Heading into the third weekend of regular season football in the NFL, there’s a clear sign of parity within the league. Teams like the Cowboys and Redskins opened the year with impressive wins, only to follow with disappointing or heartbreaking losses. The Packers took care of the Bears rather easily in Week 2, but Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense has lacked some of its usual spark.
The Week 3 slate features some interesting matchups, from the surprising Cardinals hosting the Eagles, to the potent Texans traveling to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The Atlanta-San Diego and New England-Baltimore matchups should also provide plenty of exciting moments.
Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, Week 2 was a bit of a disaster for me picking spreads, so let’s just not talk about it, ok? Try to remember my past history (144-112 picking spreads in 2010 and 131-125 in 2011). There’s plenty of time to recover from this slow start.
Last Week: 5-11
This Season: 14-18
Last Two Seasons: 144-112 and 131-125
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 3’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBSSports Fantasy).
Pick Your Knows: 2012 NFL Week 3 Picks Against the Spread
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers (+1.5) – Giants win 36-7
Let it be a lesson: Go with your gut. I had New York in this game, but following news of the Giants being without its top receiver (Nicks) and top running back (Bradshaw), coupled with how Carolina’s offense performed against New Orleans, I decided to change my tune. New York’s backups flourished and the Giants dominated, leading to a 0-1 start for the week.
KP’s Pick: Carolina
St. Louis Rams at Chicago Bears (-8.5)
The key stat in this game is going to be sacks on opposing quarterbacks. The Bears have 8 sacks in its first two games, and could put heavy pressure on Sam Bradford. On the other side, St. Louis has just two sacks in the opening two weeks. It’s common knowledge that if you can pressure Jay Cutler, he will make mistakes. If not, Cutler has the weapons to torch his opponent. There are signs that Jeff Fisher has this Rams playing better football, and it’s my expectation that he will keep them in a lot of games this season. That’s why this spread is a little too rich for my blood, and I’m going with the Rams and the points.
KP’s Pick: St. Louis
Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns (+3.5)
The Bills, led by the surprising performance of C.J. Spiller, sport the league’s top rushing offense (198 ypg). This is a tricky game and an even tricker spread, especially considering how the Bills were torched in Week 1, while the Browns play better at home, and gave Philadelphia all it could handle when in front of its fans. Still, it’s expected that C.J. Spiller will cause headaches for the Cleveland defense and Brandon Weeden could make rookie mistakes, leading to Buffalo scoring chances. My gut says this will be a one-score game, but the Bills cover.
KP’s Pick: Buffalo
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (-7.5)
Tampa Bay’s pass defense has been abysmal in the opening weeks, allowing 400.5 yards per game, easily the worst in the NFL. Dallas clearly has the offensive weapons to exploit that, especially in the passing game. The Cowboys, however, laid an egg against Seattle last week, and frequently underperform. The Bucs have a balance of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and therefore have a good chance to stay in this game. That’s why I’m taking Tampa Bay and the points. ‘Boys win by a touch.
KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay
Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans (+3.5)
If the Titans want to have a chance in this game, it will need to have a consistent and effective effort from Chris Johnson and the running game. Eating up clock and keeping Detroit’s offensive weapons off the field will be key. Tennessee is dead last in rushing offense, averaging just 29 yards per game over the first two weeks. Therefore, don’t bank on the running consistency and it’s also a good chance that Detroit’s D-linemen will force mistakes by Jake Locker. Detroit covers on the road.
KP’s Pick: Detroit
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints (-9.5)
The Chiefs have just one sack in its opening two games. The Saints are in must-win mode after starting the season 0-2. New Orleans is almost unbeatable at home, and if a team is unable to get pressure on Drew Brees, then it’s the obvious expectation that he will be able to pick apart the opposing team’s defense. New Orleans wins big.
KP’s Pick: New Orleans
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (+7.5)
The key to this game will be if Adrian Peterson can be effective against a potent San Francisco defense. The 49ers have been consistent on offense, mixing in both the pass and the run. Christian Ponder may have to carry the Vikings if there’s an early deficit, and that seems unlikely considering how aggressive the San Francisco defense is. Niners cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: San Francisco
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (+3.5)
These two division rivals have posted Jekyl and Hyde performances in the opening weeks, so it’s a tough call which team will show up this week. Miami is second in rushing offense (171 yards per game) and it will need a solid performance from Reggie Bush to win this game. The Jets are currently 22nd in the NFL in rush defense. In what is another tricky 3 ½ point spread, the best bet is to go with the veteran quarterback over the rookie, no matter how hot the rookie’s wife is. That, plus Miami’s big win last week was over a struggling Raiders squad. Go with Rex Ryan’s group.
KP’s Pick: New York Jets
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5)
Andrew Luck won his first game as a pro last week, and this week he and the Colts host the Jags. Blaine Gabbert struggled last week under pressure and the Colts have managed six sacks in its first two games. Maurice Jones-Drew has just 137 yards on the season, and in what will likely be a close game, my gut is pushing me towards the home team. Colts win and cover.
KP’s Pick: Indianapolis
Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins (-4.5)
Robert Griffin III has impressed in the season’s opening weeks, and should have more success this week against Cincinnati. However, the Redskins’ defense lost two key starters for the year in Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo. Washington’s defense will likely suffer, allowing big days from players like A.J. Green and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. For these reasons, it’s hard to see the Redskins being able to pull away in this game. Take Cincinnati and the points.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati
Atlanta Falcons at San Diego Chargers (-3.5)
In one of the best matchups of the week, Matt Ryan and the Falcons travel to San Diego to take on Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Usually, in games featuring two talented teams and a 3 ½ point spread, I often go with the underdog, assuming a fourth quarter field goal as the deciding factor. The deadly receiving combo of Julio Jones and Roddy White will be tough for the Chargers to handle over four quarters. I’m taking Atlanta and the points.
KP’s Pick: Atlanta
Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals (+4.5)
The Cardinals have surprised in the opening weeks, shocking the Patriots in New England last week. Arizona has received steady play from Kevin Kolb, who will be out for revenge against the team that traded him away. Philadelphia has been careless with the football and needed late-game heroics in each of its opening games. With these points in mind, it seems likely that this will be a close game. Take Arizona and the points.
KP’s Pick: Arizona
Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders (+4.5)
Take a look at how Oakland performed in the first two weeks against the Chargers and Dolphins. It was ugly. Then look at Pittsburgh’s talent pool and it’s hard not to go with the Steelers to cover with this fairly low line. Pittsburgh cruises.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh
Houston Texans at Denver Broncos (-0.5)
Peyton Manning showed some rust last week with three early interceptions. Houston’s defense is aggressive and will try to pressure Manning and the Denver offense into more mistakes. With a tossup spread, it comes down to picking a winner, and the more consistent team. Houston has the more balanced squad, with an aggressive defense, coupled with talent in both its running and passing game. Therefore, I’m taking the Texans on the road.
KP’s Pick: Houston
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
Each team suffered a setback last week, with the Ravens losing on a late drive against the Eagles and the Patriots getting shocked by the Cardinals at home. New England lost Aaron Hernandez for a month or more, which could lead to more looks to Wes Welker. No matter how much talent the Ravens have, it’s hard to imagine Bill Belichick not having his team ready, after last week’s performance. A field-goal game seems like a good possibility and therefore I’m going with New England and the points.
KP’s Pick: Baltimore
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks (+3.5)
Seattle shut down the potent Dallas offense at home, and could have success keeping Green Bay’s offense in check. The Packers will get its points though. The key will be how rookie Russell Wilson can handle the Green Bay defense. You can throw on Green Bay, but the key is getting the passes away, as the Packers have a league-leading 11 sacks after two weeks. Bank on offensive mistakes forced by Clay Matthews and the Green Bay defense, leading to a win. Green Bay covers on the road.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay