2017-09-21 14:28:03
N.F.L. Week 3 Picks: Patriots, Raiders and Broncos on Top Looking Down

14:28, September 21 342 0

Expectations have to be adjusted throughout the league as teams like Denver and New England looked far better in Week 2 than they had in Week 1, while Dallas and Green Bay fell off a cliff. There is still too much noise in any of the results to draw too many conclusions, but the N.F.L.’s hierarchy might get some clarity this week. Here is who we think will win.

Record against the spread in Week 2: 10-6

Record against the spread overall: 18-13

Raiders at Redskins, 8:30 p.m. on NBC

Line: Raiders by 3

It is hard to say who is enjoying Marshawn Lynch’s return to the N.F.L. more: His teammates, the fans of the Oakland Raiders (2-0), or Lynch himself. Last week, as he danced on the sidelines during his team’s rout of the Jets, it proved to be yet another indelible moment in a career full of them.

Lynch’s arrival in Oakland had the potential for disaster. He was not just old for a running back, he was coming out of retirement in what could cynically have been described as a stunt by the team to bring in a hometown hero to ease the blow of the team leaving Oakland in the near future.

Instead, Lynch has seemed rejuvenated by the year off, and has paid immediate dividends for the Raiders, adding a hard-nosed edge to the offense that is not only showing up in attitude, but also in production. At 31, he is hardly being asked to do everything himself — he has 30 of the team’s 56 carries — but he has contributed to strong gains for Oakland in the percentage of rushing yards they pick up after contact, which makes teams work hard to stop him. He may not have had a carry for more than 14 yards yet, but he has been knocked for a loss only twice, and the tough yards he has been able to fight for have opened things up for Derek Carr and the passing game. Carr has taken advantage with a passer rating of 126.5 thus far, which is nearly 30 points better than his career high for a season.

This week the Raiders will be on the road against a Redskins (1-1) team that has done fairly well against the run, but has shown some vulnerability in the passing game. If Lynch can hammer away at the Redskins’ front-seven, and let Carr exploit matchup advantages against the Washington secondary, the Raiders could have the team’s first 3-0 start since 2002. Pick: Raiders

Falcons at Lions, 1 p.m. on Fox

Line: Falcons by 3

Even though the Falcons are the defending N.F.C. champions, this was not seen by many as a marquee matchup when the schedules came out. But considering how well Atlanta (2-0) played last week against Green Bay, and how good Detroit (2-0) has looked in both games so far, this could be the most evenly matched game this week in terms of talent. It is the only meeting of the week between unbeaten teams. Matt Ryan of the Falcons and Matthew Stafford of the Lions will get the bulk of the publicity, but this game is likely to come down to which defense can limit the opposing offense, which makes the absence of Vic Beasley, Atlanta’s top pass-rusher, perhaps the most important injury note of the week. Pick: Lions

Texans at Patriots, 1 p.m. on CBS

Line: Patriots by 13.5

Coach Bill Belichick has always seemed to relish picking on young quarterbacks, and with Houston (1-1) sending out Deshaun Watson for a start against the Patriots (1-1) in Foxborough, here are some numbers worth paying attention to: 5-15 (the record of rookie quarterbacks against Belichick-led Patriots teams); 0-8 (the record of those quarterbacks when playing in Foxborough); 0-5 (the record of the Texans at Foxborough regardless of who is playing quarterback). New England’s wide receiver depth chart has only one fully healthy player, and Rob Gronkowski, who looked superhero-like last week, had yet to practice as of Wednesday, so a blowout score might be hard to manage. But even if the point spread is a little outlandish, expecting Watson to pull off a victory is likely to be too much to ask. Pick: Texans

Seahawks at Titans, 4:05 p.m. on Fox

Line: Titans by 2.5

The Seahawks (1-1) have been horrid offensively, and a lot of the blame has been placed on the team’s offensive line. Pro Football Focus backs that blame up by rating three of the team’s five starters as “poor,” with Rees Odhiambo, the team’s starting left tackle, picking up the rear with a player rating of 25.9 that ranks 72nd among tackles. The interesting thing, though, is that according to Sportradar, Russell Wilson has had an average of 2.57 seconds in the pocket before he releases the ball or the pocket collapses, which is better than last season’s mark of 2.29 seconds, and is the fifth most time of any quarterback. He has been hit an average of 6.5 times a game, which is tied for the 12th most, and has been sacked six times, which is tied for 9th. Wilson undoubtedly could use better protection, but placing all of the blame on the guys up front may be misguided. In the meantime, Seattle’s defense is mostly making up for the offensive inadequacy, and should be able to handle Tennessee (1-1), especially if DeMarco Murray is unable to play. Pick: Seahawks

Giants at Eagles, 1 p.m. on Fox

Line: Eagles by 6

Coach Ben McAdoo of the Giants (0-2) did not hold back during a conference call this week.

“Yeah, we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again,” McAdoo said. “That’s insanity. It’s not working. So we are going to look to make some changes this week, like we did last week. Maybe it will be a little more drastic this week, to use your word.”

It is hardly sunshine and puppy dogs in Philadelphia, as the Eagles (1-1) are struggling to find any sort of offensive balance, and have some key injuries on defense, but playing at home against a team in disarray can do a lot to make a team look like it has everything together. Pick: Eagles

Buccaneers at Vikings, 1 p.m. on Fox

Line: N/A

No one is sure what to make of this game since the status of Minnesota’s starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, has yet to be determined. The Vikings (1-1) looked terrific in Week 1, with Bradford earning N.F.C. offensive player of the week honors for his performance against New Orleans, but a knee injury kept him out of Week 2 and the result was a 26-9 loss to Pittsburgh. If Bradford, who practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday, is able to play, Minnesota would seemingly be at an advantage, but without him the Vikings will struggle to score, even though his backup, Case Keenum, has a 2-0 record against Tampa Bay (1-0) over the last two seasons. Pick: Vikings

Broncos at Bills, 1 p.m. on CBS

Line: Broncos by 3

Denver (2-0) barely escaped with a victory in Week 1, but then absolutely dominated one of the N.F.L.’s best teams in Week 2, so figuring out exactly where they fit leaguewide can be difficult. Trevor Siemian may not be able to reel off four passing touchdowns every week, but if the team’s run defense can play as well as it did while humiliating Ezekiel Elliott, then the Broncos will be no fun for opponents. Buffalo (1-1) will do its best to get something going with LeSean McCoy, but the Bills will eventually need to throw the ball, and it’s hard to believe that Tyrod Taylor can find openings with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. roaming the field. Pick: Broncos

Steelers at Bears, 1 p.m. on CBS

Line: Steelers by 7.5

Pittsburgh (2-0) has not exactly been setting the world on fire offensively, but it has done enough to win, and provided the team does not fall apart against the lowly Bears, they should have their first 3-0 start to the season since 2010. It would be easy to be disappointed in the Steelers’ efforts considering the presence of several of the league’s biggest stars. But Chicago (0-2) could put on a clinic in disappointment: Mike Glennon has proved his critics correct by not looking even close to being worth his huge salary, and Jordan Howard thus far is struggling to repeat his success from a year ago. Pick: Steelers

Bengals at Packers, 4:25 p.m. on CBS

Line: Packers by 9

Even if the Packers (1-1) are still figuring things out defensively, a win at home over the struggling Bengals (0-2) seems like it would be easy enough. The complicating factor is health. Green Bay had its roster fall apart last week, with seven starters unable to play by the end of the loss to Atlanta. If Mike Daniels, the team’s versatile defensive lineman, is unable to go because of a hip injury, then this game is far more evenly matched. It could come down to whether a patchwork offensive line can give Aaron Rodgers some time to work. Pick: Packers

Chiefs at Chargers, 4:25 p.m. on CBS

Line: Chiefs by 3

The Chargers (0-2) have kept things close over the first two weeks of the season, but ended both games with a failed field goal attempt by Younghoe Koo and a loss. If this game comes down to a last-second field goal attempt, it would be a shock, as the Chiefs (2-0), even when playing on the road, appear to have strong advantages on both sides of the ball. Pick: Chiefs

Saints at Panthers, 1 p.m. on Fox

Line: Panthers by 6

New Orleans (0-2) has been absolutely cursed in September over the last few seasons, with a record of 1-11 in the month since 2014. But this year they have certainly earned the losses, giving up 470 yards to Minnesota in Week 1 and 555 to New England in Week 2. They might not be run quite as ragged this week by a Carolina (2-0) offense has been a bit rusty to start the season (and won’t be helped by the absence of Greg Olsen). But the Panthers do not need to run up the score given how well their defense has been playing. Pick: Panthers

Dolphins at Jets, 1 p.m. on CBS

Line: Dolphins by 6

The Jay Cutler experiment in Miami got off to a good start in a game in which he did not commit a turnover, got the entire offense involved, and helped lead the Dolphins (1-0) on a game-winning drive. The potential for turnovers (plural) is always there, and having Lawrence Timmons suspended indefinitely for going missing from the team weakens the defense, but the Dolphins have advantages on both sides of the ball against the Jets (0-2). Pick: Dolphins

Ravens at Jaguars, 9:30 a.m. on CBS

Line: Ravens by 4

The N.F.L. has been playing games in London for 10 years now, and no team has played there more than the Jaguars. Jacksonville (1-1) is still working its way through an agreement that has the team playing one home game a year there until at least 2020, and while their 2-2 record in London since 2013 may not seem impressive, it is certainly better than their 14-48 record outside of the London in the same time span. Baltimore (2-0) has had a fairly smooth start to the season, and has the look of a playoff team. The adjustment to international travel in the team’s first visit abroad is the only thing putting this game’s result in doubt. Pick: Ravens

Rams at 49ers, 8:25 p.m. (Thursday) on NFL Network

Line: Rams by 2.5

The N.F.C. West is probably the league’s worst division in terms of overall talent, but at least when teams from the division are playing each other things are more evenly matched. Both Los Angeles (1-1) and San Francisco (0-2) have shown year-to-year improvement, but with Eric Reid and Reuben Foster out, it would be too much to ask for the 49ers’ defense to do enough heavy lifting to win. Pick: Rams

Browns at Colts, 1 p.m. on CBS

Line: Browns by 1

Dear Andrew Luck,

We are underdogs, at home, against a team known mostly for losing in embarrassing fashion. We might be able to pull this one off, but it would be helpful if you could come back soon.

Sincerely, Colts fans

Pick: Colts

Cowboys at Cardinals, 8:30 on ESPN

Line: Cowboys by 3

Dallas (1-1) is probably trying to pretend last week never happened. Dak Prescott committed turnovers, Ezekiel Elliott could not find any room to run, and the Cowboys were simply humiliated by the Broncos. The problems were rampant on both sides of the ball, but a chance to regroup against Arizona (1-1), a team that could barely beat the lowly Colts, could help shake the loss off and get Dallas back to a position of strength. Pick: Cowboys