It is once again time for your weekly NFL picks, courtesy of your friends here at SB Nation Minnesota. You didn't exactly have a banner week last week if you were using my picks for gambling purposes (which I've already told you that you shouldn't do unless you plan on splitting your winnings). While I managed to go 11-4 straight-up, my numbers against the spread actually show a losing mark of 6-8-1 as a couple of teams managed to sneak within the margins. The one push came from the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers, where we had the Cowboys as a three-point favorite, and they wound up winning the game 27-24 in overtime.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why no sane person gambles on the National Football League on a regular basis. However, since my sanity has been called into question on more than one occasion, let's just continue along with this, shall we? Once again, these picks are for entertainment purposes only.
Only one game this week matches up teams with 2-0 records, and this is the one. How much respect does Vegas have for the New England Patriots right now? The Bills are the NFL's highest-scoring team, entering this contest averaging 39.5 points a game over their first two contests, their offense is humming along at an incredibly high level. . .and they're an underdog by more than a touchdown at home to Tom Brady and company. Heck, if you figure in the three-point advantage that home teams usually get, the Bills are basically a double-digit home underdog, which is pretty much unheard of in the NFL today.
The Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bills offense has been ridiculously good so far this season, and this game is going to show them just how far they've come as a team as they enter a hostile road environment to take on their toughest division foe. Buffalo is one of the nice stories of the early part of the 2011 season here, but I think the Patriots can ride Brady's ridiculous efficiency to a ten-point victory in this one.
Straight-Up - Patriots, ATS - Patriots
I hate to go to the Steelers' well once again for my Lock of the Week, since they were the pick last week against Seattle, but this is the second week in a row that Pittsburgh gets to do battle with a bad, bad football team. The Colts are, obviously, not the same team without Peyton Manning at the controls, ranking in the bottom of the league in points scored and yards gained. They got a late garbage-time touchdown against the Cleveland Browns last week to make things look more interesting than they actually were, but this team is staring at a lost season.
The Steelers, on the other hand, are still smarting from the beatdown that Baltimore laid on them in the season opener, particularly in light of Balitmore's loss to the Tennessee Titans last week. I'm not sure when the last time a team collected shutouts in two consecutive weeks was, but the Steelers have a pretty good shot at doing just that this weekend.
Straight-Up - Steelers, ATS - Steelers
After a hard-fought opener, the Jets received the gift of Luke McCown last week, as New York rode his 1.8 passer rating to a blowout victory at home. The Raiders got into a shootout with the Buffalo Bills and ultimately wound up losing by a score of 38-35. The injury to center Nick Mangold is going to make things rough on the Jets, as Mark Sanchez is probably going to be under a lot of duress from the Oakland pass rush, and he has shown a tendency to cough the ball up on occasion.
If the Raiders can keep Darren McFadden going and get after Sanchez, they have what it takes to pull off what would be considered a mild upset at the Black Hole. They're the pick for the upset of the week.
Straight-Up - Raiders, ATS - Raiders
The Rest Of The Week
Since I can't pick both teams to lose in this one, let's at least try to do enough to tick off one fan base, shall we? The bears were a flop as my upset pick last week, as New Orleans blitzed Jay Cutler and company into Bolivian (™ Mike Tyson), but this NFC Championship Game rematch should be different. The Bears will be at home, and the Green Bay defense has looked relatively horrible during their first two games this season.
And, since I really can't stand either of these teams, I'll simply not say anything further.
Straight-Up - Bears, ATS - Bears
Our first battle of rookie quarterbacks for this season will take place in Charlotte, as the Cam Netwon-led Panthers will play host to the Jaguars, who will give Blaine Gabbert his first NFL start after Luke McCown spent last week looking like. . .well, like Luke McCown. Newton has been flat-out ridiculous over his first two NFL games, topping the 400-yard mark in each contest. Unfortunately for him and his teammates, neither of those performances have translated into a victory.
I'm not sure that Gabbert will have as easy a time establishing himself as Newton has to this point, and making your first NFL start on the road is a tough task, regardless of who your opponent is. Look for the Panthers to finally crack the "W" column in this one.
Straight-Up - Panthers, ATS - Panthers
This should be another of the more interesting match-ups of Week 3, as the undefeated Texans come to the Big Easy to take on Drew Brees and company. After going down to the wire in their opener in Green Bay, the Saints came back in a big way last week by crushing Chicago at home. Houston's offense continues to be solid, even without the contributions of Arian Foster, as second-year back Ben Tate is currently second in the NFL in rushing yardage in his absence.
It's very likely that the defenses are going to take a holiday in this one, as both of these teams are very good offensively. At home, however, it's hard to pick against New Orleans. . .if only I had told myself that last week.
Straight-Up - Saints, ATS - Saints
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns (-3)
Can you feel the excitement for this one? Yeah. . .neither can I. The Browns got an easy victory last week over the Colts in Indianapolis, but with the condition that the Colts are in, that's not a big deal. After hanging with the New England Patriots for most of their opener, the Dolphins got pretty well handled by the Texans in their home opener. Seriously, Miami's saving grace might be the fact that they're on the road, as they're just 1-8 in their last nine home games.
But, even being away from Miami probably won't be enough in this one. The Browns should win this one to keep pace with the Steelers and the Ravens in the tough AFC North.
Straight-Up - Browns, ATS - Browns
Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans (-7)
Both of these teams are coming off of victories in Week Two, with the Broncos managing to hold off the Cincinnati Bengals and the Titans scoring the biggest upset of the week in knocking off the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos have a lot of key injuries heading into this one, including defensive end Elvis Dumervil and wide receiver Eddie Royal, while the Titans still have not gotten significant contribution from running back Chris Johnson after his pre-season
hissy fit holdout.
The Titans are favored to win this one, and they probably will do just that at home, but I think the Broncos can manage to keep this one close, as Kyle Orton is still a whole lot better than a lot of people realize.
Straight-Up - Titans, ATS - Broncos
The last time we saw these two teams, they were the participants in the first "walk-off punt" in NFL history, as DeSean Jackson took a punt to the house to pretty much put a dagger in the Giants' post-season aspirations. This week, we have no line for this one yet. Michael Vick is still listed as questionable after his concussion on Sunday night against the Falcons, which is why Vegas hasn't put a number on this one yet. The Giants rode a number of Rams miscues to a victory on Monday Night Football, and now turn around on a short week to prep for one of their bigger rivals.
I reserve the right to change this pick based on Vick's status. Since the indicators are that Vick is, indeed, going to suit up and play, I'm taking the Eagles to win the game.
Straight-Up - Eagles, ATS - Eagles
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)
The Niners lost in heart-breaking fashion to the Dallas Cowboys in overtime last week, while the Bengals' late comeback in Denver fell short. The Bengals are getting the three-point home edge in this one, so it's basically a toss-up between two teams that nobody really expects a whole lot from this season. However, when this one is over with, one of these teams is going to be 2-1.
In the Niners' case, a 2-1 record could put them in the driver's seat in the terrible NFC West. I'll go with the road team in a mild upset for this one.
Straight-Up - Niners, ATS - Niners
That line is not incorrect. . .the San Diego Chargers are a fifteen-point favorite this week as they host their division rivals. Do you know why the Chargers are a 15-point favorite? Because the Kansas City Chiefs are freaking awful. The Chiefs have scored one touchdown in the first two weeks of the season, and have been defeated in their first two contests by a combined score of 89-10. Throw in the season-ending injury to running back Jamaal Charles, and we're two weeks into what appears to be a very long season for Kansas City.
Like I said with the Steelers/Seahawks game last week, generally it's ludicrous to pick a team to cover a double-digit point spread in the NFL. With the way the Chiefs have looked so far this season, San Diego might be the pick if the spread were twice as much.
Straight-Up - Chargers, ATS - Chargers
Baltimore Ravens (-4) at St. Louis Rams
The Ravens fell into the trap last week, following their blowout victory over the Steelers with a shocking, disappointing loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Rams managed to fall for the second straight week, getting beaten by the Giants in New York on Monday night. The Rams could be without running back Steven Jackson again, which would make things tough for Sam Bradford and company against that tough Baltimore defense.
The Rams were a chic pick at the beginning of the year in the NFC West, but there's a very good chance that they're going to be sitting at 0-3 when this one is over. As with the Eagles/Giants game, check back for the ATS pick on this one after a line has been established.
Straight-Up - Ravens, ATS - Ravens
The Cardinals lost a heartbreaker to the Redskins in D.C. last week, while the Seahawks got throttled by the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Kevin Kolb trade appears to have been a solid one for Arizona. On the other side, Pete Carroll has yet to figure out that the Tarvaris Jackson Experience still isn't very good.
Neither of these teams are very good on defense, but at least Arizona has something going offensively with Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald.
Straight-Up - Cardinals, ATS - Cardinals
The Falcons come into this one off of their thrilling victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night football, while the Buccaneers struggled with the Minnesota Vikings in the first half, but turned it on after halftime to earn themselves a 24-20 victory in Minneapolis. Two of the best young quarterbacks in the game will be going at it in this one with Matt Ryan battling Josh Freeman, and this game should be a pretty good one.
The Bucs have not gotten off to very good starts in either of their games. While they could get away with that against a team like Minnesota, I don't think it would work out quite as well against Atlanta. Whoever wins this game is going to be in pretty good shape in the NFC South.
Straight-Up - Falcons, ATS - Falcons
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (-5)
If it weren't for the Buffalo Bills, the Redskins might be the most surprising 2-0 team in the NFL right now. Rex Grossman and company have started the season off pretty well, all things considered. For Dallas, Tony Romo is now the greatest thing since Roger Staubach just one week after being the worst thing since Steve Pelleur. So it goes with Cowboys nation, I guess.
Romo's status is still up in the air for this one, so check back for the ATS pick. As far as the straight-up winner, regardless of whether Romo plays or not, I'm going with Washington.
Straight-Up - Redskins, ATS - Redskins
Straight-Up Last Week - 11-4
Straight-Up For The Season - 19-10
ATS Last Week - 6-8-1
ATS For The Season - 13-14-2