Steve Believes: Week 3, 2018 NFL Season

  • New York Jets vs. Cleveland Browns. After authoring one of the most impressive wins in Week 1, the Jets fell back down to Earth, as the rival Miami Dolphins jumped out to a 20-0 first half lead and never looked back. Sam Darnold did throw for 320 net passing yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions and got sacked three times. As for the Browns, they could easily be 2-0 right now, but were doomed by five missed Zaine Gonzalez kicks, along with allowing 10 sacks through the first two weeks. Dating back to Week 17 of the 2016 season, the Browns are 0-18-1. Will it be 0-19-1 after Week 3? No, I don’t think so, because Gregg Williams’ defense will make Darnold’s night at The Dawg Pound at a rough one, while the Browns will shore up the protection for Tyrod Taylor against a Jets defense that features Leonard Williams as their only real pass rushing threat. Look for Taylor and the Browns offense to do just enough to compliment their defense and snap the 19-game winless streak for them. 
  • New Orleans Saint vs. Atlanta Falcons. Two teams in the NFL’s toughest division square off in a pivotal game that could have the losing team in last place by the end of Week 3. The Saints were on the losing end of a shootout against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 and picked up an ugly win against the Browns in Week 2. As for the Falcons, they were on the losing end of an ugly game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 and overcame a valiant effort by Cam Newton in Week 2. This is a toss-up game, because it’s hard to go against Drew Brees when it comes to the Saints, while I got one of my five losses last week when it came to picking against the Falcons at home. But picking against the Saints in Week 3 last year bit me in the ass, and I won’t do that this time around. So with that being said, I like the Saints in this one.
  • San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers bounced back with a win at home against the Detroit Lions, but they also gave up six sacks of Jimmy Garoppolo. Plus, they’re defense was picked apart by Kirk Cousins in Week 1 and by Matthew Stafford in Week 2. And now they face Pat Mahomes, who is looking like this year’s Carson Wentz. This game will also mark Mahomes’ first career start at Arrowhead Stadium, and I expect him to light it up for the home crowd. Plus, look for Justin Houston & Company to put Garoppolo on the ground a few times in this one. Chiefs to make it 3-0 for the second year in a row.
  • Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins. Blowout and failure to close out have done the Raiders in the first two weeks of the season, with the former resulting in a beatdown by the Los Angeles Rams and the latter resulting in a close loss against the Denver Broncos. And no matter what happens with the Chiefs, Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers, another loss will keep the Raiders in last place in the AFC West. As for the Dolphins, their offense has stabilized with the return of Ryan Tannehill and the free agent signing of Frank Gore, while their defense has been both timely and tenacious. This is a potential trap game for the Dolphins, as they face the Patriots in Week 4 up in Foxborough. However, the Dolphins look very sharp thus far this season and I look for them to continue that in Week 3. Dolphins to go 3-0.
  • Buffalo Bills vs. Minnesota Vikings. Through two weeks, the Bills have been outscored 78-23, the worst plus/minus point differential of all 32 teams thus far. As for the Vikings, they were the third of four teams to get screwed by the NFL’s brilliant decision to make overtime 10 minutes instead of 15 minutes, as their Week 2 matchup against the Green Bay Packers resulted in a tie. Now they return home to the fortress of U.S. Bank Stadium, where they are 14-4 since the stadium opened in 2016. Make it 15-4, because this is the biggest mismatch of all the Week 3 matchups from both a roster and play standpoint. I don’t normally declare a “lock of the week”, but I will in this case for the Vikings.
  • Indianapolis Colts vs. Philadelphia Eagles. After a heartbreaking loss at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Colts rebounded with a 21-9 win in the nation’s capital against the Washington Redskins. This week, they wrap up their NFC East road schedule against the defending champion Eagles, who are coming off a tough loss against the surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game marks an opportunity for the Colts to be over .500 for the first time since Week 12 of the 2015 season, as well as the return of Carson Wentz. Wentz will be a bit rusty in his return, but I don’t think the Colts are quite there yet to pull off the upset against the champs. Look for Fletcher Cox & Company to play a huge role in the Eagles getting to 2-1.
  • Green Bay Packers vs. Washington Redskins. The fourth victim of Tiegate, the Packers, are coming off a game in which their defense sullied the bed once again. They are lucky that they didn’t lose that game and now head to the nation’s capital to take on Mr. Smith and the Redskins. As for the aforementioned Redskins, the FedEx Field debut of both Smith and Packers killer Adrian Peterson resulted in a 21-9 clunker against the Colts. Now they face a much superior opponent in the Packers, despite the concerns going forward with Aaron Rodgers’ knee. If Rodgers didn’t present such a concern, then I’d take the Packers, hands down. However, I’m very hesitant to take Green Bay here. Plus, I expect the Redskins to bounce back. So with the last two points being said, I like the Redskins in this one.
  • Cincinnati Bengals vs. Carolina Panthers. Another big surprise thus far this early in the season is that the Bengals are 2-0, as they rode a 21-0 lead to a victory against the Baltimore Ravens last week. However, they needed two Randy Bullock field goals to ice that game, as they were in danger of blowing that lead. As for the Panthers, their elite defense got shredded by Matt Ryan and the Falcons, while their offense showed life and almost sent the game into overtime. Now they return to Bank Of America Stadium, looking to build on their offensive momentum and right the ship defensively. And they’ll do just that in a game, where I expect them to win 27-13.
  • Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars. Last year when these two teams met at TIAA Bank Field, the Titans handed the Jaguars a loss and are 4-2 against them in the Marcus Mariota era. However, Mariota is a question mark for this game with the elbow injury and are down three offensive tackles, with the NFL’s fiercest pass rush awaiting them. As for the Jaguars, they authored one of the most impressive wins of the early season, as they avenged their AFC Championship Game loss against the New England Patriots. The emotions of that game could lead to a letdown against a Titans team that authored a very creative victory against the Houston Texans. However, the Jaguars are just too formidable of an opponent for an undermanned Titans team. So with that being said, I look for the Jaguars to go 3-0.
  • Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens. Free agent signing Case Keenum was barely over 50% on his completions, along with only throwing for 217 net passing yards and throwing an interception. But the resourceful signal caller made the plays that he had to, with both his arm and legs to have the Broncos sitting at 2-0 for the sixth consecutive year. As for the Ravens, they authored the biggest margin of victory for all Week 1 winners, only to lay an egg against the Bengals the following week. The Broncos have won their first two games by an average of two points and those were at home. However, this game is on the road at M&T Bank Stadium, and the Broncos have lost 11 of their past 16 road games dating back to the 2016 season. Make it 12 of 17, because I don’t see them beating the Ravens in Baltimore.
  • New York Giants vs. Houston Texans. The only Week 3 matchup in which both teams are 0-2. However, all four of those combined losses were by one possession. The Giants play in the state of Texas for the second consecutive week, as they were thoroughly outplayed by the Dallas Cowboys, despite the final score being 20-13. As for the Texans, they are one of three teams to have their home opener this week. It’s their first home game since Christmas Day of 2017 and Deshaun Watson’s first start at home since Week 7 against the Browns last season. Plus, it’s also the first home game for J.J. Watt since Week 5 against the Chiefs last season. Despite Houston having a poor offensive line, look for Watson to work his magic against a Giants defense that is still transitioning to the 3-4, and look for Watt & Company to add to the total of times that Eli Manning has been sacked (eight) thus far. I like the Texans in this one.
  • Los Angeles Chargers vs. Los Angeles Rams. The L.A. Bowl and a possible preview of Super Bowl 53. Based on how they finished last season and the talent that they have added prior to this season, the Chargers are the sexy pick to win both the AFC West and AFC Championship. As for the Rams, they won the off-season with the trade acquistions of Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Brandin Cooks, along with the free agent signing of Ndamukong Suh and the extension of Aaron Donald. And so far, they are 2-0 and have outscored their opponents 67-13 along the way. The Chargers will score more than 13 against the Rams, but they won’t outscore them. Especially with Joey Bosa still out. I like the Rams in the battle of Los Angeles.
  • Chicago Bears vs. Arizona Cardinals. After blowing a 20-0 lead against the Packers in Week 1, the Bears rebounded with a 24-17 win against the Seattle Seahawks, which featured six sacks and two turnovers of Russell Wilson. As for the Cardinals, they are one of the five worst teams in the league this season. But it’s still early in the season and they have some difference makers on their roster in Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, and Chandler Jones. However, the Bears have way more difference makers and that will decide the game. Look for the Bears to go out west to get their first road win since Week 16 of the 2015 season.
  • Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys played well in a losing effort against the Panthers and parlayed that into a win last week against the Giants. The Seahawks are a shell of what they used to be and sit at 0-2. However, both of those losses were by one possession and they were both on the road. And based on that, along with this game being Seattle’s home opener, I expect them to pull the upset here.
  • New England Patriots vs. Detroit Lions. Despite the fact that they lost 31-20 against the Jaguars last week, the Patriots played as if the margin of loss was much larger than that, as the Jaguars imposed their will on them. As for the Lions, the wheels came off against the Jets in their home opener, but they also gave the 49ers a scare last week in the Bay Area. Matthew Stafford was ballin’ in that game, as he threw for 329 net passing yards and three touchdowns. And given how poor the Patriots pass defense was last week against the Jaguars, I look for him to equal and/or exceed those numbers against them. And as for Tom Brady, I think he’ll start to show his age a bit more against a Detroit defense that racked up six sacks of Jimmy Garoppolo last week. I like the Motor City Kitties in an upset.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s turmoil in Title Town, as the team with the most Super Bowl victories in NFL history is totally dysfunctional both on and off the field. As for the Buccaneers, it’s harmonious for them, as they are 2-0 and enjoying having Ryan Fitzpatrick as their quarterback. And depending on how he plays in this game, he could be starting for the Buccaneers, even with Jameis Winston being reinstated after this week. The Steelers have proven time and time again that they can bounce back against formidable opponents in the face of adversity. However, that ship has sailed, because I see the turmoil continuing for them. So with that being said, I like the Buccaneers in this one.