Thursday, September 23, 2021

NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 3

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Carolina @ Houston (+7½)

The Panthers whipped the Saints 26-7 at Bank of America Stadium as Sam Darnold passed for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns. Carolina is 2-0, tied with the Bucs atop the NFC South.

"Sam appears to be grateful to be out of New York," Matt Rhule said. "There are 'fresh starts,' which Sam found here in Charlotte, and there is 'cat litter,' which described his situation with the Jets. And there is 'Fresh Start Cat Litter,' which Sam would be happy to endorse.

"Let's not overlook the job done by our defense. They held Jameis Winston to no touchdown passes and intercepted him twice. They pressured Winston on two-thirds of his drop backs, so they chased him out of the pocket much like he was once chased out of Publix.

"You know, with this being a Panthers/Texans game, it seems like the perfect time to present Deshaun Watson with the 'Greg Hardy Citizenship Award.'"

The Texans lost 31-21 to the Browns in Cleveland to fall to 1-1. Tyrod Taylor passed for a score and ran for another before leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter. Taylor was placed on IR on Tuesday.

"Former Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama," David Culley said. "He's taking college-level talent and making it look like it belongs in the NFL. He did just the opposite when he was coaching the Texans.

"I'm surprised the NFL scheduled us for a Thursday night game. That means that if you're a football fan, you have no choice but to watch the Texans. It's something Texans fans can certainly relate to."

With Taylor out, the Texans turn to rookie Davis Mills, who, for what he lacks in inexperience, makes up for by not having any lawsuits pending against him.

Christian McCaffrey scores 2 touchdowns, and the Panthers force 3 turnovers and record 5 sacks.

Panthers win, 27-13.

Washington @ Buffalo (-8½)

The Redskins nipped the Giants 30-29 on Thursday thanks to Dustin Hopkins' 43-yard field goal as time expired, which was made possible by an offsides penalty on the Giants that nullified Hopkins' missed 48-yard attempt.

"We just got lucky," Ron Rivera said. "Really lucky. Maybe, instead of being known as the 'WFT,' they should call us the 'LMF'ers.'

"Bills fans should be worried about facing us, but they're not. They hate it when their team plays an NFC East team, but only when it's on a neutral field in the winter.

"We need our defense to really step up against the Bills. And it starts with Chase Young. Chase reminds many people of another player who terrorized the NFC East, Lawrence Taylor. Incidentally, 'Chase Young' was a L.T.'s nickname."

The Bills hammered the Dolphins 35-0 at Hard Rock Stadium, led by a defense that forced 3 turnovers and sacked Miami quarterbacks 6 times.

"After losing in Week 1 to the Steelers," Josh Allen said, "we wanted to go out and make a statement. And we did. But who would have thought that statement would be articles of surrender delivered to the Dolphins?

"Temperatures were brutally hot inside Hard Rock. We were actually 'sweating bullets,' not because we were nervous, but because it's Miami, and you'll need those bullets to defend yourself."

Bills win, 27-22.

Chicago @ Cleveland (-7½)

The Browns beat the visiting Texans 31-21 as Baker Mayfield passed for a score and rushed for another.

"My left shoulder popped out of socket early in the game," Mayfield said. "But I popped it back in and was good to go. That's the kind of toughness a blue collar city like Cleveland appreciates. On a side note, Odell Beckham, Jr. is not from Cleveland."

The Bears beat the Bengals 20-17 as Justin Fields took over for the injured Andy Dalton and allowed Chicago's defense to dictate the outcome.

"Andy got a bit of revenge against his former team," Matt Nagy said. "Andy is grateful for small victories, because those are all he has."

Cleveland wins, 24-21.

Baltimore @ Detroit (+8½)

The Lions lost 35-17 to the Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday night. After a promising first half, the Lions went scoreless in the second half.

"I'm trying to change the culture here in the Motor City," Dan Campbell said. "Of course, you can't spell 'culture' without the 'L.'

"I'm also trying to build this team in my image. In other words, slow, white, and mean-looking. Jared Goff checks the first two of those boxes."

Lamar Jackson rushed for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner, as the Ravens beat the Chiefs 36-35 on Sunday night.

"Lamar had never beaten Patrick Mahomes," John Harbaugh said. "It's good that he finally got that monkey off his back. Unfortunately, he has a troop of monkeys on his back. There's that monkey on his back weighing him down about winning in the divisional round. There's that 'never won a Super Bowl' monkey. How are they related to the original monkey? They're the monkey's uncles."

Ravens win, 31-24.

Indianapolis @ Tennessee (-5½)

The Colts fell to 0-2 after losing 27-24 to the visiting Rams. Carson Wentz injured his right ankle and was forced to leave the game late.

"That was a game we could have won," Frank Reich said. "But red zone futility prevented us from doing so. But here's some good news — our team will be featured in the first-ever in-season Hard Knocks on HBO. And it appears that very little of that will be filmed in our opponent's end zone.

"As for Carson, it turns out he has two sprained ankles. But our offense is in good hands with Jacob Eason. The football is also in good hands with Jacob, until he throws it."

The Titans stunned the Seahawks 33-30 in overtime, powered by 182 yards and 3 touchdowns from Derrick Henry.

"Appropriately enough," Mike Vrabel said, "Derrick went 'Beast Mode' on the Titans. Derrick later said it felt like people were throwing Skittles at him. But that was probably just what it felt like when the Seattle defense tried to tackle him.

"Defensively, we have lots of work to do. Obviously, there are issues we need to clean up on defense. Like, all of them."

Titans win, 30-26.

LA Chargers @ Kansas City (-6½)

The Chargers lost 20-17 to the visiting Cowboys at SoFi Stadium. Miscues loomed large for the Chargers, as they were penalized 12 times for 99 yards and had 2 touchdowns nullified by penalties.

"One thing we lacked was discipline," Brandon Staley said. "Another thing we lacked was home-field advantage. You saw more yellow on the field than you did in the stands."

The Chiefs defense struggled to stop the Ravens rushing attack, and K.C. lost 36-35 at M&T Bank Stadium despite 343 yards passing and 3 TDs from Patrick Mahomes. A late Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble spoiled the Chiefs chances for the game-winning field goal.

"We can't blame this loss all on Clyde," Andy Reid said. "He should share it equally with our defense.

"I shouldn't have to ask Patrick to do more; that's why I have my defense do it."

Chiefs win, 37-33.

New Orleans @ New England (-3½)

The Saints lost 26-7 to the Panthers in Charlotte.

"Jameis Winston went from throwing 5 touchdowns to throwing no touchdowns," Sean Payton said. "See, whether he's on a table in college or on a pedestal in the NFL, he's definitely gonna come down in disastrous fashion."

The Patriots overwhelmed Zach Wilson and the Jets 25-6 at MetLife Stadium. The Pats intercepted Wilson 4 times, while Mac Jones completed 22-of-30 passes for 186 yards.

"Wilson is only 22 years old," Bill Belichick said. "Where'd he play college ball? 'Bring'em Young University.'

"Mac, on the other hand, was totally in control. He's great at evenly distributing the ball to his receivers, five yards at a time."

Saints win, 22-21.

Atlanta @ NY Giants (-3½)

The Giants' upset bid at FedEx Field came to a shocking end after a Giants offsides penalty gave Dustin Hopkins another shot at the game-winning field, which he nailed to give Washington a 30-29 win on Thursday night.

"That's the epitome of shooting yourself in the foot," Joe Judge. "I imagine Plaxico Burress saw that and said, 'Now, that's bad.'

"Daniel Jones played great. Has he turned a corner to becoming the quarterback we expected? Or not? One of two things is happening: either Daniel is realizing his potential, or we're realizing our error."

The Falcons lost 48-25 on the road to the Buccaneers. The Atlanta defense surrendered 5 touchdown passes to Tom Brady, while Matt Ryan tossed 3 interceptions.

"Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will either have his work cut out for him," Arthur Smith said, "or his job cut out for him.

"This is a must-win game for us. As they say, it's 'win or go home.' Luckily, it's a road game, so we get to go home no matter the outcome."

The Falcons get their act together, and Kyle Pitts scores 2 touchdowns.

Atlanta wins, 27-24.

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (-4½)

The Steelers struggled on both sides of the ball in a 26-17 loss to the visiting Raiders. T.J. Watt left the game early with a groin injury; Pittsburgh's defense wasn't the same after that.

"Giving up 26 points is unacceptable," Mike Tomlin said. "Scoring only 17 points is unacceptable. Me saying 'unacceptable' this many times after a loss: acceptable.

"We've put a lot of deliberation into how to make our passing game more explosive. Maybe I'll encourage offensive coordinator Matt Canada to design some trick plays. Whatever it takes. If your quarterback can't do it, then why not have your OC 'go deep' into the playbook."

Joe Burrow threw 3 interceptions and was sacked 4 times in the Bengals 20-17 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.

"Joe is getting hit way too much," Zack Taylor said. "He's been sacked 9 times in two games. And he certainly can't put this team on his back when he's on his back."

Steelers win, 25-17.

Arizona @ Jacksonville (+8½)

After a touchdown on their first drive, the Jaguars offense struggled in a 23-13 loss to the visiting Broncos. Trevor Lawrence was 14-for-33 for 118 yards and 1 touchdown, with 2 interceptions.

"That's what you call a 'welcome to the NFL' moment," Urban Meyer said. "It looks more like a 'Goodbye to the NFL' moment.

"I have no interest in the USC head coaching job. In this case, 'interest in the USC head coaching job' means 'integrity.' Heck, I'm not sure if I have any interest in the Jaguars' head coaching job."

The Cardinals outgunned the Vikings 34-33 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Kyler Murray accounted for 4 total touchdowns, and Arizona survived for the win when Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field goal for the win as time expired.

"Sure," Kliff Kingsbury said, "we got lucky. But I'd rather be lucky than good. That's exactly how I got an NFL head coaching job."

Arizona wins, 32-21.

NY Jets @ Denver (-10½)

The Patriots walloped the Jets, 25-6, at MetLife Stadium. Zach Wilson threw 4 interceptions and was sacked 4 times.

"Zach needs to work on identifying defenses," Robert Saleh said. "They're the ones wearing a different uniform than the one he's wearing."

The Broncos harassed rookie Trevor Lawrence into a miserable day in Denver's 23-13 win in Jacksonville. Teddy Bridgewater passed for 328 yards and 2 touchdowns and the Broncos are tied for first in the AFC West with the Raiders.

"If you would have told me we'd be tied for first two weeks into the season," Von Miller said, "my first reaction would have been to ask, 'How did the AFC West go 0-8?'

"But here we are, and here comes Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence to Denver. I don't think they realize what it's like to play in Denver's altitude. It doesn't just leave you gasping for air. Oh, it's much worse than that. It leaves you sucking. So, maybe I was wrong; Meyer and Lawrence might actually be well prepared for this."

Denver wins 23-16.

Miami @ Las Vegas (-4½)

The Dolphins looked totally out of sync in a 35-0 shutout loss at home to the Bills. Tua Tagovailoa was knocked out of the game early with a rib injury, and Miami managed only 216 yards of total offense for the game.

"Tua is out with broken ribs," Brian Flores said. "He's in considerable pain. He says it hurts to throw. Similarly, where our offense is concerned, it hurts to watch."

Derek Carr picked apart the Steelers defense, and the Raiders defense dominated as Las Vegas overwhelmed Pittsburgh 26-17. Derek Carr passed for 382 yards and 2 touchdowns as Vegas remained undefeated.

"You've probably heard me say this a lot on the field," Carr said, "but 'we're good.' The Steelers? Not so good. I think they should change the 'Towel' in 'Terrible Towel' to 'Offense,' thus making it more accurate."

Raiders win, 27-19.

Tampa Bay @ L.A. Rams (-1)

The Bucs crushed the Falcons, 48-25, as Tom Brady passed for 5 touchdowns, 2 to Rob Gronkowski. The Bucs are 2-0 heading into their showdown with the Rams at SoFi Stadium.

"I don't fear the Rams defense at all," Brady said. "I don't fear Aaron Donald. Now, you might be thinking this is when I say, 'I've taken bigger dumps than Aaron Donald.' But that would not be advisable. One, I don't want to piss off Donald. Two, that would be a massive dump. Three, that statement would not be true. Have you seen my diet? My dumps are smaller than Cooper Kupp."

Matthew Stafford and Copper Kupp hooked up 9 times for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns to power the Rams to a 27-24 win at Indianapolis.

"Matthew is my hero," Sean McVay said, "and I'm his hero. Let's face it, our acquisition of Matthew was less of a free agent signing and more of a rescue."

Rams win, 30-27.

Seattle @ Minnesota (+1½)

The Vikings lost 34-33 to the Cardinals in Glendale when Greg Joseph blew a 37-yard field goal for the win as time expired.

"Also," Mike Zimmer said, "as Joseph's career as a Viking expired. I can't tell you the last time we had a reliable kicker.

"Our defense couldn't contain Kyler Murray, so they'll have to play much better to defend Russell Wilson. I'm a big fan of Russell's. I would gladly give two Kirk Cousins for one Russell Wilson. Heck, I'd give one Kirk Cousins for absolutely nothing in return."

The Seahawks blew a 24-9 third quarter lead and eventually lost 33-30 to the Titans in overtime. In their only possession of overtime, Seattle went three and out.

"That's one we'd like to have a do-over on," Pete Carroll said. "If I had a Super Bowl win for every time I said that, I'd have two.

"If Urban Meyer is even considering the Southern California coaching job, he should be asking himself not what it pays, but who it pays."

Seahawks win, 33-30.

Green Bay @ San Francisco (-3½)

The Packers bounced back from their Week 1 loss to the Saints with a convincing 35-17 win over the Lions on Monday night. Aaron Rodgers silenced his critics with 4 touchdown passes, three to Aaron Jones.

"I had a heart-to-heart talk with my team before the game," Rodgers said. "If you want to know what was said, well, it's none of your 'B-E-E-S-W-A-X.'

"I'm looking forward to playing in San Francisco. I'd like to remind everyone again that the 49ers passed on me in the 2005 draft. That really irked me, mostly because I got stuck backing up Brett Favre for three years. It took nearly all the energy I had not to go insane, and all the energy I had not to develop an addiction to Vicodin."

San Francisco improved to 2-0 with a 17-11 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia.

"We're winning ugly," Kyle Shanahan said. "But we're not in this for style points. If we were, we'd have signed Cam Newton. Actually, considering the state of our rushing attack, we could use Newton."

Packers win, 30-27.

Philadelphia @ Dallas (-4½)

Greg Zuerlein kicked a 56-yard field goal as time expired to give the Cowboys a 20-17 win over the Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined for 180 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.

"Dak Prescott passed for over 400 yards in Week 1," Mike McCarthy said. "We wanted to get back to what people expect from today's Dallas Cowboys, and that's an overpowering rushing game, and bad clock management.

"I think we're the best team in the NFC East. But I guess that's not really saying much. That's like saying I'm the best head coach in the McCarthy family. And, let me tell you, my wife is a horrible head coach."

Prescott throws for 2 touchdowns, and the Cowboys win, 26-24.

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