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Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2022 NFL Game Picks: Week 3

Last week: 10-6

Season: 17-14-1


PIT (1-1) @ CLE (1-1)

Thursday, September 22 | 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video


The Steelers were able to get the better of Cleveland in both matchups last season, and feeding Najee Harris was a big reason why—with the all-around runner turning 60 touches into 326 total yards and two touchdowns. The workload for Najee hasn’t been as high this year as he deals with a foot injury, though, so we’ll see how that impacts his role tonight. Either way, I get the feeling that Mitchell Trubisky will have his best game of the season by connecting more on downfield passes while also doing damage with his legs to hold off calls for first-round pick Kenny Pickett to takeover. For the Browns, anyone blaming Nick Chubb for the loss last week (by scoring to make it a two-touchdown game with under two minutes left) is crazy, and the Cleveland defense not taking accountability following the game is very telling. I’m usually cognizant of ways to seal the game, but the offense being deep in scoring territory made it a unique situation where Chubb would have needed to throttle down very quickly to avoid getting into the end zone, which could have potentially led to an injury or fumble with defenders bearing down on him. Pittsburgh needs to contain an angry and determined Chubb, but I like where they are at as a team under Mike Tomlin.


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


NO (1-1) @ CAR (0-2)

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Matt Rhule is a coach that I thought would succeed at the NFL level, but Carolina not having a franchise quarterback—and trying to find one with multiple stop-gap options—is the root of their issues as a franchise. Whether fair or not, failing to pick up a win during a three-game homestand (v NO, v ARI, v SF) could be end of the Rhule era, and no matter who is calling the shots, the Panthers simply have to find a long-term answer at the most important position in sports. This week, the Saints will be a very difficult opponent because of the way they can put pressure on the quarterback, so Baker Mayfield needs to get rid of the ball quickly to help struggling first-round left tackle Ikem Ekwonu (NFL-high three sacks allowed). Also, it’s time to unleash Christian McCaffrey with a 25-touch workload if Carolina wants to compete, as it feels like not been making a superstar impact despite a 102-yard game on the ground last week. Maybe that will be the case versus a defense he’s averaged 6.3 receptions and 66.3 receiving yards against in eight career matchups (including playoffs).


Winner: New Orleans Saints


HOU (0-1-1) @ CHI (1-1) 

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


A lot of the blame for Chicago’s early offensive struggles have been placed on Justin Fields and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, but the personnel side of the organization deserves a significant share of the criticism with everyone knowing the complementary options behind Darnell Mooney at wide receiver would not strike fear into opponents. Basically, defenses have been able to eliminate Mooney (two receptions for four yards) and Cole Kmet (zero targets) to open the year, so it will be up to the coaching staff of the Bears to scheme ways for the top pass-catchers to get the ball. Houston has also struggled offensively to begin 2022, and another low-scoring game is expected for perhaps the biggest toss-up of the week. Because the Texans showed an ability and willingness to get things corrected by featuring rookie Dameon Pierce last week after playing 29% of the offensive snaps in his debut, there is more reason to have faith in them.


Winner: Houston Texans


KC (2-0) @ IND (0-2)

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Jim Irsay apparently being close to firing Frank Reich following their Week 18 loss to the Jaguars in 2021 put Indy’s head coach firmly on the hot seat, so enduring another beatdown in Jacksonville—a 0-24 shutout that saw Matt Ryan get sacked five times and toss three interceptions—should have the entire organization on notice. Facing a rested Kansas City squad that didn’t play their best game last Thursday night (despite the win) is less than ideal, and it will take an effort like we saw back in 2019 when the Colts pulled off a 19-13 road upset by containing Patrick Mahomes and feeding Marlon Mack 32 touches for 148 total yards. I couldn’t tell you why Jonathan Taylor was given ten touches last week, but a heavy workload for him is the only shot Indianapolis has to avoid 0-3. As stated last week, I might not pick against the Chiefs until an opponent shows they can stop the new-look offense—which hasn’t even gotten a huge game from any of the wideouts yet.


Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


BUF (2-0) @ MIA (2-0)

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


This is an excellent week for big-time matchups around the league, and Bills-Dolphins will be an awesome clash for first place in the AFC East. I’m assuming Miami is a trendy pick to win this game at home (even as touchdown underdogs), but Josh Allen has absolutely owned them throughout his career—going 7-1 with 25 total touchdowns and just five turnovers (with three of them coming in his rookie year). Although the Dolphins have a new coaching staff, the defense remains largely the same and could be without both Byron Jones (ankle, out) and Xavien Howard (groin) at cornerback, which won’t help matters when it comes to stopping a seemingly unstoppable Buffalo offense that has a point differential of +135 during their current seven-game winning streak against Miami. To pull off the upset, Tua Tagovailoa needs to overcome the struggles versus Sean McDermott’s team (0-3 record; 1:4 touchdown-interception ratio), but it might take the disciplined Buffalo defense suddenly becoming undisciplined for Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to come close to doing what they did last week against the Ravens.


Winner: Buffalo Bills


DET (1-1) @ MIN (1-1)

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


If you want to use a common opponent as a measuring stick early in the season, Detroit clawed back to barely lose to the Eagles in the opener (38-35), while Minnesota was completely shut down against Philadelphia on Monday night (24-7), and the final score didn’t tell the whole story. I had the Lions going to the playoffs in the NFC, and trust in Jared Goff—who tossed four touchdowns last week—was one of the biggest reasons; the group will be even better when No. 12 overall pick Jameson Williams joins them, and the rookie is keeping his “monster” mindset with a recent glimpse at his recovery. For the Vikings, they will probably settle somewhere between the showings in Week 1 and Week 2, but not facing a top cornerback like Darius Slay every week will make things much easier for Kevin O’Connell’s offense. Still, the pass rush for Detroit can make Kirk Cousins uncomfortable again, and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn will get his unit playing up to their full potential sooner rather than later.


Winner: Detroit Lions


BAL (1-1) @ NE (1-1)

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


The offense for New England might take a couple of more weeks to fully gel, but the defense is already playing very well—and another strong performance will be needed with Lamar Jackson coming to town. After rushing for two touchdowns in a 37-20 victory against the Patriots in 2019, the former NFL MVP was contained in the rematch versus Bill Belichick, which New England won 23-17 as just one wide receiver (Jakobi Meyers) caught a pass. Now, the Pats have more weapons on the perimeter with Nelson Agholor and DeVante Parker, and the Ravens have become more pass-focused with Jackson on pace to throw it 500+ times for the first time in his career. Overall, I think Belichick’s defense will have an easier time defending Jackson with the running backs for Baltimore not yet being major factors, and they have the guys on the backend to cover Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman. Following a crucial victory over Pittsburgh to avoid 0-2, I like the Pats to get another close win in their home opener.


Winner: New England Patriots


CIN (0-2) @ NYJ (1-1)

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The defending AFC Champion Bengals are in a very difficult spot with the offensive line not playing well through two weeks, and they’ll need to get on track versus a Jets squad that should have confidence because of a) their comeback win over the Browns in Week 2, and b) their win over the Bengals in 2021. The Mike White experience has long been put on hold, but Joe Flacco having similar success by slinging the ball around for what could realistically be his final career NFL start is a scary thought if you’re a Cincinnati fan. This is a week where not having second-round cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (core) is felt for the Bengals with the Jets having three receivers that can beat coverage, so it’s important for Trey Hendrickson and the pass rush to get going with just two sacks for the defense this season. But as long as Flacco doesn’t get red hot on Sunday, the Bengals should take care of business with Joe Burrow being too good to start 0-3.


Winner: Cincinnati Bengals


LV (0-2) @ TEN (0-2)

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Sunday is a massive spot for the Raiders to get a win before matchups versus the Broncos and Chiefs in the AFC West, but the urgency will also be high for Tennessee—even in a soft division—after getting destroyed on Monday night. I just mentioned Cincinnati only having two sacks this season, and Las Vegas ranks dead last with a single quarterback takedown this year, which is a major surprise considering the edge duo of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. While there is still plenty of time to turn things around, it’s fair to wonder if some of the magic is gone with a new regime taking over following last year’s improbable run to the postseason. A surprising bright spot for the Raiders has been the run defense (3.7 yards per carry allowed), but their encouraging start will surely be tested against Derrick Henry after the powerful back got some extra rest with Mike Vrabel waving the white flag against the Bills. I have more trust in Derek Carr than I do Ryan Tannehill, but Tennessee has homefield advantage and arguably the coaching advantage with Vrabel expected to have his team ready based on what happened in Buffalo.


Winner: Tennessee Titans


PHI (2-0) @ WAS (1-1)

Sunday, September 25 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


It’s hilarious to look back on some of the things said about Jalen Hurts coming out of Oklahoma (some self-proclaimed experts went as far as saying he doesn’t have an established position), but he’s proven to be one of the best young quarterbacks in the league—with the progress as a passer matching his intangibles and ability as a runner. This week, the anticipation for Carson Wentz facing his former team isn’t as high as it will be when the former No. 2 overall pick returns to the city in November, but it’s still a classic NFC East matchup in which Wentz will badly want to outplay his replacement. The question will be whether Washington’s quarterback can avoid some of the reckless “hero ball” that got him into trouble with both the Eagles and Colts—especially with Darius Slay lurking in Philadelphia’s secondary. In general, I have doubts about Wentz being the franchise quarterback at his third stop, and it might take him returning to 2017 form to beat the best version of Hurts that we’ve seen.


Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


JAX (1-1) @ LAC (1-1)

Sunday, September 25 | 4:05 PM ET | CBS


Justin Herbert deservedly earned a ton of praise for his play last Thursday night by keeping Los Angeles in the game late while dealing with a fractured rib cartilage, but the defense of the Chargers shouldn’t go overlooked. Taking away the pick-six for Chiefs cornerback Jaylen Watson, LA has essentially limited the high-powered attacks of Las Vegas and Kansas City to 19.5 points per game, and Khalil Mack—who had seemed to decline in recent years—has really taken advantage of playing across from Joey Bosa with 4.0 sacks through two weeks. The edge duo for the Chargers can make it a long day for Trevor Lawrence if Jacksonville can’t hold up in pass protection, but Christian Kirk’s usage has been a pleasant surprise, and James Robinson looking like himself is a great sign for the Jaguars. Plus, Travis Etienne will start ripping off big gains at some point, and the pieces are there to pull off an upset if Herbert is at less than 100%. That said, Los Angeles got Mike Williams more involved last week and have the talent advantage on both sides of the ball.


Winner: Los Angeles Chargers


LAR (1-1) @ ARI (1-1)

Sunday, September 25 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


The Cardinals have not fared well at all versus the Rams in recent years—going 1-6 with Kyler Murry and Kliff Kingsbury, including the extremely disappointing playoff loss back in January. Focusing on that most recent meeting, Murray was 19-of-34 for 137 yards and two interceptions while being sacked for more yards (15) than he had rushing yards (six), and the offense will again be without DeAndre Hopkins (currently suspended; injured in the playoffs). Momentum is a possible factor, though, and Arizona has to be feeling energized by a Week 2 victory that included late-game heroics on both sides of the ball—with Isaiah Simmons forcing a fumble that Byron Murphy returned for the game-winning touchdown in overtime to beat Las Vegas. At the same time, the Rams almost blew a big lead to the Falcons last Sunday, and Matthew Stafford can’t continue turning the ball over (NFL-high five interceptions) if they want to have a shot at successfully defending their title. Maybe a better game plan with nine months to think about the playoff loss will be enough, but I can’t discount the dominance of LA’s defense in this matchup.


Winner: Los Angeles Rams


ATL (0-2) @ SEA (1-1)

Sunday, September 25 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


DK Metcalf has said (and done) all the right things this season, and it feels like he is due for a big game on Sunday.


Winner: Seattle Seahawks


GB (1-1) @ TB (2-0)

Sunday, September 25 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


Recent comments by Aaron Rodgers have me thinking he will play for a season or two beyond 2022, but Tom Brady could be in his final months as an NFL player—so hopefully everyone appreciates this weekend’s battle between two all-time greats. Tampa Bay could be without all of Mike Evans (suspension), Chris Godwin (hamstring), and Julio Jones (knee) on Sunday, but TB12 has done more with less in the past, and the defense of the Buccaneers—despite showing some holes versus the run—is playing perhaps better than ever with Todd Bowles’ promotion to head coach. Finding a way to give the quarterbacks time is key for both sides with all the pass-rush talent that will be on the field, and the difference might be Tampa Bay having Devin White and Lavonte David at linebacker being able to blitz, play the run, and track down the quick screens that had some success for Green Bay last week. The health issues for the Bucs might be reason to go with the Packers to finally takedown Brady, but the GOAT will be fired up for what might be his final home opener.


Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


SF (1-1) @ DEN (1-1)

Sunday, September 25 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


It’s unfortunate that the cost is a season-ending ankle injury to Trey Lance, but the 49ers turning back to Jimmy Garoppolo is almost like something out of a movie. Unlike previous years when he led them to a Super Bowl appearance and NFC Championship Game appearance, Garoppolo will be sans the “C” patch (having not been voted a captain as the backup quarterback), which almost makes it even more like something out of Hollywood with the character who was set aside returning to win the war. Of course, a storybook ending (i.e. a Lombardi Trophy) is a long way away, and San Francisco first needs to overcome Russell Wilson—who has gone 17-4 for his career versus the Niners (including playoffs). Fortunately for them, Wilson and the Denver offense is still finding their footing, and I really like how the San Francisco defense matches up with the Broncos, including Nick Bosa and Drake Jackson being a problem off the edge and new cornerback Charvarius Ward proving he can match Courtland Sutton on the outside.


Winner: San Francisco 49ers


DAL (1-1) @ NYG (2-0)

Monday, September 26 | 8:15 PM ET | ESPN/ABC/ESPN2


I know a lot of people want to push Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy out the door, but he deserves more credit for pulling off a win over the Bengals last week, and now Dallas sits in very good position with a chance to start 2-1 if they can knock New York off the ranks of the unbeaten. On the field, the team MVP through two weeks for the Cowboys has easily been Micah Parsons (2.0 sacks in both games), and his matchup versus Andrew Thomas will be the best individual battle of the week; seeing Dallas routinely use Parsons on the left side of the formation to rush against rookie right tackle Evan Neal wouldn’t be a surprise, though, so I’m intrigued to see the counter by Brian Daboll and the Giants. Getting the ball to Saquon Barkley in space is probably the best game plan, and maybe Kadarius Toney will enjoy another jump in playing time to get over 50% against a defense he had his best career game against (ten receptions for 189 yards last season). Overall, the Cowboys have shown they have New York’s number by winning nine of their past ten matchups, but I don’t think a margin of victory will be decisive enough that it creates a quarterback controversy.


Winner: Dallas Cowboys