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

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Four of the six prime time games in this young N.F.L. season were decided by one score. Lamar Jackson’s plunge to convert a fourth down and seal Baltimore’s win over Kansas City capped Week 2. Most teams that lost in Week 1 fought back to .500, but the weekend yielded a long list of injuries with at least four starting quarterbacks having either been ruled out or questionable to play in Week 3.

That means that divisional rivals will try to eke out an edge in the early standings, a slew of replacement quarterbacks will try to prove their worth and a potential N.F.C. championship preview will be on display in Los Angeles.

Here’s a look at N.F.L. Week 3, with all picks made against the spread.

Last week’s record: 7-9

All times Eastern.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Thursday Night’s Game
  • Sunday’s Best Games
  • Sunday’s Other Games
  • Monday Night’s Matchup

Thursday Night’s Game

Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans, 8:20 p.m. NFL Network

Line: Panthers -7.5 | Total: 43.5

With Tyrod Taylor recovering from a hamstring injury and Deshaun Watson still designated to the bench, Texans Coach David Culley said the rookie Davis Mills will start against the Panthers (2-0). Mills, a third-round draft pick out of Stanford for the Texans (1-1) this spring, will face a young Panthers defense that leads the league in sacks (10) through two weeks (although six came against a meager Jets offensive line in Week 1).

In both their wins this season, the Panthers began the third quarter with a double-digit lead, fueled by Sam Darnold’s budding connection with his new receivers. If the early offensive output continues and the Texans struggle with a new quarterback, expect the Panthers to cover the spread easily. Pick: Panthers -7.5

Sunday’s Best Games

Matthew Stafford and the Rams will try to test a Buccaneers secondary thinned by injuries.Credit…Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Buccaneers -1 | Total: 55

A battle between undefeated teams makes predicting this outcome the toughest choice of the week. Both the Rams (2-0) and the Buccaneers (2-0) rank in the top 10 in passing yards and top five in passing touchdowns.

But the Bucs’ secondary is young and has struggled with injuries, so the team reached out to the veteran free agent cornerback Richard Sherman after placing starter Sean Murphy-Bunting on injured reserve. Rams Coach Sean McVay will look to have Matthew Stafford unload downfield, and that aggression against a secondary in flux may be just enough for the Rams to win. Pick: Rams +1

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Kansas City -6.5 | Total: 55.5

404 yards. That’s the amount of rushing yardage Kansas City’s defense has surrendered through two games. That’s … not good. But the Chargers (1-1) are a pass-first team, as evinced by Justin Herbert tying Mahomes and Dan Marino for the most 300-yard passing games through a player’s first two seasons (10). Herbert could break that record Sunday against Kansas City (1-1).

That’s doable based on his two performances against Kansas City last season, the first an overtime loss in which Herbert threw for 311 yards and a touchdown and earned the starting job. (Herbert had 302 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 17 win in which Kansas City rested some starters.) If Los Angeles’ running backs can at least keep the Chiefs honest, the Chargers will be able to at least keep this one close. Pick: Chargers +6.5

Derrick Henry ran for 182 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the Titans’ overtime win in Seattle last week. Credit…Ben Vanhouten/Associated Press

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Titans -5 | Total: 48

Carson Wentz’s sprained ankles (yes, both ankles) mean the Colts (0-2) could potentially start Jacob Eason, a second-year quarterback, against Tennessee. Eason’s margin for error will be small against the Titans (1-1), who are coming off an overtime win in Seattle where Derrick Henry’s 182 rushing yards on 35 carries reminded everyone how effective Tennessee is at clock control.

The strength of Indianapolis’ defense is its defensive lineman and linebackers, who could frustrate Tennessee’s rushing attack, but Eason’s inexperience could lead to turnovers and give Henry more opportunity to score. Pick: Titans -5

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: 49ers -3.5 | Total: 48

The Packers (1-1) and San Francisco (2-0) use similar offensive strategies that rely on motion and a strong running game to set up the pass. The 49ers’ running back room, though, has been decimated by injuries, most recently with JaMycal Hasty ruled out with a high ankle sprain and Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) and Trey Sermon (concussion), questionable for Sunday night.

Both teams allowed the Lions to play competitive first halves before pulling away. Now facing each other, if the 49ers’ rotating cast of running backs starts slow, the healthy Packers roster could take advantage. Pick: Packers + 3.5

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Patriots -3 | Total: 41.5

Who dat? Saints fans must be asking themselves that question after a shellacking last week at Carolina, where running back Alvin Kamara was limited to only 32 all-purpose yards and Jameis Winston threw two interceptions.

The Patriots’ defense is more experienced than Carolina’s, and could find similar success against a Saints (1-1) team trying to find its new identity in the post-Drew Brees era. The Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick may have fans asking more questions afterward. Pick: Patriots -3

Seattle Seahawks at Minneapolis Vikings, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Seahawks -2 | Total: 55

Two games, two close finishes.

The Vikings (0-2) have played competitively so far this season, and could easily be 2-0. They face a Seahawks (1-1) defense that allowed the Titans to score 21 second-half points en route to a Tennessee victory in Week 2. Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins have thrown for more than 240 yards in each of their games and if both Minnesota and Seattle play to form, this game will be a shoot out. That gives the Vikings hope to at least cover the spread. Pick: Vikings +2

Sunday’s Other Games

The Bears’ rookie Justin Fields will make his first career start against the Browns on Sunday.Credit…Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Browns -7.5 | Total: 46.5

Bears fans finally got what they cheered for.

After quarterback Andy Dalton injured his knee on a scramble last week, Coach Matt Nagy said the rookie Justin Fields will start Sunday against the Browns (1-1). Excitement over Fields dominated training camp and the preseason, and he could slide in as starter for the Bears (1-1).

He’ll need to play well to match the Browns, who have scored at least 28 points in their first two games. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry must miss at least three games on injured reserve with a knee injury, and Odell Beckham’s status is still unclear as he continues to recover from knee surgery. Still, the Browns’ defense could fluster a rookie quarterback into a mistake or two. Pick: Browns -7.5

Atlanta Falcons at Giants, 1 p.m., FOX

Line: Giants -3 | Total: 48.5

If Saquon Barkley’s limited production through the first two weeks (83 rushing yards on 23 carries) continues, then Daniel Jones may find success against the Falcons (0-2), whose defense has allowed eight passing touchdowns. Jones must continue to protect the ball, as he did last week, and his receivers cannot drop touchdowns, as Darius Slayton did last week against Washington.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has already thrown three interceptions and it’s clear that the Falcons are in rebuilding mode. The Giants (0-2), while still winless, are hoping to compete in the N.F.C. East so it’s reasonable to think they’ll be fired up to get a win at home. But considering the Giants’ unpredictability with mistakes and penalties, the Falcons could at least make this one competitive. Pick: Falcons +3

Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Cardinals -7.5 | Total: 52

Winning in the N.F.L. is hard. It is unlikely that the first-time N.F.L. coach Urban Meyer and the rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence — two men who rarely lost in college — will find it any easier to get their first N.F.L. win against the Cardinals (2-0).

Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray has made an early case for the Most Valuable Player Award, ranking second in total passing yards (689) and touchdowns (7). His aerial onslaught should continue against the Jaguars (0-2) whose defense has allowed nearly 300 passing yards in each of their first two games. The Jaguars’ team Twitter account this week posted a message from Meyer that promised, “we’re going to get better.” He didn’t say it’d be this week. Pick: Cardinals -7.5

Washington Footballers at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Bills -10 | Total: 45.5

This isn’t the Giants’ defense that Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke torched for 336 yards. Heinicke and the Football Team (1-1) will collide with a Buffalo defense that has not allowed an opposing team to throw for 200 yards. Against the Bills (1-1) and Josh Allen, Washington will struggle to keep pace on the scoreboard. Pick: Bills -10

Jets at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Line: Broncos -11 | Total: 41.5

The Jets (0-2) never expected Zach Wilson to be perfect as a rookie. His growing pains most likely will continue against the Broncos (2-0), whose defense is just as good, if not better, than the New England Patriots’ unit to whom Wilson threw four interceptions last week. Denver linebackers Josey Jewell and Bradley Chubb are on the injured reserve list after injuries this week, and those losses may hurt the team later as it pushes to contend in the A.F.C. West. But against the Jets, Coach Vic Fangio can manage with what he has to rattle Wilson. Pick: Broncos -11

Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Ravens-10 | Total: 50

Two strong first-half starts for Detroit (0-2) fizzled as quarterback Jared Goff committed crucial turnovers in the team’s two losses. The Lions will meet a Ravens (1-1) defense that’s on the upswing after limiting Kansas City last week and escaping with the win. The young Lions’ defense has often faltered after Goff’s mistakes and if that continues Baltimore can run up the score early. Pick: Ravens -10

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Steelers -4.5 | Total: 44.5

The Steelers’ (1-1) struggles against the Raiders last week could be amplified in an A.F.C. North rivalry game against the Bengals (1-1). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is questionable to play with a pectoral injury, and the availability of defensive starters like linebackers T.J. Watt and Devin Bush and cornerback Joe Haden is also questionable for Sunday.

Pittsburgh could use a break but Cincinnati’s defense stiffened against the Bears last week in a tight 20-17 loss, even as quarterback Joe Burrow threw three interceptions. Burrow may also be without receiver Tee Higgins, who injured his shoulder last Sunday and is day to day. But another strong performance and a deep ball from Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase could help the Bengals upset an injury-laden Steelers roster. Pick: Cincinnati +4.5

Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby has 10 quarterback hits and two sacks — including this takedown of Ben Roethlisberger during Las Vegas’ win last week in Pittsburgh — through two games this season.Credit…Philip G. Pavely/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Line: Raiders -4 | Total: 45.5

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s rib injury adds to a series of problems for the Dolphins (1-1). Through two games, the offensive line has allowed eight sacks, the fourth most in the league. Coach Brian Flores said backup Jacoby Brissett will start, but it is unlikely that he will emerge unscathed from facing a Raiders (2-0) defensive line that features Maxx Crosby, who has 10 quarterback hits and two sacks so far this season.

Raiders Coach Jon Gruden said quarterback Derek Carr and running back Josh Jacobs are questionable with ankle and toe injuries, though he expects Carr to play. But the Raiders’ defensive pressure can compensate for the offensive struggles. Pick: Raiders -4

Monday Night’s Matchup

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Cowboys -4 | Total: 51.5

Jalen Hurts faces a Dallas Cowboys defense that is still tinkering with its lineup because injuries forced defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to come up with a new scheme. Dallas (1-1) allowed Justin Herbert to throw for 338 yards last week as rookie linebacker Micah Parsons shifted to defensive end to replace DeMarcus Lawrence, who will miss at least six weeks with an ankle injury. Dallas expects defensive end Randy Gregory to return from the Covid list, and that may be enough to pressure Hurts. But Dallas’ secondary is still weak, and the Eagles’ offense could score enough to at least cover the spread. Pick: Eagles +4

How Betting Lines Work

A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Steelers -4.5, for example, means that Pittsburgh must beat Cincinnati by at least 5 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.

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