We’ll take 13-3 straight up every time, and more importantly we enjoyed a nice little bounceback week against the spread at 9-6-1 (Falcons pushed). Can’t even beat ourselves up too much over thinking the Niners would win at Seattle, a holy misfire, because we bull’s-eyed three other outright upset picks with Dolphins, Bills and Cardinals. Always like being right on Miami, for obvious reasons such as not being shamed in my own backyard. Also had four dogs with the points last week to put a bow on it. [Note: Thursday game pick was Eagles (-3) over Chiefs, 30-24].
FALCONS (1-1) AT DOLPHINS (2-0)
Atlanta is a better team overall but also is diminished, with RB Steven Jackson (thigh) out and WR Roddy White (high ankle sprain) not himself even if he does play. That levels the field and makes me lean Miami on the tailwind of the franchise’s 48th home opener — all of this presuming Ryan Tannehill will be OK after being limited in practice this week by a sore shoulder. Cornerback Brent Grimes, the seven-year ex-Falcon, versus excellent Julio Jones should be an individual duel worth watching. Also of note, Dolphins guard John Jerry vs. Falcons DT Peria Jerry in a Battle of Bros. (Hey, so it isn’t exactly Manning vs. Manning!) Keys will be Miami’s two lines, one putting pressure on Matt Ryan and the other keeping it off Tannehill. Dolphins not drafting Ryan No. 1 overall in 2008 has been fairly second-guessed, but that old ghost will largely disappear if Tannehill can best Ryan head-to-head here and lift Miami to its first 3-0 bustout since 2002. With admittedly modest confidence, I’m betting it happens.
TEXANS (2-0) AT RAVENS (1-1)
The Week 3 plate is light on Grade A GOTW candidates, but we’re OK offering a reigning Super Bowl champ at home facing a visitor with SB aspirations. Both have much to prove, with Houston the first team since 1970 to be 2-0 winning both on the game’s final plays — “Probably not the best for your blood pressure,” noted J.J. Watt — and Baltimore less than impressive after a 14-6 defeat of Cleveland. Both teams have notable injury concerns, but Texans WR Andre Johnson (concussion) entered Friday seeming likelier to be full strength than Ravens RB Ray Rice (hip). That’s partly why, despite mad respect for BAL’s home field, I like Texans here.
BEARS (2-0) AT STEELERS (0-2)
“AAAWWWK!” bellows the Upset Bird. “Don’t be too quick to bury Pittsbaawwk!” Yes, Ben Roethlisberger needs a running game like popcorn needs better. Yes, a once-vaunted Steelers’ D has zero takeaways in two games. And yes, your home field does cede some mystique when you lose your opener there to Tennessee. Despite all that, the prime-time Sunday stage and a dose of early desperation will summon a vintage effort and dodge Pitt’s first 0-3 start since 2000. “Sounds like a venue pick,” notes a professorially nodding U-Bird. “Roethlisbaaawwwk!”
JAGUARS (0-2) AT SEAHAWKS (2-0)
It’s the UM-Savannah State of NFL Week 3! The Sunday betting lines don’t get much bigger than this. The involvement of sad Jacksonville alone makes any game a Dog candidate, and here we add the likelihood of a miserable rout. Looks like Chad Henne again over Blaine Gabbert; like it matters? Strange as it seems I might ride Jags with all that head start, though. Hawks figure to have an almost indifferent effort coming after an emotional rout of rival San Fran.
Cincy’s defense dating to last season has not allowed a visitor more than 20 points in five straight home games. The thing is, Aaron Rodgers and that pass attack render trends like that moot. Packers generally score 20 before the national anthem ends. The Bengals are good, playoff good, but Andy Dalton is not cut out to outscore Mr. Rodgers, no matter the neighborhood.
Dallas figures to be in rebound mode after a 1-point loss in KC, and I like the Boys at home even though WR Dez Bryant’s iffy back is tormenting his fantasy owners. STL is improved but doesn’t generally travel well. DeMarco Murray ran for 253 yards when last he faced the Rams. Homies would take about half of that here. Can’t be greedy.
Upset! I’m beginning to gather a bit of faith in new Chargers coach Mike McCoy, especially the way he has revitalized QB Philip Rivers. Also, Bolts have won eight straight in this series. That combo portends Tennessee’s home-opening crowd filing out quietly.
Week of tumult in Cleveland. First the Earthtones vault third-stringer Brian Hoyer to starting QB, then they shockingly trade starting RB Trent Richardson to Indy for a 2014 No. 1 draft pick. Have they set a league record for earliest concession and playing for next year? Give Brownies a slight upset shot, but far likelier Vikes roll in their home opener.
This is the NFL: Patriots 2-0 by combined five points and Bucs 0-2 by combined three points, the margin of error at times paper thin. NE has won 31 of past 34 home games and should safely sputter to its first 3-0 start since 2007. Side note: A chance TE Rob Gronkowski could return from injury. Note II: Greg Schiano got Tampa job largely on recommendation of Bill Belichick.
Drew Brees has a 131.3 passer rating in two career meetings with Cardbirds, and him at home vs. this pass D should make for more fantasy-pleasing numbers. The gut is to like Arizona getting a touchdown-plus here, but WR Larry Fitzgerald being questionable (hamstring) bodes ill for the Cacti and makes us like N’Awlis on the cover.
A coin-flip of a game rendered even more unpredictable by the uncertainty with Reggie Bush, who is questionable (knee) for a Detroit squad that needs him. Lions aren’t the awful roadies they used to be, and Matthew Stafford could throw for miles on the Unspeakable Nicknames’ bad pass-D, but I still make this is a venue pick, albeit a very anxious one.
Upset! (Although it hardly feels like one). Giants’ 0-2 start is self-inflicted, with 10 turnovers, including seven INTs by Eli Manning. Oh-and-3 is a death knell for playoff prospects, so this is huge. Biggies won in Carolina 36-7 a year ago so this result will measure how far NYG has fallen, or announce they’re still around.
Round 1 in the fight for the AFC East cellar brings us a duel of young QBs EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, who became friends out of high school attending a South Florida football camp together. NYJ has won eight of past 10 in series, including three straight at home, so make this one a venue call. Planes bring a bit better defense, too.
I get loving San Fran outright here, on a fierce rebound after Niners were flat-out embarrassed in Seattle 29-3 last week. I also get that nobody knows Andrew Luck (or presumably how to defend him) better than his former Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh. This is a lot of points, though, to give a 2012 playoff team that got better this week by trading for RB Trent Richardson.
This is a record 17th MNF meeting for Raiders-Broncos, and this one finds Denver as only the third team in past 30 years to start 2-0 with 40-plus points in each game. And you wonder why TV loves Peyton Manning? Do not see an upset by any stretch, but see Oaks keeping it reasonably close. Raiders can run the ball, and losing LT Ryan Clady to injury will be cause a void that Manning can’t help but feel.