Jacksonville at Carolina

Cat team showdown! These two squads have found themselves after a rough first two weeks. They also strangely mirror each other! Both starting QBs went down after the first few weeks, with initial struggle. They both feature great running backs, but are powered by underrated defensive units. Minshew Mania is sweeping the nation, but Kyle Allen has filled in admirably for Cam Newton. Both squads find themselves in the thick of their divisional races.

The Panthers will need Christian McCaffery to continue being an absolute workhorse. Ball security has been an issue for Allen, and that could rear its head in a game against a stellar Jaguars front. If the Jaguars can pull out a win, it could aid the cause to keep Jalen Ramsey in town, although owner Shad Khan has said they have no intent to move the corner.

Arizona at Cincinnati

Toilet Bowl Matchup of the Week! These two winless squads are slowly watching their seasons spiral away from them. While not much was expected of either squad, they have looked increasingly inept as the season moves along. Arizona’s pass happy attack has not paid off huge dividends, and the Bengals look overwhelmed in all phases. The Bengals’ offensive line is a disaster, leaving Andy Dalton constantly under siege.

Both teams started with strong Week 1 contests, but have taken steps backward. Both of these team field weak defenses, so both offenses should make some noise. For Arizona, this game carries some significance as owner Bill Bidwill passed away Wednesday. Expect an impassioned effort by the team.

Atlanta at Houston

Another mirror matchup of two perplexing teams. Both of these teams are loaded with talent and were expected to compete for their division title. Houston is probably still the favorite in the AFC South. They have a superstar in Deshaun Watson and a defense laden with talent. The defense often holds up its end of the bargain, but for the talent there is on offense, there is no consistency. Atlanta is approaching the brink of no return. A home loss to a Titans team that had looked pathetic on offense and now a road trip to a hungry team are not a good mix. For supposedly being a defensive-minded coach, Dan Quinn’s defense has been worked by teams all season.

Watson and Deandre Hopkins could have a huge day. Quinn finds himself on the hot seat, which only gets warmer with each loss. Since rebounding from 28-3 by making the playoffs and winning a game, Atlanta has been on a slow downward spiral.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans

An exciting NFC South showdown. New Orleans has defied the odds and kept things afloat in Drew Brees’ absence. However, this is not due to play under center. Teddy Bridgewater has actually been entirely underwhelming. It has been everything else around him, pointing to a well-coached and well-managed organization. The Saints’ defense has been fantastic, and was so last week, holding a scorching Dallas offense to 10 points. But at some point, the Saints are going to need to put up points, and that week is here.

Tampa has a tendency to give the Saints a tough time. While it took a little bit, it seems as if Bruce Arians has had a positive effect on Jameis Winston. Tampa scored a franchise record 55 (!!!!!) points against a good Rams defense IN Los Angeles. The defense continues to be underrated as well, shutting down every run game it has faced. The thing the Saints have had to do in the games with Bridgewater is run the ball, and that is going to be difficult here. Further, while the Saints’ defense has been solid, the secondary is suspect, and now have to handle a duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Minnesota at New York Giants

Two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. The shine has worn off Kirk Cousins, and the natives are getting restless. Stefon Diggs was absent from practice Wednesday in a non-injury related manner. The Vikings vaunted ground game was silenced by the Bears defense, sans two of their best players. Cousins could not pick up the slack and was harassed by Khalil Mack and company the whole game.

Heading to face a resurgent Giants crew is not the cakewalk it looked like a couple weeks back. Daniel Jones has revived the offense, and the defense looked functional last week, albeit against an inept Redskins crew. The Vikings will impress no one if they win this game, but a loss here could become a catalyst for a lost season. For the Giants, a win would put them right back into the thick of the NFC East race.

Chicago “at” Oakland

The Khalil Mack revenge game… with a British flair! Oakland secured a much-needed victory last week against a good Colts team. Now they head across the Atlantic to play the Bears. Chicago dominated the Vikings the entire game last Sunday, with all three phases performing excellently. Considering the fact starter Mitchell Trubisky went down on the first drive, Chase Daniel filled in totally competently against a strong Minnesota defensive unit. Now he faces a Raiders squad that is not nearly as tough a matchup.

The Bears should aim to get David Montgomery going, after the rookie received rave reviews all offseason. All Daniel has to do is be the exact same as last week. The Raiders have the potential to give Chicago a problem on defense if they utilize the short passing game and have Derek Carr get the ball out quickly and underneath. Establishing the run is likely not going to be possible.

New York Jets at Philadelphia

Well the Eagles panic lasted all of three days. Philly got an absolutely critical victory at Lambeau Field and gained ground on the division leading Cowboys. Now, they get to return home and face the Jets. While New York is coming off of their bye, there has not been dramatic improvement in Sam Darnold’s health. It is beginning to seem more likely that he will play this week, which would be a big lift for the Jets. But if he’s not cleared by Friday, that will leave Luke Falk to “operate” the offense for another week. This time in the hostile confines of Lincoln Financial Field.

Philly is not at full strength either, but the defensive front has shut down running games all season. If this holds true again, Falk – or a potentially rusty Darnold – will have to beat the Eagles with his arm. That is unlikely, but with the state of the Eagles’ secondary, Darnold could put some pressure on them. Maybe.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh saved its season last week and now gets another extremely important divisional match in their backyard. Baltimore is absolutely reeling, having allowed 1033 yards the last two weeks, and the offense has not looked quite the same as the opening of the season. Pittsburgh is not out of the AFC North hunt yet. A win here would put them right back into the thick of it.

Pittsburgh clearly has some form of a plan for Rudolph on offense. Lean on the run game and REALLY short passes, and uncork a few bombs here and there. Pittsburgh has a crazy talent-loaded defense, but the scheme and DC Keith Butler hold them back. Baltimore is trying to get back on track after a hot start, and a loss here would be disastrous. This is a huge AFC North showdown and could be higher scoring than most would think. This is going to be a fun one.

Buffalo at Tennessee

A stellar effort by the Bills last week. A loss like that should not have anyone down on them. While the offense was not up to par, the Bills’ defense is one of the best in the league. They only gave up nine points to the Patriots, with the other touchdown coming on a botched special teams play. Tennessee came back to life last week, heading into Atlanta and taking down an equally desperate team. It would be completely fitting of this team to head back home and drop a game to a possibly Matt Barkley led team. Further, the Falcons’ inept defense does not hold a candle to Buffalo’s.

Marcus Mariota is the only QB in the NFL to start all of his team’s games and not turn the ball over. Buffalo has been taking the ball from everyone, so something has to give. While Josh Allen’s health is in question, Barkley is actually not a terrible backup. If the Bills can lean on the immortal Frank Gore and Devin Singletary, they can make Barkley’s life much easier.

New England at Washington

Oh, your starter is under-performing? Let’s send in our first round rookie, who we said was not gonna play yet, and who did not get any first team reps all week in practice. That will definitely go well. And then were going to start him against a defense that’s allowed one TD all year. Even better!

While Bill Belichick complimented the Redskins as having three good QBs and a quality coaching staff, Jay Gruden went on to say they have no plan at QB for this game. Whoever lines up center does not matter for Washington this week. The Patriots defense will shut down whatever they want. The offense, after being smothered by the Bills last week, should be licking their chops to face a bottom 4 defensive unit in the league.

Denver at Los Angeles Chargers

Another heartbreaking loss for Denver at home on a last second field goal – with a questionable roughing the passer penalty thrown in. Reports came out after the game that the Denver locker room imploded. The season could not have started any worse for them, and now they have to head to LA to face a Chargers team that gets Melvin Gordon back.

The Chargers have sustained injuries to multiple key players and are down their second, third, and fourth wideouts. Melvin Ingram is not going to play this week either. Relying on Gordon and Austin Ekeler will be the key this week, but a desperate Broncos team could press Los Angeles.

Green Bay at Dallas

I wonder if this matchup could be a reason why there are only two games in the late time slot this week. Hmm. Green Bay’s defense finally looked mortal last week, getting gashed by the Eagles all over the field. While the pass defense is a force to be reckoned with, the Packers have been run over by teams the last three weeks. Unfortunately for them, they now face Ezekiel Elliot. Dallas came back to earth last week, where questionable coaching showed its face for the first time this season. The Cowboys went away from the play action and run game, and were unable to move the ball effectively.

Dallas may get Michael Gallup back this week. Green Bay is likely going to be without Davante Adams and Jamaal Williams. The Packers’ other offensive skill players are all going to have to step up big time for an offense that still does not look quite right, yet. The path to victory for the Cowboys is to run the ball and control the clock against a team that has recently had their number.

Indianapolis at Kansas City

Well that was pretty scary for the Chiefs last week. A last-minute drive was needed to fend off the Lions on the road. Pat Mahomes failed to throw a TD for the fourth time in his career, but he did amass 315 yards passing and a career high 54 rushing yards. In those games where Mahomes does not have a passing TD? The Chiefs average 30.5 points per game.

The Colts come off a disappointing home loss to an inspired Raiders squad. Really nothing went right for Indy. While they are an excellently coached team, the pieces they were missing (TY Hilton, Darius Leonard, Malik Hooker) were too difficult to replace. Marlon Mack found himself injured and on the sideline most of the second half as well.

Hilton and Mack are questionable this week. While Jacoby Brissett has played well this year, not having two of their best players on offense, plus rookie Parris Campbell, is going to be a lot to deal with. Even worse is if Hooker and Leonard are out again. Mahomes seems to elevate his game in primetime, so this one could get away from Indy quickly.

The picks:

  • Jacksonville
  • Arizona
  • Houston
  • Tampa Bay
  • New York Giants
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Buffalo
  • New England
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Dallas
  • Kansas City