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Monday, September 20, 2010

Week 3 NFL Predictions: September 26, 27, 2010

Here are my early overnight picks for week 3.  Check here for the latest lines.

UPDATE #3: There is some reverse line movement with PHI at -2.5 and SD at -5.   I wouldn't read too much into this yet, but I would jump on PHI at -2.5 now and keep an eye on the SD line over the next day to see if you can get it at -4.5.

 Philadelphia Eagles vs Jacksonville Jaguars: PHI -3

Last week Vick got his 1st official start since his days in Atlanta.  I played the under for his passing yards prop and he surpassed it with ease.  He has clearly shown that his development as a quarterback in the NFL is far from complete.  I don't think even Reid expected Vick to be this far along this early in the season.  After reviewing the tape, Reid likely came to the conclusion that Vick gives this team their best chance to win for the immediate future.  When the Eagles signed him two summers ago, they knew they could coach him up and teach him how to become more of a pocket passer and stick with more than one or two progressions.   Now that he has a lot of his speed and quickness back, he is dangerously close to becoming a legitimate threat on a weekly basis.  I think a significant part of the decision to name Vick the starter has to do with the questions on the offensive line.  With Kolb coming off a concussion, they could be playing with fire exposing him to more big-time hits.

Vick has a ton of weapons at his disposal and look for this offense to continue putting up a lot of points.   McCoy will continue to break out in his 2nd year as defenders will be forced to protect the backside with Vick in the pocket.   What should concern the Eagles more is their defense.   They had trouble containing Best all day and folded like a house of cards in the final five minutes of the game.   It will continue to be a work in progress as the year goes on, but enough pieces are in place to hold Jacksonville in check this week.

The Jaguars will play better at home than they did against the Chargers in week 2.   Everything that could have gone wrong did as they turned the ball over six times in a forgettable game.    MJD will get his yards in this game, but to win the game they will need Garrard to return to the mistake-free football.   They switched QB's vs SD, but McCown suffered an injury and has been put on IR.  Garrard will be the guy whether Del Rio wants him to be or not.  He looked horrible on 2 of his 4 interceptions and was passing into bad coverage on a third.  Their defense is also supposed to be better this year, but everyone is asking, "when?".   They have been dismal against the pass and run this year and now they will be forced to be disciplined and sound fundamentally against a dynamic PHI offense.   That is asking a lot from a team that has an identity crisis.  Prediction: Bank PHI -3.

Cincinnati Bengals vs Carolina Panthers: CIN -3

The Bengals came through in a big way against their division foes in week 2.  I picked them to win the division and this was a critical game to win if they are going to make good on that.  Palmer does not have the kind of groove with his wide receivers that he would like to have, but look for improvement in the passing game as this season unfolds.  The defense stepped up and played more to their potential with 4 INT's against Flacco.   They will have a much easier time against Clausen in week 3.  They will key in on the running game and dare the rookie to beat them in the air. Scott will continue to steal touches from Benson and has looked dangerous with the ball in his hands.   A lot of problems on offense can be contributed to pre-snap penalties and holding calls, but these sorts of problems work themselves out as teams get more acclimated with regular game action.   They also need to improve on third down, but give credit to a Ravens defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown in two games.   

The Panthers will need all the help they can get from their kick return game because that might be one of the only advantages they have in this game.   Really what more can be said about this team?  Fox is on the hot-seat and has already abandoned the Matt Moore experiment.  I didn't think that would work out before the season started, but I also thought his leash was longer than this.   Clausen will have his hands full against a tough CIN defense and look for them to grind out the clock with their running game to keep this close.  They have started two rookies ahead of WR Jarret and Smith continues to be their only down-field threat.  Even as teams double-team him, his supporting cast cannot capitalize on the favorable matchups.   The team's true bread and butter, the running game, has also been disappointing so far.  It's still early in the season and it's far too early to write anybody off entirely, but this ship has leaks all over the place and everyone is standing around wondering who is going to fix it.   They say they don't miss Peppers, but one sack in two games (from a LB) isn't going to help win many ball games.   I never give more weight to a pick or say a game is a lock, but this game is probably the closest your going to get.  Prediction: Bank CIN -3.

Washington Redskins vs St Louis Rams: WSH-3.5 

Many people are looking at this matchup as a trap game.  Don't buy into it.  Shanahan is not a rookie coach and Mcnabb is focused on making the most out of his new situation.  He turned in an elite performance in week 2 proving that he doesn't need all-star receivers to put up big numbers.  Obviously blowing a big 2nd half lead hurts and isn't about to inspire confidence in anybody, but consider their performances against two very skilled teams.  If it wasn't for a tasteless time-out from Kubiak, this team would be 2-0.  But don't feel bad for Shanahan, because he is one of the first coaches to use this bush-league tactic.  The running game might not be in full gear, but the short passing game to Moss is helping move the chains and sustain drives.   Things won't get any easier if LT Williams can't go.  Luckily for them they get to play a STL team that is still learning how to win games.

Meanwhile the Rams are still posting bulletin board material that emphasizes the silver lining instead of the results.   Bradford might be the QB of the future, but this game is happening now.  S-Jax will always be a supreme threat in the backfield as long as he is healthy, but it's sad to see him stuck on a cellar-dweller year after year.   The Rams continue to be their own worst enemy taking too many personal foul penalties and not finding ways to keep drives alive.   The season is still a lot of 'if this' or 'if that', but they aren't kidding anybody - they are building around what they hope is a franchise quarterback.  Brighter days are ahead, but it won't be on Sunday.  Prediction: Bank WSH -3.5.  

Indianapolis Colts vs Denver Broncos: IND -5

It is no secret that I'm high on the Colts.  Last year they were 70% against the spread and until I come across a team that poses matchup problems for them I'll continue to ride the wave.  Vegas will need to start favoring them by more than a touchdown before I even flinch.  Peyton Manning was clinical in his approach against the G-men on Sunday night and this offense proved that they can move the sticks and put up points regardless of how you attack them.   The Giants put in one linebacker at times and said we dare you to run.  Well we all saw how that approach turned out.  Manning can outsmart 95% of defensive coordinators in this league and Denver is about to get a serious wake up call.    Defensively the Colts proved they are not as bad against the run as they showed in week 1.  Mathis and Freeney continue to wreak havoc for opposing offensive lines and Denver will need to spend a lot of resources getting these guys blocked.

This is a game that Denver wishes they had Elvis Dumervil.  Getting pressure on Manning is critical to success and if they can't get to him consistently it won't matter how good their secondary is.  Now DEN will have to worry about stopping the run and that will create mismatches all over the field for Manning to exploit - especially if they have to commit a linebacker on Clark.  They also better hope that Bailey's foot injury is 100% this week because without him they might as well just forfeit the game entirely.  Moreno is a promising back, but he could be irrelevant by halftime if the Broncos can't keep this within 7 points.   To make matters worse, the organization is dealing with another tragedy as Kenny McKinley was found dead from an apparent suicide.  It's unknown how this will effect the team on Sunday, but it's not exactly a good situation in Mile High.   Orton has looked good so far, but it's asking a lot of him to keep up with the QB on the other side of the field. The win over the Seahawks must be taken with a grain of salt. They didn't run the ball well once again and they won the turnover battle 4-0.  They won't be that fortunate against Peyton.  Prediction: Bank IND -5.

San Diego Chargers vs Seattle Seahawks: SD -5.5

The Chargers shut up a lot of critics with their performance against the Jaguars.   Rivers was firing on all cylinders and the defense caused six turnovers.  SD is definitely a polarizing team with some pundits having them as Super Bowl contenders while other say their holdouts and injuries are too much to overcome.  One thing is certain, they have an easy schedule and cruising through the regular season should not be that much trouble.  There are some concerns about them heading to Seattle and playing against the Seahawks and their 12th man.  Make no mistake, this will not be the same situation that played out in KC two weeks ago.  Everything that needed to go right did for the Chiefs and it was a perfect storm of problems for the Chargers.   This tilt is not a showcase game and the opening day hype that the Seahawks fed off of in week 1 is already a distant memory.   Even if Mathews can't go with an ankle injury, but Tolbert and Sproles just need to be competent enough to keep the defense honest.  The most overlooked part of SD with all the Vincent Jackson rumors swirling is how good this defense is playing.

The Hawks are still licking their wounds after getting man-handled in the Mile High city.   The team came crashing back down to earth after upsetting the 49ers on opening day.  Golden Tate has been placed as the permanent punt returner, but if they can't get Rivers off the field it won't mean much in this game.   Some people are already getting impatient with Hasselbeck so they can start the Charlie Whitehurst experiement, but Pete Carrol is sticking with Matt for now.  Who knows how long that lasts though because Hasselbeck did nothing to prove he's still a bona-fide number one guy on Sunday.   So which SEA team is going to show up in week 3?   Let's not kid ourselves, this team is rebuilding and it will be a while before they are a real threat.  Don't be surprised if the 12th man take their neon signs and try to beat traffic early.  Prediction: Bank SD -5.5.

Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears: GB -3

No one really knew what to expect from the Bears this year.   I don't think anybody is about to crown them with anything yet, but two wins out of the gate is a promising start.   Cutler has managed to put up more TDs than INTs and he is spreading the ball around to a lot of receivers.  However, in their defeat over the Cowboys they only managed 38 rushing yards and were 1 for 11 on third down.  The defense is playing well and they are playing at home.  Expect a lot of sharps to fade the public and go with the Bears on MNF, but I picked the Packers to go to the Super Bowl and I don't see any reason to back off of them.  The Packers are not the Lions or the Cowboys.

Rodgers will get all of the national headlines, but the real story after two weeks for the Packers is their defense.  Mathews has been an unstoppable force and is easily among the top 5 ends in the NFL right now.  Back-to-back 3 sack games will get a lot of attention from CHI, but he's not the only one they should be worried about.  A.J. Hawk returned to the field last week and put up a team leading 9 tackles and had two quarterback hits.   LT continues to be a big question mark and they will certainly be giving help to keep Peppers in check.   The Bears have offensive line issues of their own so look for a few passes to be up for grabs as Culter is much more inclined to force some throws than Rodgers.  I expect the Bears to put up a good fight and they appear to be headed in the right direction, but they will realize how much more they need to improve before they can consider themselves serious contenders.   At the end of the day the Packers will prove superior on both sides of the ball and come out with a victory. Prediction: Bank GB -3.
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