NFL Week 3 Predictions: Statement Games

I have always thought Week 2 was the hardest to predict in the NFL season, because you end up instinctively relying too much on what happened in Week 1.

The 49ers and Vikings were polar opposites from Week 1 to Week 2. Were the Titans really that good and were the Buccaneers really that bad as in Week 1? No. Are the Jets really that good on defense and are the Colts in some trouble on offense? Maybe. Week 1 isn’t worthless and it’s definitely important, but it is still just one data point.

This week I want to see which teams build off a good start and which ones turn around a poor beginning, because there are some really interesting names sitting at 0-2. History suggests some of those teams are not going to be successful this season. Only 24 of 199 teams to start 0-2 since 1990 (12.1%) have made the playoffs. At least one team from the hyped group of the Seahawks, Colts, Eagles and Ravens is probably not going to turn things around.

Some teams are in position to have a statement game where the winner could really put the loser in a huge hole. Those are the games I’m most interested in for Week 3.

Bengals (2-0) at Ravens (0-2)

Come on, Cincinnati. This is exactly the spot where people expect the Bengals to fall flat on their faces as they always do. They swept the Ravens a year ago, but Baltimore is at home for the first time in 2015 and will pretty much have to play with the intensity and importance of a playoff game at 0-2. With a trip to Pittsburgh looming on Thursday, the 2015 Ravens basically have their fate on the line early. You’re likely not coming back from an 0-3 or 0-4 start. The Bengals have looked good with Andy Dalton playing clean, efficient football and Tyler Eifert emerging as the team’s best weapon behind A.J. Green. I’m not sure why Jeremy Hill hasn’t been able to get things going yet, but the offense has been good and so has the defense. This team certainly has looked better than the Ravens, who had no offense in Week 1 and no defense in Week 2. I think the Bengals can limit Steve Smith’s damage and simply have too many weapons for the Ravens, who aren’t getting much pressure now without blitzing. While I think it will be another close game decided in the fourth quarter, I actually like the Bengals to pull this one out.

Colts (0-2) at Titans (1-1)

We always expect the Colts to clean up in division games (won 13 straight), but what happens if they lose? Chuck Pagano’s seat just gets that much hotter and I have to say this has been the worst 3-game stretch of Andrew Luck’s career going back to the 2014 AFC Championship Game. I’m not sure any other QB takes 0 sacks vs. 11 hits like he did in that Jets game, but the hits and pressures were still very effective at forcing him into turnovers. I think the Titans are improved on defense, though still not very good, but good enough to cause some trouble again for the Colts. Indy has won seven in a row against Tennessee, but this is a big one on the road. I have really no great reason for picking the Colts other than they need the win more, which is a scary thought for where this team is currently situated in the AFC. Can Marcus Mariota tear up a defense with a limited pass rush and several of its top corners out? Absolutely. I think Mariota has been pretty impressive so far through two weeks. This won’t be an easy game by any means for the Colts.

Steelers (1-1) at Rams (1-1)

Really not a statement game; I just feel like mentioning it briefly. The Rams are inconsistent as hell and the Steelers are getting Le’Veon Bell back. Both defenses seem pretty susceptible to having a blown coverage down the field, so this one could be very high scoring. So given it’s the NFL, expect a 13-9 game. I still worry about the Steelers in road games following a big week like the masterclass performance Roethlisberger put on against the 49ers last Sunday. Let’s see this offense sustain the good offensive line play, precise vertical passing and now the added element of Bell as a runner and receiver. The Rams have a talented front seven even if it doesn’t show up for long stretches. Bell didn’t exactly dominate good defenses on the ground in 2014. This game is very interesting as I can see 34-31 just as likely as 13-9. You never know what you’ll get from Nick Foles.

Broncos (2-0) at Lions (0-2)

Not sure it was a good idea to schedule the Broncos and Chiefs, Week 2’s TNF game, for road prime-time games in Week 3 too. With Denver all eyes will be on Peyton Manning, but I expect the Denver defense to play well against a struggling Detroit offense. This could have been a  high-scoring game in past years, but I just am not seeing it this year. With Manning, we’ll get another dose of seeing him deal with the Gary Kubiak offense versus doing what actually works (the shotgun and no-huddle offense with him calling the shots). My biggest fear all summer was Kubiak being the only coach too stubborn to let Manning do his thing, and we’ve seen glimpses of that so far. Plain and simple, I don’t think Manning has the foot speed anymore to run Kubiak’s offense from under center, then combined with the piss-poor OL, by the time Manning completes his drop he’s getting pressured or he’s throwing the ball away immediately without setting his feet. That’s why it’s not working out and he needs to be in shotgun. And let’s dump the bootleg pass with Manning going to his left. This isn’t 2006 anymore. If Kubiak can’t adjust to his players’ strengths, then he is just the shoddy coach I’ve always expected he was from Houston.

2015 Week 3 Predictions

My streak of non-losing weeks came to a crashing halt with a 6-10 finish in Week 2. I had the Giants on TNF, so let’s rebound here.

Winners in bold

  • Bengals at Ravens
  • Saints at Panthers
  • Colts at Titans
  • Falcons at Cowboys
  • Jaguars at Patriots
  • Eagles at Jets
  • Raiders at Browns
  • Steelers at Rams
  • Chargers at Vikings
  • Buccaneers at Texans
  • 49ers at Cardinals
  • Bears at Seahawks
  • Bills at Dolphins
  • Broncos at Lions
  • Chiefs at Packers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Season: 16-16 (.500)
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