By Brien O’Donal
Follow me on Twitter @ODonalsVanguard
I hope I’m not alone in my disbelief at the number of games that went sideways last week. After stunning victories by the Jaguars, Jets, Bills, and Bears I finished with a 9-7 record and I’m now 30-17 for the season. All I can think about is looking down at my phone to check the score in London and seeing 20-0 early on. I thought for sure the Ravens would come back. What a nightmare that turned out to be. I had a lunch riding on the Ravens to win. Now I have a guy telling me I have to buy him an expensive steak.
Seriously though; it was tough to keep being surprised game after game. The Jets are one of the worst teams in the NFL and they nearly blanked the Dolphins. The Steelers should never lose a game to a team like the Bears and the Broncos should never lose to a team like the Bills. But that Texans game sure was fun to watch, right? I really thought they might win there for a second. Then I realized Tom Brady had plenty of time on the clock. They have another tough game this week when the Titans come to Houston but the season now looks more promising. I just have to hope the rest of the games are good, without nearly as many upsets.
Here’s what I’m thinking…
Bears (1-2) at Packers (2-1)-Thursday 7:25 p.m. CT; CBS, NFL Network, Amazon Prime
Thursday night? Chicago Bears visiting Lambeau Field? Count me in! Ok, now that I’ve gotten my Packers fandom out of the way… I’m a lot more excited about this game than I was last week. If the Bears can stick it to Pittsburgh they can certainly do it to the Packers. I just have a hard time believing the Packers won’t be fully prepared for the Jordan Howard/ Tarik Cohen backfield. The Packers are pretty banged up right now and I think the Bears will take advantage, but still come up short. I expect the Packers to win at home and get their first divisional win of the season.
Saints (1-2) at Dolphins (1-1) (London Game)-Sunday 8:30 a.m. CT; Fox
I really had a hard time believing that the Jets beat the Dolphins last week. The Fins had so much promise coming into the season and I thought Cutler was a great signing. But if he’s going to struggle leading this team down the field then I have to express some doubts. This week they travel to London to face a Saints team that might be getting their groove back. Don’t get me wrong, the Saints are not a great team overall; but their offense is still pretty good. Considering the playing field and the potential for points from the Saints, I am picking them to send Miami home with a 1-2 record.
Titans (2-1) at Texans (1-2)-Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
I really thought the Texans were going to struggle a lot this year. What they were able to do against the Patriots was nothing short of amazing. Deshaun Watson used every bit of his skill and poise to give the Texans a 4th quarter lead. Tom Brady is Tom Brady so the expected result occurred; but I like their chances going forward. With that in mind, I am picking them to win at home against a well-known divisional foe. The Titans are very much a solid all-around team. They control the clock on both offense and defense and while we are only 3 games in, they look to be putting the pieces together. But, it’s week 4 and I think they still need some fine tuning. I’m going with the home team here; Texans win by a narrow margin.
Jaguars (2-1) at Jets (1-2)-Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Despite what I saw last week, I’m not a Jets believer. Especially when they are up against an opponent who just put up 40+ on a solid defense. I still don’t believe in Blake Bortles but if he plays only half as well as he did against the Ravens then it should be enough. Besides, the Jaguars defense is a whole lot better than what the Dolphins have. I expect their stars on that side of the ball to shine, bringing them a 3-1 record.
Panthers (2-1) at Patriots (2-1)-Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
I really wish I could believe this was going to be a good game, I really do. Just 2 years ago the Panthers were in the Super Bowl and the Patriots just missed it. Now it seems like the Panthers have lost too much talent to keep up with anyone that is better than average. The Patriots are coming off a close call at home so I expect them to be a lot better this week. Cam Newton hasn’t really gotten the offense going and they have lost some key weapons to help him out. The Patriots should get a nice win.
Lions (2-1) at Vikings (2-1)-Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
Of all the games this weekend I think this will be the most interesting. I really had high hopes for the Vikings this year until Sam Bradford went down. I haven’t picked them with Case Keenum under center and despite his great game last week, I won’t do it this week either. His career has shown a lack of consistency and despite one good game, I can’t believe he will show up again against a team that looks really good after 3 weeks. I know the Lions lost last week but is was a close one against the best offense in the NFL and a questionable call by the referees. The Lions are a very steady team that can put up points with the best of them. The Vikings have weapons on offense but I think the Lions will be just a tiny bit better and take home their first divisional win.
Bills (2-1) at Falcons (3-0)-Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
This should be an easy win for the Falcons. Despite what happened against Denver last week the Bills still have some issues. The Falcons look like a very complete team to me and they are strongest where it really counts; points on the board. The Bills might make it fun early but I’m picking the Falcons to walk away winners.
Steelers (2-1) at Ravens (2-1)-Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
2 teams, 2 despicable losses. How do you battle back? A divisional game, of course! I’m just going to come right out and say it, I pick the Steelers to win this one. I think they had a bad game against the Bears with some injuries to key players. The Ravens have a good defense but were exposed against the Jaguars. This might be one of those great divisional games well all love to watch but in the end, the Steelers have more offensive weapons and that’s why I’m picking them to win.
Bengals (1-2) at Browns (0-3)-Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
The Bengals got off to a rough start and I put them on my “Do not pick” list, but the offense showed up in Green Bay. I want to believe they found something and will get a good win over the Browns who still have some work to do.
Rams (2-1) at Cowboys (2-1)-Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
Well, geez… who do I pick? Do I choose the team that has their offense clicking on all cylinders or the team that is steady as a rock? In this one I’m going to go steady as a rock. The Cowboys don’t look nearly as dangerous as last year but Dak Prescott showed that he can be a steady hand for the Cowboys offense and do just what it takes to win. I’m counting on that to get them a win at home.
Eagles (2-1) at Chargers (0-3)-Sunday 3:05 p.m. CT; Fox
I like the Chargers, I really do; but in week 4 I like the Eagles more. San Diego has had some tough luck while the Eagles have had some tough games. I think the tough games the Eagles have been through will serve them well against an offense that might put them to the test, especially in the secondary. I’m picking the Eagles to win here, but it’s a tough pick to make.
Giants (0-3) at Buccaneers (1-1)-Sunday 3:05 p.m. CT; Fox
The Giants struggled on offense until Odell Beckham Jr. got back to full health and he showed his worth by catching 2 touchdown passes in the 4th quarter last week. His ability sparked the New York offense and they nearly pulled out a win. The Bucs on the other hand got beat down pretty hard in Minnesota last week. Good Case Keenum showed up and the Vikings defense handled Jameis Winston and company. It’s a different story this week for both teams. The Giants will hope to capitalize on their new found offense and hopefully their defense will correct its’ mistakes. The Buccaneers; on the other hand, will be playing at home with a bit of a chip of their shoulder after what happened against the Vikings. I expect this is the week that they get their offense in order and their defense plays to its’ potential. I’m taking the Buccaneers to win at home.
49ers (0-3) at Cardinals (1-2)-Sunday 3:05 p.m. CT; Fox
The Cardinals seem to be underperforming this year and the loss of David Johnson isn’t helping. I expected more out of them but I guess every year there has to be at least one or two teams that don’t live up to their potential. The 49ers are about where everyone expected them to be at 0-3 but they really put on a show against the Rams last Thursday night. Their arrow might be pointing up and I am picking them to walk out of the desert with a tough win against a divisional opponent.
Raiders (2-1) at Broncos (2-1)-Sunday 3:25 p.m. CT; CBS
The Raiders aren’t looking so hot right now. Their 2 wins haven’t been easy and their loss last week to the Redskins just looked bad. I’m beginning to question their defense and they need to get a little more efficient offensively if they want to get back to the playoffs. I like the Broncos to bounce back after a disappointing loss to the Buffalo Bills last week. I don’t know how their defense went from manhandling the Cowboys to rolling over for the Bills. They are at home and this is an always tough AFC West matchup so I expect a serious battle. I’m going to give it to the home team here and say that the Broncos win.
Colts (1-2) at Seahawks (1-2)-Sunday 7:30 p.m. CT; NBC
Hey! The Colts got a win without Andrew Luck! I don’t really know what to make of it because they beat the Browns but a win is a win. The Seahawks have had a little bit of trouble offensively and some tough teams have managed to get their offense clicking just enough the get a win. The Colts still aren’t a good team so it’s easy for me to pick the Seahawks to win at home.
Redskins (2-1) at Chiefs (3-0)-Monday 7:30 p.m. CT; ESPN
I think I kind of like this matchup. The Redskins have been able to move the ball on offense and their defense has been able to bend but not break in their last 2 games, both of them wins. Then there’s the Chiefs. Right now I think they are the best team in the NFL and I don’t see why that stops this week. The loss of Eric Berry doesn’t seem to have hurt their defense all that much. It could be a fun game Monday night but I’m taking the Chiefs to win at home and move to 4-0 on the season.