N.F.L. Week 3: Our Picks Against the Spread

Patrick Mahomes looks to extend a record-setting start; the Packers hope to rebound in Washington; and Los Angeles teams play each other for the first time since 1994.

Image
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is making the N.F.L. seem easy.CreditCreditDon Wright/Associated Press

People tend to like touchdowns and close games, so this N.F.L. season has truly delivered. The N.F.L. has produced the most touchdowns, and the second most overall points, through two weeks of any season in its history, and according to the league, 25 of the 32 games have been within one score at some point in fourth quarter. For those who like to factor in drama, there have even been nine fourth-quarter comebacks.

This week the Rams are trying to prove they are the team to beat in the N.F.L., while Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick are trying to show their hot starts are not just a fluke, and Matt Patricia is going up against his old boss, Bill Belichick. A reasonable assumption: Lots of touchdowns, lots of points and more than a few close games.

Here is a look at this week’s schedule, with all picks made against the point spread.

Last week’s record: 10-6

Overall record: 21-10-1


49ers at Chiefs, 1 p.m., Fox

The football world has struggled to quantify just how incredible Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been over the season’s first two weeks, but one statistic sums it up best: He set a record for touchdown passes through the first three starts of a career — 10.

The reason that’s especially notable is that Mahomes didn’t throw a single touchdown pass in his first start, which came in the final game of last season. So even after he spotted every quarterback in N.F.L. history a game, he still came out on top.

Mahomes’s 10 touchdowns lead the N.F.L., and the Chiefs (2-0) look unstoppable on offense. They have been so wildly entertaining that little attention has been paid to the fact that their defense has allowed 217 more yards than their offense has gained. Provided Mahomes throws from four to six touchdown passes every week — and no interceptions — a yardage deficit like that can be manageable. But should he regress to the mean even slightly, the jig could be up.

Enter the 49ers (1-1), who have their own young quarterback to be excited about in Jimmy Garoppolo and the N.F.L.’s leading rusher in Matt Breida. San Francisco has underwhelmed so far, but if Marquise Goodwin returns on offense, and Reuben Foster makes his season debut on defense, this game might be a lot closer than Las Vegas has predicted. Pick: 49ers +6.5

Chargers at Rams, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Scoring more than 30 points in each of their first two games was hardly surprising for the Rams (2-0), who had the top-scoring offense in the N.F.L. last season and should only benefit from the addition of receiver Brandin Cooks and another year of development from receiver Cooper Kupp. The question is whether the team’s defense, which added several stars this off-season, is really as good as suggested by the 13 total points it has allowed thus far.

This first battle between teams from Los Angeles since 1994 will serve as a good test of how the Rams perform against a top-tier offense. Quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers (1-1) are fairly certain to do more damage than Oakland or Arizona managed, but should the Rams’ defense continue to match their offense, the rest of the league might want to call it a season. Pick: Rams -7

Image
Coach Matt Patricia will try to redirect the Lions’ season in a tough matchup at home against his former employers, the Patriots.CreditBen Margot/Associated Press

Patriots at Lions, 8:20 p.m., NBC

There are plenty of reasons this game is a top-tier matchup, but none of them have to do with the teams’ quality of play so far this season. The Patriots (1-1) have followed up last year’s Super Bowl loss with a narrow victory over Houston and a fairly embarrassing loss to Jacksonville. That’s still better than the Lions (0-2), who have allowed an ugly 78 points.

Among the plot points to watch:

  • Coach Matt Patricia going up against New England after having spent 14 years on the Patriots’ coaching staff;

  • Josh Gordon, the talented wide receiver, potentially playing for the Patriots despite a hamstring injury that was reportedly part of Cleveland’s decision to part ways with him;

  • New England’s defense, which has allowed 276 passing yards a game, trying to contain Matthew Stafford, who has averaged 323.5.

If Patricia beats his old boss, it would certainly make up for a disappointing first two weeks of the season, but expecting two bad games in a row from Tom Brady and the Patriots seems greedy. Pick: Patriots -6.5

Packers at Redskins, 1 p.m., Fox

The Packers (1-0-1) want to believe that a roughing-the-passer call against Clay Matthews cost them a victory last week. While they have a point, they are ignoring the fact that Green Bay needed a blocked punt for a touchdown, and a performance so horrible by the opposing kicker that he was immediately released by the team, to come away with a tie. Close games and frustration are likely to define the Packers’ season as long as Aaron Rodgers is severely limited in his movements because of a knee injury. The veteran superstar gives Green Bay a far better chance of winning than his backup, DeShone Kizer, but either way a decent team like Washington (1-1) is a tough matchup on the road. Pick: Redskins +3


Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz will make his first start since Week 14 of last season.CreditMitchell Leff/Getty Images

Colts at Eagles, 1 p.m., Fox

If fans of the Colts (1-1) seemed excited about the return of Andrew Luck in Week 1, just wait until Philadelphia fans see Carson Wentz take the field for the Eagles (1-1). It’s hard to imagine a team’s fan base being more excited about the benching of the reigning Super Bowl M.V.P., but the Philadelphia faithful seem to have struck a healthy balance between being thankful to Nick Foles for the upset over the Patriots and being realistic about how much better their team is with Wentz on the field. The question now is if Wentz can do all of the remarkable things that he did on the field before last year’s devastating knee injury. Pick: Colts +6.5

Saints at Falcons, 1 p.m., Fox

The Saints (1-1) were expected to miss running back Mark Ingram (suspended for the first four games over a test for performance-enhancing drugs) on offense. But unless he plans to play defense when he returns, New Orleans has bigger problems. The Saints have allowed 868 total yards through two games, losing to Tampa Bay and just barely beating Cleveland. Now they go on the road to face the Falcons (1-1), a team with an offense that puts those other two teams to shame. Pick: Falcons -3

Titans at Jaguars, 1 p.m., CBS

The Titans (1-1) are looking at starting either a severely limited Marcus Mariota (elbow injury) or a severely limited Blaine Gabbert (overall ability) against the Jaguars (2-0), who just rode Blake Bortles and their strong defense to a fairly easy win over the Patriots. Pick: Jaguars (off)

A.J. Green has been nearly unstoppable for Cincinnati, with 161 receiving yards and four touchdowns through two games. CreditAndy Lyons/Getty Images

Bengals at Panthers, 1 p.m., CBS

The Bengals (2-0) are off to an incredible start, especially on offense, and while the Panthers (1-1) have not produced quite as many points, there is every reason to believe that this game will be a high-scoring affair. Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have looked as good as any quarterback-receiver pair in the N.F.L. besides the Buccaneers’ Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeSean Jackson, but Carolina is rightly favored at home. Pick: Panthers -3

In the first year of his $100 million contract, Raiders Coach Jon Gruden has struggled to get points from his offense. CreditJustin Edmonds/Getty Images

Raiders at Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS

The most interesting part of this matchup might be the national anthem, when Marshawn Lynch of the Raiders (0-2) will presumably sit on the bench while Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson of the Dolphins (2-0) kneel in a continuation of the protest to raise awareness of police brutality. Once the game starts, the result will most likely be determined by Oakland’s ability to turn all of its yardage into points. Pick: Raiders +3

Bears at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m., Fox

The Khalil Mack show is on once a week, and it is must-see TV. The rest of the Bears (1-1) do not live up to their defensive star — quarterback Mitchell Trubisky seemed especially problematic last week — but against the hapless Cardinals (0-2), a one-man show is sufficient. Pick: Bears -6

Cowboys at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., Fox

The Cowboys (1-1) looked so good on both sides of the ball against the Giants last week that it’s surprising the final score — 20-13 — was so close. More surprising is the fact that the Seahawks (0-2) have been fairly competitive despite having no running game and a porous defense. Pick: Cowboys +1.5

Giants at Texans, 1 p.m., Fox

The main difference between these winless teams is that some pundits thought the Texans (0-2) could be good this season while the Giants (0-2) were widely seen as a rebuilding project. Houston has more overall talent, and at some point quarterback Deshaun Watson will explode for a huge game, but he will need consistency from his offensive line for that to happen. Pick: Texans -6


Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had some fun with his wardrobe as he answered questions after last week’s win.CreditMark Lomoglio/Associated Press

Steelers at Buccaneers, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

The Steelers (0-1-1) are probably not as bad as they have seemed, and the Buccaneers (2-0) should hold off on making Super Bowl plans. But there is no question which team has been having more fun this season.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s connection with DeSean Jackson has been remarkable — and he has been nearly as productive throwing to Mike Evans. But it is worth remembering that while Fitzpatrick’s back-to-back games of 400 or more passing yards and at least four touchdowns tied an N.F.L. record set by Dan Marino, the record was also matched by the extremely forgettable Billy Volek back in 2004. In Volek’s bid to make it three games in a row with such gaudy statistics, he managed just eight completions and 111 yards.

There is opportunity for another big game by Fitzpatrick, especially given that Pittsburgh allowed Patrick Mahomes to throw six touchdowns last week. And while the Steelers’ offense deals with several problems in an early-season slump, Coach Mike Tomlin has to find a way for his team to win or he could find himself on the hot seat, in spite of having won a Super Bowl for a franchise that prizes stability in the head coaching job. Pick: Steelers -1

Source link

Can't Get Enough SportsCoaster?

Sign up for SportsCoaster's newsletter and get the latest sports news straight to your inbox!