle most of the carries, as the team released CJ Anderson earlier this week. Johnson has rushed for a meager 90 yards in 2 games and will need to produce more than his current 3.2 yards per carry. I think Detroit’s defense is pretty solid and that LB Jarrad Davis is a name to watch if he returns from injury. I think that the Eagles’ offensive injuries might hamper them a bit in this contest, but I like them to pull out a close one at home. Eagles 27-24.
Carolina (-2.5) @ Arizona
The Panthers looked awful on Thursday night last week, as Cam Newton seemed to be a shell of his former self. Now, it seems Cam is legitimately questionable this week with a foot injury. If he can’t go, Kyle Allen will take his place for Carolina. The true difference-maker for the Panthers is RB Christian McCaffrey. The Stanford product has rushed for 165 yards on 35 carries & 2 TDs and added 12 catches for 97 yards. If Newton can’t go, Allen will likely lean on his star RB to make plays. Accordingly, the likes of DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Greg Olsen might find it hard to produce. Frankly, we haven’t seen Allen extensively, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how he’ll fare. Arizona is coming off a close loss to the Ravens in Baltimore last week. With how impressive the Ravens have looked thus far, this seems like a pretty solid result. Rookie QB Kyler Murray has thrown the ball a ton so far this year. His 94 attempts have resulted in 657 yards, but only 2 TDs. Murray has certainly favored the likes of the ageless Larry Fitzgerald (13/217/1) and the young Christian Kirk (10/146/0) so far this year. Additionally, the Cardinals have RB David Johnson. While he’s only logged 103 all-purpose yards through 2 games, history tells us he can break out at any moment. It seems that Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid attack is finding a groove. Neither team’s defense has particularly impressed me, but neither has either offense. Given that, I’ll take Kyler Murray to outplay Allen (or Cam, given how he looked on TNF) this week. I like the home dog here. Cardinals 23-21.
NY Giants @ Tampa Bay (-6.5)
Welcome to the Daniel Jones era. With Eli Manning taking his spot on the bench, it’s anyone’s guess as to how Jones will fare when he takes the reins to this offense. Unfortunately, he’ll be met with a surprisingly formidable defense that had the Panthers in shambles last week. In any event, the best player on the field is Giants RB Saquon Barkley. Through 2 games, Barkley has shown his explosiveness early and often, taking 29 rushes for 227 yards and a TD, and adding 7 receptions for 47 yards. With that said, Barkley needs to touch the ball more. If Pat Shurmur gives Saquon 20+ touches in this one, it would certainly help the Giants’ cause. The passing game will undoubtedly go through TE Evan Engram, who has produced admirably so far this year. Engram has pulled in 17 balls for 164 yards and a TD thus far and was Mr. Manning’s favorite target. It will be interesting to see if Jones favors him as well. After Engram, the well dries up with options such as Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and TJ Jones. Getting Sterling Shepard back from a concussion would certainly help the rookie QB. Stay tuned there. For Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston will lead the offense. Through 2 games, Winston hasn’t performed at all, notching only 402 yards and 2 TDs compared to 3 INTs. In the backfield, Peyton Barber seems to be the lead back but has only tallied 115 yards and a TD so far. Ronald Jones II finds the field for some carries, and Dare Ogunbowale mixes in on passing downs as well. The WR corps is where the Bucs are the strongest. WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been potent thus far with Godwin breaking out. Godwin’s 11 receptions for 174 yards and 2 TD lead the team across the board. Tampa also has a quality TE in OJ Howard, but he didn’t touch the ball in Thursday’s win. Look for him to get involved this week. I have trouble taking Jones in his first start on the road and think Evans, Godwin & Co. will make enough plays on offense to hold off the G-Men. Buccaneers 24-17.
Houston @ LA Chargers (-2.5)
Both teams in this contest underwhelmed in Week 2. Houston was a 2-point conversion away from losing to the Jaguars & Gardner Minshew. Luckily, they stuffed Leonard Fournette and escaped with the win. Needless to say, Houston wasn’t at its best. The Chargers weren’t as lucky, as they dropped their battle with the Lions in Detroit. Deshaun Watson is the crux of the Houston offense and his success will dictate how this team performs. Watson has the league’s best receiver to throw to in DeAndre Hopkins. So far this year, Hopkins has pulled 13 balls for 2 TDs and 151 yards. Will Fuller has also contributed, bringing in 6 passes for 109 yards. Fuller & WR Kenny Stills can take the top off the secondary. They’ll have no easy task this week with the LA secondary, though. Casey Hayward leads this secondary and has already picked a ball of this year and deflected 2 passes. Look for Hayward and Hopkins to do battle in this one. On the ground, the Texans will deploy a tandem of Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. While many expected Johnson to control this backfield, Hyde has impressed, doubling the number of rushes and yardage of Johnson. Hyde’s 30/173 stat line could signal that they’ll ride the veteran RB and use Johnson for more passing down work. We’ll have to watch and see how that dynamic shakes out. Philip Rivers is still playing football, amazingly. Rivers has thrown for 626 yards and 3 TDs thru 2 games and has been keying in on WR Keenan Allen. In the first 2 games, Allen has pulled in 16 balls for 221 yards and a TD. On the other side, Mike Williams has taken his 5 catches for 112 yards as well, averaging 22.4 yards per catch. Austin Ekeler has filled in admirably for Melvin Gordon, logging 124 yards and 2 TD on 29 rushes, and catching 12 balls for 163 yards and 2 TDs. If Ekeler can keep producing, the Chargers may just move on from Gordon after all. I think that the LA defense is much stronger than that of Houston. While I think this game will be competitive, I trust the Chargers offense to put up points on this Houston defense that is littered with question marks. I also expect their dynamic defense to contain Watson and make key stops late. Give me LA to cover at home. Chargers 28-23.
New Orleans @ Seattle (-4.5)
Losing Drew Brees is undoubtedly a huge blow to the New Orleans offense. They’ll likely roll out Teddy Bridgewater as their QB, but don’t be shocked if we get a potent dose of Taysom Hill as well. With Brees on the shelf, I expect the Saints to lean on Alvin Kamara to move the ball. Kamara has totaled 229 yards over 34 touches and can change the game on any touch. Look for him to find the end zone for the first time in this contest. On the outside, the Saints have Michael Thomas as their main target. He’s grabbed 20 balls this season for 212 yards and remains one of the game’s most reliable targets. Shockingly, he hasn’t found the end zone yet this year either. With Ted Ginn Jr & Jared Cook as other ancillary options, Teddy B will certainly have choices in the passing game. For Seattle, Russell Wilson has impressed early and has been extremely efficient. Wilson has completed 43 of 55 passes for 495 yards and 5 TDs. His favorite targets have been DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett who have combined for 18 catches, 273 yards, and 2 TDs. TE Will Dissly has also caught 2 TDs and remains relevant in the passing attack. Wilson also has a dynamic duo in his backfield with Chris Carson and Rashad Penny. Carson has seen double the carries, taking 30 rushes for 106 yards and a TD. Penny has added 80 yards on half the carries, giving Seattle a strong 1-2 punch. In this one, I’m not sure I trust Bridgewater to make the throws he needs to late. Going into Seattle is a tall order for your first game of the season, and I give Wilson the edge in this one. Seahawks 27-20.
Pittsburgh @ San Francisco (-6.5)
Jimmy G & Company are rolling. The 49ers have posted 72 points in their first two games. They rank 3rd in points per game, 8th in yards per game, and 4th in rush yards per game. Talk about impressive from an offense that was deemed questionable at best coming into the year. On the defensive side, they’re taking care of business too, ranking 8th in points against, 5th in sacks, and 2nd in interceptions. Looks like San Fran has it all going for them. On the other hand, the Steelers just lost their longtime QB Ben Roethlisberger for the season with an elbow injury. Mason Rudolph will take the reins for Pittsburgh and will certainly have his work cut out for him. This dynamic 49er defense won’t give him much room for error. With the likes of Richard Sherman, Kwon Alexander, Nick Bosa, and Dee Ford across the line, I worry about Rudolph in his first start. If Pittsburgh wants to compete, James Conner will need to be better. He’s currently slowed by a knee injury but should play on Sunday. Conner has averaged 2.6 yards per carry and only scored once so far this year. With a rookie QB, that just won’t fly. JuJu Smith-Schuster is Pittsburgh’s best player and has excelled despite losing Big Ben. He’s notched 162 yards on 11 receptions thus far and mixes in with Vance McDonald and James Washington to provide ample weapons for Rudolph down the field. Jimmy Garoppolo has his slew of weapons, but they aren’t quite household names. Matt Breida has taken 27 rushes for 158 yards so far this year, while Rasheem Mostert has added 123 yards on 22 carries. Jeff Wilson Jr. has also punched in 2 scores in the absence of Tevin Coleman. For the pass catchers, George Kittle is Jimmy’s top option. Along with Kittle in the receiving corps are rookie WR Deebo Samuel who flashed last week, and Marquise Goodwin, one of the league’s fastest men. While Pittsburgh has some weapons, I think San Fran’s defense will be too stout for the Steelers to keep up with the surprisingly potent 49ers offense. I’ll take San Francisco to cover at home. 49ers 28-21.
LA Rams (-2.5) @ Cleveland
After an opening week loss, the Browns rebounded on Monday night with a 23-3 victory over the lowly Jets. They’ll need to be even sharper on Sunday as they host the Rams. Los Angeles is 2-0, coming off consecutive victories over the Panthers and the Saints. Baker Mayfield has had his ups and downs even this early in the season. He’s thrown for 610 yards, but only 2 TDs compared to 4 INTs. Mayfield’s top option has been the newly acquired Odell Beckham, Jr. Beckham was especially electric on Monday night, catching 6 balls for 161 yards and a TD. Odell’s former LSU teammate, Jarvis Landry, has pulled in 7 balls this year for 88 yards. We’ll have to watch the status of TE David Njoku, who left Monday Night Football with a concussion. On the ground, Nick Chubb is one of the league’s best young backs. He’s tallied 137 yards and a TD so far this year, but he’ll have his work cut out for him when he faces Aaron Donald and the fearsome Rams defense. The Browns’ offensive line has been an issue thus far this year. If they’re not on their game on Sunday, Aaron Donald could singlehandedly wreak havoc on Mayfield and put the Rams over the top. Jared Goff will run the offense for Los Angeles and has a trio of fantastic options in the receiving corps. Between Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods, Goff should always have someone to throw to. In the backfield, Todd Gurley has excelled thus far. He’s rushed for 160 yards on 30 carries and has been spelled by Malcolm Brown to manage his workload. Needless to say, the Rams are rich with weapons. Therefore, the Browns will have to post some points to keep up with them on the scoreboard. I just don’t see that happening with Donald & the Rams defensive front bearing down on Mayfield constantly. I’ll take the road favorite here. Rams 30-24.
Chicago (-3.5) @ Washington
The Bears were lucky to escape with a win in Denver last week. On the other hand, the Redskins fell to the Cowboys but fought valiantly against one of the NFC’s best. The Bears are having major issues on offense, having only scored 19 points through two games. In contrast, the Redskins & Case Keenum have performed above expectations on offense. Much of this credit goes to the young WR Terry McLaurin who has been a favorite target of Keenum through two games. McLaurin has logged 187 yards on 10 grabs so far this year and has scored twice. With the loss of Derrius Guice, the veteran Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson will split backfield duties. In the long run, I don’t see this offense as formidable, and unless this porous defense improves (30th in points against), Washington could be in for a rough year. Chicago and QB Mitch Trubisky need to find a different gear on offense. Trubisky hasn’t thrown a touchdown yet and only has 348 yards through 2 games. Rookie RB David Montgomery will need to excel to rescue this offense, but only has 26 touches through 2 games. He’ll certainly need more opportunities to prove if he’s the “real deal.” On the outside, Trubisky will turn to Allen Robinson II who has 11 catches for 143 yards so far this year, and gadget back Tarik Cohen, who’s caught 10 balls as well. The Bears’ true advantage comes in their defensive ability. Khalil Mack is one of the game’s best players, and I don’t see this line being able to contain him. This game will be sloppy, but I think the Bears’ ability to make a stop late will help them squeeze out a close one on the road. Bears 24-20.
Enjoy the games! Until next week…