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

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

Does everyone like backup quarterbacks? At least seven teams — potentially eight, depending on the health of Cam Newton — enter Week 3 with a training camp backup in the top spot. It’s a situation that ranges from exciting (the Giants’ Daniel Jones) to seemingly fine (New Orleans’s Teddy Bridgewater) to terrifying (the Jets’ Luke Falk being asked to play at New England.)

Fortunately, Sunday will start off with what could be a thrilling game between two of the N.F.L.’s best young quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs and Lamar Jackson of the Ravens.

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

Last week’s record: 11-5

Overall record: 23-9

Ravens at Chiefs, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Chiefs -6.5 | Total: 53.5

If you want to see the N.F.L.’s future, watch this game. Between the artful yet surprisingly efficient passing of Patrick Mahomes and the ability of Lamar Jackson to spearhead an offense that throws and runs with ease, there will be a reasonable chance of a touchdown on every single play.

Make no mistake, Mahomes is much farther along as a quarterback than Jackson, no matter how thrilling Baltimore’s young starter has been. The Chiefs (2-0) are such a powerhouse on offense that after last week’s blowout against Oakland, Mahomes, who threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns, mostly wanted to talk about the big plays he had missed.

Jackson cannot match Mahomes’s arm strength or accuracy, but Baltimore has more offensive balance — the Ravens (2-0) have averaged 223.5 rushing yards a game compared with Kansas City’s 72 — and a defense that has looked stronger.

Expecting Mahomes to come out with more motivation to prove a point against an emerging competitor ignores the fact that Mahomes’s foot is jammed on the gas pedal against all opponents at all times. But Baltimore has been stout enough to give one pause.

Kansas City is rightly favored, and maybe even by a fair amount, but there are paths to an upset, which could vault the Ravens into the discussion of the A.F.C.’s best teams. Pick: Ravens +6.5

Rams at Browns, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Rams -3 | Total: 49.5

Before the season, this appeared to be one of the top games of the year. The defending N.F.C. champion (and revolutionaries of N.F.L. offense) Rams (2-0) against the emerging (and heavily hyped) Browns (1-1). Jared Goff against Baker Mayfield. Sean McVay against Freddie Kitchens. Aaron Donald against Myles Garrett.

After two games, a lot of the enthusiasm has seemed to fade for both teams. That makes sense for Cleveland — its failures against Tennessee were bad enough that a win against the lowly Jets did not make up for it. But the Rams have scored 57 points and looked solid on defense, so any disappointment is probably just a hangover from last year’s failure to capitalize on being the team everyone was talking about with a Super Bowl title.

The Rams of the last two seasons have always allowed too many yards on defense, but they have made up for it with timely turnovers. It just so happens that Mayfield is somewhat known for making the occasional head-scratching mistake. Pick: Rams -3

Texans at Chargers, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Chargers -3.5 | Total: 47.5

The Texans (1-1) were incredibly lucky to come away with a win last week despite entering the game as 9.5-point favorites. If not for safety Justin Reid managing to stop Leonard Fournette dead in his tracks on a 2-point conversion attempt, Houston would have lost at home to a rookie quarterback. Houston’s defense is clearly a work in progress, and Philip Rivers, Austin Ekeler and the Chargers (1-1) are too big of a challenge. Pick: Chargers -3.5

Giants at Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Buccaneers -6.5 | Total: 48

It’s not that this is actually a good game, but if you bench a two-time Super Bowl most valuable player for a fairly controversial first-round pick, your team becomes one to watch. That’s exactly what the Giants (0-2) have done, replacing Eli Manning with Daniel Jones, a rookie out of Duke who did not stand out for his play on the field in college but has become something of a sensation since then thanks to scouts loving him and his preseason performances. The Buccaneers (1-1) have a mild overall talent advantage and will probably win, but they have not showed nearly enough consistency to be favored by so much. Pick: Giants +6.5

Dolphins at Cowboys, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Cowboys -21.5 | Total: 46.5

Jets at Patriots, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Patriots -23 | Total: 44

There honestly is not a lot to say about either of these games. The Cowboys (2-0) have been electric on offense and solid on defense, and the Dolphins (0-2) are off to the second-worst start in N.F.L. history (102 points allowed, behind only the 1973 Saints). Similarly, the Jets (0-2) have had almost nothing go right, and will have to start Luke Falk, a third-string quarterback, on the road against the Patriots (2-0), who in the Tom Brady era have eaten visiting young quarterbacks for breakfast.

It makes perfect sense that oddsmakers would try to drive up interest with enormous point spreads, but it would be smarter to just assume victories for Dallas and New England and avoid betting on either game. Picks: Cowboys -21.5; Jets +23

Saints at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Seahawks -4 | Total: 45

Both of these teams have been heavyweights in the N.F.C. for ages, but this matchup will look far different than in recent years. The Saints (1-1) will start Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback because of the hand injury to Drew Brees, and the Seahawks (2-0) will be relying almost entirely on their offense, as their stout defense appears to be a thing of the past. Bridgewater has started only one game since 2015 — and he lost — so while New Orleans is justifiably happy that it retained one of the better backups in football, there is little reason to think Seattle won’t win at home. Pick: Seahawks -4

Bengals at Bills, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bills -6 | Total: 44

The Zac Taylor experience in Cincinnati has led to the Bengals (0-2) piling up an enormous number of passing yards while struggling to turn those yards into points. They lost a close game in Week 1, then were crushed in Week 2, and while Andy Dalton most likely enjoys averaging 364.5 passing yards a game, he’d probably like to win a game at some point. That will be hard in Buffalo against the upstart Bills (2-0). If Bills running back Devin Singletary is forced to miss the game with a hamstring injury, this game gets far more competitive. Pick: Bengals +6

Steelers at 49ers, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: 49ers -6.5 | Total: 44

Winning consecutive road games to start the season was big, even if the wins came against Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. Suddenly the 49ers (2-0) are in line for what could be a huge bounce-back season — the rebuilt defense and a (mostly) healthy offense make the start more than just a mirage. San Francisco is back home, and will face the Steelers (0-2), a team off to a bad start that could get worse after the season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Backup quarterbacks have mostly been keeping teams respectable, but this may be an easy win for the 49ers. Pick: 49ers -6.5

Falcons at Colts, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Colts -1.5 | Total: 47

The Colts (1-1) were good last year, even beyond the stellar play of Andrew Luck, a fact that has been underscored by their competitive performances with Jacoby Brissett under center. From Darius Leonard controlling the field on defense to Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins finding huge holes to run behind Quenton Nelson on offense, the only real flaw for Indianapolis this season has been the disappointing play of Adam Vinatieri, the veteran kicker. The Falcons (1-1) are coming off a win, and there is a major wild card in the fact that Leonard is in the concussion protocol and may not play. The Colts should be favored at home, but without Leonard their advantage is significantly diminished. Pick: Colts -1.5

Panthers at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Even | Total: Off

The Panthers (0-2) are a mystery. Cam Newton is working his way through a foot injury and has not been practicing. That could lead the team to start Kyle Allen, a 23-year-old in his second season as a backup in Carolina after a disappointing college career split between Texas A&M and Houston. Truth be told, Carolina hasn’t been very good even with Newton, so this was looking like a difficult game no matter what. Kyler Murray, meanwhile, was terrible for the first three quarters of his first N.F.L. game, but has been loads of fun since. The Cardinals (0-1-1) are still developing as a team, and are likely to hit some rough patches, but this week gives Murray a solid opportunity for his first N.F.L. win. Pick: Cardinals

Lions at Eagles, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Eagles -6 | Total: 45.5

The Eagles (1-1) were expected to be strong on defense, with Fletcher Cox’s outrageous pressure from the interior complemented by quality at every level. That has not panned out. Philadelphia has allowed nearly 400 yards a game, and both Cox and Derek Barnett are questionable for this game against the Lions (1-0-1). It is too early to assume the strong preseason predictions were blown out of proportion, but there is also little reason for the Eagles to be favored by nearly a touchdown in a game that could be close. Pick: Lions +6

Broncos at Packers, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Packers -7.5 | Total: 43

It is hard to argue with two wins, but life hasn’t been perfect in Green Bay, where the Packers (2-0) have been inconsistent with the new offense installed by Coach Matt LaFleur. For now, Aaron Rodgers is brushing off talk of any drama between him and the coach, and pointing to the results, but there is no denying that Green Bay’s defense has been its biggest strength through two weeks. That can’t sit well with Rodgers. He may want to make a point by running up the score against the lowly Broncos (0-2). Pick: Packers -7.5

Raiders at Vikings, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Vikings -8.5 | Total: 43

Both teams had surprising wins in Week 1 and predictable losses in Week 2. The Vikings (1-1) are at home, and have more talent on both sides of the ball, so they are rightly favored, but the Raiders (1-1) have shown enough improvement to make the game more competitive than the spread indicates. Pick: Raiders +9.5

Bears at Redskins, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Bears -4 | Total: 41.5

The Bears (1-1) looked better in Week 2 than in Week 1, but have yet to crack 20 points in a game. The Redskins (0-2), who played Philadelphia close in Week 1, seemed to regress in Week 2, but they were playing a stronger opponent in Dallas. That leaves us with a playoff team from last season that is still trying to find its passing game going against a rebuilding team that has enormous holes on defense. Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky will most likely look far more competent at quarterback as a result, but even if he delivers an easy win, Chicago should still be wary of where the team stands. Pick: Bears -4

We picked the Titans -2. Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew, with a great deal of help from his team’s defense and a little bit of help from the referees, made that prediction look very silly. Jacksonville beat Tennessee, 20-7, and Tom Brady found the game difficult to watch.

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. Cowboys -21.5, for example, means that Dallas must beat the Dolphins by at least 22 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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