Week three had a subdued start with the Panthers beating the Texans in Houston 24-9. It was always going to be a tough job for rookie quarterback Davis Mills starting for the Texans for the first time given that he only had eleven starts in college. It wasn’t that Mills was bad, but the Panthers defense came into this game with ten sacks in two games and once again got a lot of pressure with four sacks and nine quarterback hits. Even though Mills didn’t turn the ball over and completed a tick under 68% of his passes, there was not a lot of time to get the ball down field and combine that with an anemic running attack and the nine points the Texans scored is pretty understandable. The Panthers were not exactly that spectacular either though, and I left this game feeling distinctly whelmed by Sam Darnold who does look better than he did for the Jets, but for my money still doesn’t impress and he had two fumbles from not sensing pressure and protecting the ball enough. You can’t take too much away from this game as it was a professional win, but because of that it is hard to get too much of a view on the Panthers either. They certainly are heading in the right direction, but I’m not sure about them when it comes to face the elite of the league so I think they are definitely a team you can continue to be skeptical about for now.

Early Games:

I’m still at the point of the season where I can easily come up with a reason to watch every game, but for both time and space reasons I will try to rein in my enthusiasm a little.

The divisional matchup between the Chargers and the Chiefs is particularly tasty given both teams are already a game behind the Raiders and Broncos in AFC West. The Chiefs look as scary as ever on offence when passing the ball, but are struggling when rushing the ball and on defense are rock bottom in defending against it. Now, I think that run defense ranking will be skewed by us being two games into the season and one of them being against the Ravens and their diverse running attack, but Chiefs need to improve on defense over the course of the season to get back to the Super Bowl. It’s not such a disaster for the Chargers if they fail to challenge for the playoffs given they have a young franchise quarterback in his second season and a rookie head coach, but they do need to look as if they’re building something and this should be a good early test of that, but let’s give Brandon Staley time with the Chargers before we start to worry about them.

I am looking forward to watching the Patriots host the Saints as I really want to see the matchup between Bill Belichick and his defensive staff going against the Sean Payton’s and the Saints offence. We saw Jameis Winston demonstrate last week that he hasn’t exactly left behind the low points that have been an ongoing part of an up and down career on the field in the NFL. The Saints had a difficult week two with the number of coaches not available for the game due to a Covid-19 outbreak and are still missing personnel and given the situation in New Orleans following hurricane Ida things must be tough for everyone involved. The NFL waits for no one though and I am curious as to what is going to happen in this contest.

Points from the rest:

  • Washington have not looked like the team we were expecting on defense, and with Taylor Heinicke holding the starting position at quarterback for now it will be interesting to see if they can make this game competitive against a Bills team who seem to be if not struggling, then underperforming on offence. I like the Bills to win but this line does give me pause.
  • The Bears are starting Justin Fields as Andy Dalton is out with a knee injury, but the defense of the Browns is only ranked twenty-fifth by DVOA so the Bears might have an easier time than you might initially think look at the line. It would be a surprise if they can spring the upset, but I’m not so sure about covering the line.
  • The line is big for a reason, but the Ravens look to be on a roll and so the only concern is whether there is a let down after the emotional win against the Chiefs last week. I need to watch the Lions soon to get a feel for them given they have been better than some expected, but while a cover could be possible, a win really would be a surprise.
  • The Colts look to be starting Carson Wentz despite his sprained ankles, and they really need to get a win to get their season turned around, but it looks to be a tough ask in the current circumstances. That said, while the Titans played better last week to get their first win, I don’t exactly trust them.
  • The Falcons need to find something to build around under new head coach Arthur Smith, but the first step would be to be competitive and while the Giants are ranked only ten places better than the Falcons (who are the thirty-second ranked team by DVOA), there is also a chasm between them in terms of 74.5% between them so I wouldn’t like to predict it. Still this is probably too many points for the Giants to be laying to anyone.
  • The Steelers are going to be missing TJ Watt and there is an injury report regarding Ben Roethlisberger’s pec which gives me a little hope for the Bengals. My bold prediction this week was that the Bengals are going to win, which is probably a bit much but I don’t think a cover is out of the questions.
  • The Jaguars are struggling, and the visit of the Arizona Cardinals is probably not what they need to turn things round. It’s too early to write of Urban Myer in the NFL, but he is learning the league as he tries to turn around a franchise that hasn’t won consistently for a long time. The Cardinals are looking solid in all three phases of the game so far this season, and there’s an even bigger gap between them and the Jaguars by DVOA percentage points than there is between the Falcons and Giants. The Jaguars have lost seventeen straight games going back to last season and it’s hard to see them covering this one yet alone winning, though the Cardinals don’t have the finest track record themselves so it’s possibly they take their eye off the ball, but I can’t bring myself to back the Jaguars yet.

Washington @ Bills (-8.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Washington
Dan’s Pick:      Bills

Bears @ Browns (-7.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Bears
Dan’s Pick:      Browns

Ravens @ Lions (+9.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Lions
Dan’s Pick:      Ravens

Colts @ Titans (-5.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Colts
Dan’s Pick:      Titans

Chargers @ Chiefs (-6.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Chargers
Dan’s Pick:      Chiefs

Saints @ Patriots (-2.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Saints
Dan’s Pick:      Saints

Falcons @ Giants (-3.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Falcons
Dan’s Pick:      Giants

Bengals @ Steelers (-4.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Bengals
Dan’s Pick:      Steelers

Cardinals @ Jaguars (+7.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Cardinals
Dan’s Pick:      Cardinals

Late Games:

The game of the week is right here with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travelling to LA to take on the Rams in a meeting of two unbeaten teams. This should be a chance for the Rams defense to show how good they truly are having lost players and their coordinator from last season, but you have to think that Sean McVay is feeling confident given the early returns of the addition of Matthew Stafford to his offence. I don’t want to pick this game at all, but I am really looking forward to watching it!

Points on the Rest:

  • The Broncos have made a good start to the season, even if it has been relatively easy, and the Jets are not exactly going to change that but you can only beat the teams put in front of you. If Teddy Bridgewater can keep his new found long ball success and the defense keeps holding up then the Broncos will be difficult to face all season, while the Jets are starting a rebuild and look likely to struggle all season.
  • The Dolphins have just placed Tua Tagovailoa on IR with his broken ribs and travel to face an unbeaten Raiders team. It has been a difficult start to the season for Miami and I’m curious to see if the Raiders can remain unbeaten in their push to finally get to the playoffs under Jon Gruden. Certainly, the play of Derek Carr has stopped the questions about quarterback for now, where as there seems to be no end of the speculation in Miami about their quarterback and there’s nothing Tagovailoa can do about that on IR.
  • The Seahawks lost in overtime last week and now take on a desperate 0-2 Vikings team in Minnesota. This should be a fascinating contest given Vikings slow start and the Seahawks new offence but I’m not sure which team I trust in this game. It’s too early to be a must win game, but neither team can really afford the loss given the state of their respective divisions.

Jets @ Broncos (-10.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Broncos
Dan’s Pick:      Jets

Dolphins @ Raiders (-4.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Dolphins
Dan’s Pick:      Raiders

Buccaneers @ Rams (-1.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Buccaneers
Dan’s Pick:      Buccaneers

Seahawks @ Vikings (+1.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Vikings
Dan’s Pick:      Seahawks

Sunday Night Football:

Packers @ 49ers (-3.5)

The Sunday night game between the Packers and the 49ers should another great contest. The Packers at least won their game against the Lions, but there are still questions about their defence and the offence has a way to go before it lives up to the levels of recent years. However, the 49ers offence is struggling, partly through the numerous running back injuries and Jimmy Garoppolo has not exactly convinced at quarterback either. The 49ers will likely be competitive as they generally are under Kyle Shanahan, but I’m not sure about them being favourites as this line suggests given their injury situation and giving Aaron Rodgers more than a field goal.

Gee’s Pick:      Packers
Dan’s Pick:      Packers

Monday Night Football

Eagles @ Cowboys (-3.5)

The Monday night clash sees the Philadelphia Eagles head to their division rivals the Dallas Cowboys coming off a loss to the 49ers where they picked up some tough injuries on the defensive line. I see potential in Jalen Hurts as a young quarterback but this week he must try to keep up with Dax Prescott and the Cowboys receivers and that seems unlikely. The Cowboys are still a work in progress on the defence and I am not ready to proclaim them the likely winners of the NFC East yet, but having been in close games to good teams I think they have too much for the Eagles unless there is a remarkable performance from someone That’s not impossible and I’m sure rookie head coach Nick Dirianni would love to make me eat my words but it’s going to take more than, ‘Beat Dallas’ t-shirts to make it happen.

Gee’s Pick:      Cowboys
Dan’s Pick:      Cowboys

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.