*Team listed in BOLD is my pick to win the game
Minnesota (vs. Buffalo) – As a franchise, things can’t get any worse than when a player decides at halftime that he should just retire right on the spot and put on some street clothes. That’s exactly what Vontae Davis did on Sunday with his Buffalo Bills trailing 28-6 at the half against the Chargers. It wasn’t pretty for the Bills defense following the very first series of the game where they forced the Chargers to a three-and-out, but that was followed by four straight touchdowns by the Chargers. The Bills offense was also anemic and rookie QB Josh Allen was sacked five times on the afternoon. Only one player, LeSean McCoy, caught more than two passes the entire game and he even suffered a cracked rib in the game and is now questionable this week against Minnesota. If he can’t play, all bets are off on how badly Buffalo may lose this week against Minnesota who are already 16.5 point favorites. The Vikings are very fortunate to have come away with a tie against Green Bay last week and benefited from a very controversial roughing the passer penalty against Clay Matthews. The game would have ended if Matthews hadn’t been flagged, but give credit to QB Kirk Cousins for taking advantage of the opportunity and driving the team down the field to score a touchdown on an incredible catch by Adam Thielen, followed by the two-point conversion to tie the game. The Vikings missed two field goals in overtime which would have won them the game, so they have gone ahead and signed K Dan Bailey to shore up their kicking game. He may only be asked to kick extra points in this game because I don’t see them settling for many field goals, but he will become a very valuable asset as the season progresses. I expect Minnesota’s defense to shut down Buffalo this entire game and hold their offense to 10 points or less. Offensively for Minnesota, look for Cousins to air it out to Stefon Diggs and Thielen as I expect that both players will approach 100+ receiving yards. I wouldn’t overthink things this week and would just go ahead and take Minnesota in your Survivor Pool.
Next 3 Games:
Buffalo: @ Green Bay, vs. Tennessee, @ Houston
Minnesota: @ L.A. Rams, @ Philadelphia, vs. Arizona
New England (@ Detroit) – The Sunday night game has the New England Patriots traveling to Detroit for a showdown between teacher (Bill Belichick) and pupil (Matt Patricia). The Patriots are coming off a pretty pathetic showing against the Jaguars in Week 2 and I’m sure there is nothing more that Belichick would like to do than pound the Lions into the ground. The Patriots just traded for WR Josh Gordon and it will be interesting to see how quickly he can get acclimated to the Pats offense. In the meantime, I expect the Pats to bounce back and to put on an offensive clinic against a Lions team that has allowed an average of 39 points per game which is worst in the league. The Lions were without DE Ezekiel Ansah last week but the defense still managed to record six sacks against Jimmy Garoppolo. A lot of the credit for those sacks should go to the Lions defensive backs for playing great defense against 49ers wide receivers leading to coverage sacks. Unfortunately for Detroit, I don’t think that will be the case this week against Tom Brady because I think the Pats wide receivers will find a way to create separation. The Pats offense will rely on Rob Gronkowski this week because it will be very difficult for the Lions to cover him. Look for Gronk to be targeted at least eight times in this game. The Patriots will need to do a much better job on defense this week after Blake Bortles carved them up for 377 yards and four touchdowns. Lions QB Matthew Stafford played a lot better in Week 2 than he had in Week 1 against the Jets and the “X” factor for them this week will be their 6’4” wide receiver Kenny Golladay. In the end, I think the Pats will come out strong looking to prove that they are still the premiere team in the AFC and Belichick will want to teach Patricia a lesson. If the Pats take the lead, I do not expect them to take their foot off the pedal and could possibly win this game by double digits.
Next 3 Games:
New England: vs. Miami, vs. Indianapolis, vs. Kansas City
Detroit: @ Dallas, vs. Green Bay, BYE
Jacksonville (vs. Tennessee) – The Jaguars looked like an offensive juggernaut against the Patriots last week even though they were without the services of RB Leonard Fournette. People had to do a double take thinking that maybe Blake Bortles and Tom Brady swapped jerseys because Bortles went off for 377 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 8.4 yards per pass. T.J. Yeldon filled in for Fournette and carried the ball 10 times for 58 yards. He wasn’t really needed because the Jags took care of business in the air with WR Keelan Cole finishing the day with seven catches for 116 yards and eight other receivers finishing with 22 combined catches for 265 yards. This will be a favorable matchup for Jacksonville because the Titans defense allows an average of 9.0 yards per pass which ranks 29th in the NFL. They have also allowed four touchdowns on the year against Ryan Tannehill and Deshaun Watson. The Titans, led by QB Blaine Gabbert, shockingly defeated the Texans in Week 2 by the score of 20-17. Right now, it appears that Gabbert could get the starting nod again this week against the Jaguars’ tough defense. The Jaguars have done a pretty decent job against the run in the first two games allowing 98 rushing yards per game and just one touchdown. But I expect those numbers to improve this week against the Titans’ running back duo of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis who are averaging just a mere 3.43 yards per carry. The Jaguars defense should win this game for them, but if Bortles can stay hot, and that’s a big if, then there’s a chance that Jacksonville can blow them out on Sunday.
Next 3 Games:
Tennessee: vs. Philadelphia, @ Buffalo, vs. Baltimore
Jacksonville: vs. NY Jets, @ Kansas City, @ Dallas
Philadelphia (vs. Indianapolis) – Although QB Nick Foles led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship, fans have been patiently waiting for their franchise quarterback Carson Wentz to return to the field. That moment will finally take place this week against the Indianapolis Colts. What’s better is that his triumphant return happens in front of the home crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles are coming off a 27-21 loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but this loss cannot be pinned on Foles who finished with 334 yards and one touchdown. It was the Eagles defense that let them down, allowing Tampa Bay to score 20 points in the first half. Philly will face off against another tough quarterback in Andrew Luck this week. Luck wasn’t bad in Week 2, completing 21 of his 31 throws for 179 yards and two touchdowns against Washington. Nevertheless, he wasn’t lights-out and even threw two picks. Philadelphia’s pass rush is going to swarm Luck and attempt to collapse that pocket. Luck isn’t the most mobile quarterback and has been sacked five times on the year. For Philly offensively I expect them to go with a more a balanced attack this week with Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement splitting carries, assuming that Darren Sproles is unable to play this week. Head coach Doug Pederson will put Wentz in position to make smart decisions and not force him to make ill-advised throws that could land in the hands of Indy’s defense. If Wentz protects the football, the Eagles should get by with a win against the Colts in Week 3.
Next 3 Games:
Indianapolis: vs. Houston, @ New England, @ NY Jets
Philadelphia: @ Tennessee, vs. Minnesota, @ NY Giants
Kansas City (vs. San Francisco) – Other than Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kansas City’s QB Patrick Mahomes has been all the rage early on in the NFL season. He played well against the Chargers in Week 1 throwing 256 yards and four touchdowns but then followed that up with an even more impressive game against the Steelers completing 82.1% of his passes for 326 yards and six touchdowns. He has set an NFL record with 10 touchdown passes in the first two games of the season and this week he faces a San Francisco defense that has allowed five passing touchdowns, which is tied for third-worst in the NFL. Ironically, the Chiefs defense is actually worse than San Francisco’s in that area, allowing six passing TDs in the first two games. Luckily for them they are going up against QB Jimmy Garoppolo who has struggled in his first two games of this season and that has 49ers fans asking where the 2017 version is. Garoppolo was sacked six times last week and a lot of the blame can be pinned on himself for not getting rid of the football. Garoppolo is extremely fortunate that his terrible pick-six was overturned for defensive holding and the 49ers were able to hold on after nearly blowing a 17-point lead. One positive for San Francisco was their running game led by Matt Breida who rushed for 138 yards and one touchdown. Alfred Morris actually saw more touches and gained 48 yards, but I expect San Francisco to ride the hot hand next week against Kansas City’s defense that allows 4.5 rushing yards per carry. San Francisco needs to take care of the football and control the clock so they can keep the ball out of Mahomes’ hands. I just don’t believe this will be the case. San Francisco’s defense was very lucky that Stafford didn’t connect with his wide receivers on deep balls on four separate occasions which probably would have resulted in touchdowns. If KC decides to go deep, I expect Mahomes to convert those types of passes and for WR Tyreek Hill, who is third in the NFL with 259 receiving yards, to capitalize on any big play opportunities. Even though LB Reuben Foster returns to the 49ers after serving his two-game suspension, his presence alone will not be enough to slow down Kansas City.
Next 3 Games:
San Francisco: @ L.A. Chargers, vs. Arizona, @ Green Bay
Kansas City: @ Denver, vs. Jacksonville, @ New England
Tampa Bay (vs. Pittsburgh) – QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is taking the NFL world by storm right now, not just on the field but also with the wardrobe he wore to his post-game conference which belonged to DeSean Jackson. Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing so well right now that after the first two weeks he’s being coined league MVP. Let’s face it, Fitzpatrick is doing whatever he can so that he doesn’t have to give up his starting job to Jameis Winston. Even WR DeSean Jackson said that it would be a mistake to take him out of the starting lineup. Of course, this is all assuming that the magic of Fitzpatrick continues for one more week. Next up on their schedule are the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers opened as four-point favorites on the road which is shocking to me due to how well the Bucs have been playing. The Bucs went to New Orleans and put up 48 points, then were underdogs again this past week against the defending champs and beat the Eagles 27-21. What worries me a little bit is that this could be a shootout between these two teams. Jackson leads the NFL in receiving yards with 275 and is averaging 30.5 yards per catch. Pittsburgh needs to focus on not allowing Jackson to hit that homerun. But through 2 games this season, the Steelers are allowing an average of 13.8 receiving yards per catch and a league-worst seven receiving touchdowns. This plays into the hands of Jackson and Mike Evans. I think Tampa Bay’s secondary is also going to have a tough time slowing down Ben Roethlisberger and his wideouts, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Even TE Jesse James got into the act last week against Kansas City, reeling in five catches for 138 yards and one touchdown. Also, you can’t forget RB James Conner and his ability to catch balls out of the backfield. I do think that Tampa Bay remains undefeated after this week, but it’s just too risky of a play this early in the season.
Next 3 Games:
Pittsburgh: vs. Baltimore, vs. Atlanta, @ Cincinnati
Tampa Bay: @ Chicago, BYE, @ Atlanta
Chicago (vs. Arizona) – The Chicago Bears defense was impressive again in Week 2 with Khalil Mack (I know, huge surprise) leading the way. Chicago did a great job containing Russell Wilson and sacked him six times on Monday night and created two turnovers by forcing Wilson to fumble and Prince Amukamara came up with a nice interception that he brought back for a touchdown. Unfortunately, QB Mitchell Trubisky wasn’t great, but he was good enough to get by with a win. He played better than he had in the second half against Green Bay in Week 1, but he still needs to take more strides. One area they definitely need to improve on this week is their running game. RB Jordan Howard had a very difficult time getting anything going on the ground against Seattle and averaged just 2.5 yards per carry on 14 carries. Although Arizona is allowing 136 rushing yards per game, they are only allowing 3.6 yards per carry, which ranks eighth in the NFL. The attack that Arizona is more susceptible to is through the air, as they have allowed 9.8 yards per pass and 295 passing yards per game. So, the question is whether Trubisky is ready to sling that football to Allen Robinson and let his wideout make plays. As for Arizona offensively, the Cardinals have only scored six points in the first two weeks and have failed to score a single point in seven of the eight quarters they’ve played. Sam Bradford only averaged a pathetic 3.3 yards per pass against the Rams last week and for some reason the Cards only threw the ball to David Johnson twice in that game. If they want any chance of winning, they need to get Johnson involved in the passing game. On a positive note, Larry Fitzgerald is expected to play, but I don’t think that is going to matter. I expect the Bears to put a lot of pressure on Bradford and I think they will get to him a number of times in this game. I expect that Bradford will get rattled, throw a pick or two, and the Bears should win their second game in a row.
Next 3 Games:
Arizona: vs. Seattle, @ San Francisco, @ Minnesota
Chicago: vs. Tampa Bay, BYE, @ Miami
Green Bay (@ Washington) – The Green Bay Packers seemingly sealed their game against the Vikings last week on an interception but were hosed on a bogus roughing the passer call against Clay Matthews which overturned the interception. The defense then allowed Kirk Cousins to march down the field and complete an incredible pass to Adam Thielen for a touchdown, then let up a two-point conversion which tied the game. Green Bay had opportunities to win in overtime, but they failed to capitalize. At the same time, they are very fortunate to have escaped with a tie due to two missed field goals by former Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson. Green Bay goes up against Alex Smith and the Washington Redskins in Week 3 and Washington is coming off a 21-9 loss against the Colts. Adrian Peterson was limited to just 20 yards on 11 carries but one bright spot was RB Chris Thompson, who was the leading receiver with 92 yards on 13 catches. Alex Smith needs to get TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder involved early on in the game against Green Bay and get the chains moving. If they can keep the ball moving without turning the ball over, Washington will put up a fight at home. But I think the defense is going to struggle to get stops against Aaron Rodgers who threw for 281 yards and one touchdown against the Vikings. I expect Davante Adams to be targeted 10 times, but watch out for Rodgers taking shots at Geronimo Allison down field while also looking for Allison in the red zone. Again, this will be a battle, but I expect Green Bay to prevail.
Next 3 Games:
Green Bay: vs. Buffalo, @ Detroit, vs. San Francisco
Washington: BYE, @ New Orleans, vs. Carolina
Miami (vs. Oakland) – The 0-2 Oakland Raiders will be traveling across the country for a 1pm ET game to take on the surprising 2-0 Miami Dolphins. Derek Carr had a bounce-back game against Denver averaging 9.0 yards per pass while throwing for 288 yards and one touchdown. That was a much better showing than his game against the Rams which saw him throw three interceptions. It was also nice to see Amari Cooper involved in the game plan as he was targeted 10 times and caught all 10 passes for 116 yards. That needs to be the formula this week if Oakland wants to have a shot to win this game against the Dolphins. This game will come down to Miami’s offense producing and making sure that they protect QB Ryan Tannehill, which shouldn’t be much of a problem because the Raiders defense has only recorded two sacks on the season, which is second-worst in the NFL. Oakland has also done a poor job stopping the run, allowing opposing runners to average a league-worst 5.7 yards per carry and 154.0 yards per game, which is only topped by the Lions at 179.5. Dolphins running backs Jay Ajayi and Frank Gore should be able to feast against the Raiders this week. As long as the Dolphins control the ball by pounding it on the ground, burning out the clock and wearing down the Raiders defense, then Miami should be able to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2013.
Next 3 Games:
Oakland: vs. Cleveland, @ L.A. Chargers, vs. Seattle
Miami: @ New England, @ Cincinnati, vs. Chicago
L.A. Rams (vs. L.A. Chargers) – The Rams defense held the Cardinals to 137 total yards last week and have only allowed a grand total of 13 points in the first two weeks of the season and haven’t allowed a single point in the last six quarters. Needless to say, this defense is performing just as we expected. They shut down the run, they shut down the pass and most importantly, they don’t let teams score. As well as they are playing, we also have to keep in mind that they’ve faced the Raiders and Cardinals. The Rams defense will be tested this week against the Chargers, who are third in the league averaging 445 yards per game, and it’s not just coming from one aspect of the offense. They are doing it in the air and on the ground as they are third in passing (329 yards/game) and 11th in rushing (116 yards/game). Phillip Rivers is doing a nice job and has a 6:1 TD:INT ratio and is completing 73.1% of his passes, but the Rams defense is only allowing 5.9 yards per pass. Where I expect the Rams to win this is on the offensive side of the ball. The Chargers will still be without their top defensive player Joey Bosa and that is a major loss. QB Jared Goff will use all his weapons on offense and I expect that WR Brandin Cooks will go off this weekend similar to the way Tyreek Hill went off on the Chargers in Week 1. The Rams are heavy favorites in this game, but because the Rams defense hasn’t faced an offense like the Chargers yet this season, I suggest avoiding this game and taking the Rams in Week 5 when they face the Seahawks.
Next 3 Games:
L.A. Chargers: vs. San Francisco, vs. Oakland, @ Cleveland
L.A. Rams: vs. Minnesota, @ Seattle, @ Denver
Houston (vs. NY Giants) – Houston’s offensive line is arguably the worst in the NFL and per Evan Silva, they have allowed seven sacks and 22 QB hits in the first two weeks of the season. Lucky for them they play a NY Giants defense that has only recorded one sack on the season. The Giants offensive line isn’t much better and has been scrutinized for their poor play, particularly Eric Flowers. But QB Eli Manning deserves blame as well because he is immobile and has made terrible throws on a number of occasions already this season. Saquon Barkley only had 28 rushing yards against Dallas on 11 carries, but one of those carries resulted in 10 yards, which was his longest run. Take away that carry and he averaged a mere 1.8 yards per carry. Houston’s defense should dominate the Giants offensive line and will get numerous hits on Manning. What has me concerned about taking Houston with confidence is that I also worry about Houston’s offense as well. QB Deshaun Watson played better against the Titans last week, throwing for 310 yards and two touchdowns with Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins combining for 223 receiving yards. I expect that they will be focal points in the offense this week. I normally would have Houston ranked higher, especially against this Giants team, but because there are so many question marks with these offensive lines I’m worried that either team could have a costly turnover at any point in this game which is why I’m recommending you avoid both teams.
Next 3 Games:
NY Giants: vs. New Orleans, @ Carolina, vs. Philadelphia
Houston: @ Indianapolis, vs. Dallas, vs. Buffalo
Dallas (@ Seattle) – Dallas was able to get their first win of the season against the Giants on Sunday night, although it was an ugly game. QB Dak Prescott’s play improved from his putrid showing in Week 1, but he’s still not someone I want to rely on right now. I need to see some more progression before I can trust him and this Cowboys team. RB Ezekiel Elliott only had 17 carries, but that number should increase to 22-25 this week against Seattle’s defense that is allowing 116 rushing yards per game. Seattle looked awful on Monday night against the Bears, although to Chicago’s credit, they have a tough defense. QB Russell Wilson was sacked six times and was also without WR Doug Baldwin. For some reason head coach Pete Carroll didn’t give RB Chris Carson a single carry in the second half and decided to let Rashaad Penny get 10 carries even though he was only able to gain 30 yards. I wouldn’t be shocked if Carroll continues to allow Penny to out-carry Carson, which would be a mistake. If I could trust Dallas’ offense, I would rank them a couple spots higher, but I can’t trust either of these teams which is why you definitely shouldn’t waste a Survivor Pool pick on Dallas or Seattle this week.
Next 3 Games:
Dallas: vs. Detroit, @ Houston, vs. Jacksonville
Seattle: @ Arizona, vs. L.A. Rams, @ Oakland
Carolina (vs. Cincinnati) – The Bengals are now 2-0 following their 34-23 win against the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday. It was an impressive win, but a costly one because Cincinnati will be without Joe Mixon for 2-4 weeks. Giovani Bernard will step into his place and it’s a good position to be in because Carolina is allowing 4.9 yards per carry and 132 rushing yards per game. Carolina isn’t doing well against the pass either and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 73.8% of their passes. This also bodes well for Bengals QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. I think that Carolina starts to put things together defensively this week and are able to slow down the Bengals offense. Offensively for Carolina, Cam Newton is coming off a strong performance against the Falcons in which he threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns. Christian McCaffery should continue to be used a lot in the passing game after his performance last week that saw him reel in 14 passes for 102 yards. If Carolina’s defense is able to improve their play, Carolina should bounce back and hand the Bengals their first loss of the season.
Next 3 Games:
Cincinnati: @ Atlanta, vs. Miami, vs. Pittsburgh
Carolina: BYE, vs. NY Giants, @ Washington
Baltimore (vs. Denver) – The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have their best game against the Bengals last week, although QB Joe Flacco put up some good numbers. He certainly surprised a lot of people throwing the ball 55 times and finishing the night 376 yards and two touchdowns. But you also have to keep in mind he threw two picks in the game as well. Flacco should look to pepper both Michael Crabtree and John Brown in this game because the Broncos are allowing 9.0 yards per catch and allow opposing quarterbacks to complete 73.8% of their throws. Denver is relieved that they came from behind to defeat the Oakland Raiders last week after falling behind 12-0 in the game. Case Keenum wasn’t impressive completing just 19 of his 35 passes for 222 yards and one interception. RB Royce Freeman scored his first career touchdown, but he still has to play second fiddle to Phillip Lindsey who is coming off another impressive outing. Baltimore has been strong against the pass, allowing just 4.8 yards per pass, but they’ve also done a good job against the run, allowing 3.8 yards per carry and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown early on this season. I think Lindsey is going to struggle to find running lanes this week forcing Case Keenum to beat Baltimore with his arm, which I don’t trust. I think this could be a very low-scoring game and it will be up to the defense to win the game for either of these teams this week.
Next 3 Games:
Denver: vs. Kansas City, @ NY Jets, vs. L.A. Rams
Baltimore: @ Pittsburgh, @ Cleveland, @ Tennessee
New Orleans (@ Atlanta) – In Week 1, the Saints offense couldn’t stop Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs offense. In Week 2, the Saints offense struggled to get anything going against the Browns defense and were extremely fortunate to squeeze out a win. So what should we expect from New Orleans this week against their division rival Atlanta Falcons? Atlanta on the other hand played better in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers totaling 442 yards. Matt Ryan did a much better job last week completing 23 of his 28 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons were without Devonta Freeman but they didn’t really miss him because RB Tevin Coleman exploded for 107 yards on the ground. Freeman is expected to miss Week 3 which means Coleman will lead the team in carries again. This game could potentially be a shootout as both offenses should be able to move the ball without any issues which is why you should hold off on using either of these teams this week and instead opt to possibly take the Saints next week against the Giants.
Next 3 Games:
New Orleans: @ NY Giants, vs. Washington, BYE
Atlanta: vs. Cincinnati, @ Pittsburgh, vs. Tampa Bay
Cleveland (vs. NY Jets) – What can you say about the Cleveland Browns? Bad luck? Poor coaching? Jinxed? Cursed? All of the above? The Browns played well against the New Orleans Saints but they just couldn’t close out the game and pull out their first win since 2016. Obviously, a good portion of the blame, if not all, will be placed on former kicker Zane Gonzalez for missing two field goals and two extra points. Nevertheless, the offense couldn’t do much outside of the 47 yard touchdown throw from QB Tyrod Taylor to Antonio Callaway to tie the game with 1:16 left, only to see Gonzalez miss the extra point. A lot of credit needs to go to the defense for playing well against the Saints for majority of the game. The defense is going to have to step up again this week against rookie QB Sam Darnold and the NY Jets. Darnold had an excellent Week 1 performance that had Jets fans proclaiming him a Hall of Famer. Darnold struggled at home against Miami last week, completing 25 of his 41 throws with two picks and three sacks. Cleveland’s front seven is going to give Darnold fits this week by pressuring him throughout this game. Cleveland is allowing just 3.8 yards per carry, so they should bottle up Jets running backs Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell. As you all know, the biggest news in the last few days was the Browns trading WR Josh Gordon to the New England Patriots, which leaves Callaway to fill that void. I believe that Cleveland is going to try to pound the ball on the ground with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson who I think they will find a way to utilize more. This could be a very low-scoring game, but I think this is the week that the Browns finally pull out that first win and then the fans get to celebrate by drinking Bud Light from the victory fridges.
Next 3 Games:
NY Jets: @ Jacksonville, vs. Denver, vs. Indianapolis
Cleveland: @ Oakland, vs. Baltimore, vs. L.A. Chargers
Week 3 Survivor Pool Rankings:
1. Minnesota Vikings
2. New England Patriots
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Kansas City Chiefs
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Chicago Bears
8. Green Bay Packers
9. Miami Dolphins
10. Cleveland Browns
11. L.A. Rams
12. Houston Texans
13. Dallas Cowboys
14. Carolina Panthers
15. Baltimore Ravens
16. New Orleans Saints