by Noah Pires
September 19, 2018
Well, week 2 wasn't as strong as expected. After going 8-8 week 1, I fell off a bit, going 6-10, once again failing to hit my Lock of the MF Century and Survivor Pick. If anything, you can just pick whoever I don't and you'll find success, but I strongly recommend you don't do that this week, as week 2 was an aberration. We're starting to see who's legit and who's fraudulent, so I'm beginning to gain more confidence in my selections, so let's jump into week 3's picks, again, with our heads high and wallets primed and ready.
CURRENT RECORD: 14-18-0
NEW YORK JETS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS (-3)
PICK: BROWNS (-3)
Entering the season, nobody would have thought this would be an interesting game, but the Browns haven't looked bad this season, tying the Steelers and narrowly losing to the Saints. Their main problem through these 2 contests was their kicking game, as Zane Gonzales missed a game winner week 1 and had plenty of chances week 2 to put the game away and missed a game tying 52 yarder. All in all, they aren't an awful team, certainly not nearly as bad as the Browns of years past.
As for the Jets, they dominated the Lions week 1, only to lose to the Dolphins by 8 at home in week two. Their defense has shown to be much improved, but beating the Lions by 31, then losing to the Dolphins by 8 only shows inconsistency on the offensive end. Because of this, I'm not putting my trust in them to travel to Cleveland on a short week and keep the game within 3.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ ATLANTA FALCONS (-3)
PICK: SAINTS (+3)
The Saints have been one of the most disappointing teams of 2018; their defense has regressed to the Saints we knew pre-2017. As for their offense, they still have elite weapons headed by one of the league's best QBs. Because of this, I think the Saints will be able to put up big numbers here, as the Falcons struggle against pass-catching runningbacks. With the loss of Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, this problem was highlighted, as Christian McCaffrey abused them with a 14/102 line in the passing game. Alvin Kamara is a top 5 pass-catching back in the league, so New Orleans should be able to exploit this issue.
As for the Falcons, they looked terrible week 1, but followed it up with an impressive performance against the Carolina Panthers, dropping 31 points against an above average defense. What concerns me, though, is this game could be a shootout and I'm not sure they have the firepower to keep up with the Saints. Sure, they have Tevin Coleman and Julio, but outside of that, there aren't really any other big threats. Matty Ice hasn't looked the same and could struggle now that Andy Levitre, their starting Left Guard, is out.
If the Saints can continue to put up points and exploit Atlanta's defensive weaknesses, I can see them taking a W this game on the road in Atlanta.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-5)
Well, Patty Mahomes looks legit. I'm going to keep this short because there isn't much to say. Mahomes has thrown 10 Tuddies through two weeks against 2 defenses who are objectively stronger than the 49ers'. Both teams they faced, as well, boast better offenses than the 9ers. In those games, KC has won by 10 and 5 points, respectively. The 49ers barely sneaked out a win against a similarly poor defense (in comparison to the Chiefs) week 2 against the Lions, so even though KC's secondary is one to pick on, I just can't see them keeping it close. With the combination of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce in the passing game, as well as Kareem Hunt on the ground, KC's offense is one of, if not, the most electric in the league. For SF to keep up, they'll need Jimmy G to play with elite efficiency and avoid turning the ball over, which he hasn't done yet this year. Give me the Chiefs in the Arrowhead any day of the week (specifically this Sunday at 1 PM).
OAKLAND RAIDERS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS (-4.5)
PICK: DOLPHINS (-4.5)
Who would have though that the Dolphins would be the only 2-0 team in the AFC East? Certainly not me, and probably not Adam Gase. Despite their coaching and offseason moves, the Dolphins have actually looked good. They have a solid running game with Kenyan Drake and the immortal Frank Gore, and decent enough weapons in the passing game. Tannehill has actually looked like the QB fantasy analysts have hoped to see for the past 100 years and their defense has surprised everyone significantly.
The Raiders got blown out week 1, but did so against one of the league's best teams. Week 2 they only lost by 1 to the Broncos, which, although starting 0-2, shows promise. What worries me, though, is how weak their defense is. Phillip Lindsay ran all over them, which I think Kenyan Drake can do, and even though the Dolphins don't have one elite receiving target, they can use a combination of speedsters to beat the Raiders through the air.
This just comes down to me not having much confidence in the Raiders. I'm not a huge Dolphins fan, and did not expect for them to be 2-0, but they're playing at home against a semi-dysfunctional organization, so I think they'll be able to cover.
BUFFALO BILLS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-16.5)
PICK: BILLS (+16.5)
This is a wild take, but I don't think Josh Allen is that bad. In his first ever start, he was matched up against a top 10 Chargers defense and kept it within 11. They really have no weapons at all now with LeSean McCoy going down after his lineman snapped up his ribs, but I can see a scenario where Minnesota takes a game off, and although they'll likely win, won't beat them by 2+ TDs.
Why do I think they'll play down to Buffalo's level? Well, week 4 they face the Rams on the road on a short week, a game that will certainly need more focus than a home matchup vs the Bills. After that, they play @ Philly, who is getting Carson Wentz back. I wouldn't be surprised if the Vikings rest Dalvin Cook and play with caution. I have no doubt they take this game, but I'm just not sure they'll push the envelope after they get comfortable, which is why I think the Bills can keep it within 17.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-6.5)
PICK: COLTS (+6.5)
Carson Wentz is returning this week, and who better to face than the Colts' defense? Well, they actually did a good job bottling up the Redskins last week, so I'm not sure Wentz jumps back in, regains his 2017 midseason form and dominates Indy. His weapons are depleted with Alshon and Mike Wallace out, along with Ajayi likely sitting, and their defense may not be the top 5 unit we may have expected after giving up 27 to the Bucs.
As for the Colts, Andrew Luck has looked good, and although their running game hasn't been strong, their passing attack has allowed them to keep them in games. TY Hilton looks like his old self, back when he had a QB that knew how to throw a ball, and Eric Ebron is starting to become the 1st rounder he was drafted to be. Sure, their defense isn't elite, but I think Luck has the ability to do what Fitzpatrick did last week, keeping this game close. In Wentz's first game back, I'm just not sure what to expect and don't have confidence in them winning by a TD.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-2.5) @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS
PICK: PACKERS (-2.5)
Let's keep this one simple. The Packers were favored last week against the Vikings by 2.5, and although they look no worse than they did week 1, are again only favored by 2.5 against a much weaker Skins team. Sure, the Packers aren't at home, but ARod will be able to exploit the Redskins even though their defense looks much improved. Despite their improvement, Luck still led the Colts to a 12 point win against them, something Rodgers definitely has the capability of doing, even on a hobbled knee.
As far as Washington goes, they have a good passing attack, but I'm not sure they can keep up with the Packers. I'd say both the Redskins and Packers are at about the same level defensively, but the Packers are far superior on the offensive side of the ball. ARod was one missed kick away from beating an objectively better Vikings squad (compared to Washington), and despite this miss, the Packers were still able to bring the game into OT and finish in a tie.
If you're still in your survivor pool, congrats, you definitely haven't taken my advice, but if there's a week to start, I'd say choosing the Packers -2.5 this week is a very safe bet.
CINCINNATI BENGALS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS (-2.5)
PICK: BENGALS (+2.5)
Cincy has actually looked very good this season. Their defense, despite the loss of Vontaze Burfict, has been one of the strongest units in the entire league. Week 1, their offense exploited the Colts, which I thought was a fluke, but week 2, on a short week against what was thought to be a strong Baltimore D, they showed the world they were no joke. AJ Green already has more scores than Julio did all of 2017 and Andy Dalton looks to be an above average QB with tons of weapons at his disposal.
As far as the Panthers go, their offense leaves a little bit to be desired. They put up 16 points against the Cowboys and failed to keep up against the Falcons, who looked to be a nothing short of a shitshow week 1. I'm not convinced they'll be able to put up points against a stout Cincinatti defense, and although the Panthers may be the Bengals' toughest task thus far, they certainly have enough weapons to move the ball, even without Joe Mixon, as Gio Bernard has proven he can carry a load as the lead back. I think this game will be close with the Bengals narrowly pulling out a win, so I like them getting 2.5 points this week.
TENNESSEE TITANS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (-7.5)
PICK: JAGUARS (-7.5)
2 weeks into the season, I'm not sure what to think of the Tennessee Titans. Week 1 they lost to what was supposed to be one of the weakest rosters in the NFL, but bounced back against the Texans in a 20-17 win with Blaine Gabbert at the helm. Despite the win, they did so against a Jadeveon Clowney-less Texans, a unit who already looked to be struggling on the defensive side of the ball before losing him. The Titan's offense won't be as lucky heading into week 2, though.
The Jags still boast one of, if not, the league's best defenses. They have held the Giants to 15 points, which isn't something to write home about, but also limited the Pats to 20. The Jags are playing at home again, and facing a much weaker team than the New England Patriots. On the offensive side of the ball, they didn't slow down one bit despite losing Leonard Fournette, and even if he doesn't play this week, the combination of TJ Yeldon and Corey Grant should be more than enough out of the backfield to torture Tennessee. Their receiving corps is shaping up to be one of the most underrated in the league and should have no trouble against an exploitable Titans secondary. Because of all this, I'm not sure the Titans can keep this withing 7.5, even if Mariota suits up.
DENVER BRONCOS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS (-5.5)
PICK: BRONCOS (+5.5)
The Ravens went from looking like they could be AFC North title contenders to being A.J. Green's doormat week 2. The reason? Well, it's a combination of things. Week 1 they played the Bills, who may just be the worst team in the league. They have no real threats offensively and their defense had no answers for the likes of John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead. Week 2, they had a bigger challenge, facing their division rivals on a short week. This time, they had to face a team with a myriad of weapons both on the ground and in the passing game, and will have to do the same this week against the Broncos. Phillip Lindsay is beginning to look like a real threat, and pairing him with Royce Freeman creates for a scary ground game. As for their receivers, Emanuel Sanders has looked to regain his form of old now that he has someone throwing him the ball, and even though DT doesn't look like his usual self, they have Courtland Sutton, who provides a large red-zone body who wins in one-on-on situation.
Because of their weapons, the Broncos should have no problem scoring against the Ravens. As far as the Broncos defense goes, they look to be strong and should contain Joe Flacco. Despite playing on the road, I think the Broncos' pass rush and overall defense will be too much for Joey to win this game, so I like Denver as 5.5 point dogs, despite playing on the road.
NEW YORK GIANTS @ HOUSTON TEXANS (-3.5)
PICK: TEXANS (-3.5)
The Texans haven't looked one bit like the team many expected. Watson took a step back, which was expected, but their defense is nowhere near the elite unit that they were advertised as. As far as the G-Men go, they are just as shit as expected. Their offense is filled with weapons, but behind that o-line and with Eli at the helm, it's seemingly going to waste. Their defense is about league average as well, so they aren't a very feared team to match up against.
Now, even thought the Texans D is suspect, their offense seems to be gaining its footing. Watson obviously wasn't going to return to his 2017 form, especially after his injury, but he's shown improvement from week 1 to week 2. He did make one of the worst plays imaginable late in their matchup with the Titans when he had about 20 seconds and no timeouts to get into field goal range, so instead of throwing to the sideline of running for a first and then out of bounds, he scrambled, passed the line of scrimmage, retreated, and then threw to the middle of the field. Sure, this was a stupid mistake, one which doesn't give you much confidence in thinking this team will rebound, but they're playing the Giants this week. If there's one team I'm confident in betting against, it's the G-Men. They're playing at home in Houston against an offense that, although has weapons, is unproven, so I have confidence in the Texans this week.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ LOS ANGELES RAMS (-7)
PICK: CHARGERS (+7)
This is one of the more interesting games to watch this week. The Rams have steamrolled both opponents this year, but neither are really on the level of the Los Angeles Chargers. Firstly, they faced the Raiders, who were playing their first game under a new regime, and last week, they played one of the 2 worst teams in the league. Neither team's defense had any answers for the Rams' weapons, but the Chargers provide a tougher matchup in terms of defensive fortitude. Their secondary is one of the best in the NFL, and even without Joey Bosa, they have the 8th most sacks (6) this year. In no way do I think the Chargers have all the answers for the Rams, but they'll definitely put up a better fight than the Cards and Raiders.
As far as the Rams' defense goes, they have shut down both teams they faced this year (outside of the Raiders' first drive). With Talib and Peters on the outside, they've been able to lock up every receiver they've lined up against, but the best WR core they faced was Amari Cooper and an aging Jordy Nelson. The Chargers boast Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, and two solid pass catchers out of the backfield in Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Because of this, the Rams will face their first real challenge this season defensively and I'm intrigued to see how well they hold up. I see this finishing as a close game, which is why I think the Chargers can keep it within 7.
CHICAGO BEARS (-4.5) @ ARIZONA CARDINALS
PICK: BEARS (-4.5)
Another quick analysis here. The Cardinals have been outscored 58-6 over the first 2 weeks of the year and have shown nothing on either side of the ball that should garner worry from any team in the league. The Bears challenged the Packers week 1, although they had no answer for ARod in the 4th quarter, and showed how dominant their defense was Monday night against the Seahawks. The Cardinals don't have anywhere near a good o-line, and with the Bears' pass-rush that leads the NFL in sacks (10), the Cardinals won't have much luck in the passing game. David Johnson is their lone bright spot, but he isn't being used to his potential as he hasn't been used in the air attack, either.
Along with the Cards' terrible offense, their defense couldn't stop anyone. Adrian Peterson looked like his 26 year old self week 1 against them and Todd Gurley found the end zone 3 times last week. Jordan Howard should have no problem finding running room against Arizona, allowing them to dominate time of possession by pounding the rock and keeping the Cardinals offense off the field with their elite defensive form. Even at home, I don't think Arizona has much of a chance to keep this close and I wouldn't bet on Arizona to do anything until they figure out how to use their weapons. This is my Lock of the MF Century as I believe the Bears are more talented on both sides of the ball, and despite going on the road, should have absolutely no problems with a depleted Arizona Cardinals roster.
DALLAS COWBOYS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-3)
PICK: COWBOYS (+3)
This game is interesting, both teams are very similar. The Cowboys' defense is solid, and even with the myriad of losses this offseason, Seattle's defense has looked pretty strong as well. As far as the passing game, neither team has any real consistent weapons. The best WR in this matchup is Tyler Lockett, which should say something. There's a large disparity in terms of QB play, though, but Russell Wilson can't carry the load all by himself, as he showed last week in a tough matchup against Chicago, behind a bottom of the pack offensive line, and this is what separates these teams for me.
Dallas' line blows Seattle's out of the water, and with the Cowboys' pass-rush, which has the 2nd most sacks in the league (9), they should be able to get to Wilson with ease. Their run game won't be able to save them, their receivers are below average, and their defense isn't what it used to be. If they didn't have Wilson, they'd be the same caliber as the Bills. The Cowboys', although they don't have much of a passing game, still dominate on the ground and have a strong defense, controlling time of posession and playing their style of football. On the road, getting points against a pretty weak roster, I'll take the Cowboys here pretty confidently.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-7) @ DETROIT LIONS
PICK: PATRIOTS (-7)
The Pats are coming off a big loss against the Jags, but should have much easier treading this week against a bottom of the league Lions' defense. Over the first two weeks, they've given up a combined 78 points to the Jets and 49ers. Even if Josh Gordon doesn't suit up, the Patriots' offense is miles ahead of either team the Lions have faced thus far, so I have no concern of New England putting up big numbers. As far as the Lions' offense goes, they bounced back against a weak SF defense week 2, dropping 27 points in that contest. Despite this, I don't think they'll be able to keep up. While their passing attack has shown they can successfully utilize 3 WRs, their running game hasn't found much success. Their offense is fairly lopsided, and if the Pats are good at one thing, it's pinpointing a team's weakness. If the Patriots can limit Stafford, which the Jets did week 1, their offense won't have enough firepower in other aspects to keep the defense on their toes. This is easier said than done, but their lack of a running game proves to be a big difference between both teams. Neither defense is elite, but I think the Pats just win out in a barn burner.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-3) @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
PICK: BUCCANEERS (+3)
If the Dolphins haven't been the most surprising team in the NFL, it's been the Bucs. Week 1 Fitzmagic looked like ARod, dropping some knowledge on the Saints. Even last week, facing what was thought to be a top 5 defense, Fitzy repeated his efficiency, throwing for two 75 yard scores. Sure, their run game hasn't been strong, but their passing attack is so full of weapons they can overcome their weaknesses on the ground. As far as their defense goes, although they have lost some pieces in the secondary, they have been a middle of the pack unit, which is better than what everyone thought they'd be entering the year.
As far as Pittsburgh goes, their defense has been terrible, and although their offense is filled with playmakers, they haven't been able to overcome their problems on the other side of the field. Last week, Big Ben put up 400+ yards, 4 TDs and 0 turnovers, and STILL LOST. Sure, they were playing one of the league's most efficient offenses, but the Bucs thus far have looked to be among the league's best as well. Along with their defensive problems, they're still without Lev Bell, and now, reports are coming out saying Antonio Brown is unhappy and hasn't been showing up to team meetings. Even if this isn't serious, it's a distraction, nonetheless, and shouldn't be disregarded. The Steelers always struggle on the road, and against a team that has proven to score against top-tier defenses, I can't see them covering the spread this game.
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