If Week 2 is the time for overreactions, then Week 3 should be when we really start to decipher the identities of teams across the NFL.
Obviously, it’s still very early in the 2020 season. As such, we’re continuing to learn new information and collect valuable data in the hopes of eventually separating the contenders from the pretenders.
Those efforts are even more complicated this year, with the inherent unpredictability of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the rash of injuries across the league in Week 2. But hey, no one said it was going to be easy.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are among those who will press on in this unprecedented football journey, providing their weekly against-the-spread picks.
Here’s how they fared in Week 2:
Mike Cole: 12-4 (17-14-1)
Ricky Doyle: 5-11 (15-16-1)
Andre Khatchaturian: 8-8 (14-17-1)
Now, here are their Week 3 picks (lines are consensus data).
THURSDAY, SEPT. 24
Miami Dolphins at (-3) Jacksonville Jaguars, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Dolphins. I’m currently on vacation, so my reasoning throughout might be suspect. Anyhow, neither team is very good, obviously, but if you’re telling me this is a neutral-field pick ’em, I think Miami is slightly better. So just give me the points and get me to Sunday.
Ricky: Jaguars. I typically lean toward the home team on Thursday night when it doesn’t appear either team has a clear advantage — road teams are 23-38-2 ATS on Thursday over the past five seasons, per CBS Sports — and Gardner Minshew is playing too well not to back against a Dolphins defense that’s been shredded over the first two weeks.
Andre: Dolphins. Let’s slow the roll on the Jaguars. They beat the Colts and looked good against the Titans, but the Dolphins have played much stiffer competition (Patriots and Bills). Perhaps that’s why they have the worst yards per play differential in the NFL. Ryan Fitzpatrick and his weapons will be able to keep up in a shootout against a horrible Jacksonville defense that allows 8.6 yards per pass attempt (fifth-worst).
SUNDAY, SEPT. 27
(-2.5) Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET
Mike: Titans. Week 3 is when we sometimes see crazy stuff that seemingly contradicts the first two weeks, but I think the Vikings might actually be bad. Their defense has been on the field more than any other team in the NFL, and that’s probably not going to get any better this week against a balanced Titans attack.
Ricky: Titans. Probably safe to say Minnesota’s Super Bowl window has closed. I just didn’t expect the Vikings’ downfall to be this pronounced. Mike Zimmer’s team doesn’t really have an identity — offensively or defensively — right now, and that’s a problem.
Andre: Vikings. The Vikings are 0-2 ATS. According to Joe Osborne of Odds Shark, teams that begin the season 0-2 ATS are 22-7 ATS in Week 3 over the last four seasons. If they run the ball, they’ll have an easier time winning. The team is fourth in yards per carry, but they have the third-fewest rush attempts in the league.
Las Vegas Raiders at (-6) New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET
Mike: Patriots. Gotta think that after Bill Belichick watched Darren Waller catch 12 passes for 105 yards on Monday night, he’s gonna take away Derek Carr’s security blanket. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Vegas struggle with a return to a run-heavy offense for the Patriots.
Ricky: Raiders. Waller could be a real problem for New England’s defense, which lacks explosiveness at the second level following several key departures/opt-outs over the offseason. Same goes for Josh Jacobs, who’s improving as a pass-catcher on top of being an obvious threat on the ground.
Andre: Patriots. The Raiders are 2-0 but have a -1.2 yards per play differential, which is third-worst in the NFL. They are a mirage. The reason why they’ve won is because they get long sustained drives when other teams commit penalties. They are first in net penalty yards. Don’t expect the disciplined Patriots to give the Raiders an inch.
Chicago Bears at (-3.5) Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET
Mike: Falcons. I don’t think the Bears are as good as their record says, and I think the same could be said for Atlanta in the opposite direction. Unless it’s an otherworldly effort from Chicago’s defense, it’s hard to see how the Bears’ offense can keep up with Atlanta.
Ricky: Falcons. Will Atlanta come out deflated or motivated after last week’s onside kick debacle and devastating defeat? I’m expecting the latter based on how they seem to perform every time the seat under Dan Quinn gets a little warmer.
Andre: Falcons. The Bears are another 2-0 mirage. They edged the horrible Lions and the atrocious Giants in tightly contested games. Meanwhile, the Falcons are allowing 6.8 yards per play but against Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott. Mitchell Trubisky is 23rd in yards per pass attempt, and the Bears don’t present much of a pass rush, with just one hurry all season long (last in the NFL).
Cincinnati Bengals at (-5.5) Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET
Mike: Bengals. Just want to say, I made the Bengals my upset pick on “The Spread” this week when it was +6.5. Oh well. Philly might be a week away from a QB controversy, and Joe Burrow might be knocking at the back door all week.
Ricky: Eagles. Philadelphia’s biggest strength (defensive line/pass rush) will underscore Cincinnati’s biggest weakness (offensive line). According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles’ defense has created pressure on 41 percent of pass plays, the third-best mark in the NFL. Meanwhile, only the Giants and Texans have allowed more pressures than the Bengals.
Andre: Eagles. Let’s pump the brakes on Joe Burrow, who is dead last in the NFL in yards per pass attempt. Carson Wentz is third-to-last, but he’s an established veteran who will be able to take advantage of a Bengals defense that’s allowed the ninth-most yards per pass attempt against some mediocre competition (Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield).
(-4) San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET
Mike: Giants. I am on my way to East Rutherford to play for the 49ers. That’s how banged up they are. They’ll win, but this is feels like a “get in, get out and make sure no one gets hurt” effort. Close game, I guess.
Ricky: Giants. The 49ers just lost their best defensive player, Nick Bosa, for the season, which is a crushing blow that’s exacerbated by the fact they also lost fellow defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and traded away DeForest Buckner over the offseason. Toss in a sprained ankle for starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, and several other injuries, and it’s hard to keep track of who exactly will be taking the field for San Francisco this Sunday — except for Mike, of course.
Andre: 49ers. The Injury Bowl! No Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard for New York. Meanwhile, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert and Garoppolo are banged up for San Francisco. Still, considering the 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl run and the Giants are a woeful team, it’s safe to assume the Niners have more depth.
Houston Texans at (-4) Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET
Mike: Steelers. Everyone is gonna be on Pittsburgh, and I think the Steelers might play down to their opponent, BUT — the Texans stink. That’s all I have.
Ricky: Texans. Maybe facing the two best teams in the NFL — Kansas City and Baltimore — to begin the season will force the Texans to take a good look in the mirror, ultimately benefitting them in the long run. Or maybe I’m just an idiot who feels like he’s being baited into taking Pittsburgh and thus is searching for a reason to pick Houston.
Andre: Steelers. Pittsburgh is second in the league in sacks and Deshaun Watson has a history of getting poor protection. He’s already the most-sacked quarterback of 2020 and has seven picks over his last five regular-season games. That Houston defense continues to be really bad, as well, and Big Ben seems to be building a lot of chemistry with his new young wide receivers.
Washington Football Team at (-7) Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET
Mike: Football Team. The Football Team has an elite pass rush, while Cleveland’s offensive line is improved and gets Jack Conklin back this week. What a matchup. I think Washington gets in the backfield enough to make it an annoying day for Baker Mayfield, and the Football Team keeps it within the number.
Ricky: Football Team. It’s entirely possible the Browns run wild, much like they did last week against the Bengals. But if not, Washington’s defense is equipped to fluster Mayfield. This also could be a breakout game for WFT running back Antonio Gibson.
Andre: Browns. Baker’s Browns will do well against the league’s bottom-feeders this year. In fact, only three of Mayfield’s 14 career wins have come against teams with winning records for that respective season. Cleveland is seventh in yards per play differential, thanks to a defense that allows just five yards per play. Dwayne Haskins, who averages the fifth-fewest yards per pass attempt, likely will have a hard time.
Los Angeles Rams at (-2) Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET
Mike: Bills. Tough scheduling for LA, who was in Philly last week, went home and now has to travel to Buffalo. There’s also this: Jared Goff has a 35.5 passer rating under pressure through two games, and the Bills have the league’s third-ranked pass rush, per Pro Football Focus.
Ricky: Bills. Buffalo’s receiving depth — Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley all are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons — will test Los Angeles’ linebacking corps and secondary beyond shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey. Meanwhile, the potential returns of linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano would be huge for the middle of Buffalo’s defense.
Andre: Bills. Josh Allen leads the league in passing yards, folks. He’s also fifth in pass attempts but has zero interceptions. Dude has taken his game to another level. Tackling might be a big deal in this one. The Rams have the third-most missed tackles with 15, while the Bills have the second-fewest with three.
Carolina Panthers at (-6.5) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET
Mike: Chargers. As long as the Chargers doctors aren’t puncturing any lungs, they should be able to keep Carolina at bay. Without Christian McCaffrey, it’s hard to see how the Panthers score against a Chargers defense that held Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in check for much of last week.
Ricky: Panthers. Justin Herbert looked good against the Chiefs, but that was after Kansas City presumably spent all week preparing for Tyrod Taylor. Not ready to lay this many points with the rookie QB. For what it’s worth, Teddy Bridgewater is 17-5 ATS as a starter when his team is the underdog, per CBS Sports.
Andre: Chargers. LA is a complete team that hung around with the Chiefs last week. Their YPP differential metrics are solid, and Herbert will be able to hold his own against a depleted Panthers team.
New York Jets at (-10.5) Indianapolis Colts, 4:05 p.m. ET
Mike: Colts. Like I said, I’m on vacation, so I shouldn’t have to provide a reason why I think the Colts will steamroll the Jets. Those are the rules.
Ricky: Colts. The Jets’ offense is putrid. Hard to imagine that unit producing much this week — or any other week, for that matter.
Andre: Colts. The Jets have been outscored 42-6 in the first half this season. One would think playing from behind would inflate Sam Darnold’s numbers, but that hasn’t been the case. He’s second-to-last in yards per pass attempt and 28th in passing yards. The Colts have allowed the fewest yards per play. Their defense is as tough as nails, and they won’t be tested much against the Jets.
Detroit Lions at (-5.5) Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET
Mike: Cardinals. These two teams tied last year, so who gets to play the revenge card this week? Injuries in the secondary remain an issue for Detroit, especially against this high-powered Arizona offense.
Ricky: Lions. Kenny Golladay might return this week, which will add a much-needed vertical element to Detroit’s offense.
Andre: Cardinals. Remember everyone laughed at me for picking Arizona to win the NFC West? Well, now, San Francisco is banged up and the Cardinals have the Lions, Panthers and Jets on their schedule with the most exciting player in the league. The Cardinals also love to run the ball, and nobody allows more yards per carry than Detroit.
Dallas Cowboys at (-5) Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET
Mike: Cowboys. Seattle is a house of horrors for Mike McCarthy, but the Seahawks rank in the bottom 10 in points allowed and the bottom five in yards per play allowed. Give me the points in a shootout.
Ricky: Cowboys. Dallas is 0-2 ATS and Seattle is 2-0 ATS. That might be inflating this spread a bit, because the number seems too high given how evenly matched the teams are from a talent standpoint. The ‘Boys are the value play here.
Andre: Cowboys. Seattle has seen the fifth-fewest rush attempts this season, but the Seahawks’ rush defense wasn’t very good last year, as they allowed the fourth-most yards per carry in 2019. Expect Dallas to use Ezekiel Elliott a lot early to keep the ball away from Russell Wilson.
(-6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m. ET
Mike: Bucs. Two teams heading in opposite directions when it comes to health. Not gonna overthink this one and lay the points.
Ricky: Bucs. Not crazy about laying this many points in Denver, a rare environment in which Tom Brady has had some struggles throughout his career. But I’m even less inclined to bank on the Broncos’ offense improving in wake of injuries to Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton, especially with how well the Bucs’ defense played last week.
Andre: Bucs. Tampa Bay’s rush defense continues to be a major strength. The Bucs allow fewer than three yards per carry. If Denver can’t get the run game going, it’s hard for me to see Jeff Driskel keeping up with Tom Brady, who appears to be building more and more chemistry with his new teammates.
Green Bay Packers at (-3) New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Saints. Get-right spot for New Orleans? The Packers have made easy work of two bad teams (Detroit and Minnesota), but their run defense still is a concern. With Michael Thomas’ status up in the air, expect a healthy dose of Alvin Kamara.
Ricky: Saints. Not ready to write off Drew Brees despite his recent troubles pushing the ball downfield. Also expecting a cleaner performance from New Orleans, which has been penalized 16 times for an NFL-worst 248 yards so far.
Andre: Saints. The Saints are 3-11 in Weeks 1 and 2 over the last seven seasons. The best part about Week 3 is that it’s not Week 1 or Week 2. Green Bay’s rush defense also stinks, so expect the Saints to run the ball a ton and control the time of possession.
MONDAY, SEPT. 28
Kansas City Chiefs at (-3.5) Baltimore Ravens, 8:15 p.m. ET
Mike: Ravens. This obviously is Baltimore’s toughest test of the season to date, but they have stomped out their two previous opponents and have looked good on both sides of the ball. KC, meanwhile, has question marks on defense, especially against the run, which ain’t good when you’re getting Lamar Jackson.
Ricky: Ravens. Baltimore’s offense is explosive, no doubt. But it’s time to start acknowledging how good the Ravens are defensively. They’ve forced a turnover in 15 consecutive games — the longest active streak in the NFL — and have the horses to pressure Patrick Mahomes if the Chiefs’ offensive line falters like it did last week against the Chargers.
Andre: Ravens. Just keep betting on Lamar until he gives you a reason not to. He leads the league in yards per pass attempt and has 29 touchdowns with just one pick over his last 12 regular-season games. Baltimore’s defense also is nasty, allowing fewer than 14 points per game over its last 13 regular-season games. Since Week 6 of last year, the Ravens have allowed 4.59 yards per play (second-best).