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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Week 3: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

The Los Angeles Rams and running back Todd Gurley travel to Silicon Valley to face the San Francisco 49ers to bore us to death in another Thursday Night Football game


Week 3: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 2 results: 10-6 wins (season: 20-11; .645); 8-8 v. spread (season: 13-18; .419)

Los Angeles Rams 1-1 (-3) @ San Francisco 49ers 0-2 (40): Rams 21-13
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Partly cloudy; 60s)

Reasons: These aren't the teams to be playing on short notice, and both teams are coming off of a tough loss. So I guess we should expect another terrible Thursday Night Football game. The NFL needs to get rid of these games. That's not happening any time soon, so tonight we'll see an offense that has surpassed early expectations (33 ppg; 362.5 ypg) and a defense that has largely met early expectations (18 ppg; 331.5 ypg) in the Rams against a defense that has allowed fewer points per game (17.5), but has only managed an average of six points per game on offense in the 49ers. This game will come down to one defense on the rise against one already established defense ready to take the next step against two running backs with the same motives in Todd Gurley (LAR) and Carlos Hyde (SF). Unfortunately for San Francisco their defense is already dealing with attrition, like many teams in this latest Collective Bargaining Agreement era. The Rams don't have to travel far to beat the 49ers, but don't expect the game to be exciting.

Baltimore Ravens 2-0 (-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-1 (39.5): Ravens 23-20
Sunday, 9:30 AM, Wembley Stadium, London, England (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: No team wants to travel to London to play at 9:30 EST, especially to play the London Jaguars at home, but the Jaguars come into the game a little banged up. I’m being facetious, because the Jaguars remain terrible despite winning their opening game, while the Ravens are one of only eight remaining undefeated teams. Still, the defense widely considered one of the best in the NFL, the Ravens, gives up 5.5 fewer yards per game then Jacksonville, but the Jaguars come in limited at cornerback, meaning Joe Flacco could abuse them in the air since Baltimore is limited at running back. The Ravens are not limited in the secondary, as they lead the NFL in INTs (8). In fairness, the Jaguars lead the NFL in sacks (11), so maybe Flacco doesn’t air it out. These London games are like TNF games, where we never know what to expect, but they’re usually bad games* due to their travel logistics and general irregularity.

*(61% of games were decided by one score [eight points], but the average score over 18 games is 31-18)

Cleveland Browns 0-2 (-1.5) @ Indianapolis Colts 0-2 (41): Browns 20-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Browns are favorites on the road for the first time since 2014, but it’s not because they’re good; it’s because the Colts are atrocious. Indianapolis is averaging 11 ppg on 273 total ypg, and it’s even worse from the defensive side (398 yards allowed per game). The Colts are already on their second quarterback (QB Jacoby Brissett) in the continued absence of Andrew Luck, but the Browns rookie quarterback has also struggled, throwing four INTs already. Cleveland is still a bad football team, but they’re not so bad they’re giving up more than 136 than they’re gaining per game.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2-0 (-7.5) @ Chicago Bears 0-2 (44): Steelers 24-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Hot; 80s)

Reasons: The Bears have a tough match up at home Sunday afternoon hosting one of the best defenses in the league to compliment a dynamic offense that hasn’t even started clicking yet. Mike Glennon will be under fire all day under the Sun and against a Steelers defense with nine sacks in two games, while allowing only 13.5 ppg, and to make matters worse, running back Jordan Howard was limited all week. Pittsburgh is dealing with some injuries themselves on defense, but nothing that won’t prevent the Steelers from rolling. 

 It's the New York Jets fan's turn to wear the paper bags on their heads this season.

Miami Dolphins 1-0 (-6) @ New York Jets 0-2 (42.5): Dolphins 21-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Hot; low 90s)

Reasons: The unusually hot fall weather across the country could affect several games, but no 90-degree game will make the visiting team more comfortable than the Miami Dolphins will feel in northern New Jersey Sunday. Miami is only playing their second game because of Hurricane Irma, but we have plenty on the Jets to know how terrible they are. It’s still hard to imagine a team that has given us less confidence in recent years being favored by nearly a touchdown on the road. The Jets are that bad. The Dolphins should cruise, but Cutler’s weapons could be limited Sunday.

Denver Broncos 2-0 (-3) @ Buffalo Bills 1-1 (40.5): Broncos 24-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Field, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Hot; 80s)

Reasons: This is a battle of two of the top defenses in the NFL to start 2017, both with ball-hawking defensive backfields that intercept passes. The Bills also get after the quarterback (3rd in the NFL with seven sacks), which could rain on Denver signal-caller Trevor Siemian’s early parade. The Broncos are also away, which means they won’t benefit from the stifling noise of their crowd on opposing offenses, but it’s possible they won’t hear any crowd noise Sunday.

Houston Texans 1-1 (+13.5) @ New England Patriots 1-1 (44): Patriots 27-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Texans are a bad offensive football team (10 ppg), which doesn’t play well against a New England Patriots team that can drop 40 points using players you’ve never heard of. So teams like Houston rely heavily upon their great defenses with monster defensive fronts to beat the Patriots, except even that hasn’t worked for the Texans, who are 1-8 all time against New England, having lost six straight since 2012 (by an average score of 34-16) . The Patriots will continue to tweak their defense as the season goes on, which means you can’t really rely on statistics to tell you a solid story in this game.

New Orleans Saints 0-2 (+5.5)@ Carolina Panthers 2-0 (46.5): Panthers 21-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank Of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny; 80s)

Reasons: The Saints enter Bank of America Stadium to play the Panthers, but they should probably secure a loan for some defensive players after allowing over 500 yards per game to start the season. That should be refreshing news for Carolina’s offense, except tight end Greg Olsen is on IR, center Ryan Kalil is out and Cam Newton has been dealing with nagging injuries. The game will come down to a suffocating Panthers defense and their ability to stop a desperate Drew Brees and Sean Payton.

 The Carolina Panthers would like to see less of this and more of Cam Newton protecting himself, especially with safety net Greg Olsen set to miss 6-8 weeks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-0 (+1.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 1-1 (41): Buccaneers 24-21
Sunday, 1:00 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: 20% rain; 80s)

Reasons: The Buccaneers came away with a win in their first game of the season last week, but it also came with some injuries, all on defense, something every team is facing earlier than ever due to the changes in collective bargaining between the players and owners. The Vikings will be without quarterback Sam Bradford again Sunday, which means the game could fall on the shoulders of rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who’ll have to take advantage of key absences across the field for Tampa Bay.

Atlanta Falcons 2-0 (-3) @ Detroit Lions 2-0 (50.5): Lions 28-27
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: This game is an incredible reminder that although these two teams feature two of the best statistical quarterbacks in the NFL, their level of play is still relatively marginal compared to their older contemporaries like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning, who combined with Manning’s retired older brother Peyton, have played in 14 of the past 16 Super Bowls, four of those games featuring two opposing quarterbacks from that list. It should be noted that Matt Ryan just lost to Tom Brady in this past Super Bowl, but the point is that consistent statistical success has looked great on paper for Ryan and Matt Stafford, but it hasn’t materialized into many playoff wins for either team during their franchise quarterback’s reign. The Falcons could feel at home on the Ford Field turf, but the Lions defense is playing too well to let Ryan steal the show from Stafford at home.  

New York Giants 0-2 (+6) @ Philadelphia Eagles 1-1 (42.5): Eagles 21-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Hot; low 90s)

Reasons: The Giants offense looks historically bad, especially along the offensive line and it doesn’t get any better Sunday on the road versus a division rival without T/G Bobby Hart. The Giants defense has the chance to be historically great, but not if the offense can’t score more than 20 points, which has been their m.o. the past half season. The Eagles are trying to find balance on offense, but until they do they’ll rely on the young arm of Carson Wentz, who’ll be hoping Janoris Jenkins can’t go Sunday afternoon. All eyes will be on the blonde drama king Odell Beckham Jr., whose ankle assessments have only been matched in wackiness to his behavior on and off the field. The Giants struggles continue Sunday.

Seattle Seahawks 1-1 (+2.5) @ Tennessee Titans 1-1 (42.5): Titans 21-20
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Hot; high 80s)

Reasons: The only offensive line in the NFL worse the New York Giants might be the Seahawks. Fortunately for Seattle their quarterback is mobile, but that doesn’t mean Russell Wilson enjoys running for his life, or that it’s a sustainable approach. The Seahawks offense will struggle again on the road, especially with tight end Jimmy Graham questionable, and the defense will have a hard time bailing out their offense after traveling east twice in three weeks to start the season. The Seahawks could luck out if DeMarco Murray can’t go, but young battering ram Derrick Henry has proven a worthy, if not better, alternative to Murray. Regardless, the Titans have a string defense themselves, and will look to take care of business in a tough early match up at home.

 Phillip Rivers has his work cut out for him to prevent the Los Angeles Chargers from starting the season 0-3 in the tough AFC West dividsion.

Kansas City Chiefs 2-0 (-3) @ Los Angeles Chargers 0-2 (47.5): Chargers 27-24
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Stub Hub Center, Carson, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 80s)

Reasons: The Chiefs could be the best overall team in the NFL right now, but the Chargers are certainly the most talented 0-2 team in the NFL. Los Angeles can’t lose their first three games to start the season, especially in the tough AFC West, and they just might pull it off with Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston was limited in practice all week and center Mitch Morse has already been ruled out. The Chargers will probably need Melvin Gordon to go to beat this very good Chiefs team, but Los Angeles is desperate, and I would never bet against a desperate Phillip Rivers.

Cincinnati Bengals 0-2 (+9) @ Green Bay Packers 1-1 (46): Packers 28-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Hot; 80s)

Reasons: Believe it or not the Bengals have one of the league’s best defenses through two games, but you’d never know it because of all the screaming about how bad the offense, and therefore, the Bengals are. Cincinnati is 0-2, but considering Cincinnati played Baltimore and Houston, we should probably pump the brakes on the Bengals demise. In addition, the Packers possess one of the league’s worst defenses, which plays right into the Bengals hands, although those stats are skewed having played the Falcons in Atlanta. Unfortunately for Cincinnati the Green Bay offense is prolific, and they’re at home, which means they’re going to be tough to stop no matter how good the Bengals have been playing on that side of the ball.

Oakland Raiders 2-0 (-3) @ Washington Football Team 1-1 (54.5): Raiders 30-24
Sunday, 8:30 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Hot; high 80s)

Reasons: The Raiders are feeling pretty good about themselves. Oakland’s leading rusher from last year leaves the Raiders and gets replaced by the legendary Marshawn Lynch, who appears, early in the season, not to have lost a step. Oakland’s star 2015 first round draft pick wide receiver Amari Cooper isn’t even their top receiver so far this season. On the other side of the field you have Washington, who certainly always seems to feel good about themselves, but seemingly without much reason. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has looked awful and now could be without tight end Jordan Reed again, leading rusher Robert Kelley is hurt and star cornerback Josh Norman is questionable against the best young quarterback in the NFL. Look for the Raiders to pillage a win in the Mid Atlantic.

Dallas Cowboys 1-1 (-3) @ Arizona Cardinals 1-1 (47): Cowboys 21-20
Monday, 8:30 PM, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Cowboys enter Monday night having faced their third top defense in as many weeks to begin the season (NYG, DEN, ARZ). That’s a tough test for the Cowboys sophomore stars, especially one (Ezekiel Elliot) under emotional duress for off the field activities, and more recently, on the field apathy. Dallas and Ezekiel Elliot look to get back on track after they both suffered one of the worst defeats of their football existences, and what better offense to get on track against than the hapless Cardinals. It could be a depressing game for some Arizona fans watching Dallas take the field with a young bright star as their former quarterback star fades. Speaking of fading stars, all eyes will be on Dez Bryant as he tries to salvage his top wide receiver status against one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL. 

Stay tuned for Tuesday's Gone: Week 3 Game Reviews coming Wednesday!  

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