Two weeks into the NFL season, almost nobody knows what to make of the football landscape in 2015.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are tied for first place in their division, the Seattle Seahawks are 0-2 and the Arizona Cardinals look like NFC Championship Game contenders. Suffice to say, things are strange.
That doesn’t make life any easier on NESN.com’s expert pickers, but who ever said we wanted to do that, anyway?
After a solid-yet-unspectacular showing last week, our trio dives into the Week 3 slate, which features about a half-dozen matchups that make us want to throw up our hands and say, “Who knows?”
Here’s how the race stands entering Week 3:
Ben Watanabe: 20-12. (Last week: 9-7) He thought New Orleans would cover 11 1/2 points against the Bucs. As the kids say, “LOL.”
Mike Cole: 19-13. (Last week: 9-7) Another winning week keeps last year’s champ in the hunt.
Ricky Doyle: 17-15. (Last week: 8-8) Sure, he’s bringing up the rear, but he saw Philly’s stinkage on Sunday coming.
This week’s picks:
Thursday, Sept. 24
Washington Redskins (1-1) at (-4) New York Giants (0-2), 8:25 p.m. ET
Ricky: Redskins. If the Giants win, it’ll be by a field goal. And unless the NFL radically changes its scoring system by Sunday, that won’t be enough to cover.
Ben: Giants. Big Blue is kind of a tire fire right now, but the G-Men have dropped two tight losses to teams that are way better than the ‘Skins.
Mike: Giants. Because I have to pick someone.
Sunday, Sept. 27
Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at (-2.5) Baltimore Ravens (0-2), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Ravens. In Week 1, the Bengals beat the crap out of the Raiders, who responded by defeating the Ravens in Week 2. If life made sense, that would mean the Bengals are the team here. But sometimes, life makes zero sense whatsoever.
Ben: Bengals. Cincy’s playing better football and has better history against the spread (4-1 in its last five vs. Baltimore), although the Ravens will get home cooking for the first time this season.
Mike: Ravens. Baltimore simply can’t afford to fall to 0-3. The Ravens also are dominant at home early in the season, going 15-1 in their last 16 home September games.
New Orleans Saints (0-2) at (-3) Carolina Panthers (2-0), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Panthers. Drew Brees or no Drew Brees, the Saints stink right now. The Panthers have benefited from a cupcake schedule to open the season, but Cam Newton should be able to Madden juke and truck stick his way to a good performance against New Orleans’ suspect defense.
Ben: Panthers. New Orleans is so, so bad, and missing Brees only makes it worse.
Mike: Panthers. This line will be closer to a touchdown than a field goal by the time these teams kick off Sunday.
Oakland Raiders (1-1) at (-3.5) Cleveland Browns (1-1), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Browns. The Browns took advantage of playing a bad team (Titans) last week. They’ll do the same this week against a team that can’t stop a nosebleed. That West-to-East time zone change also can be a killer, for whatever reason.
Ben: Raiders. Josh McCown starting over Johnny Manziel helps Cleveland’s chances, but this is still going to be a mess of a football game. Browns by a field goal.
Mike: Browns. The Raiders are 0-16 in their last 16 games in the Eastern Time Zone, which is good enough for me.
(EV) Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-0), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Falcons. The Cowboys and Falcons both played with fire the first two weeks, only to come out unblemished. There’s just too much uncertainty surrounding Brandon Weeden’s ability to not dump in his drawers — Jerry Jones will tell you otherwise — for me to lean in Dallas’ favor.
Ben: Falcons. Two NFC South teams are going to be 3-0 at the end of Week 3, putting them almost halfway to the win total that was needed to win the division last season.
Mike: Cowboys. The Cowboys’ defense was fantastic last week, and considering they’ll commit to the run in Tony Romo’s absence, I think they’ll slow down the game enough to put themselves in position to win late.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at (-7) Houston Texans (0-2), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Buccaneers. Backdoor cover for days. I’m really excited for this game, you guys.
Ben: Texans. Yes, Houston’s suffered some hard knocks and Tampa erupted last week, but the Bucs haven’t covered in their last seven matchups against the AFC South. That’s a lot of bad football right there.
Mike: Texans. A seven-point spread bothers me, really only because I’m not even sure seven points will be scored between these two teams. Yet I’ll take the Texans, assuming that pass rush befuddles Jameis Winston.
San Diego Chargers (1-1) at (-1) Minnesota Vikings (1-1), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Vikings. Assuming the Vikings learned from their Week 1 stinker and continue to give Adrian Peterson the football, like they did in Week 2, they should be able to run effectively and thus control the game enough at home to pull this one out.
Ben: Vikings. Hmm. As long as the weather forecast stays clear, give Philip Rivers the edge. If it gets messy — it’s been rainy in Minny this week — watch out for Adrian Peterson.
Mike: Vikings. Minnesota plays well at home, especially against the spread (5-1 in its last six).
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) at (-14.5) New England Patriots (2-0), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Patriots. The Patriots aren’t the Dolphins. They’ll stuff the Jaguars into a locker and roll into their bye week at 3-0 on the heels of a convincing win.
Ben: Jaguars. Goodness gracious, that is a lot of points. Here’s guessing the Pats cruise to victory, but not quite this easily.
Mike: Jaguars. Way too many points. If nothing else, the Jaguars have weapons, and there are enough questions about New England’s secondary to see a late cover.
Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) at (-2.5) New York Jets (2-0), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Jets. The Eagles’ offense looked like the worst unit in NFL history last week. Now, Chip Kelly’s boys are going on the road to face a Jets defense that looks legit. I’m with you, Fireman Ed.
Ben: Jets. I believe in this defense enough that it can top an embarrassment of a football team for the second straight week. (They dominated Andrew Luck and the fraudulent Colts on Monday, in case you forgot.)
Mike: Jets. Playing well with expectations isn’t really the Jets’ thing. But after last week, taking the Eagles is no longer really my thing.
(-1) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at St. Louis Rams (1-1), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Steelers. The Rams are going to be that team that toys with your emotions every week because you just don’t know their true colors. I feel like I do know the Steelers’ true colors, though, and Le’Veon Bell’s return should provide an extra boost against a Rams defense that was sliced and diced last week by rookie running back Matt Jones.
Ben: Steelers. I mean, I guess I could see the Rams’ defensive front wreaking havoc and Todd Gurley carving up Pittsburgh’s rush defense, but I have to squint really, really hard and use my imagination.
Mike: Steelers. Seriously. What are we missing here?
(-3) Indianapolis Colts (0-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-1), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Colts. Still not sold on the Colts as far as beating NFL teams that actually are good. But Andrew Luck is going to torch the Titans.
Ben: Colts. As abhorrent as they are, the Colts take care of business in their division, which is abhorrent-er.
Mike: Colts. Andrew Luck is 6-0 for his career against the Titans, which is good enough for me, even if the Colts stink.
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at (-7) Arizona Cardinals (2-0), 4:05 p.m.
Ricky: Cardinals. I’ve already reserved my seat on the Cardinals’ bandwagon, for as long as Carson Palmer stays healthy. So unless he stubs his toe before Sunday, a seven-point spread isn’t enough to scare me away.
Ben: Cardinals. Carson Palmer has taken care of business against two underwhelming defenses in New Orleans and Chicago, and the Niners didn’t show any ability to slow down a quality offense last week in Pittsburgh.
Mike: Cardinals. The Cardinals have a great defense and an adequate offense, which means they’ll destroy bad teams this season, as they’ve already showed. The 49ers are a bad team.
Buffalo Bills (1-1) at (-2.5) Miami Dolphins (1-1), 4:25 p.m.
Ricky: Bills. The Bills are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight games. The Dolphins are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games. I sometimes overlook such facts in order to appease my personal biases, but not here. The Fins have been frauds so far, and it’s kind of annoying.
Ben: Bills. Not sure why the Dolphins keep giving up points. They managed to cover in Week 1, but that was their first win against the spread in six games. And that was before last week’s debacle against Jacksonville.
Mike: Dolphins. Old habits die hard.
Chicago Bears (0-2) at (-16) Seattle Seahawks (0-2), 4:25 p.m.
Ricky: Seahawks. It’s easy to complain about Jay Cutler. Until you realize Jimmy Clausen is Chicago’s backup quarterback. This spread is huge, but the Bears might get blanked.
Ben: Seahawks. The hot takes will undoubtedly compare this to Seattle being stunned by the Rams in Week 1, but there is nothing in common between the Rams and the Bears apart from them both playing in the Central time zone.
Mike: Seahawks. Just want it to be known that I’m making this pick before the line drops because I think the Bears are the worst team in football, and the Seahawks are back home, where they should right their seemingly leaky ship.
Denver Broncos (2-0) at Detroit Lions (0-2), 8:30 p.m.*
Ricky: Broncos. Peyton Manning’s right arm might fall off somewhere along the line. He’ll still have his left, though, and that should be enough to beat the Lions with the Broncos’ sick defense.
Ben: Broncos. I have to look up Detroit’s previous result every week because I honestly don’t care.
Mike: Broncos. Peyton and Co. showed me a lot last week. That defense is scary good, and they’ll wreak havoc no matter who’s under center for the Lions.
*no line as of 10 a.m. Wednesday
Monday, Sept. 28
Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) at (-7.5) Green Bay Packers (2-0), 8:30 p.m.
Ricky: Packers. Green Bay’s run defense isn’t all that, which could prove troublesome against Jamaal Charles. But the Chiefs’ crushing Week 2 loss is the type of defeat that can linger. And while the Packers’ offense has question marks, it still is led by Aaron Rodgers, who is all that, especially at home.
Ben: Chiefs. The Packers will take care of business straight-up, but this is too many points to make up against a good K.C. defense, considering the banged-up state of Green Bay’s offense.
Mike: Packers. I’m not entirely sold on a Chiefs defense that allowed noodle-armed Peyton Manning’s offense to score three times last week. Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau is a scary proposition for the Chiefs.
Thumbnail photo via Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Images