After a .500 record in Week 2, I bounced back with my second 12-4 mark of the season this past week. Jacksonville’s upset over Houston and Cincinnati’s victory over Pittsburgh were my biggest undoings. I also gave too much credit to the defending NFC conference champion Arizona Cardinals as they got trounced by the Colts at home. There are quite a few games this week that are both difficult to predict and should be exciting to watch, such as the Ravens at Patriots, Jets at Saints, Chargers at Steelers, and Packers at Vikings.
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups and how I think they’ll play out.
Last Week: 12-4
This Week: 10-4
Detroit Lions (1-2) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
The Lions by no means are pushovers, so the Bears will have to earn everything on the field. With home field advantage and a passing game that is clicking well, the Lions’ defense will have trouble stopping Cutler and the Bears.
Prediction: Chicago 24, Detroit 16
Actual Score: Chicago 48, Detroit 24
Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-3)
Any time I think of this Ohio rivalry, I’m reminded of the Browns’ 51-45 victory over the Bengals in 2007. How two bad teams could put up that many points was beyond me, but that’s how quirky this rivalry can be. I don’t expect this one to reach that many points and I don’t expect the Browns to put up much of a fight in this one.
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 14
Actual Score: Cincinnati 23, Cleveland 20
Oakland Raiders (1-2) at Houston Texans (1-2)
I’m having the hardest time putting my finger on what kind of team the Texans are. They were spanked at home by the Jets in Week 1, beat the Titans on the road in Week 2, and fell last week at home to a mediocre Jaguars team. I can’t imagine the Raiders sticking with the Texans’ high octane offense in this one, but I’ve been wrong before.
Prediction: Houston 20, Oakland 17
Actual Score: Houston 29, Oakland 6
Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-0)
The Colts have the No. 1 passing offense in the league and a lot of people think Peyton Manning has stepped up his game after the departures of his top wide receiver, head coach, and offensive coordinator this off-season. Seattle is No. 7 in the league in pass defense, but the Colts get it done at home.
Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Seattle 14
Actual Score: Indianapolis 34, Seattle 17
Tennessee Titans (0-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
These are two of the most enigmatic teams in the league. The Titans are the best 0-3 team that I can remember and the Jaguars have completely flopped since making the divisional round of the playoffs two seasons ago. Jacksonville has home field advantage, but I like the Titans to pick up their first win of the season here.
Prediction: Tennessee 21, Jacksonville 20
Actual Score: Jacksonville 37, Tennessee 17
New York Giants (3-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-3)
I think the Giants should cruise to a victory here. Playing as well as anybody in the league, New York should be able to handle the Chiefs in all aspects of the game. The Chiefs don’t even have the capability anymore to put up big points as they displayed last year.
Prediction: New York Giants 27, Kansas City 16
Actual Score: New York Giants 27, Kansas City 16
Baltimore Ravens (3-0) at New England Patriots (2-1)
I’m intrigued by this game because I like physical contests in which the team that imposes its will the most will take the win. This is the official coming out party for the Ravens. They’ve wowed some people this year en route to a 3-0 start behind a strong offense and a tough defense, but if they can go into Foxborough and walk away with the victory, we’ll all know they’re for real. My gut says Patriots, but I’m going to go with the upset.
Prediction: Baltimore 26, New England 23
Actual Score: New England 27, Baltimore 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) at Washington Redskins (1-2)
Boy, is this a snoozer of colossal proportions. Two of the league’s four worst teams squaring off for a step closer to mediocrity. The Buccaneers have no defense whatsoever while the Redskins have a solid line and have kept games close. I’ll go with defense here.
Prediction: Washington 21, Tampa Bay 13
Actual Score: Washington 16, Tampa Bay 13
Buffalo Bills (1-2) at Miami Dolphins (0-3)
Part of me wants to see the Bills lose simply to see the next episode of the Terrell Owens saga. It’s funny, he’s being a distraction even without trying, and even when attempting to be a good teammate and not say anything negative about his teammates or coaches. The Dolphins were a lucky, one-year wonder last year and we’re seeing firsthand evidence this year. If this were a confidence pool, I’d put a one next to this game.
Prediction: Buffalo 23, Miami 20
Actual Score: Miami 38, Buffalo 10
New York Jets (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-0)
Who typically wins between a good offense and a good defense? In the past, defenses usually prevail, which would tend to favor the Jets. But the Saints’ defense isn’t that bad, and in fact, is much improved. I like the Saints’ defense more than the Jets’ offense, and that plus home field advantage is enough for me.
Prediction: New Orleans 24, New York Jets 20
Actual Score: New Orleans 24, New York Jets 10
Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at Denver Broncos (3-0)
The Broncos have played the Bengals, Browns, and Raiders, so is it any wonder that they’re 3-0? The Cowboys will be their stiffest challenge to date. The Broncos have the No. 2 pass defense and No. 7 run defense, so Tony Romo and crew may struggle. But I’m not on the Denver bandwagon yet.
Prediction: Dallas 20, Denver 17
Actual Score: Denver 17, Dallas 10
St. Louis Rams (0-3) at San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
After nearly walking out of Minnesota with a 3-0 record, only to be defeated in the final seconds by a virtual Hail Mary pass, the 49ers will not let down for a second against the Rams, no matter how bad they are. Even without Frank Gore, I like the 49ers to roll in this one.
Prediction: San Francisco 23, St. Louis 13
Actual Score: San Francisco 35, St. Louis 0
San Diego Chargers (2-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
The Steelers haven’t exactly had a walk in the park in terms of their schedule. The Titans, Bears, and Bengals are tough teams to beat and now they get a solid Chargers team. Without Troy Polamalu, you can notice a big difference in the Steelers’ secondary. But I like Pittsburgh’s chances of holding home field advantage and taking down the Chargers.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, San Diego 20
Actual Score: Pittsburgh 38, San Diego 28
Green Bay Packers (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (3-0)
I can’t remember a regular season game that has carried as much significance as this one does. Lost in the hoopla of Brett Favre versus his former franchise is the fact that this is a huge NFC North divisional battle between two rivals that could have playoff implications on the line already at this early stage in the season. The Vikings have had one of the best defenses in the league the past few years and their No. 4-ranked pass defense could give Aaron Rodgers fits. Rodgers, with a poor offensive line, might be running for his life all game. Meanwhile, the Packers’ 23rd-ranked run defense might have trouble stopping Adrian Peterson.
Prediction: Minnesota 27, Green Bay 23
Actual Score: Minnesota 30, Green Bay 23