Here are my picks for the NFL's Week Three:
*** Sunday, September 23rd, 2007 ***
Detroit (2-0) at Philadelphia (0-2) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – Eagles by 6½)
It's rare that you see a winless team favored by nearly a touchdown over an undefeated team in Week Three. As long as QB Jon Kitna doesn't get knocked out of the game (he suffered a mild concussion last week against the Vikings), Detroit should be able to put 20+ points on the board. The Lions defense will have problems with RB Brian Westbrook, but he is Philadelphia's only offensive weapon. If Eagles QB Donovan McNabb continues to struggle, this one will be an upset.
RJ's Pick: Detroit by 3
Miami (0-2) at New York Jets (0-2) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – Jets by 3)
Both teams have struggled to put points on the board so far this season. Dolphins QB Trent Green threw four picks last week against Dallas. Jets QB Chad Pennington was injured and did not play in Week Two, but is probably going to start this week against Miami. This one should be close, but with the game being played at Giants Stadium and Pennington presumably healthy again, you gotta go with the Jets.
RJ's Pick: Jets by 4
Buffalo (0-2) at New England (2-0) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – Patriots by 16½)
New England is already running away with the AFC East. Meanwhile, the Bills are all banged up and are averaging a pathetic 8.5 points per game. There is no question that the Patriots should win this one easily.
RJ's Pick: Patriots by 24 (New England 38, Buffalo 14)
Arizona (1-1) at Baltimore (1-1) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – Baltimore by 7½)
Weird fact: Both teams have scored exactly 40 points and allowed exactly 40 points. For Baltimore, QB Steve McNair may return to the starting lineup this week. But if not, Kyle Boller is a more than capable backup. Arizona RB Edgerrin James is going to need a big game in order for the Cardinals to have a chance. I predict Baltimore's defense stops James and pressures QB Matt Leinart all game long.
RJ's Pick: Ravens by 9
Saint Louis (0-2) at Tampa Bay (1-1) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – Tampa Bay by 3½)
The conventional NFL wisdom is that the Rams have a great offense but a poor defense. But that's not entirely true. They do have a sub-par defense, but their offense isn't nearly as good as advertised. The offensive line has suffered numerous injuries, and consequently RB Steven Jackson is underperforming. As a result, the offense has become largely one-dimensional by relying too much on the passing attack. And while QB Marc Bulger and WRs Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are certainly capable playmakers, they can't win games all by themselves. The Buccaneers offense isn't particularly good (WR Joey Galloway excepted), but the defense is pretty solid, so Tampa Bay should be able to handle the Rams at home.
RJ's Pick: Tampa Bay by 2
San Francisco (2-0) at Pittsburgh (2-0) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – Steelers by 8½)
The Steelers are 2-0 because they are a very good team. The 49ers are 2-0 because they've been lucky to barely beat weak opponents. I expect a bloodbath at Heinz Field.
RJ's Pick: Steelers by 18
Indianapolis (2-0) at Houston (2-0) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – Colts by 6)
The Colts struggled a bit last week against Tennessee, but they still got the win. QB Peyton Manning is averaging exactly 300 passing yards per game, and RB Joseph Addai is averaging 99.5 rushing yards per game. Texans QB Matt Schaub has been a very pleasant surprise, with a quarterback rating of 111.4. This should be a high-scoring matchup, and an upset isn't out of the question, especially with Houston playing at home. However, I'll go with the Colts.
RJ's Pick: Indianapolis by 4
San Diego (1-1) at Green Bay (2-0) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – San Diego by 4½)
I just don't know about San Diego this year. They didn't play very well against the Bears in Week One, although they got the win. Then they were humiliated by New England in Week Two (on SNF to boot). QB Philip Rivers did not look impressive in either game, and RB LaDainian Tomlinson has a total of just 68 rushing yards. Of course, you could say that both games were against good defensive teams, but that's also true this week against Green Bay. The Packers have allowed just 26 points through two games. And while they don't have much of a running game, QB Brett Favre is playing like he's ten years younger. I still think the Chargers will make the playoffs, but I do believe they'll slip below .500 this week.
RJ's Pick: Green Bay by 3
Minnesota (1-1) at Kansas City (0-2) – 1:00 PM (Sheridan's Line – Kansas City by 2½)
I truly do not understand the line on this one. Sure, Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson is pretty much the laughingstock of the league, but he's "injured" and so either Kelly Holcomb or Brooks Bollinger will start in his place (and either one would be an improvement). And sure, the Chiefs are at home, but the "Arrowhead advantage" ain't what it used to be. The fact of the matter is, the Vikings have a decent running game and a solid defense. What do the Chiefs have? QB Damon Huard and his 66.5 quarterback rating? RB Larry Johnson and his 3.8 yards per carry and zero TDs? TE Tony Gonzalez and his 71 receiving yards? The coaching wizardry of Herm Edwards and his career 50-54 record as a head coach? I'm not saying the Vikings are guaranteed to win this game or anything, but it certainly seems like the most likely outcome to me.
RJ's Pick: Minnesota by 5
Cleveland (1-1) at Oakland (0-2) – 4:05 PM (Sheridan's Line – Oakland by 3)
Oakland played Denver close last week, on the road, but ultimately lost 23-20. RB LaMont Jordan has been outstanding so far this season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Unfortunately for Oakland, their defense hasn't been as good as everyone expected. They'll need to put in an outstanding defensive performance this week if they hope to stop the Cleveland Browns offensive juggernaut (the previous sentence was meant to be only mildly sarcastic). The Browns won a wild one last week against the Bengals, by a score of 51-45. QB Derek Anderson threw for 5 TDs in only his fourth career NFL start. RB Jamal Lewis rushed for 216 yards and a TD. This should be another high-scoring affair, with close to 200 yards on the ground for both teams.
RJ's Pick: Browns by 1
Jacksonville (1-1) at Denver (2-0) – 4:05 PM (Sheridan's Line – Denver by 3)
Denver has been very lucky so far this season. They won in Buffalo in Week One on a last-second field goal. Then they beat the Raiders in Week Two on an overtime field goal. They really have to hope kicker Jason Elam stays healthy. Jacksonville won a low-scoring contest against Atlanta last week, after losing a low-scoring contest against Tennessee in Week One. So, I think it's reasonable to predict a low-scoring game that Denver wins with a field goal as time expires.
RJ's Pick: Denver by 2
Cincinnati (1-1) at Seattle (1-1) – 4:05 PM (Sheridan's Line – Seattle by 3½)
Cincinnati's defense absolutely fell apart last week, after a praiseworthy performance against Baltimore in Week One. To give you an idea of just how bad they were defensively last Sunday, QB Carson Palmer threw for 401 yards and six TDs, and yet they still lost. Seattle RB Shaun Alexander must be licking his chops in expectation of a big game this Sunday. The Seahawks defense is good, and they'll need to be if they have any hope of containing the Bengals offense (third highest scoring in the NFL). This one is a tough call, because it's uncertain how the Bengals defensive unit will bounce back from last week's embarrassment. I suspect their professional and personal pride will lead them to a better performance against the Seattle.
RJ's Pick: Bengals by 1
New York Giants (0-2) at Washington (2-0) – 4:15 PM (Sheridan's Line – Redskins by 3½)
It's difficult to imagine the Redskins starting this season out 3-0 after going 5-11 in 2006. And their offense certainly leaves much to be desired. But their defense has allowed only 25 points, third-least in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Giants defense just can't stop anybody right now. They've allowed more points than any other team (yes, more than the Bengals or the Browns). Offensively, they're doing fine. QB Eli Manning has a 97.5 quarterback rating, WR Plaxico Burress is looking to have a career year, and RB Derrick Ward is averaging 89.5 yards per game. But none of that is going to matter if their defense doesn't pull itself together, and soon. As long as Redskins QB Jason Campbell doesn't throw too many picks, Washington should remain unbeaten.
RJ's Pick: Washington by 6
Carolina (1-1) at Atlanta (0-2) – 4:15 PM (Sheridan's Line – Carolina by 4)
Carolina is a mediocre team, but they do have some advantages. First of all, they've got Steve Smith. Second, they play in the weakest division in the NFL (with the possible exception of the AFC East), which means they probably only need to go 9-7 or 10-6 to win their division and make the playoffs. And third, they've got Steve Smith. Atlanta, on the other hand, is painfully bad. They've managed a total of 10 points coming into Week Three, fewest in the league (yes, less than Kansas City or Buffalo). QB Joey Harrington has been sacked 13 times already, and has 2 INTs with zero TDs. This week is their home opener, and it's going to be ugly. The boo birds should be out in force by halftime.
RJ's Pick: Carolina by 13
Dallas (2-0) at Chicago (1-1) – 8:15 PM (Sheridan's Line – Bears by 3)
This is a big game for both teams, but especially for Chicago. The defending NFC champs do not want to fall to 1-2, with another big game coming up in Week Four at division rival Detroit. QB Rex Grossman is simply going to have to step up and start playing better. He has one TD and three INTs through two games, which just isn't going to cut it. A 55.1 quarterback rating isn't going to take his team very deep into the playoffs, assuming they even make the postseason with that kind of play from the quarterback position. It's never a good sign when your main offensive threat is your kickoff/punt returner. All that being said, they still have a terrific defense that is capable of winning games pretty much by itself. As for Dallas, they have scored more points than any other team in the league (the only teams that are close are the Bengals and the Patriots). QB Tony Romo has a stratospheric 119.3 quarterback rating. Their defense is sub-par, however. The key question for this game is whether the Bears defense can stop the Cowboys offense (because we know the Bears offense will mostly stop itself). And I don't think they can.
RJ's Pick: Dallas by 5
*** Monday, September 24th, 2007 ***
Tennessee (1-1) at New Orleans (0-2) – 8:30 PM (Sheridan's Line – Saints by 4½)
I know I've been a little upset-happy this week, but I'm going to pick another one here. New Orleans is simply not the same team they were last year. They've given up the second-most points in the NFC while scoring the third-fewest. QB Drew Brees has 3 INTs and only 1 TD. Meanwhile, the Titans beat Jacksonville on the road and nearly came back against the Colts last week. Their defense has been surprisingly solid. I realize this is the Saints home opener, and it's on MNF, but I'm still gonna go with the 'dog.
RJ's Pick: Titans by 6
RJ's Week Three Picks: Lions, Jets, Pats, Ravens, Bucs, Steelers, Colts, Packers, Vikes, Browns, Broncos, Bengals, Redskins, Panthers, Cowboys, Titans
– I picked eight home teams and eight away teams
– I picked nine favorites and seven underdogsPowered by Sidelines