NFL Week 3: 15 Games, 15 Bold Predictions

Tom Brady

On Thursday night the Atlanta Falcons pummeled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what must have been a statement game. The message: the Falcons are a force to be reckoned with.

That was the start of Week 3, but there are 15 more NFL games on the slate this Sunday and again on Monday night.

XN Sports will take a look at each one of the other 15 matchups, providing you with one bold prediction.

Houston vs. New York Giants

The 2-0 Texans take on the 0-2 Giants, The Texans will try to prove their 2-0 record is not a fluke while New York will try for their first win of the season. Last year Houston began 2-0 before, well, they wound up picking Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick. Eli Manning has thrown an Eli Manning-esque interception in both games this season, and his chemistry with Victor Cruz looks off-whack. Even a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback can feel his seat getting warmer.

Bold prediction: Houston’s defense should allow them to compete with Indianapolis for the AFC South crown, but it’ll be the offense again stealing the show against the Giants. Count on the Texans to post 30 points or more this week.

San Diego vs. Buffalo

The Bolts just upset the Super Bowl champions, and now they face a new test in the upstart Bills, who have begun 2014 2-0. Philip Rivers has been playing lights out, and because of the offense’s depth it doesn’t seem like Ryan Mathews’ absence will be a factor. It should open the door for snaps for Danny Woodhead, a mismatch as a receiver out of the backfield. E.J. Manuel has excelled in the game-manager role, but the Chargers’ defense poses as more of a challenge than Chicago’s or Miami’s.

Bold prediction: Rivers never shies away from taking chances, while Manuel has been put in a dink-and-dunk type of role. The Bills’ defense is for real, and you can expect the Chargers to put pressure on Manuel. Together, these two quarterback combine for five turnovers.

Dallas vs. St. Louis

DeMarco Murray has been the catalyst for the Cowboys, making this usually pass-oriented team more balanced and subsequently, more formidable. St. Louis is coming off its first win, with Austin Davis leading the way over the Buccaneers. In this showdown, it’s the Cowboys’ strong offense against the Rams’ stout defense, meaning this will come down to whichever “other” unit steps up.

Bold prediction: Speaking of those “other units” — will Davis against engineer a game-winning drive or can the Dallas D make a game-changing play? As big of a Davis fan as I am, I think Dallas finds a way to exploit the quarterback making his second career start. These are the types of games where Brandon Carr justifies his salary.

Washington vs. Philadelphia

The first matchup of the season between the 2012 division winners and the reigning champs, but this go-round has a special theme: the return of DeSean Jackson to Philadelphia. That return remains questionable, as Jackson has been held out of practice with a shoulder injury. And if he does play, it’ll be Kirk Cousins targeting him. Philly has won two in a row despite double-digit halftime deficits.

Bold prediction: Whether Jackson or Chip Kelly admits it, there was a beef between the diva wide receiver and headstrong head coach. Jackson is already hindered by an injury and a backup quarterback, and Kelly will not allow the receiver to shine in his return to Lincoln Financial Field. Jackson is held catchless in this one.

Minnesota vs. New Orleans

Super Bowl contender New Orleans is looking to get off the snide after back-to-back road losses to Atlanta and Cleveland. The Superdome will be a welcomed site for Drew Brees and Co. They host a Minnesota team that’ll again be without Adrian Peterson, as well as a banged up Cordarrelle Patterson. This is a showdown between a team starved for a win, with its home crowd riled up, against a team that just got flattened by New England. You do the math.

Bold prediction: I called Brees average in my Week 3 power rankings, and will allow the perennial All-Pro to make me look stupid. Brees will pass for five touchdowns before halftime against the Vikings, and once again the Saints will be in the discussion as NFC contenders.

Tennessee vs. Cincinnati

There’s no denying that the Bengals have looked like the most dominant team in the AFC through the first two weeks. Hue Jackson has the offense looking sharp, despite losing A.J. Green early in the win over Atlanta Week 2. Defensively, the loss of Mike Zimmer has yet to have an effect. Tennessee won Week 1 but were run over by Dallas last week, and Jake Locker now has to redeem himself against a stout Cincinnati defense.

Bold prediction: Green was held catchless for the first time in his NFL career last weekend, but a toe injury won’t hold him back Week 3. Expect Green to make up for his absence in a big way — securing at least two touchdowns and well over 100 yards receiving.

Baltimore vs. Cleveland

Baltimore beat Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh beat Cleveland, so by the transitive property this game is already pre-determined, right? Well, the Browns’ rallied in the latter half against the Steelers — and although it fell short — that momentum helped them top the Saints in their home opener. The Ravens also bounced back from their Week 1 loss by cruising past the Steelers.

Bold prediction: Because of the comeback victory, Brian Hoyer‘s stock is at an all-time high. Matching up against the Ravens, though, will force that positivity to be short-lived. The Ravens’ 11th-ranked pass defense will stymie Hoyer, holding him to under 100 yards, and we will see Johnny Manziel play in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay vs. Detroit

The Packers overcame a 21-point deficit to top the Jets at Lambeau last week. For six quarters the Packers have been playing subpar football, but the last two are more indicative of the team they actually are. The Lions were dominant in their Week 1 triumph over the Giants, but they were brought back down to reality against Carolina’s fierce defense. This one has the makings of a shootout.

Bold prediction: This game is more of a test for the Lions, as we gauge if they’re a team that should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, they’re probably a .500-ish team, and Green Bay’s pass-rushers will exploit them. Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews have a combined 18 sacks in their career against Detroit. Expect each to rack up two sacks on Matthew Stafford.

Indianpolis vs. Jacksonville

A pair of 0-2 squads go head to head in this one, as the AFC South favorites, Indianapolis, look to notch win No. 1 against the Jags, which blew a double-digit lead against Philly and were blown away by Washington the past two weeks. The Colts have looked very pedestrian the first weeks, too, albeit against two playoff teams. They need a win here to jump-start their season.

Bold prediction: The Jaguars are going to start 0-3, but that’s not bold at all. The issue with this team is its offensive line, which can’t create holes for Toby Gerhart or protect whoever is under center. If Washington can rack up 10 sacks, maybe Indy can match it. The Jags will allow 10 sacks in back-to-back games.

Oakland vs. New England

Arguably the biggest mismatch of the weekend, the 1-1 Patriots take on the winless Raiders, who are making a convincing case to be the NFL’s worst team. New England received a lot of production out of Stevan Ridley last week, which made up for the lack of Rob Gronkowski in the passing game. Oakland looks lost on both sides of the ball, and Tom Brady is going to make them pay.

Bold prediction: Dennis Allen’s job is very much on the line. Will starting 0-3 be the tipping point? Brady and Co. post 48 points against the Raiders’ defense, and on Monday we hear that the Raiders are firing Allen.

San Francisco vs. Arizona

The 49ers came up short against the pass-happy Bears in a classic Sunday night bout, allowing Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall to make this new-look secondary appear silly. Arizona moved to 2-0 behind Drew Stanton‘s fill-in performance against the Giants, and all signs point to Stanton making a second straight start in this one.

Bold prediction: Cutler can exploit the Niners’ secondary; Stanton cannot. San Francisco hands Arizona its first loss of the season, but it won’t be because of Frank Gore or Colin Kaepernick. This win will come via the 49ers’ D, which leads the team to a 10-0 win.

Denver vs. Seattle

The Super Bowl matchup we’ve anticipated since late February pins Seattle coming off its first loss of the year against the AFC favorite Broncos. Seattle dominated Green Bay Week 1 before getting outdone by Rivers in San Diego last week. The Broncos are 2-0, as expected, but have not dominated in either game. Both Indianapolis and Kansas City made late runs, but came up short.

Bold prediction: This one’s in the Pacific Northwest and it happens to be a Seahawks squad coming off a loss. How bad does that bode for Denver? Seattle has lost two games in a row six times under Pete Carroll, the last coming Weeks 7 and 8 in the 2012 season. No matter how fired up the Broncos may be, Seattle will match them. Chock this up one to the 12th man, as the Steve Hauschka‘s 47-yard field goal gives the home team the win.

Kansas City vs. Miami

The 0-2 Chiefs may be out of luck if Jamaal Charles is unable to lace up for this week. This team has no legitimate weapons without him, and that doesn’t bode well for a pretty good Dolphins defense looking to rebound from Week 2. Miami coaches have preached upping the tempo of the offense, which should allow Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace to take advantage of a declining Chiefs D.

Bold prediction: The Miami defensive front against the Chiefs’ pass protection is the biggest mismatch in this contest. Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon could run circles around this line, and I think that’ll be the case. Alex Smith has been sacked six times in two games. The Dolphins will match that total Week 3.

Pittsburgh vs. Carolina

This game is quite intriguing, as Cam Newton plays similar to Ben Roethlisberger in many ways. The Steelers are a preseason favorite to make a run in the AFC and perhaps retake the AFC North title, but a stinker against Baltimore has left us with a lot of doubt. Despite losses on both sides of the ball, the Carolina defense looks equally as dominant, and the offense is already exceeding expectations.

Bold prediction: The Steelers’ defense’s Achilles heel is that is cannot force turnovers. The Panthers already have forced nine. That’s the difference in this game, as Newton takes advantage of the opportunities his defense creates for him.

Chicago vs. New York Jets

The Jets enter this Monday night matchup with the top-ranked rushing attack and top-ranked rushing defense. They scraped by against Oakland and held a 21-point lead over a better Green Bay team. The Bears were shocked by Buffalo in their opener, then rallied late against the 49ers. So in a way, these teams have fared similarly.

Bold prediction: Throw the rushing statistics and factoids out the window. The Bears can’t run the ball, so Matt Forte will explode. The Jets have been stellar on the ground, so Geno Smith will be utilizing the short-passing offense. But in the end, the superior defense (New York) takes the win over the superior offense (Chicago).

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Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.