By Mike Crum
Dallas Cowboys Team Analyst and Co-Host of the Across The Cowboys Podcast
After another great week of picks (13-3), which puts me at 25-7 overall. I’m more than okay with that. Week three has some really tough games to call, so I’m nervous about keeping up this pace, but let’s try to keep it rolling.
Miami Dolphins (MIA) at Jacksonville Jaguars (JAX)
The Jaguars have played two really good football games, and were in position to beat a really solid Tennessee Titans team. Miami has an improved roster, and honestly I'd probably just pick them to straight up beat the Jaguars because I expect Jacksonville to not play so well as the year goes on. Unfortunately, I ran into my Thursday night short week road team dilemma. The Jaguars have shown enough for me not to overlook that. It’s a coin flip, but I’ll take Gardner Minshew to make some Thursday night magic.
SanFrancisco 49ers (SF) at New York Giants (NYG)
About a trillion 49ers injuries have made what would have been an easy choice and turned it into a really brutal one instead. Before the season began this pick was a breeze. The Niners didn’t even get stuck with a bad travel schedule because they stayed in New York after playing the Jets last Sunday. Unfortunately for the 49ers, they have lost their starting quarterback, running back, pass rusher, and cornerback. It’s possible they will also be down two receivers and their best player - tight end, George Kittle - as well. That being said, the Giant's are a poor football team that also lost their best player in Saquon Barkley.
In this matchup I’m putting the Giants' desperation to get a win up against Kyle Shanahan’s ability to score points with so many starters out on the 49ers offense. This could be a truly poor pick, as you need horses no matter how good the jockeys are, but I’m picking the 49ers. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks are 2-0, and the 49ers need to keep pace. I’m gonna make New York show me they can do it before I pick them to beat a Kyle Shanahan-led team.
Washington Football Team (WAS) at Cleveland Browns (CLE)
The Browns have got to get a win in this game. They have the defensive line (DL) to attack an average Washington offensive line (OL). They also have a good enough defensive backfield to handle a struggling Washington offense and an incredible array of skill position weapons to put up points on an average Washington secondary. Adding to that is the fact that this will be back to back home games for Cleveland, and they had extra time to prepare for this one, so I see the Browns winning. Heck, I'd even bet the Browns and lay the seven points.
Cincinnati Bengals (CIN) at Philadelphia Eagles (PHI)
So far this season the Bengals have played better than the Eagles have. I know. I'm as shocked about that as you are. Joe Burrow, and basically every other quarterback, has simply outplayed Carson Wentz. The Eagles defense has been as predictable as reported, and has been a sieve through two weeks of the season. If I didn’t trust Eagles coach Doug Pederson so much I might pick the Bengals here, especially with ten days to prepare. I do trust Pederson though, as he has a history of winning those clutch games when a season looks to be going down hill. We just watched this happen to them last year, as Philly stumbled out of the gates to a 1-2 record. But then they went on the road and beat the Green Bay Packers, a game that few people thought they could win. Later that same year they did it again; after falling to 5-7 they won out and made the playoffs. Even back in 2018 they again played rope-a-dope with us. Ten games into that season they were a paltry 4-6, yet they went on to win five of their last six games and earned a wildcard spot with Nick Foles as the starting QB. The Eagles have been here many times before. I see them stepping up again and winning to avoid the dreaded 0-3 start.
Las Vegas Raiders (LV) at New England Patriots (NE)
This is one of those travel losses that are hard to pick against. Las Vegas opened up their new stadium beating a Super Bowl-contending New Orleans Saints team on Monday Night Football. They now have to travel across the country on a short week and face the Patriots. Yes, the Patriots are going across the country as well after having played in Seattle last Sunday night, but they are going home to the time zone they are used to, and had an extra day to start the recovery process. I’m picking NE to get a win here, but look out for the Raiders if they do win this. They shouldn't be overlooked any longer if they beat the Saints and Patriots in back to back weeks.
Chicago Bears (CHI) at Atlanta Falcons (ATL)
This is a hunch game for me. Both teams aren’t very good in my opinion, and they're nowhere near good enough for me to count on. That makes it much harder to break down than most games. The Falcons defense obviously isn’t great, but the Bears offense doesn’t instill confidence in anyone. On the other hand, Atlanta's offense is a juggernaut, but the Bears defense is one of the tougher ones to face. I lean towards a Falcons win for two reasons. First, the Falcons are at home, and man are they ever explosive on that turf. Second, after a loss like they just suffered against the Dallas Cowboys, I just have a feeling it’s gonna galvanize the team to show up big, at least this week. Atlanta is certainly talented enough to not be 0-3, and the Bears honestly aren’t a 3-0 type team. This week both teams will regress back to their expectations. The Falcons get a home win this Sunday.
Los Angeles Rams (LAR) at Buffalo Bills (BUF)
Evaluation of this game left me trying to figure out if either of these teams are as good as they have been these first two weeks. Could they both be that good, or are they both frauds? Each team has QBs I don’t exactly trust to be as good as they have been in 2020. How do the Rams hold up as teams get tape on Sean McVay’s offense? I honestly don’t know. Josh Allen, on the other hand, just can't keep playing at the level he has so far, can he? But even if he does fall off a bit, the Bills have a great defense, one that can win them a game or two by themselves. Add to this that the Bills are at home, and I’ll take them to win and stay undefeated. I feel like this game is about which QB gives the game away with more mistakes. Sorry, Rams and Bills fans. That may be unfair, but hey, this is my column and that's just how I feel.
Houston Texans (HOU) at Pittsburgh Steelers (PIT)
Man, I can not believe I’m picking Deshaun Watson to go 0-3. This schedule for the Texans is unbelievably difficult. Losses already to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens to start the season, and now they have to go to Pittsburgh. Watson is the type of player to find a way to win, but Pittsburgh's defense is legitimately Super Bowl caliber. Now Ben Roethlisberger is back, so the offense isn’t holding the team back either. Perhaps if Watson had a top three receiver on the team they could steal one of these first three games, but somehow they no longer do. The Steelers hold off a Watson 4th quarter comeback and improve to 3-0.
Tennessee Titans (TEN) at Minnesota Vikings (MIN)
I get that the Titans are 2-0. And I also understand the Vikings are 0-2 and have looked completely awful in those two losses. I just believe in Mike Zimmer. Look, the Titans beat the Denver Broncos by two and the Jaguars by three. They haven’t exactly been world-beaters. The Vikings still have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and now they are desperate to win with the Bears and Packers both starting out 2-0. While I recognize that this is a transition year for the Vikings, it's important to note that they aren't a tanking team that's going to pack it in. Somehow, someway, the Vikings get in the win column on Sunday.
Carolina Panthers (CAR) at Los Angeles Chargers (LAC)
Simply put, the Chargers would really have to look past the Panthers to lose this game. After taking the defending Super Bowl champs to overtime last week, and then finding out that they won't have to face Christian McCaffrey this week, things are looking up for LA. And really, had they actually beaten the Chiefs last week I honestly think I’d pick the Panthers to pull this one out. But they did lose to Mahomes and company, so I think they'll remain focused. I hope Justin Herbert gets the start because I think he could look great against this young Panthers defense. LA wins, but in a closer game than expected.
New York Jets (NYJ) at Indianapolis Colts (IND)
You want analysis? The Jets stink. The Colts are the pick here. Let's move on.
Dallas Cowboys (DAL) at Seattle Seahawks (SEA)
As a Cowboys fan there isn’t much to like in this matchup. Travel-wise, Seattle played at home last week, while the Cowboys faced the Rams in LA and thus had to fly back to Dallas. And now they have to turn around and head out to Seattle, which just happens to be their longest road trip of the season. That is, shall we say, less than ideal. Additionally, the Seahawks might be playing better than any team in the league on offense. They have an early MVP candidate in QB, Russell Wilson, and offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, has finally let him aggressively attack in the passing game.
On the other hand, the Cowboys are yet again getting off to terrible starts to games. The defense has provided absolutely no pass rush and they are blowing multiple coverages each game. Dallas should definitely be 0-2 if not for another epic collapse by the Atlanta Falcons. The Seahawks have a defense that Dak Prescott and this Cowboys offense can attack, but do the OL problems keep Kellen Moore from completely unleashing his offense's full potential? Even if Dallas' offense can play great, is that enough to keep pace with Wilson against this poor Cowboys defense? The Cowboys played terribly last week, so maybe they finally put it all together in week three. However, I just can’t pick it before I see it, especially when Russell Wilson is on the opposing sidelines. I expect runs up the middle from Seattle, play-action off of those runs, a healthy dose of screens, and if the Cowboys pass rush does actually show up, Wilson will undoubtedly get out of the pocket and make big plays anyways. As a Cowboys fan I would love it if Dallas merely had a chance in the end, but I think the Seahawks win this one by more than a touchdown.
Detroit Lions (DET) at Arizona Cardinals (ARZ)
The Cardinals have stayed on the west coast all three weeks to begin the season. They started out at the 49ers and then came home in week two to face Washington, so travel definitely won’t have any effect on them. The Lions are on back to back road games, traveling to Arizona from Green Bay. That’s not a great start, but add to that that on the field they are up against Kyler Murray and that Cardinals up-tempo offense. Detroit does not have the DBs to hold up against the onslaught of weapons coming from Arizona's offense. The Lions will put up points - Stafford will make that happen especially if Kenny Golladay actually plays - but not enough to beat this hot Cardinals team. Arizona gets to 3-0 before their road trip starts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TB) at Denver Broncos (DEN)
Before the season began I broke down the entire NFL schedule, and this was definitely a loss for TB. Tom Brady doesn’t play well at Empower Field, or as it's more regularly called, “Mile High Stadium" in Denver. Lifetime he is 8-9 there. Remarkably, Denver is the only team against whom he has a losing record on the road. Add to that the fact that I liked how the Broncos would’ve been able to attack TB's defense with solid weapons at both WR spots, a certifiable beast at the TE position, not to mention two pretty good RBs. That changed rather drastically, however, with devastating injuries to Von Miller, Courtland Sutton, and Drew Lock. Tom Terrific and Tampa Bay should walk right through these Broncos.
Green Bay Packers (GB) at New Orleans Saints (NO)
New Orleans looked lost against Las Vegas. Drew Brees played like a washed-up version of himself without Michael Thomas. The Saints defense looked overrated as they gave up 34 points to a Raiders team that is not considered a top-tier offense. I can definitely see the Packers, who are playing great football, traveling to New Orleans and putting it on this Saints team. Including the playoffs, the Packers are 16-4 under Matt LaFleur, and Aaron Rodgers is having a great year seemingly motivated by his team's 1st round draft selection of fellow QB, Jordan Love. So why am I picking the Saints? Because the head coach and QB combo of Sean Payton and Drew Brees don’t often play bad games after getting beat as soundly as they did Monday night in a primetime game. This is a coin flip game for me. The Packers just as easily can shut down more non-believers with a win in New Orleans, but I’m going with my hunch. The Saints come back behind a big defensive game and late, clutch offense from Brees.
Kansas City Chiefs (KC) at Baltimore Ravens (BAL)
What a fantastic Monday Night Football game this is! These are the two best teams in the AFC, sorry Steelers and Bills. With teams this good, this game really could go either way. Do I think that KC having to travel to the west coast to play the Chargers, and then all the way to the east coast to face the Ravens in subsequent weeks is going to have an effect? I definitely do, mainly because Baltimore's offense simply wears teams down more than most. I expect the Ravens to chip away at that suspect KC defense with their unique running ability, thereby preventing the Chiefs offense from getting on the field while also keeping their own defense fresh. I expect a great game with both teams finding the the end zone plenty of times. Lamar Jackson just makes the plays late this time to get a W.
Ok y'all, I’m nervous about a lot of these games. Many of these could go either way, but I’m looking to stay on fire with my picks. What do you think?
Week Three Pick Summary:
JAX over MIA
SF over NYG
CLE over WAS
PHI over CIN
NE over LV
ATL over CHI
BUF over LAR
PIT over HOU
MIN over TEN
LAC over CAR
IND over NYJ
SEA over DAL
ARZ over DET
TB over DEN
NO over GB
BAL over KC
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