N.F.L. Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread

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Bradford did not practice on Wednesday, but the Vikings seemed to intentionally create some ambiguity by referring to it as a rest day. Keenum, who played well for the Rams in a victory over Detroit last season, is likely the starter for another week, but as long as Diggs and Thielen are getting open and Cook is creating opportunities for himself in the running game, either quarterback should be fine. Pick: Vikings

Panthers at Patriots, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Patriots by 9

Cam Newton’s passer ratings in the first three games were 87.3, 83.9 and 43.7. He has zero touchdown passes over the last two games, and has thrown three interceptions. He is running the ball considerably less, and he has not been nearly as effective when he does run. The disappearing act from the former most valuable player was largely mitigated in Weeks 1 and 2 by Carolina’s defense not allowing a touchdown, but the Panthers (2-1) faltered defensively against New Orleans in Week 3, and the result was an ugly 34-13 loss.

Carolina travels to New England to face the Patriots (2-1) this week, and the team cannot afford to be patient in waiting for Newton to find his mojo, or a 2-0 start will have suddenly become 2-2. Pick: Patriots

Raiders at Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Broncos by 2.5

Two weeks ago, this had the makings of something special. The Broncos (2-1) were coming off a huge win over Dallas, and the Raiders (2-1) seemed even better offensively than when they went to the playoffs last season. Week 3 proved that there is a long way to go before figuring either team out: The Broncos were upset by Buffalo and the Raiders were crushed by Washington.

It would certainly help the Raiders if Amari Cooper, the team’s star wide receiver, could get over a recent problem with dropped passes. He leads the N.F.L. with six drops this season, and caught only one of the five passes thrown his way in last week’s humiliating offensive effort. He and Derek Carr are too talented to stay down for long. Pick: Raiders

Steelers at Ravens, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Steelers by 3

The Steelers (2-1) gave people plenty to debate last week when they did not come onto the field for the national anthem. Ben Roethlisberger seemed to regret how the team handled things, while Alejandro Villanueva apologized for inadvertently embarrassing his teammates. The focus on the anthem let the fact that Pittsburgh lost to the lowly Bears escape the narrative.

The Steelers will get back to football this week, and the open question is what to make of the team’s offense. There are perhaps no three offensive players more suited to excel together than Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Roethlisberger, but even with the reintroduction of Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh is averaging a meager 21.3 points a game after averaging 24.9 points a game last season and 26.4 the year before that.

Bell, the team’s 25-year-old running back, spent the off-season talking about how he deserved to be paid as a top running back and a top wide receiver at the same time. He has made that concept seem unnecessary by averaging just 3.5 yards a carry while not making an impact as a receiver. The Ravens (2-1) have struggled a bit defensively despite their solid record, so perhaps this is the week that Bell looks like himself. Pick: Steelers

Second-Tier Games

Photo

Sammy Watkins, right, a wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams, has caught 13 of the 14 passes thrown to him this season, and he represents his team’s best chance at upsetting the Dallas Cowboys. First, he would have to clear the N.F.L.’s concussion protocol.

Credit
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Rams at Cowboys, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Cowboys by 6.5

The Cowboys (2-1) had their offense wake up from an extended slumber in the second half of last week’s win over Arizona. If they can keep playing like that, Dallas may be able to forget how poorly the team played in a Week 2 loss to Denver.

If Sammy Watkins of the Rams (2-1) clears the N.F.L.’s concussion protocol and is able to play, there is an opportunity to find mismatches for him against the Dallas secondary. While Los Angeles has improved a great deal, it has probably not gotten to the point where a road upset against a top N.F.C. team is possible. Pick: Cowboys

Bills at Falcons, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Falcons by 8

There is no questioning the fact that the Bills (2-1) have put together a formidable defense that will keep the team in most games. Even in their lone loss, they largely eliminated the other team offensively, but lost because they simply could not score enough points of their own. The improvement is a welcome change for a franchise that has not been in the playoffs since 1999, but there is improvement and then there is trying to keep up with the Falcons (3-0) in Atlanta. Pick: Falcons

Bears at Packers, 8:25 p.m. (Thursday), CBS and NFL Network

Line: Packers by 7

The Packers (2-1) have been playing the Bears (1-2) since 1921, and the series is knotted at 93-93-6. Fittingly, their postseason record against each other is 1-1. You cannot discern a clear winner in terms of points, either, with the Packers holding a 3,335-3,331 edge. It is not hard, however, to determine which team has dominated the rivalry in recent years. Since Aaron Rodgers took over as the Packers’ starting quarterback in 2008, Green Bay has won 15 of the 19 games, and he is likely to make it 16 of 20. Pick: Packers

Titans at Texans, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Titans by 1.5

The Titans (2-1) are a more well-rounded team than the Texans (1-2), but as Tennessee works to become the dominant force in the A.F.C. South, there may be a psychological hurdle for them to clear in winning a game in Houston against the two-time defending division champions. Marcus Mariota, a force with his arm and legs, seems ready to clear that hurdle. Pick: Titans

Saints vs. Dolphins at London, 9:30 a.m., Fox

Line: Saints by 3

Take an offense that loves nothing more than stretching the field vertically, put it against a defense that struggles most against deep passes, and you have a recipe for the Saints (1-2) putting on an offensive clinic for the fans in London against the Dolphins (1-1). Miami’s best chance comes from its front seven taking advantage of a banged-up New Orleans offensive line, but this is likely to be a defensively challenged shootout, and when that is the case, Drew Brees gets the advantage over Jay Cutler. Pick: Saints

Jaguars at Jets, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Jaguars by 3.5

The Jaguars (2-1) are road favorites for the first time since 2011, and it is not hard to figure out why since their defense has looked phenomenal in two of the three games. They have a fearsome pass rush and a capable secondary — they are limiting teams to 147.7 yards a game through the air. The Jets (1-2) and Josh McCown are likely to see the end of their unexpected one-game winning streak. Pick: Jaguars

Eagles at Chargers, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Chargers by 1.5

The Chargers (0-3) are favorites at home, but that seems to mostly be a courtesy. The team has combined a lack of offensive firepower with a complete lack of ability to finish in close games. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram make the San Diego defense fairly fun to watch, and will give Carson Wentz of the Eagles (2-1) a long day of running for his life, but that probably will not be enough to avoid an 0-4 start to the season for Los Angeles. Pick: Eagles

Bottom-Tier Games

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Not much has gone right for Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks during a 1-2 start to the season. Last week, they lost to Tennessee even though Wilson threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns.

Credit
Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

Colts at Seahawks, 8:30 p.m., NBC

Line: Seahawks by 13

The introduction for NBC’s broadcast of “Sunday Night Football” features Carrie Underwood singing about everyone looking forward to the Sunday night game. But with the Colts (1-2) essentially biding time until Andrew Luck can return, and the Seahawks (1-2) disappointing heavily on both sides of the ball, it is hard to believe anyone is excited about this one. The Seahawks should win, but a huge point spread shifts the pick in the other direction. Pick: Colts

Giants at Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Buccaneers by 3

The Buccaneers (1-1) looked awful on defense last week, and at least some of that was because of injuries. Facing the struggling Giants (0-3) would seem like a welcome respite, but with Tampa Bay potentially entering the game without three key members of the team’s front seven (Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy), its secondary may be sitting ducks. Pick: Giants

49ers at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Cardinals by 7

The 49ers (0-3) were expected to be a bad team looking for small improvements and moral victories as they reworked the roster to fit the future plans of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. Thus far, that goal is being met, even if the team still has a huge talent shortage. The Cardinals (1-2) are not lacking for talent, but are in the second year of watching their stars inexplicably produce poor results. Playing without David Johnson is a major aspect of this season’s inconsistency, but with the star running back out for the season, they are going to have to adjust soon or let a second consecutive season slip away. Pick: Cardinals

Bengals at Browns, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bengals by 3

Barring a tie, the state of Ohio will finally have a victory in the N.F.L. this season. The Browns (0-3) turn the ball over too much to be taken seriously, and the Bengals (0-3) are filled with flaws and offer the conflicting emotions inherent in their talented rookie running back, Joe Mixon, toting around his sordid legal history. But at 68 degrees and sunny, at least it should be a nice day for a game. Pick: Bengals

Monday’s Matchup

Redskins at Chiefs, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Line: Chiefs by 6.5

The Chiefs (3-0) are almost unbelievably fast. Everyone knows Tyreek Hill is one of the fastest players in the N.F.L., but Kareem Hunt, amid a spectacular rookie season, has shown he is nearly as fleet, hitting 20.82 miles per hour during his 69-yard touchdown run last week, which helped sew up a win for Kansas City over the Chargers. It was the third consecutive week in which Hunt has topped 20 m.p.h. on a run of 50 or more yards, which has made the Chiefs, known in recent years for a somewhat boring level of efficiency, one of the most exciting teams in the N.F.L. The Redskins (2-1) are coming off a great Week 3 performance, but they probably cannot keep up with Hunt and Hill. Pick: Chiefs.



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